12 lessons from my first multi-day hike

Posted by A on 19 October 2016

Although I believe in constantly stretching and pushing myself, when asked to embark on a 4-day hike for my assignment at Getaway, I was a bit concerned, considering that I’ve only ever hiked over a tiny hill in Grahamstown. However, when I heard about wine, four-star accommodation each night and delicious food, I was more than ready to hit the Green Mountain Trail.

Here are 12 things I learnt about my body, hiking and the Green Mountain Trail on my first ever 3-day hike.


1. My body can move over mountains

Although I walk sluggishly and roll myself over like a ball of dough being kneaded, I can walk over mountains. Growing up, I was teased a lot for my manner of walking and to be honest, I was never really bothered by this because I was merely grateful my feet would move me from one spot to another. But on this hike, looking back at the Elgin mountain range and knowing that I walked a great deal of it, I was overwhelmed at how much I had underestimated my body all along. My manner of walking determines not the distance it can cover.


Taking in the view of the Elgin Mountain range and trying to locate the spot from where we first started the hike on Day 1.


2. Wine-tasting doesn’t have to be pretentious

Every single day of this hike we were guaranteed a wine tasting session with wine-makers from the wine estates that make up a bulk of the Green Mountain Trail. The last wine-tasting session we had as we concluded the hike at Beaumont Family wines with Sebastion Beaumont, winemaker, and son from the Beaumont family was calm and simple. That experience convinced me that being pretentious and poncey are no requirements for one to enjoy a wine tasting session. I can taste wine like I would be trying out any new flavour of, say tea or even Oros. “This is good, what did you put in here?” type-of-thing. If you are ever around Botriver, pop in this wine estate for a chilled wine tasting.


LEFT: We arrive at the Beaumont family wine estate on the last of the hike after crossing the Bot River to conclude the hike. RIGHT: About to enjoy the platter and start with the wine tasting at the Beaumont family wine estate.


3. People own unbelievable amounts of land

On the second day of the hike, Teagan and I were taken for a drive at the Paul Cluver Wine Estate, a family that has been making a family for decades. I remember looking over mountains and asking Kobus who manages the animals on the farm, “which portion of the area does the family own?”, to which he responded, “Everywhere you look is Paul Cluver.” That was a definite jaw dropper for me. They own over 4000 hectares of land and the N2 cuts through their estate.


4. Nature conservationists are like kids in a candy store on a mountain

Our tour guides for the hike, Evan Kortje and Andreas Groenewald lit up like toddlers in a candy store as we approached the fynbos to begin the hike. Andreas was apologetic for having used a smoke-train back in the day, while Evan stopped to save earthworms from drowning on the trail. If you don’t call that passion, I don’t know what is.


LEFT: Evan Kortje, assistant guide on the trail who shared his knowledge of fynbos and passion for working on this trail. RIGHT: Andreas Groenewald, guide on the trail. He gets so excited you’d swear it was his first multi-day hike.


5. Drinking brown water is not always a bad idea

I am very sceptical about water that comes in a colour. At first, I thought the water looked like urine, but upon closer inspection and a bit of an explanation I was ready to drink from a spring for the very first time. Call me gullible, but Evan explained that the brown colour was the minerals from the roots of the fynbos that managed to make their way into their water. Apparently, the water is also referred to as fynbos tea.


6. There is visitation and then there is humble visitation

We went on this hike during winter which meant that the more visible and popular flowers were out of season, the flowers that we managed to see grew at ankle height. Appreciating the flowers for a hike in winter required us to get on our knees and appreciate the flowering season – as we begin the hike, Evan said this is why they refer to a hike at this time of the year as “humble visitation”.


LEFT: We enjoyed seeing these fantastic daisies along the route among other flowers. RIGHT: Pink erica flowers that we saw a lot on the first day as we began the hike.


7. Going up is so much easier than going down

The force and energy applied going up was much more within my control than slipping down the road and reserving a lot of my energy from not rolling down. The thought of me pushing my weight down and having that collaborate with gravity to take me down was scarier than the full energy it took to go up, with lesser chances of falling. Walking down, you have to grip your foot on the ground and inside your shoes to avoid pressing your toes too hard against the shoe and that bit is uncomfortable.


Walking the Groeneland Nature Reserve with assistant guide Evan Kortje among the variety of fynbos.


8. You can do multiple day hikes without camping in the wilderness

Although I admire my colleagues like Melanie Van Zyl who can camp in the wilderness and hike over 250 kilometres, on this fantastic trail, you are guaranteed 4-star accommodation for each night. To vary the experience, you get to sleep in two different guest houses surrounded by mountains, the Wildekrans Country House and Porcupine Hills Guest House. And there is wine tasting every single day of the hike. This is a good introduction to multi-day hiking and baby steps to doing bolder hikes like the Tankwa Camino.


LEFT: Porcupine Hills Guesthouse where we slept on the first day of the hike. RIGHT: Mountain facing the Porcupine Hills Guesthouse just outside the window.


9. Nostalgia is not for the young at heart

Throughout the hike, I found looking back on the journey a bit … uncomfortable. I think it’s because I fear getting caught up on former victories that I forget what lies ahead. I know some people believe that looking back can function to empower you to move forward. Blame this on the arrogance of youth, I think what lies ahead should be enough reason to propel one forward. My energy through the trail was fired up by what was to follow than the how-far-I’ve-come nostalgia – (the wine tasting, delicious food and comfortable bed might have had a lot to do with this). But to further support this claim, it turns out that in the 7th century, nostalgia was regarded a mental disease. No jokes.


Andreas Groenewald showing me where the hike will end on the first day as I try to keep calm.


10. Nature sings in the most silent of ways

The sounds of nature on the trial were an orchestra that is not short of awesome; being serenaded by frogs, hearing the leaves dancing in the wind in anticipation of rain, the singing birds, flowing water springs, splashing waterfalls over mountains and the mind clearing crescendo silence at mountain tops was total bliss. The entire hike is like a composition of one fine track, especially the silence at the mountain top that still rings in my head in moments of peace once in a while.


The silence up here is total bliss. We stopped to have coffee and lunch at this mountain peak, from here, we enjoyed a view of the vineyards of Elgin, Grabouw, Theewaterskloof Dam, Kleinmond right through to Hermanus.


11. Hiking socks – it’s a thing

In preparation for this hike, my editor, Sonya Schoeman, excited for my first assignment, says to me, “you will definitely need socks,” and I remember thinking I was sorted in that department. Until she said hiking socks. “Falke has the best socks. Other socks don’t have the best ventilation and could make you sweaty, which means blisters, and you don’t want blisters,” she added. To which I replied with a polite nod as one who’s just been schooled. Until that moment, I didn’t know that the advancement of socks went anything further than happy socks. Who knew?!


12. Big macho boots are not an awful idea after all

I knew that I needed a good pair of shoes for my first multi-day hike and was looking for a pair of shoes that resembled my very tender and not-so-masculine touch. From the latest available waterproof designs, there were none. So for functionality purposes and after much deliberation with our Gear Editor, I ended up getting the latest pair of waterproof hi-tech hiking boots which at first, felt out of my comfort zone. Until I had to aggressively and fearlessly crunching through the woods and walk over the rocks to take pictures and enjoy the view a bit off the track. Suddenly, I could step on anything without thinking twice, which had me thinking; maybe this is why I was teased for walking funny all along!


Read the full story about the Green Mountain Trail (and a gorgeous new hike in the Magoebaskloof) in our November issue, on shelves Monday 20 October 2016!

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