Garden Route – Day 4 (Robberg Peninsula)

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Cliffs, beaches and wildlife galore – Robberg has it all!

We woke up to find an overcast sky and light drizzle which put a bit of a damper on our plan to conquer Robberg Peninsula. I had read about this amazing hike in my guidebook and since the whole trip was estimated to take around 4 hours, we figured it would be a good day-long activity. When we arrived at the reserve we hadn’t realized that it would cost money to enter and hike (although it was only around R30 per person). We got suited up, hoping that soon the rain would stop and the sun appear, but as a precaution we kept our cameras and other electronics under our waterproof layers. When we started the hike we noticed that there were 3 options: the first was an ultra short ‘peek’ totally around 2 km, the second was a hike down the beach and back totally closer to 4 or 5km and the last was the entire peninsula which was 11km (and the one we had originally planned on undertaking). With the weather being as terrible as it was, we didn’t predetermine which path we would take, we decided to see how we were feeling as we went along. To start, we had lovely views of the peninsula and a convenient wooden walkway to stroll down, making the walk very comfortable.

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As we continued we skirted along the edge of a bushy cliffside and enjoyed views of the sea from high up. We were really anxious to spot the famed Cape Fur Seals that called the area home, but we didn’t really have any big change of scenery for many kilometres. We mostly saw lots of rocky outcrops along a dirt path.

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After a ways we reached the pivotal fork in the road. Up to this point we had seen some decent views and interesting geology, but with the overcast conditions and the relentless drizzle, we were all too afraid to pull our camera out for more than a couple of seconds. Was it worth it to continue in the same manner for another 8 km? The witsand dune that divided the peninsula was just that, a sandy dune, and with the rain the sand was completely soaked. If we wanted to shorten our hike, it would require us to trudge through a seemingly unending stretch of sandy beach. Our only indication of what lay ahead was a sign that listed the latest time that anyone should be attempting to reach the peninsula’s southernmost point. This corresponded with the high tide, and so we could only assume that we would eventually make our way down to the water’s edge. It was a bit unnerving really to have these signs that basically told us that if we timed our hike poorly, we would surely perish…We were a good hour or two ahead of the point-of-no-return so we were pretty confident we would be okay. Since we really didn’t have anything better to do, we continued onwards, with the hope that the weather and trail would take a turn for the better.

Within about 10 minutes of walking we could finally hear the barking of the seals far below. We were able to find a couple of safe spots to peer over and catch a glimpse of the massive colonies.

ImageUnfortunately, this was as good as our photos got. Since we were always directly above them (and I mean WAY above them) and the water droplets on my lens made everything a bit hazy, any chance at getting a decent picture was dashed. It was still a great experience to be there and see them though. We continued along hoping that we were close to the point, but we hiked and hiked, and hiked some more, secretly wishing we had turned at witsand. Finally we could see the ocean spreading in front of us and our trail began to dip downwards. We were so thankful that we half ran down the steps, until they got really dicey, and we reverted back to safe stepping. When we arrived at the point we were greeted by hundreds of gulls lounging on the rocks, with massive angry waves crashing all around.

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It wasn’t as spectacular as we were hoping (although I don’t really know what i was expecting). We were also hoping there would be a bunch of seals around, but then we realized just how powerful the waves were and that anything swimming in the water surrounding the point would be mercilessly smashed into the rock. We continued on, knowing that we still had a good 2 hours of hiking ahead of us. The good news is, from this point forward the rain stopped falling, and the hike became very exciting. Our obvious path was now replaced by vast spans of rocks and sand, interspersed with tiny little signs that had an arrow directing us towards a safe path (if we were lucky). We had to pay more attention and use our judgement to find the best way to get through the now very rocky terrain. The flat expanse was becoming littered with giant blocky boulders larger than us, and it was fun to climb onto them and cross from one slab to the next.

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Because we were concentrating so hard on finding the signs, figuring out where to step and helping  one another get from point A to point B, we nearly missed a rare sighting. As I was putting my hand down on a boulder beside me to lower myself down, I almost squished (if that would even be possible), this giant grasshopper.

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I would like to note that I actually don’t know if this is a grasshopper, but it looks like one and I can’t find much information online, so that’s how I will be referring to it. The most amazing thing about this insect was just how BIG it was, which unfortunately is lost in this photo. We did get some shots with objects beside it for size, however, most of my photos are in another province on my external hard drive, and likely won’t make it onto this blog for another year… This grasshopper was bigger than my hand, it was like a lobster grasshopper. I was curious to know what it was eating and drinking because it was right in the middle of this giant rocky junkyard and there were no plants around at all, and in a matter or hours, it was likely to be underwater. After interrogating the poor guy, we continued on, puzzled and amazed, and now paying more attention to the ground in case there were other strange creatures among the rubble.

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After a good kilometre or two, we reached an area where the sign was pretty much pointing straight up. This was strange because it was a giant rocky cliff and there didn’t seem to be any possible way to climb it. We started getting a bit paranoid that there was no way but to backtrack and if that was the case, we would be swept away by the tide. After searching around desperately, Jessi found a narrow dirt path that was hidden by some shrubbery. We began our ascent, slowly and awkwardly, making sure we took careful steps to avoid falling off the cliff.

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As we climbed along, I was (as usual) staring at my feet, being sure to avoid breaking my ankle when I started to notice that there were giant land snails everywhere! I felt bad because I was sure I must have been accidentally stepping on there prior to this, and even after I started spotting them, it proved difficult to avoid them all.

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Once we reached the top, we could see the beaches not far off in the distance, and it seemed our path was already starting to dip back down again. It felt like a waste to be climbing upwards just to go back down, but we realized that there was no safe passage at the water level and this was the only way around. Our descent was a thrilling rocky staircase that plunged rapidly downwards, and was complimented by a stone wall that had an old rope attached along it, acting as a makeshift banister to steady ourselves as we descended.

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We reached the beach and were thankful for the change in scenery, although once more, the wet sand clung to our boots and made the trek quite exhausting.

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As we continued down the beach, we were surprised to stumble upon a whole string of beached jellyfish. I really love to see jellyfish, although I did feel a bit sad to see them lying there helplessly. The good thing about the wet weather was that it ensured that these jellies didn’t desiccate.

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Upon closer inspection however, we noticed that there were tiny snails all over the jellyfish and they were having a tasty feast. So much for that. We finally reached the witsand dune area where the shorter loop would have connect back and climbed back up towards the boardwalk once more. By this point we were starting to dry off and we had shed our outer waterproof shells. We also tried to make up for lost time by taking pictures of pretty much EVERYTHING.

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Although it was a fairly miserable day and we all did our fair share of complaining, we will ALWAYS remember this hike. It was challenging and long, but it was so rugged and beautiful that it was well worth the trek. The terrain was constantly changing and even though the peninsula wasn’t that big, the landscape was always taking on a new form. We even saw some amazing wildlife (I forgot to mention we saw some rock hyrax scurrying around along the boulders too, but we never got a chance to get a picture). When we arrived back at Moonshine, we even had the opportunity to bask in the luxurious tree top jacuzzi.

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Considering how amazing this hike was on a bad day, I can only imagine how incredible it would be on a good day. If I were to return to South Africa, I would definitely consider tackling Robberg Peninsula again.

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