Travelling along the N2 from Jeffreys Bay to one’s destination, the Tsitsikamma Lodge passes in a blink of an eye. Next time you’re feeling particularly adventurous, take a right when you see the lined logs welcoming you to the lodge, as there is a beautiful trail awaiting at the edge of the forest.
We chose a very gloomy Sunday to explore the Striptease trail. The clouds were out in full force and a light drizzle tickled the tops of our heads as we ventured out. The trail is one of Tsitsikamma’s best kept secrets and gets its so called name from its many rockpools, which is supposed to get a person shedding his/her clothes as they go. We arrived at reception at 10.30am, signed in, received a map and made our way to the start. The information board at the beginning shows three trails, the blue trail is the Striptease. The map instructs you to follow anything blue along the way.
The trail gently eases you in with a saunter along the edge of the woods. Red Riding Hood was a brave little girl, I don’t think I could wonder deep into the forest on my own. As you gaze to your left, there are thousands of pine trees rooted uniformly like soldiers, reaching high into the sky, their trunks hiding deeply in the darkness below. We moved passed a blue decaying tree stump and another blue arrow leading us down a slope towards the pleasant trickling of water. There had been rain the night before and the pathway was full of mud and sludge. I would suggest hiking in an old pair of shoes that don’t mind having a mud bath.
The first section of the trail was the most difficult, but this was partially due to the slippery mud. It’s a beautiful walk alongside the river and certain parts are shadowed by huge leafy trees. The individual rockpools are all signposted with their own names. Pebbles is the first pool we came across, we decided not too stay too long as we wanted to find one rockpool to sit and eat lunch at. The next is the Honeymoon pool and a hop, skip and a jump later we were at the Cataract pool. There was a lot of rock climbing and navigating down ravines which was tiresome, but we didn’t get too hot due to the droplets of dew that sprung off the shrubs and plants alongside the overgrown path. Eventually we reached the Bikini pool and not long after that we arrived at the Topless pool. We decided that this was the prettiest of all the pools we had seen so far. It also had a big tree that cast some cool shade onto the rocks and the caramal coloured water was shallow enough to see through. We perched on top of the rocks for a moment to take in the natural beauty and decided that that is where we would set up camp for a while.
I immediately got my bikini on, yes top and all – despite the inference, and took a slow walk unsteadily into the water gliding one foot over each rock before stepping. Luckily I made it in without any slipping or sliding. Jeremy soon followed along behind me. We played around in the water 💦 for a while, but got out when the heavens decided to spit a few warning droplets down at us. We had a quick snack and then continued on our way.
From this point onwards we hopped and climbed from one rock to another. Jeremy had a few stumbles and ankle twists along this section. I seemed to escape all but one twisted ankle, I think being closer to the ground kept me steady. Mr beanpole didn’t have as much luck and left the forest that day having fought a battle of his own. After the Bottomless pool, we crossed the stream using the natural stepping stones, one or two wobbly ones were sneakily waiting to punk us, but we both avoided the joke and made it across safely.
We had to edge along the side of massive white boulders to get to the Halfway pool. I kept checking behind me to make sure that Jeremy was still capable of walking and hadn’t hurt or broken a body part yet. We then meandered along a dry part of the riverbed for sometime, this was my favourite part of the trail. The riverbed was decorated with hundreds of different sized stone and pebbles. All of their edges had been smoothed once by the flow of the river and lay delicately ontop of one another. I had fun skipping from stone to stone as we made our way to the final 3 pools.
It wasn’t long before we reached the last three pools, the Boobs pool, Fantasy pool and finally the Kaalgat pool. All three were absolutely beautiful, but we decided to go for one last dip in the Kaalgat pool, seeing as it was the last rockpool. This particular pool’s name is supposedly taken from the idea that by the time you’ve stripped off your clothing bit by bit at the other 10 pools, you should be completely naked, and in good old South African terms, ‘kaalgat’ (or ‘bare-arsed’ if translated directly). As you arrive at the pool there is a bell that you must ring to warn other hikers of the possibility of your nakedness, because let’s be honest, unless you’re a an underwear model or you’re extremely fortunate, no one wants to see you’re bare arse besides you’re partner. We rang the bell just for fun, because I am not one that feels one with nature in the nude. we found a flat rock to settle upon.
By now the mist was rolling in and the drizzle had started. We took a quick refreshing dip in the rockpool and then changed into dry clothes for the walk back. The route back is along the mountain side and as we started climbing up the mountain the heavens opened and got us good. Besides the panic evolving in my head, one being the envision of a headline: ‘Couple stranded on Tsitsikamma mountain’, the scenery surrounding us looked peacefully beautiful. The mist covered the valley like a blanket and the colours of the plants and flowers popped vibrantly as the rain kissed them gently. The path was thickly overgrown and it was a treasure hunt to find ‘something blue’along the way but we managed along and finally made it back to the lodge.
All in all the trail took us approximately 4hours and was roughly 5km in length. I recommend the trail to anyone that loves nature and does not mind getting dirty. It is quite a challenging hike in places but if you go in good spirits you’ll manage to overcome all the hurdles and laugh about the falls.
Definitely one for the books.