-A thread dedicated to unreported cases-
It is strange that after posting on trail safety data, I would come to experience the horror of unsafe hiking myself. This is just a personal account from a robbery post-lockdown and what you can expect on a multiday hike.
Location: Millwood hut, Knysna
Trail: Outeniqua hiking trail
Event: Multiple assailants, robbery
Date: Oct 2020
So, like most, we wanted to get out when Level 1 hit and we opted for the Outeniqua. My husband and I would be the only ones on the trail at the time. This was ideal considering Covid safety (which we deemed the nr 1 threat). The trail is normally 7 days, but due to 2 fires the windmeulnek and platbos huts are permanently closed.
For those that want to know, the bathrooms and lapas burnt to the ground and no construction is underway so I do not see the 1st two huts opening anytime soon.
We unfortunately, or fortunately chose the worst possible storm to walk it in. We did a quick and beautiful walk between Farleigh and Millwood. Being alone, we enjoyed the beautiful hut and the rangers even came by to measure for new windows. We chatted and after dinner and conversation went to bed. It started to drizzle, but at 00:12 a loud banging noise woke us up.
Now my husband checked and locked all the doors (not all huts have locks). We never do this on trails, but did it out of habit from home. I thought it was a hiker until I saw the time. I opened the top floor window to ask who it was while my husband scrambled for a headlamp. They did not reply and the banging intensified. They were trying to shoulder open the door.
My husband raced downstairs to block the door… he did and after many threats they eventually took off. Needless to say we did not sleep again or for much of the subsequent trail.
Things to note:
SANParks contact list at Millwood was dated 2015. The Duty ranger, Office staff in Knysna and otheŕ offices only answer calls between 08:00-16:00 bar lunchtime. There is no answering machine. I called the duty ranger 4 times between 04:00 and 08:00 and the offices double that. I sent an email. I called SAPS…no answer.
If we were truly in danger I don’t think a single person would be able to help. The restaurant and tours at millwood are closed. The offices were several kilometres away with local residences between us and the office.
They did not arrive by car, but by bicycle. This means they either live nearby or used the jeep track and cy led in the drizzly rain for an hour or more. Now imagine you know they know your on a trail. They know where you will be and when as well as which route you will follow.
We could bail (hike out to the office), something most would do and our robbers would know OR we could hightail it to the next hut and keep contacting the authorities. We knew a massive coldfront was on its way so we opted for the trail. I never thought I would be that greatful for torrentrial rain. Nice 10mm per hour rain.
The robbers stole everything in the bathrooms and outside. No SAPS case was opened. The knysna office tried to call us once and only once. They responded by forwarding my email to the managers (which the duty managers did not distribute as when I finally got hold of the duty ranger 30h later, he knew nothing of it) and told me they would consider closing millwood for a short while. I had to contact them to find this out. That is it.
The stats reported for trail robberies are the ones where a SAPS case is opened.
I would advise everyone to be extra careful in the coming year.