There’s a lot to be said for hiking. It’s a good way to exercise whilst saving you from the exotic body odours and dubious cleanliness of gym changing rooms. It forces you from out behind the latest Youtube video of a cat falling off a TV and into the great outdoors where our ancestors once roamed freely without the help of GPS.
And roam they did, particularly in Southern Africa where being a nomadic tribesman was the “in” thing for thousands of years.
Maybe, as a South African, I’ve never really lost the desire to walk long distances for no real reason and regularly undertake to explore the outdoors on foot. Whilst for most the word ‘hiking’ conjures up images of high mountain passes, there several trails in South Africa that have a more coastal flavour. One such is the Strandloper Trail in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
The Strandloper Trail stretches from Cape Morgan in Kei Mouth to Gonubie for about 60km. “Strandloper” literally means “beachwalker” and although this coastal trail definitely takes in some real beach action, it also goes through forest and some steep cliffs making it perfect for hikers who like a little variety.
The full trail is a 5 day adventure split up into 5 distinct sections. The trail can be traversed at any time of year, although the beaches do tend to get a bit crowded over the holiday season and some swear that the best time to do it is off-season.
Huts provide overnight stopping places and have adequate ablution facilities and braai facilities, except Cape Henderson which is situated in the forest and as such not conducive to fire-making. Hotels and pubs along the route also provide many interesting and tasty options for meals should the pressures of walking all day call for a hearty pub meal and drink.
The Pumphouse is the first overnight stop and is a strange industrial looking building that used to be, wait for it, the pump house for a nearby mine. This is a really great place to stay and it’s almost worth doing the trail just for this. The Cape Henderson log cabin is another rustic overnight highlight.
The rest of the hike takes you over beaches, across estuaries and through forests. If you’re doing the trail during summer the opportunities to swim are endless and apparently there are even some spectacular snorkeling spots for those with a more adventurous attitude.
Remember to check the times of tides on a tide table so that you can plan your hiking times. There are also plenty of opportunities for bird watching and so remember to take along a pair of binoculars (as you should on any hike) to get a better view of the avian eye-candy.
This is a five day hike so come prepared, but it’s not as strenuous as some of the more mountainous hikes in South Africa and can done even by relatively fit beginners (like me). The Strandloper is a unique South African hiking experience and is well worth the effort.
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