Sinclair 2

MCSA Members:

 Day 1, Saturday:

Fred van Berkel (Leader), Karin van Niekerk, Clive Louw, Bill Turner, Irmela Kohlsdorf and Saartjie vd Merwe and Werner Frei. Support team and botanisers: Nicky van Berkel, Di Turner, Sandy Louw and Joan Louwrens.

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Day 2, Sunday:

Fred van Berkel (Leader), Karin van Niekerk, Clive Louw, Bill Turner, Irmela Kohlsdorf, Saartjie vd Merwe and Joan Louwrens and Werner Frei. Support team and botanisers: Nicky van Berkel, Di Turner and Sandy Louw.

A recce carried out a few days before the hike showed that the return route through the indigenous forest was no longer in use by SANParks and completely overgrown and unusable. This was replaced by a coastal hike covering a section of the Harkerville Coastal Trail between Sinclair Hut and the Kranshoek parking lot. The weather forecast for Saturday showed 50 km winds along the coast for this more difficult section (Grade 4) between Noetzie and Sinclair. As the forecast for Sunday was more favourable, it was decided to do the hike in reverse, starting on Saturday at Kranshoek and hiking to Sinclair Hut (Grade 3). To minimise carting hikers all over the place, the next day we walked from Sinclair Hut, westwards, to Noetzie.

Access: The entire route goes through the Sinclair Nature Reserve managed by SANParks. Access permission to the Reserve and use of the Sinclair Hut was kindly granted by Mr Nico Oosthuizen, Section Ranger in charge of the Sinclair Reserve (044 532 7770). Mr Oosthuizen also gave permission for a bakkie to drive to the hut with our overnight gear. The coastal section between Noetzie and Sinclair Hut is too rugged to safely traverse the cliff sections burdened by a bulky overnight backpack. Use of the hut is secured by booking the Harkerville 2-Day Coastal Hike at SANPark’s jetty offices in Knysna (044 302 5606). Cost is R227.25 per person plus R56 conservation fee. The latter is waived if you have a valid Wild Card.

Report: Saturday morning was a bit drizzly but the strong winds forecast did not materialise. We started at the Kranshoek picnic site and descended via the Waterfall Loop to the coast on a wet and slippery path walking the second day of the Harkerville Coastal walk in reverse. Not always being able to spot the trail markers, which were facing the wrong way, the path-finding abilities of Clive and Werner came in very useful.

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The early drizzle had stopped and the day remained overcast and pleasantly cool. This is one of the most scenic sections of our coastline with many Grade 3 scrambles.

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After lunch, through the archway and after some more scenic Grade 3 rock faces, we got to the chain sections – at spring low tide. The water level was so low that we could walk across the boulders below the chains. Clive, our resident mountain goat, decided that the chains would feel offended if not used. The low tide certainly made navigation of the chain areas a cinch! This very low tide suggested an easy Gully crossing scheduled for the next day!

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After the chain section we crossed a small river, up the steep path through magnificent fynbos to the Sinclair Hut, arriving at 13h45. Total distance for the day was 7.5 km hiked in 5 hours.

At the hut we met up with the botanisers Nicky van Berkel, Di Turner, Sandy Louw and Joan Louwrens. During the afternoon, Hans van Ameyde, the chap with the ‘ongoing love affair’ with the Harkerville coast, now sporting cataract-free vision, paid us a surprise visit having hiked to the hut via the redwoods. Great to see you back in action Hans. As usual, weary legs were rested, the botanists poured over their botany books, fires were lit and yarns swapped over some bubbly and red wine. The forecast 50 km/hr winds were in full evidence at the hut but the steep cliffs protected the coast.

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In order to get to ‘The Gully’ at low tide, we decided to depart the next morning at 06h30. Unfortunately, the group set out just after first light, 15 minutes late. By the time we arrived at the coast, the weather was overcast but windless.

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This time, we had to use the chains in spite of spring low. After hiking for 2½ hours, and covering 4.2 km, we reached the Klip River where we had to leave the Harkerville Trail. Here, Karin decided she had had quite enough of rock scrambling and walked back civilization along the Harkerville Trail – a good decision as from here the coast becomes more rugged and changes from a Grade 3 to a Grade 4.

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From there, across ‘Grasnek’, over lots of rocky coast line, around steep headlands where occasional waves were ready to tug at your legs and on to ‘The Gully’. For some reason the going was slow – too slow to make the Gully by low tide: perhaps it was the late start or the 6 hip replacements or maybe the average age of 69 of the group? I should be honest; the meet leader did faff a lot trying to find the route. Thanks to Clive for again scouting out the most sensible path!

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We finally arrived at the Gully at 11h45, more than 1½ hours after low tide! By now the wave sets were rolling in fast and the gully crossing had to be completed in less than 20 seconds to avoid getting a possible drenching. Unfortunately, Bill’s weary legs took too long to steady him and he was unceremoniously flung off the centre rock by a huge wave. He surfed on his back into the gully and was left wet and bedraggled clutching the rough rocks as the wave retreated as rapidly as it had arrived. The feared Gully had claimed another victim! Bill’s humour never left him; he scrambled out with a wry smile on his face.

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We had an extended lunch stop here to give Bill a chance to put on some dry clothes. Thereafter we navigated the ‘Crack’ which is a narrow cleft between the vertical cliff and a spalled off jagged sliver of sandstone. It’s a tight squeeze but doable.

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The fisherman’s path from here to Noetzie is little used and now quite overgrown: lots of bundu bashing through thorny bush to get to Noetzie. The tail enders arrived at Noetzie at about 15h30 after an 11 km, 9-hour adventure.

Our back-up team of botanisers was waiting to take us back to our cars which we had left in Knysna at Nicky’s school.

Many thanks to you all for sharing this beautiful bit of coast with me.

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Fred van Berkel – leader

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