The thought of going for a multi day hike usually only interests a selected few individuals, typically those we call “hikers” (myself not included!). But during my time up in the Northern Kruger I was asked if I would like to go and be part of the guiding team for a few “sleep outs” and better yet “wilderness trails”. And I was hooked!
Finally I found a valid reason to walk many kilometres with a heavy backpack in the African heat, carrying everything I needed to survive with me. To get into the real WILD. Not the kind usually done by hikers where they try and conquer a certain set trail or mountain. This is the kind where at any point something can happen that will determine the next path, route or destination of the trail. And the best part about it all for me is that its not seen as a physical challenge set out to really get the blood pumping, its all about getting you out into the African wilderness and letting the wild animals get the blood pumping! Really get off the beaten track, as far away from roads, cellphone signal and cold beers as possible. To reach places few have ventured and see the wildlife totally unaffected by human pressures.
Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with Lowveld Trails company and make a short video on their business and attitude towards it all. And the line that they used really sums it all up. “If you are in a vehicle you’re an observer. And as soon as you get out on foot, you become a participant!” Being the participant in the wilderness of the African bush is powerful. It is an incredibly humbling experience and really makes one appreciate everything around you.
Getting prepared for a 5 day wilderness trail is all about sacrifice! What comforts are you willing to sacrifice for a lighter load. I believe the phrase “pack like a mule, sleep like a king” was used numerous times for my trails! And it really is amazing to see what one can survive off for 5 days in the bush?! We even had to carry our own water and when that runs out we have to find our own out there! Another good idea before setting off was to remove yourself of all technology and anything that can tell the time. Totally “disconnect” from the norms and immerse yourself into what it was like way back when…
But by far the best thing I noticed about wilderness trails is on the last day. It also happens to be day 5 of no showers. It is the excitement of getting back mixed with the sadness of leaving it all behind. It truly is all left behind as you carry in what you need and you carry it all back out, leaving as little of an impact on the area as possible, (only footprints!).
At this point one really appreciates 3 things in life – a warm shower, decent food and an ice cold beer. It is in fact at the point where you have all the things you have been craving the entire trail that you realise what you have just achieved. You reached and experienced true wilderness. Not only in the wildlife form but also within yourself. It is something that's fairly hard to describe and is best felt.
Being a part of it all for the short time truly is incredible!