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I would describe myself as a very cautious adventure junkie. I would always weigh up the possible risks and over dramatize it in my head and then weigh up the rewards, which usually starts and ends with “I might get a good picture.” Wednesday, 29 June 2016, a day I will most probably never forget. A day where I weighed up my options and made some questionable decisions.
June is a pretty cold month in sunny South Africa, and the Drakensberg is known for being extremely cold at this time of year. So I thought it good to go and sleep in the mountains. Surely I’ll make it? I’ve watched A LOT of Bear Grylls and in my mind I’m a semi professional survivalist. But I’ve never really done much surviving. A while ago, a friend and myself went away for the weekend without any food. We caught fish and collected shellfish from the rocks. We still had other cool things though; a car, a tent and water. It sure was an adventurous weekend, but not all that pleasant. I didn’t want to eat fish for months afterwards.
Now back to 29 June 2016. The day I decided to go and hike alone in the mountains and spend the night. I have limited hiking experience and spending a night in nature without a tent is a stupid thing to do. Oh did I mention that I had to ditch my sleeping bag too? Yap! It was between my 70-200mm lens, and the sleeping bag. The lens won, hands down.
So here I went, equipped with a camera, 2 lenses, a tripod, torches, extra batteries, a mini medical kit, 2 jackets, long johns, a pair of pants, 2 pairs of gloves, 2 beanies, a scarf, 3 pairs of socks, 4 hard boiled eggs, 2 lamb chops, some boerewors, cheddar cookies, breakfast cookies, 4 apples, 2 fizzers and 2lt’s of water. I’ve watched Bear Grylls eat worms and drink his own pee; this was the last thing I was planning on doing. I have this silly habit of getting lost…. So at least I would have some food and water to last me until a helicopter comes to my rescue. I estimated my bag weighing in at about 22-25kg’s.
I filled in the hiking register with all my details, it asked me things like:
Tent Y/N: N
Sleeping bag Y/N: N
Rain gear Y/N: N
Amount of hikers: 1
Amount of experienced hikers: 0
Next of kin contact number: Dad 082 651 32 31 (this question made me nervous)
I started hiking at 11: 46, and started regretting it by 12:00. It was a steep climb for about 3km’s, and some rather flat terrain for the other 3 km’s. My bag was starting to pull me back, but I arrived at around 3pm at a place called Blindmans Corner. From the get go, the hiking was not the part that was worrying me, the cold was. I waited for sunset, ate some eggs, and prepared for the worst. It wasn’t that bad at all. I estimate the temperature on the mountain being between 3 and 7 degrees.
I planned to take a couple of pictures of the Milky Way, and then rest until the moon comes out at 2am. Resting was easier said than done. My feet started getting ice cold, I knew I had to do something to improve the situation, it was only 8pm. Earlier on I saw an area where people have made fires before, there was wood and it was away from the grass lands. This was it; I had to make a fire. It was marvelous, and without it, I doubt I would’ve made it through until 2am. I fell asleep next to the fire and appreciated every bit of warmth it provided. 2am came and it was time to create the long awaited magic in camera. It was worth the wait. I got some decent shots and my risk vs. reward policy paid off. At 3am when I was done with my images, I decided to start hiking down again as there was no clouds to make an interesting sunrise. As I made my way down to camp, I couldn’t help thinking about all the stories I’ve heard about leopards not too long ago…Every 2minutes I turned around and checked my back, just to make sure. I got to camp safely at 5am. Just to read a board saying “No open Fires! This is a world heritage site.” I said oops and hoped the 500ml of water I sprinkled over the fire was enough. The best shower of my life awaited me at camp, and the editing was pretty fun too.
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