Harkerville Coastal Hiking Trail is variously described as “more spectacular than the Otter Trail” and “the best two-day trail in the country”. I have always been somewhat sceptical about these claims, but I have to admit that after doing it, there is some substance to them. It is seriously spectacular – but also fairly difficult. Harkerville will give you a full body workout with its chains, ladders and rock scrambling. If you are unused to carrying a full pack and not conditioned to hiking, this may prove to be a trail too far. Also ensure that you are able to pull yourself up a chain ladder while carrying a full pack or the experience may be … trying.
In terms of topography, forest and coast it is similar to the Otter, 40 km further up the coast, but the trail takes you through more climax forest and fewer oscillations between clifftop and beach – and of course, no major river crossings. Most of Day 1′s 14.7 km is a relatively flat walk through the forest to the coast. A steep descent to the rocky shore heralds the strenuous part of the hike. New stainless steel chains allow you to skirt some precipitous sections that could be trickier if a big sea were to be coupled with a spring high tide. An Otter Trail-like switchback path through coastal forest finally leads up to the clifftop. Sinclair hut is beautifully situated in a clearing facing east. A Google Earth track, photos and a video follow …
Day 2 starts out benignly in the fynbos. The path then snakes down a spur to the pretty Grooteilandrivier mouth where soon after the chain and ladder obstacles begin. The coast is rugged, jagged and steep from here and the clambering is more strenuous than on Day 1. After a sharp climb up to the Kranshoek viewsite, the rest of this day’s 11.5 km is a steady but slight climb through thick forest, back to the Harkerville Hut.
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