After months of planning, arranging, land access negotiations and trailblazing, the first Plett Camino got underway at the end of April 2023.
Hikers met at T’Niqua Stable Inn for drinks and a fire-cooked dinner before heading to bed in anticipation of the next day. Early morning brought the frantic preparations of what to take and what to leave behind, what to carry in your daypack and what to send with the porters. It’s always like that. You think you’re prepared and invariably you’re over-prepared. Nothing like a deadline to get you focused on what is really important.
The first day kicked off at the Harkerville Hut and hikers plunged straight into the dense Knysna forest. Not the usual jeep tracks that the mountain bikers are used to, but lush, moist, leaf-covered bush trails, adorned with mushrooms, ferns, rich in bird life and the fresh scat of unseen animals.
Fourteen kilometres later, hikers emerged at the oasis of Green Fern Lodge, the first night’s stop and were welcomed by ice-cold G&Ts around a fresh swimming pool to dangle weary feet.
The next day, the trails didn’t disappoint along a virgin section of mountain track which hadn’t seen a vehicle or hiker in years. The smells of a dewy morning intermingled with the slanted rays of the sun streaming through the forest canopy.
At lunchtime, happily descend onto the beautiful Packwood Wine Estate to taste their whole range of delicious wines and bubbly served with a mouth-watering lunch of homemade cheeses and charcuterie.
And then onward for another hour to emerge at a secret deck overlooking the upper reaches of the Bitou River course. It is said that life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments which take your breath away. This was surely one. Amanda, from Protea Wilds Retreat, will treat hikers to a night of wonderful food
Day three took a long fifteen-kilometre trail crossing the Bitou valley and up the other side through unspoiled fynbos and the pastures of the Uplands area before arriving at Bella Manga Country Estate.
On the Queen’s Stage on day four, hikers were out the gates at 7:15 am to meet the game vehicle which ferries hikers across the Plett Game Reserve in the care of our knowledgeable chaperone, Kiewiet.
Alighting from the game vehicle, set off downhill towards the Keurbooms River. Once across the river, head in search of the bottom of our new trail, fondly named “Postman James” in deference to its original purpose a long time ago, and the Plett Camino trail warrior who found it and cleared it for us.
A stiff and lengthy climb out of the valley was just what was needed to get the heart racing. After a well-deserved rest at the top, we set about a fast-paced hike through the forests in search of the next stop at Kay and Monty Vineyards some ten kilometres down the track.
Night five brought with it the joy of Davina and Derek at their 20 Good Summers working farm retreat. Wine and pizzas flowed all night to celebrate that most of the Camino was now behind us.
The Fith day takes you back into the forest and along the river course in the direction of the Keurbooms River. An unexpected climb that rivalled Postman James’ was there to greet us as we ascended from the riverbed in the direction of Fairview House.
During the final stretch, the Robberg Peninsula slowly reveals itself as you descend towards the Keurbooms River. The strange thing is that when leaving five days earlier, you look at it from the other side, and without realizing it, have come full circle and see it from the East
The trail concludes with a welcome lunch at Down to Earth Restaurant on the Bitou River. The 75-kilometre epic takes hikers all the way from the Garden of Eden.
At the end, it was difficult to remember all the steps that it took to get there, but as the days and weeks passed, and the photos and stories were shared, so many wonderful memories came flooding back.
About the Plett Camino
The Plett Camino is an all-inclusive, fully catered, five-night, five-day, slack-packing pilgrimage through the forests and highlands of the greater Plettenberg bay region.
The journey will meander through some of Plett’s legendary winelands on the way to the coast, where the temptation to stop and sample some of Plett’s finest “vino” may be difficult to resist.
Hikers will walk between 11km and 18km per day, with a stop for lunch along the way. Each day will take between 5 and 7 hours, with plenty of time to rest and immerse yourself in the forest sights and sounds.
The Plett Camino is a fully supported slack-packing experience, with expert knowledgeable guides to lead you along the route. Each day, hikers will be treated to delicious snacks, meals, drinks and comfortable accommodations in beautiful settings.
The Plett Camino is the brainchild of local resident, Iain Bryant, who was inspired by the Camino de Santiago in Spain and the success of the Hermanus Camino in the Overberg. Iain wanted to create a similar experience in the Garden Route, and so the Plett Camino was born. The route was created in partnership with the local community, including landowners, SANParks, Cape Nature and environmentalists to ensure that it is respectful of the environment and to maximize the benefits for the local community and local trail network.
The Camino is an all-inclusive package, including amongst others:
· Breakfast, lunch pack and dinner each day
· Sundowners, snacks and drinks each afternoon
· 2 Wine Tastings
· Game drive through the Plettenberg Game Reserve
· Restaurant lunch at the end of the trip
· Bag transfer between overnight points
· Secure parking for the duration of the Camino
· 5 nights accommodation and 5 days of epic trails
· Knowledgeable local guides
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