Our founder, Mama Cat, took a few days off last year to explore the Tsitsikama National Park. The MTO Tsitsikama Trail is perfect to do throughout summer as you spend a lot of time shaded in the forest and there are plenty of swim spots to cool off.
We only had four days to hike so we did the first two days in one, and exited from the Heuningbos Hut. This trail is spectacular, it takes you from the ocean, up into the mountains and through the beautiful indigenous forests and the tallest fynbos we have ever seen. If we were able to take more time off from our respective jobs we would have done the full trail and we highly recommend that you do.
Day One: Natures Valley to Bloukrans Hut - 17.5km
We hiked from the Nautre’s Valley Tsitsikama National Park office, sailed past the Kalandar Hut at the ocean, and headed towards Bloukrans Hut. There was a lot of uphill towards the R102 and the N2 crossing. As we trundled up the first hill to bring us level to the road, a local guy cruised past, barefoot and smiling, letting us know we had a lot more hill ahead of us. You pass over the R102 and under the N2, the further towards the mountains you get the thicker the forest grows. We had our lunch break at a waterfall. There is an abundance of swimming spots on the trail, but at the end of winter, one is a little hesitant to experience them all, especially when they are in the depths of the forest, shaded by the enormous indigenous trees. After a foam fight (naturally created by the waterfall) we headed up the second ascent for the day, into the Tsitsikama mountains.
The first hut has the best views. If you arrive early you can walk down to some rock pools for a swim, or heat up some water and have a bucket shower like we did. Lighting a fire and looking over the valley to the mountains that act as the border between the Western and Eastern Cape was a wonderful way to end the day.
Day Two: Bloukrans Hut to Keurbos Hut - 13.4km
After some oats cooked on the fire a coffee watching the sun rise over the Eastern Cape we headed deeper into the forest. There is something magical about walking through dense forest, the ferns covering the ground, the creepers climbing up the trees and the sunlight falling through the canopy. You also can’t see what is around the corner and we were pleasantly surprise to come across a large pool and a rocky beach. After another (and there are many) river crossing (gotta take your shoes off unless you are happy to be wet) we found our way to the rocky beach and stopped for lunch. The water was ice cold but the forest parted at this part of the river so we were able to dry off in the sun.
We arrived at the next hut just as the sun had dipped behind the mountain. One should note that all huts are located close to pine plantations. MTO is a forestry business and so the huts are located along logging roads and are all accessible by jeep tracks. We did some yoga to stretch out our bodies after our days hike and lit a fire in the lapa.
Day Three: Keurbos Hut to Heuningbos Hut - 13.4km
Our third day was overcast, rain was heading our way so we put our rain jackets and long pants on and started our hike. The mountain, even in the fynbos areas, is water logged. The trail throughout was generally quite slippery and you need to watch your step - we all fell at least once! A number of sections have wooden bridges to lead you over soggy sections. The signage in the huts warn you about river crossings, if it has been raining you should be careful and possibly not even cross, we were lucky and were able to cross all rivers. There are ropes and chains to guide you, but we also all fell in at least once at different river crossings!
We ascended steadily up Rushes Pass coming around Klipbokkop overlooking Geelhoutbossies valley and Middlekop Mountain, it was a sight to behold. Not a pine tree or road in sight, pure untampered with indgenous forest.
As we arrived at the edge of Heuningbos Forest we were beginning to get very hungry. We walked a little further into the forest to find a picnic spot to have lunch, just as we were about to sit down and the heavens opened and it started pouring. While I was hangry, we decided to continue to try and find a sheltered spot to eat. We eventually gave up and sat on our backpack rain covers and ate lunch while the rain dripped onto our bagels and into our hummus.
Soaking wet, but satisfied after a soggy lunch, we carried on towards the final hut on our journey. We were so pleased to see it, still raining we crossed one more river and headed up a steep hill. We got the fire going ASAP, changed out of our wet clothes, into some dry ones and huddled around the fire warming our cold toes.
Day Four: Keurbos Hut towards Boskor Sawmill - 3km
We had a slow start on our last day, the rain was still coming down and we were hesitant to spend another day getting wet. We took a jeep track out of the forest and mountains aiming for the Boskor Sawmill, our shuttle(see details below) was kind enough to pick us up at the first gate. As one of our group was injured this was great, plus, walking on a road through a pine plantation towards the N2 is not the most scenic or exciting route to hike.
The huts all have bunk beds with mattresses, toilets, showers (you need to boil water if you want a hot shower), lapa’s with an indoor and outdoor fireplace, fire wood, pots and pans, there are axes and brooms too. All you need to bring are your sleeping bags, clothes, food, toilet paper….
Each hut has two bedrooms, some with tables and benches inside. There are 4-5 double bunks with mattresses in each room.
There is a boma with an undercover fireplace and an exterior fireplace with wood for cooking. There are pots, pans and a kettle (pots coated with food grade lard for protection, we wiped this out before using). There is a toilet block with showers that have buckets you can fill with water. Each hut has a tap with water you can drink.
Most affordable shuttle back to Nature’s Valley - Burton: 073 800 6811More info: MTO Ecotourism - https://www.mto.group/eco-tourism/tsitsikamma-trail/hikes