First Hikes

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!
Sophie_Berg
Sophie, intrepid three-and-half-year-old hiker, off to catch dragons and spy on fairies
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.