When we were first informed that we'd been selected as one of ten adventure tour operators from South Africa to attend the Adventure Travel World Summit in Alaska, we kind of didn't believe it. Alaska. For real? It's one thing to visit one of the most beautiful (and harsh) countries on the planet, but to visit it with the crème-de-le-crème of the tourism industry is a tour operators travel fantasy come true. Adventure and business all rolled into one...and we get to go. The dates of the Summit are the 19th to 22nd September, which is literally just around the corner. Sarah will be zooting off to Anchorage to take part in some of the pre-Summit adventure activities (mountain biking, paddling, hiking etc.), before diving head first into the Summit. The Summit itself comprises key note speaker sessions, and 'The Market Place'. Attendants can sit in on various lectures and discussion held by travel industry leaders (topics as wide as fine art travel photography through to women and leadership in travel), and then spend time at the Market Place where all different travel business can interact with each other through 17 minute meetings. As one past attendant said "In some ways, it’s the floor of New York Stock Exchange, a Moroccan bazaar, and a family reunion (the good kind) blended into one very productive setting". Sarah will be batting for Active Escapes in this very eclectic meeting space, and we're pretty sure our friendly-but-feisty blonde will smack it out the park and bring home some valuable insights, new ideas and solid connections. Massive thanks to Dirty Boots Adventure Guide for putting Active Escapes forward for nomination - we wouldn't be going without the support of the SA Travel Industry, and our clients - who seem to like us 🙂
Our friend Ewald Sadie is a very talented photographer from Cape Town, and he has been shooting a series called Trail Daze over the last year or so with some beautiful images. We've decided to reshare his published posts here, incase you're in the vicinity of some of these incredible trails and mountains. This weeks post is about Van Gaalen's Cheese Farm, and the lesser known Pofadder Trail...
Salomon have produced some great shows on Salomon TV, the best thing being that they don't gab on-and-on about Salomon, but about the places, people and experiences that occur in the outdoors. This one is particularly lovely, and really offers some great insights and advice for happiness (which you can take or leave, but some struck so resoundingly clear they're worth a double listen!). Enjoy...
by Kath I vaguely remember my first hiking experience, when I was about four years old my family went for walk somewhere out in the Berg area. I remember getting really tired, moaning about not being able to be carried on my Dad's shoulders...and there is photographic evidence where I am sitting on the ground in the middle of a dirt road refusing to walk any further, fists balled into my teary eyes and my two year old sister is motioning to me to get up and carry on. Hows that for embarrassing? I may not have taken to hiking on my first go, but when my legs were a little longer I began to enjoy the places they could take me to. Adventuring down river beds, scrambling through bushes, swimming in pools, slipping down bum slides, clambering up boulders to pump my fist in the air at the top. Sophie, Sarah and Matt's 3-and-half-year-old daughter, recently experienced her first proper hike. Matt joined a group of Dad's all taking their kids up for a night in a cave in the Injasuthi area of the Drakensberg. Sophie is still quite small, and to expect a 10km walk up a mountain from her was not realistic, so Matt muled a backpack crammed with sleeping bags and food, while Sophie was slung around his neck - tiny kiddy Size 7 shoes flapping about his ears. For weeks leading up to the hike, Sophie had been enthusiastically describing how she was going to sleep in a cave, "but not a cave with a dragon, although that would be quite exciting". Sophs would detail the food they were going to eat, the colour of the sleeping bag she would choose, what she would pack - her excitement was so tangible it was hard not to immediately grab my rucksack and join in. I couldn't wait to hear how the hike went, and when Monday rolled around and Sophs came back from school I was full of questions. Her eyes went wide and her hands shot in the air clutching a piece of bread to explain the size of the water slides, where the slept, that they "didn't see the dragon or a leopard but that's okay", and she became fixated on explaining all the fairies she saw on toadstools in the indigenous forest parts of the hike. I totally know what she meant too, those fairies are everywhere! Matt later explained to me that it was one of the most exhausting hikes of his life, particularly when Sophie fell asleep on his shoulders and flopped around like a 16kg pack of potatoes. He eventually let her slide off his shoulders and she slept soundly for 15 minutes on the side of the hiking trail while he recovered. Seeing the pictures of the kids swimming in pools, huge smiles, clutching walking sticks, all cuddled together in the cave at night, it really makes one realise the essence of a hike up a mountain - where you leave the security of home behind and find new security in the sides of caves and the down filling of sleeping bags and blue glows of gas stoves. First hikes are awesome, and judging from Sophie's experience it went a bit better than my first hike - but kids are never too young to march off into the wild with the guiding hand and heart of a parent. Sets the tone right from the get go, well we think so anyway.
By Kath Recently I was lucky enough to spend a night at a farm in Newcastle, where some friends have been living for two years after moving from Johannesburg. They moved after 18 years in the thick of the rat race to a farm covered in bushveld, rich in rocks and wildlife and they've set about developing their lives as farmers of pecan nuts - quite a contrast to investment banking. It was awesome to see how their seven year old and nine year old boys have settled into farm life. It's not a total transformation, kids personalities are strong from the early months, but I was fascinated with how they seemed to meld in with the landscape, tussling on the grass, hopping motorbikes over logs, playing with the dogs, jumping off cliffs into the deep quarry, pelting each other with clods of algae, nibbling on food and racing off again to play another game or ride horses, having spats and forgetting about them ten minutes later, gazing into the fire at night and looking for shooting stars, discussing satellites, moons and galaxies. I came back from an outing to find they had painted skeletons over their skin in bright blue and red paint, still half dressed in their motorbike kit. Man! The bliss of being young in South Africa. The thing is though, it's so easy to get hemmed in by our day-to-day lives, walls of houses, fences of yards, digital screens and countless obligations. We forget how simple it is to enjoy being alive and learning important lessons just from playing outside. The nine year old boy asked if we had jumped off the "Ghost Jump" at the quarry, and I asked why it was called that. His response was one I will never forget. "Well you see when the water level dropped because of the drought, the jump became a lot higher. It's scarier, and I was scared to do it. But when I did do it, it was like my spirit stayed at the top and watched me jump in and as I hit the water it came back in to my body! That's why I call it the Ghost Jump". In one simple explanation I could see that this young boy had started to make sense of fear, of risk, of adrenalin, of his own spirituality, of what he could push himself to do and how he will manage new challenges in the future. Of course his parents careful guidance influences this, but it's a lot harder to learn these lessons by playing video games than it is by experiencing what the outdoor world has to offer. It made me think twice about opting to veg out in front of movie or series, versus taking the dogs walking somewhere new. What lessons am I missing out on every time I choose the indoors over the outdoors?
One of our favourite trails in the Karkloof has been out of bounds for some time due to harvesting activity. We found this video by Chris Pearton from a year or so ago...so we thought we'd relive the wonder of Bat Outta Hell 🙂 Can't wait for that to be open again! On another note, we ride this trail when doing our supported transfer tours on our Mt. Gilboa day...mmm...worth considering.
Johan Radcliffe is well known in South African adventure tourism circles, in particular for his adventure guide website Dirty Boots. Johan recently endeavoured to generate statistics on the adventure industry to help guide and also promote the growth of adventure tourism in South Africa. "So after 10 years in the adventure industry, with no reports that I know of coming from the powers that be I decided to do my own survey. So after hundreds of hours on the phone, this is the result of that survey" says Johan. It is a fascinating report, and includes some surprising facts. For example, who would have thought that horse riding as an activity has the most operators in South Africa, while trout fishing has the least? Or that the highest income generating activity in adventure tourism in South Africa...is shark cage diving? It is a cleverly constructed piece of research, which is well worth flipping through. It can be found here.