South Africans love roadtrips and there’s nothing better than a roadtrip with like-minded friends who don’t mind stopping every few minutes to take photos, drink in the view, chat up the locals, or break out an impromptu picnic on an old stone wall next to a cliff.
I did this recently with my 2 closest friends. We had 3 specific goals and the rest of the time we could do whatever caught our fancy. Our goals were: 1: explore the forest of Nature’s Valley, 2: drive along Montagu Pass between George and Oudtshoorn, and 3: explore the back road between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp (I’ll call that last one ‘the road much less-travelled than the less-travelled road).
This post deals with Nature’s Valley (often written as Natures Valley, sans apostrophe!).
This pristine valley is at the bottom of the lovely Groot River Pass and is considered the most beautiful part of the Garden Route. It lies in the heart of the Tsitsikamma National Park coastal forest and is the only part of the Park with residential properties. The locals are fiercely proud of their unspoiled valley – with good reason. Almost every home is unobtrusively built to blend into the forest (some are so deeply surrounded by trees it’s no wonder they are not used in winter – it’s 4 degrees colder here than 15 kms further up the pass). There is no litter to be seen anywhere and the trees are covered in healthy moss, fungus and lichen. It’s a little paradise.
There is one shop with all sorts of emergency supplies and a friendly shopkeeper who is full of local knowledge, and a pub/restaurant with a roaring fireplace and good friendly service. In summer, an al fresco fish and chips lunch is a must-do. There is also a camping and caravan park on the river.
Nature’s Valley is where the famous Otter Trail ends and where most hikers spend a night after the Otter, but if the arduous 5-day Otter Trail isn’t for you and you’re based in Nature’s Valley, you can choose from the various forest and lagoon/river trails in the valley itself. I always stop on the Pass and look down at the top of the trees wishing I had time to beneath them and that’s exactly what I did this time.
Detailed maps are not plentiful so we suggest you give yourself plenty of time and ask the shopkeeper for advice. Always let someone know in advance where you are going to walk. Look here for the various trails.