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Shoreline of the San - a 5 day Westcoast hike

Updated: Aug 11, 2018

My very first 5 day hike!! I have hiked on a number of occasions but these have all been limited to day hikes in and around the Cape Peninsula here in the Western Cape, South Africa.  In my quest to prepare for my pilgrimage next year (yes - I am doing the Camino de Santiago (The French Way) in April 2017).  Besides getting myself walking fit (I have to be able to walk 10kms per day without effort) and that carrying an 8 -10kg backpack.  This hike is my first opportunity to get a feel for what i would be in for. A very good friend of mine, Anette Grobler, led the hike.  The group comprised some 16 hikers, all from different walks of life, all on their own journeys.  Our paths crossing for a few days and some 60 kms.  

My sister Anne joined me on this hike - I love travelling with her - we always have fun!    

Last year we road tripped through Scotland together and had the most awesome time.....  but i digress!

The group met at the Elandsbay Hotel on the West Coast where we overnighted.   

The San experience started with a short trip up to a cave just above ElandsBay where we were privileged to be joined by UCT Emeritus Professor John Parkington.   Prof John is an archaeologist who has studied the bushman and their lives on the West Coast.   He had twice excavated this particular cave and the surrounding area. His knowledge of the San and their lives was really impressive.

According to the Prof, while the caves were originally used by the bushman when coming to the coast to collect muscles and other seafoods, it is his theory it was also used as a place of passage.  There are hundreds of hand prints on the walls of the cave which came after the original paintings of Eland and other animals.  

The evening was spent getting to know my fellow hikers.  Not all were strangers.  I was delighted that my friend Tessa was on this hike.  Having not see her in a while (if 3 years can be called a while) we spent a great evening catching up - so much so that we landed up in the pub enjoying a few (well more than a few) Frangelico's.   Not the best thing to do before a hike - but it was enjoyable.  It goes without saying that it was not an early night.... in fact is was more like an early morning!

Day 1:  Elandsbay to Steenbokfontein (17kms)

Oh my word the percussion band in my head was not letting up..... the aftereffects of the night before!  Of course nothing a good breakfast (bacon and eggs) wouldn't sort out!   After said breakfast (yes i was feeling a lot more human again), we set out on the days hike.   The weather was beautiful...not a breeze with clear skies. I had never hiked on a beach or on sand before.

Nothing can prepare you for it.   Initially it was great, we walked at low tide so had the benefit of hard sand and a flat beach.   Before long though the camber of the beach changed and walking was no longer on the flat.   With a good 9Kgs on my back I found my stride and was enjoying the view, breeze in my face and chatting.  

The first 8 - 10 kms were great in spite of the camber of the beach.   We rested every 4 - 5 kms allowing us to take in our surroundings, rest up and appreciate the beauty of the West Coast Shoreline.

We weren't long into the final 7km stretch when my right hip started to pain. With every step it got more uncomfortable.  Definitely being caused by the camber of the beach and the softer sand.   With the tide starting to come in, we were being pushed into the softer sand. Good exercise of course, but not good on my hip!    

We finally made Steenbokfontein at around 2pm.  I have to say that the last 3 - 4 kms were absolute hell for me in spite of all my efforts to "push through the pain", it was not easy. I had visions of not being able to get to the Day 1 destination let alone complete the hike.

This photo belies the pain I was in...only give away is the angle at which I was standing (LOL).

It is of course evidence of my Day 1 achievement.  Having said that, there was still 500m to the farm.... and boy this was by far the hardest 500m I have ever walked.

Our host, Tannie Kitta Burger welcomed us all. After finding my bed, I took meds, did a few yoga exercises (to try and ease my hip) and slept for the afternoon.    This of course cost me a visit to the Caves on the farm (oh but I did enjoy the sleep) which I believe was amazing.

T'Kitta prepared a real 'boere kos' (farmer's food) dinner in Die Plaaskombuis (english translation: The Farm Kitchen), a restaurant she runs on the farm.  (Definitely worth a visit if you in the area). 

Vleis, soetpetat, aardapples, boontjies and so forth!  Plaasbrood with home made Fig and Apricot jam was also served.   All this was preceded by T'Kitta's special mussel soup!   A feast for kings!   

What a character she was, entertaining us with stories from the area and better still, ghost stories from in and around the farm.

Anette presented T'Kitta with a battery pack for her Cell - she was delighted!  The Burger family of Steenbokfontein really went out of their way to make our stay a very memorable one! We left there feeling very much part of the Weskus family!

Day 2:  Steenbokfontein to Lamberts Bay (11.2kms)

After an amazing breakfast and more stories from T'Kitta, we set off for the walk to Lamberts Bay.  

Again we were fortunate to have amazing weather. Walkiing at low tide meant we could walk on the harder sand.  The camber of the beach was not bad initially but got harder a few kilometres into the hike. My hip was amazingly much better (meds and yoga practice did the trick) and soon I found my stride.  I felt more comfortable at the back of the pack which allowed me to walk at my own pace and with my own thoughts.   How beautiful this world is.... I was easily transported into a state of peace, tranquility and contentment.

We stopped for refreshments (yes we had a beer and it was really lekker!) at Muisbosskerm and then pushed on to Lamberts Bay before the tide came in.   Muisbosskerm is a very popular West Coast Restaurant which serves the most amazing West Coast cuisine.  

We arrived around lunchtime and waited at the local tidal pool for our transport to the accommodation. Steffanie decided it was a good idea to have a swim but for the rest of us, we opted to observe or cooling our feet off in the crisp water. The afternoon was spent relaxing and socialising.   Again the accommodation was outstanding! Carol Burger has this amazing holiday apartment block - for hikers this is simply 5 star!  

We were blessed with the most amazing sunsets at the end of each day. 

There is nothing more rewarding nor humbling that to walk in nature and experience its wonder..... I can't wait for my Camino Pilgrimage!

That evening we were transported back to Muisbosskerm for an amazing feast of seafood! Anette had arranged that they opened especially for the group on the Sunday evening. Again the wine flowed (fortunately no Frangelico this time) and again we ate like kings.  

Another perfect day and amazing evening!

Day 3:  Lamberts Bay to Doringbaai (12 kms)

We woke to a typical West Coast morning with the sea mist rolling in from the sea! It was cold with some wind. It was eerily beautiful.   

Anette had prepared a Snack Pack for the hikers in place of breakfast and we set off for what would be our final beach walk on this hike.  

I was in my element, no hip pain and with each day i was finding the hike more and more comfortable.  Of course the back pack needed getting used to and I now absolutely understand why those who have done the Camino strongly advise to take the bare minimum. 

We arrived at Doringbaai around noon having completed the walk in just over 2 hours.  The weather had improved and we were again lucky to have sunny skies and very little wind.   We had stopped for a break and of course a snack.   I had taken up the rear of the group finding this to be my most comfortable place.   Tessa walked much of the time with me and Anne fell back every now and again for a chat.  

Anette spoilt us yet again with a wonderful meal.... we had an early dinner at Fryers Cove. The most amazing sea food and wine tasting!  What a real gem here on the West Coast.  

The food was amazing and even more amazing was the Wine!   Of course many of us bought a few bottles to enjoy that evening.... and enjoy we did!!

We spent the evening chatting and drinking (again) - I have never laughed so much in all my life!    They say laughter is the best medicine and by golly it was!

The stories that were told, the relaxed crazy 'geselligheid' just made this a perfect evening for all.

Day 4:  Doringbaai to Strandfontein (8 kms - 13kms)

We started the day with an amazing breakfast provided by the ThornBay Guest Accommodation staff.  Today's hike was along the cliffs and crags of the coastline to Strandfontein. Now this terrein was more familiar! 

The group before we set off for the final leg of our hike! Looking as fresh as daisies in spite of the night before!

The plan was to hike 8 kms, but the group took a longer route to take in the amazing view. 

So beautiful and amazing that it turned into a 13 km hike! 

And who can blame us.....just look at the amazing scenery....breathtaking!

Before long ....there it was! Strandfontein and the end of the hike.  A bitter sweet moment.   These past 5 days have been an amazing experience!

We arrived in Strandfontein at lunch time and to the most amazing surprise: Champagne and CrayFish!  What a spoil!  The CrayFish (or Kreef as we call it) was eaten 'West Coast Style" (in the hands with a dollop of Mayo).

I was so chuffed with myself - just on 60 kms of Shoreline hiking, great company and an amazing experience! While I know that it is nothing compared to the 800 kms the Camino is, I had achieved something I had NEVER done before!   I am so going to do more of these.

The care and planning Annette put into this Hike was exceptional.  From the Welcome note on our beds at ElandsBay, the gift (a branded Buff) to the Snack Packs, the visit from Prof. John Parkington, the stories of T'Kitta and all the accommodation all contributed to an experience that will never be forgotten!

Shoreline of the San - Hiking Group 1

If you are interested in this hike (and others that Annette has to offer) you will find her here: Silent Steps