Two-minute noodles for supper, rocks poking into your hips, smelly socks and lugging a heavy backpack don’t exactly make your eyes sparkle with anticipation? Then rather skip lightly along a leisure hiking trail. No load on your back, a local guide by your side and overnight stops in comfortable beds preceded by fine dining.
The Crayfish Hiking Trail along the West Coast is one such slackpacking trail. Get to grips with the beguiling charm of the West Coast and its people, while walking the coastline from Elands Bay north to Ebenhaeser. A community-run initiative, the four-day walk introduces a new angle to the region and offers hikers more than spectacular scenery and loads of fresh air.
Trial Hike Itinerary
The trail starts at Elands Bay where hikers meet up with their local guide day before heading out. Allow time to explore this fishing village and surrounds while enjoying the hospitality of your local host.
Overnight in the Vleihuisie Guesthouse, a beautiful old clay farmhouse on the edge of the Verlorenvlei. Carefully renovated, this landmark is now run as a guesthouse by a community enterprise.
Hiking Day 1
Make your way along the Verlorenvlei wetland to the beach. An 18km walk along the beach, adjacent beautiful white dunes, brings you to Steenbokfontein Farm, close to Lambertsbay, by mid afternoon. En route you will occasionally meander inland for a look at interesting features in the adjacent Strandveld.
At Steenbokfontein you will be received by your hosts, the Burgers. Dinner and breakfast consists of traditional fare served in their restaurant , The Farm Kitchen. Overnight at one of the renovated cottages of the Steenbokfontein Guesthouse.
Hiking Day 2
After a mammoth breakfast, hit the beach trail from Steenbokfontein to the town of Lambertsbay. A memorable visit to the well known Bird Island, home to some 25000 gannets, are scheduled for this stretch.
Have lunch with Oom Dawid Naude and his family in the township – an opportunity to get a sense of the large fishing community that makes up most of the town’s inhabitants. A meal of snoek and chips will go down a treat.
From Lambert’s Bay hikers are taken to Doring Bay, about 50 kilometres to the north. (The towns on the West Coast are far apart, so the Crayfish Trail is designed to let hikers walk the most interesting parts while they are driven through the less intriguing areas.)
Your overnight spot is a disused fishing compound, once lived in by itinerant fishers from Cape Town cashing in on the huge shoals that were netted there. The rooms in the compound have been renovated to a comfortable level and the view over the sea is hypnotic. If in season, freshly caught crayfish are on the menu for dinner.
Hiking Day 3
From Doring Bay head out to Strandfontein and on to Papendorp. The walk from Doring Bay to Strandfontein will jolt you out of expectations of more beaches and flat land. Take in a shore of vertiginous cliffs, the bases cut away by white water that roars in and out of the many inlets. En route you will see unique plants and in winter and spring beautiful wildflowers, whales and dolphins.
Overnight in the Papendorp Guesthouse overlooking the lovely Olifants River Mouth and wetlands.
Hiking Day 4
Follow an adventurous path along the Olifants River bank to Ebenhaeser. This town, founded as a mission station in 1831, straddles the final stretches of the Olifants River where it flows into the Atlantic.
Crops of lucerne, bean and coriander fields thrive there, and fish eagles stand guard on the riverine trees. The river walk is beautiful with plenty of interesting birds and fishing activities to entertain you, but be prepared to get muddy. Though not always available, there is the option also to take a short boat ride on the river.
Put your feet up for the night at Ebenhaeser Guesthouse, a small, somewhat forlorn cottage with old, worn interiors speaking of a more prosperous era.
The next day, hikers are taken back to Elands Bay.
The hike costs R3060 per person. This includes the four day hike, accommodation inclusive of all meals (breakfast, lunch packs and supper). The meals are prepared by the local communities and are distinctly West Coast in flavour. A support vehicle transports all luggage, so all you have to carry is your backpack if you so choose. Contact Peter Owies at (c) 074 3584 333, (t/f) 027 215 1798 or via peter.owies [at] gmail.com for bookings and enquiries.