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?
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.