WHALE TRAIL 4 - 9 Sept 2017
Leader: Penny Purchase. Report and photos courtesy of Penny Purchase.

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying VIEWER Presentation]

Mon 4 Sept . Arrival at Potberg hut.

We found our way to Potberg in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, from Cape Town, past fields of bright yellow rape, white turbines, sheep and cranes in fields. There were 12 of us and we fell naturally into 3 groups: Tanya and Michael Adey and their friends, the 2 "glamour girls" of the trail, Candace Burgess and Robynne Dry. There was a group of friendly Afrikaans speakers, Annet and Heino Kusel with Anna Kapp and Christa Gadd. The third group was the family group of Lettie Oosthuizen, her son, Andre and his wife, Yolanda. I tagged along with this group. 6 of us were members of the MHC, the others were friends - and what a lively, friendly bunch, each with a keen appreciation of hiking this spectacular trail. Some were fast, some were slow, some had done the Camino in Spain many times and hiked in Europe, but we all revelled in the beauty of the mountains, the valleys, the fynbos, the rugged coastline, the charming huts, the magnificent whales... and in each other's company! Each had his or her own sense of humour but Michael Adey gets first prize for his quick repostes and cheerful bonhomie!

The Potberg hut was surprisingly well equipped with fridge, freezer, microwave and electricity for charging cell phones... the last place for 5 days! While we were getting to know each other around the braai that night, enjoying the evening and some wine,a smiling face popped up round the corner! "Who are you" - I said? It was Clive Rossam and his wife, Erica, who had come a day too early to join Alistair's group, scheduled to arrive the next day! Not the first to mis-interpret the starting day. We welcomed them and they pitched their tent close to the hut. Some of us were startled awake in the night by shouts of "Fire, fire!"... turned out to be a school group trying to control their bonfire in the wind!

Day 1. Tuesday 5 Sept. Potberg to Cupidoskraal.

An 8 a.m. start and a fine, clear day to hike 14.7 kms. It was stiff climb up the Potberg, with the leader, me, Penny setting a rather cracking pace! We climbed 600m. Getting the measure of the group, I set a more moderate pace thereafter. We took 7 hours to reach Cupidoskraal, not the recommended 8 hours, with slim and fit Annet being the first home. We admired the lovely Breede River Valley at our tea stop. All along the way, we stopped to admire the beautifully abundant fynbos but you had to watch your step, as the narrow path was rocky and uneven. Some of us had a siting of vultures. Lettie was bravely battling with sciatica which slowed her down.

We tried to find an elusive tree near the river for our lunch break... but it was a tree on paper only... the leader believing what was on the map... Penny's folly. We relaxed on the boulders at the tumbling river bank. From there we climbed up again and then had a steep descent to the hut at Cupidoskraal, on the edge of a forest. There was no electricity at the hut, so it was early to bed for most, after plenty of wine, of course, and gluwein for the Oosthuizens, although some played card games. When you're tired, you can sleep on any bunk bed anywhere!

Whale Trail Day 1 Set 1

1 Hiking group at Potberg
2 On the rocky trail
3 Long grass and rocks
4 The beautiful Breede River Valley
5 The Oosthuizen family on top of the Potberg mountain
6 The Breede River valley through the long grass
7 Southern rock agama enjoying the sun

Whale Trail Day 1 Set 2

Fynbos - 5 photos

Whale Trail day 1 Set 3

13 Tired hikers at the top of Potberg
14 3 glamour girls, Tanya, Robynne and Candace
15 Cooling off in the river at the lunch stop
16 Glamour at the river, Candace

Day 2. Wednesday 6 Sept. Cupidoskraal to Noetsie.

The profile for this day was not as steep - only 450m to climb and a 14 km hike. We were treated to spectacular views across the Breede River to the Indian Ocean. The fynbos changed as we descended - the ericas, the proteas, the mesembryanthemums were superb. We enjoyed the informative posters along the way, about the yellow Potberg protea, leopard and bio-control (fungus that weakens the plant, on the invasive Port Jackson). The 3 fit speedsters, Annet, Heino and Anna, the Camino Champion, roared ahead and reached Noetsie by lunchtime. It was a steep descent from the mountain down to the sea, we traversed a plain and then suddenly we had stunning views of the coast. A short but extremely steep and rocky climb down to the enchanting bay of Noetsie. Short walk across the beach, where Lettie was washed by a wave! The Noetsie huts, 2 A frames, were as close to the sea as you can get. They are powered by solar heating but there was hot water for the showers and very welcome they were too. We lazed on the lawns in front of the huts, braving the wind, and spotted our first whales. We relaxed in the lapa in the cool of the evening, with cooling wine... some of us started our wine imbibing much earlier... like at tea time! Michael continued with his tea drinking rituals. An invigorating day's hiking, in sunny but windy weather, with the various groups walking at their own pace.

Whale Trail day 2 Set 1

17 We have mountains to climb
18 Christa still looking fresh
19 Pretty ericas
20 Mother and son, Lettie and Andre
21 On the trail .... climbing still
22 Sometimes we went down too ....
23 Soft mountain grasses
24 The sea is sooo faaar awaaay!
25 Yellow Potberg protea

Whale Trail Day2 Set 2

26 Pink mesembryanthemums making a splash
27 We've found the sea - the Adey bunch
28 The girls on the trail
29 Bio-control of Port Jackson willow
30 Bright yellow faces
31 Our national flower, stunning protea

Whale Trail Day 2 Set 3

32 The charming Noetsie Bay
33 Noetsie beach
34 Whale watching in the cool of the afternoon from the Noetsie hut

Day 3. Thursday 7 Sept. Noetsie to Hamerkop.

We decided on a later start, 9 a.m., as Noetsie was such a delightful place. A sunny but windy day. The 8 km trail was splendid. We loved the incredible seascapes - the sculptured rock formations, the caves and eroded rocks, the turquoise sea, the rock pools and rock platforms, the pounding wild waves at high tide, the spray flung up, the coastal fynbos making a living in rock crevices - and sightings of those magnificent creatures of the ocean, the southern right whales and their elegant cousins, the sleek dolphins! There were many siting places marked out and we were fortunate to see whales all along this awesome coastal trail.

Stilgat was closed. Most of us took our time, with the racing snakes trio being the first at Hamerkop. Candace(by now so fit) Robynne (smiling all the way) and Christa( forever the photographer), then Michael and Tanya (enjoying each other's company) strolled in, followed by Andre, Yolanda and myself keeping an eye on Lettie, slow with the sciatica, but brave and determined.

There were testing rocky climbs, and a fierce wind, but the short beach walk approach to Hamerkop hut was lovely. The black boxes were waiting for us. Slackpacking is the way to go! The Hamerkop cottage had a large top floor and balcony, ideal for whale watching. Super big kitchen area. Another exhilarating day's hiking, close to the sea and nature... and we all rewarded ourselves once more with a couple of glasses of wine!

Whale Trail Day 3 Set 1

35 Our group about to leave Noetsie
36 Robynne and Candace braving the wind
37 .... making a living in a rock hole
38 Candace, the cave girl!
39 Rocks and more rocks
40 Whales!

Day 4. Friday 8 Sept. Hamerkop to Vaalkrans.

We all set out together as usual. It was an 8 a.m. start and we had an easy 11 kms to walk. A long beach walk to start and then up and down the rocks. Everything going well, whale siting good & . then - Drama on the Rocks - ! Christa fell and sliced her arm on the rocks. Being a "drug dealer" , aka pharmacist, she was well equipped with the right bandages. Michael strapped her up. Tanya phoned the emergency number and soon Dawid and Augie came trotting across the rocks to our rescue. I accompanied Christa. As no private doctors were available, Dawie and Augie drove us to Bredasdorp Hospital. I sing the praises of the hospital - spotlessly clean, efficient and good service. A Congolese doctor stitched up Christa's large flap of loose skin, about 40 stitches. We received a warm welcome back at Vaalkrans... and then we had a party, as Christa, The Wounded Heroine, generously provided everyone with wine & Michael continued with his tea! It was our last night together, so I fined each person for misdemeanours on the trail... it was more of an appreciation of each person's personality... chuckles all round... what an awesome group! Vaalkrans hut was precariously situated, close to raging waves crashing into a cauldron at high tide. A day of drama that had a jubilant ending!

Whale Trail Day 4 Set 1

41 Hamerkop Cottage
42 Our happy hikers
43 The way to Vaalkrans, last stopover
44 Morning beach walk
45 Pristine coast
46 Penny amongst the rocks
47 Whale watching spot for the Oosthuizens
48 Wounded Christa with her rescuers
49 Christa and Penny returning from Bredasdorp Hospital
50 Vaalkrans hut

Day 5. Saturday 9 Sept. Vaalkrans to Koppie Alleen.

An easy 9 km walk through coastal thicket. Michael re-bandaged Christa's wounded arm. Brave and cheerful, she managed well with mybulen and stilpain. More whale watching and enjoyment of the coastal environment; the jagged rocks, the arch rocks, the tidal pools and platforms. We passed Hippo Pools where we encountered other visitors on "our trail" . Up the board walk from the beach and all too soon we were at Koppie Alleen. The shuttle bus was there and at 12 noon, we were transported back to Potberg. We packed up, bought our souvenirs at the little shop and said our fond farewells.

It was an amazing hike. We all loved it in our different ways. We all thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent natural environment. For me personally, it was a pleasure to lead such a cheerful, co-operative, enthusiastic and fun group! Well done, Cape Nature, for organising this slackpacking trail so well. Hands up those who would like to do the Whale trail again - mine's certainly up! Whale Trail Day 5 Set 1

51 Farewell to bunk beds! Group at Vaalkrans
52 Cauldron of pounding waves, high tide at Vaalkrans
53 This is the way ......
54 Michael taking in the beauty of the coastline
55 Seascape

Whale Trail Day 5 Set 2

56 Amazing sculptured rocks
57 Rock platforms
58 We can grow prettily in the sand
59 Relieved and sad as its the end of the trail at Potberg