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The Otter Trail V2.0

The Otter Trail is no joke. I’ve now done it twice and both times I found it incredibly difficult. It’s more about your mentality and the mindset you choose to put forward than how fit you are, because truthfully, you can be the fittest person on the planet and this hiking trail is still going to kick you when you’re down.

After the first time I did the Otter Trail, I swore to myself I’d never do it again. A few years distance in between me and the last trail, I crazily made a booking to do it the second time around. It honestly is an amazing experience, but my emotions are still mixed up about the second time. So much so, that I’ve been promising myself I’d write this blog post for almost two months and have battled to actually sit down and do it.

The first Otter for me was about physical fitness before it started. Was I fit enough? I didn’t know and I soon discovered that you can be as fit as you possibly could, but if you’re not prepared mentally for the grueling challenge then you may as well never start. It’s about digging deep and reminding yourself that you’re bigger than giving up, but it’s like that for 5 days. I can’t describe the beating you take mentally as well as I’d like, I can only say that the second time I felt more physically prepared, but still took the same mental beating.

There are hundreds of links out there that’ll tell you what to take along on the trail and most of them are very good. There are also a ton of posts that talk about what each individual day is about. To me, none of those matter more than these tips that I only wish somebody had sent me before I went that first time:

  • Booze. Lots of. Don’t be shy, I took an entire bottle of Jack Daniels Honey on this last trip and we drank it all by the third night. This will be one of the only comforts you have.
  • It gets cold. Most huts are right on the water so going to bed at night can be made better for your sore body if you dress warmly in layers. Especially if you have a tiny sleeping bag like I do.
  • Snacks are king. Pack every thing you could imagine. Screw being healthy, put the chocolate in your bag. A sneaky genet stole mine and I was very upset.
  • The showers are beyond colder than what you could imagine. Man up and get in, don’t be all tough and say you’re going to rough it. Clean hair is a wonderful luxury.
  • Make sure your poncho isn’t too big, because when you’re hanging off a rockface and you can’t see your feet, life is not so awesome.
  • Pack as light as you can. There is absolutely no reason to know what it feels like to carry 20kg. I got away with 14kg and that was more than enough.
  • There’s a pub in Nature’s Valley. They have a shooter called the Otter’s Arsehole (see below). I can only imagine it’s called this because you’ll be glad to see the end of the Otter. Have one, it’s not so bad and you get an awesome certificate.

I guess you could liken the Otter Trail to that of the Camino. It’s a mental battle that you need to triumph over. If your minds gives in, you’re basically screwed. There are moments of beautiful reflection and ones where you cannot believe you signed up for this nonsense. Is it worth it? I’m still not sure to be honest, mostly because round two only proved that I was just as weak mentally as the first time.

If you found this post through a search and you’re thinking of doing the trail, all I can say is good luck, enjoy the 42km of lunging up and down mountains.

Travel & food blogger helping adventurous South Africans find their next escape.

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