I arrived here a year ago. A fresh import; all the way from Johannesburg. As the locals would say, I was a ‘dorpsjapie’ (townie). Hiking, in my world, was the action of a pesky skirt that pulls up when you move.
There are a couple of things you get to learn pretty quickly when you join the Isted clan here on Lammergeier Highlands Reserve, and one of these is the real meaning of hiking. I had barely arrived when it was mentioned – as a ‘by the way’ – that we were going to do one of the 4-hour hiking trails to check on its condition.
Now, I’m not a complete dummy and know that the right footwear is essential when you go hiking. So, in my mind, I started running through my rather substantial inventory of shoes. Not a single hit. Fortunately for me, we were going into Lady Grey the next day to stock up on some provisions, and the ‘Kooporasie’ (the Co-op) there – I was told – sells a little bit of absolutely everything.
In true city slicker style, the next thing I reached for is my tablet. Google time. “How to choose a pair of hiking boots”. I immediately found a shopping site with a large banner announcing that comfort is everything: a piece of wisdom that guided me through the otherwise painful experience of having to buy relatively expensive, but not-so-pretty boots.
We duly hit the hiking trail bright and early that Saturday morning. Wait…I forgot to mention that the ‘kooperasie’ didn’t stock a little bit of everything after all. I had to forego the hiking boots and settle for a pair of ankle high snow boots instead.
But I digress. Back to the hiking trail:
The first hour was extremely uncomfortable. Not only was it the furthest I had ever walked in one go – save for a Disney trip with my family – but my snow boots had an insatiable appetite for socks. Every five minutes the errant pair of socks had to be fished out from somewhere between the balls and heels of my feet. I was getting grumpy and Kevin – much to my irritation – increasingly amused.
Kevin either took pity on me or he wanted to crank up the the pace by a notch or two – I’ll never know which – because after an hour he made me sit down in order to do some makeshift repairs in true ‘Boer Maak ‘n Plan’ (MacGyver) style. He told me that my idea of ‘comfortable’ clearly was the same as ‘too big’, and that too-big-boots tended to swallow socks. He hauled a roll of Elastoplast out of his backpack and taped my socks to my legs. It was a little undignified, and perhaps not ideal, but it worked.
With most of the discomfort out of the way, I could take my eyes off my feet and my mind out of the insides of my boots.
This freed me up to see the breathtaking piece of land I now call ‘Home’ from a completely different and exponentially more honest angle. It is an intimacy that is lost when you add wheels to the mix. It filled my senses with sounds, fragrances and sights I never knew existed beyond the safety glassed windows of our 4×4.
The further we went, the more I relished the hiking experience. Those remaining three hours changed me into a hiker for good.