Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I caught the fever. It’s the reason I haven’t been in touch for a few weeks. It happened on 11th of June, I’d been waiting for 2 weeks for it but even so I was unprepared. Sitting in a street bar in Umhlanga Rocks just north of Durban this young kid Tshabalala took on the Mexican defence down the left flank then let rip with a left foot rocket that I’m still recovering from.
From that moment I knew it would be big and I chased the Socceroos around the country to make sure I didn’t miss a minute. From the nightclubs of Durban to the lowveld of Mpumalanga, myself and about 15,000 other Aussies did our best to make some noise for the land downunder.

As you’ll know we didn’t quite get over the line, the lads none the less showed plenty of outback grit. That last up cracker against Serbia giving us some fond memories to take away - Bret Holman’s jaffa locking him a permanent place in the hearts of all Australian football fans.
Now the tents of Kingsmead are starting to vacate as the long term contenders of Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Spain prepare to blow their Vuvuzela at the pointy end of the tournament. I’m not sure who it will be, but who ever gets there, fair play.

The Safa’s have put on a great show here, I haven’t had a moment of insecurity for the duration of my stay. Now if the success of this WC could bring some change to the skewed view world media portrays of this continent, well that would be something to blow your horn about.
In twelve years time, the vuvuzela will be replaced with a pair of thongs and a stubby cooler, handed out to every foreign visitor during the month of June. At that WC I’m sure the Socceroos will go one step further and hopefully the Safa’s and Kiwi’s will again be along for the ride.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

How not to cure a hangover

I weigh 74kg's. How do I know this? Because it's written on the back of my hand - B5/74 it reads.
The B5 relates to the order you jump in. They use the weight to know what type of cord to use. When we got out to the jump point I found out B5 goes first. I had been trying to remind myself for the walk out there why I was actually there, but I was struggling to reconile a response. I was there because, well I was just there. The Bloukrans bridge jump is the highest bridge bungy in the world and if I didn't have a crack, well I'd be asking myself the 'what if' for the rest of my life.
My timing however could have been a little better, as the numerous shots of Nyati - Chilli Mampoer the night before were still thumping away at my forehead. The bottle is wrapped in barb wire, nasty stuff.

I sat down and let the guide wrap my ankles.
'A little tight thanks'. I didn't want my first bungy to be my last. He helped me to my feet. Cue the music, hip hop.... horribly loud hip hop, unfortunately they don't take requests.
He clipped me in and I hopped to the edge. It was a 216mtr drop to the river below, but there was no way I was taking a look.
'This cures a hangover right?'
'Best thing'. He laughed back.
I gazed out at the mountain skyline. Look after me, I said to myself.
'5 4 3 2........ jump'

Monday, May 31, 2010

Fish River Canyon - Day 5

I made it :)
It's 11AM and I've just started on my 2nd beer. I got into Ai-Ais about 9:30AM. It's a nice spot with a big bar that conveniently opens at 10AM, though not many people are around to join me. I've definitely hit Namibia in the low season.

I didn't sleep so well last night, the sand felt as hard as concrete and I just lay right. I can't blame the evening though, another blissfully starry sky. I used the 'Southern Cross' to work out where I was heading today. It made me feel like a ship's navigator out at sea. The hike this morning was one of reflection. I didn't have a map to distract me so I let my mind continue to drift off in thought. The river crossings were also of a peaceful nature, gone the battles of the days prior. I decided to attempt this canyon on a bit of a whim and it's rewarded me greatly.

Some thing's in life you plan to enjoy.... other things you just enjoy, no plan.

Last morning in the canyon

Wild horse at dawn

A drink to success

18 notches cut - 1 for each river crossing.

Fish River Canyon - Day 4

I went for a swim this afternoon. It is the first time on this whole hike I have voluntarily got into the water. While I lay there floating on my back starring up at the full moon rising over the canyon I realized something. I have the river all wrong. It isn't something I need to conquer, it's something I should embrace. Afterall without it's water I would probably be dying of thirst right now.

Today my arrogance and stubbornness cost me about 3 hours in wasted time, but it could have been a whole lot worse. I didn't read my map correctly after one of the short cuts across a ridge. As a result I tried scaling a 100mtr cliff face which was stupid. About a third way up my hand grip pulled out a huge chunk of rock which tumbled down to the river bank below. I got the signal.... wrong way! I turned back, but it took me 2 more wrong turns until I finally accepted my error and retraced my steps which got me got on track.

I also lost my map on one of the river crossings today. I even watched it float down the river. It was a little distance off when I spotted it and thought it to be a large insect enjoying a free ride. I only realized once I reached the other bank and felt for my map that it was no insect. I figure I'm around the 80km mark so I'm not stressed if anything it just sent me deeper into my thought.

With an early start tomorrow I should be in Ai-Ais before lunchtime.

Moon rising over the canyon

A marker I set up to assist hikers with a river crossing

Here I miss read my map and attempted to scale the cliff on the right of this picture

Disappointment upon realizing the error of my ways

Contrasting rock formations side by side

Upstream view

Fish River Canyon - Day 3

If yesterday was a challenge of the physical nature today is one of the mental thanks in main to having to cross this river. To help me I have a new friend, his name is 'River'. It's a stick, and no I haven't gone 'Wilson!' crazy from the solitude, he's just my lucky stick and with his assistance I've made 6 successful river crossings this morning. I see the river as the mountain on the this hike and a worthy adversary it is. On 2 occasions I have been forced to turn back from an attempt to cross. I'm adding another obstacle to yesterdays post. The water itself is brown like chocolate, so thick you can't see a thing. Every step has to be fully felt out, checking you have a firm base before you heave your weight from one leg to the other.

So far, so good. I'm at the 40km mark, hoping to reach 50km before dusk. Considering I only made 3km on the first day I'm happy where I'm at.

The afternoon proved a tougher slog. Managed only 1 more river crossing, should have done 3 but my feet are getting cut up by the rocks so went the long way round.

I was treated to a tribe of monkeys playing on the rocks earlier. I also saw a large Kudu. Being alone I am noticing a lot more around me. The sounds of the wild can sometimes feel like personal messages only for me. Especially the wind. I have been listening carefully when it speaks, taking me back to my time when I read 'The Alchemist'. I find it helps to guide my thoughts.

Tomorrow I'm aiming for the 70km marker which I am confident of achieving. Perhaps I'll meet some humans along the way.

My stick 'River' his friend 'Ski' and my 2 feet

Sun setting in the canyon

Campsite Day 3

Fish River Canyon - Day 2

I can hear the water rushing over the rapids a few hundred meters downstream.... that's it. There is no other sound to be heard, unless I make it. I'm feeling quite tired and a little spaced out. This is the first time in my life where I am 100% in isolation. No people, no phone, I don't even have a watch... just me and the river. I think I have a mild case of heat exhaustion from the steady hiking through the afternoon heat.

I left my SA companions before sunrise and have yet to catch up with the hikers in front of me. This is despite covering what I estimate to be 23km today. I found the terrain to be challenging and at times very frustrating. On two occasional I attempted a river crossing only to have to turn back. The water is running too fast for me to keep balanced. My pack doesn't help that - 20kg's, add to it some poor flip flops and rocks covered in a film of slimy dirt and it looks like a long hike ahead. But I will have to work out something if I'm going to make the 90km's in 5 days. I just have to get across this river to make use of the short cuts.

Earlier today I almost bumped into a wild horse. It was quite surreal. I was scrambling over some rocks along the river bank then all of a sudden there was a horse standing straight in front of me. It was the afternoon and I'd been hiking solidly for some hours, wondering if the heat was playing tricks with my head I didn't think it was real. Then he flapped his tale as to say hello and we walked along the canyon together for a while, him leading the way.

A lonely wind just blew up, time for bed.

Morning sun not yet reaching inside the canyon

My hiking companion for the day

Campsite day 2

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fish River Canyon - Day 1

Hard work on the descent but made easier thanks to a 'Bells on the rocks' at 'Sakkie's clip' - A full glass of straight whiskey that must be skulled before passing the huge boulder that sits on the left bank a few km's into the canyon. Who am I to question tradition thus I drunk it down, though I barely managed to keep it down.We didn't make it much further into the canyon then decided to set up camp amongst small rock laden beach. The moon was already high in the sky by dusk and in two days should be at full shine. Box taught me how to find South using the 'Southern Cross' and the two markers. Their experience as a whole has been most assuring for me and I feel much more confident for learning from their 20 odd hikes they have made through the canyon.

I spotted a bunch of 'Fish River Canyon' badges on Sakkie's rucksack, I'm keen to earn one for myself. The stillness of the night was mesmerizing, gazing into the starry night as I drifted off into one of the most peaceful sleeps I can recall.

Bells on the Rocks at Sakkies Clip

Box, Sakkie, Piet, Cornelia & Tinnas

Fish River Canyon - Pre hike

Are there lions in this park?
That was my parting question as I was dropped off into the starry night of the Ai-Ais - Richtersveld national park in southern Namibia. Depending on which opinion I used, I was still either 3km or 10km short of my destination - Hobas camp. It's the starting point for hiking the 'Fish River Canyon' trail, a 90km trek through 'reportedly' the 2nd largest canyon in the world.

Thanks to a half moon I made brisk progress and made it to camp in about 40mins, no lions to report of. There I met an experienced bunch of South African hikers preparing for bed. After some pleasant introductions they kindly welcomed me to join them in their hiking party which was to set off in the morning. I set up my sleeping mat and after a long days travel was soon asleep.

My food supplies for the hike

My drop off point

The Fish River Canyon

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hello... Anybody home?

I just arrived in a town on the Namibian coast called Swakopmund. The place is deserted, it's like someone went with the old 'field of dreams' mentality of - 'if you build it they will come'.... but nobody showed up!

I have rocked up on a Tuesday arvo in the town that is dubbed the beachside adventure capital of Africa to find tumble weed rolling along the main street. The sun is shining, the ocean looks inviting, but where is everybody? A funeral has more atmosphere than this joint. I blame the Germans? Yeah, a little harsh... but hey, they built the place.

I don't only have my own room in an 8 bed dorm.... I've got my own floor! I checked into a local backpackers and they gave me the key to a building across the road. No probs, so I stroll over open the door.... it creaks a little.... 'Hello, anybody home?' My voice echo's down the hall. Nothing coming so I walk up the stairs to a landing and a hallway with doors adorning either side, but not a soul in sight. They've got room for about 50 people on that floor alone. It's like they've geared up for a world cup but forgot to put their bid in.

Anyway I'll stay here for 2 days to check out the crazy sand dunes I saw on the bus ride in... after that I'm outta here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Victoria Falls

Yesterday me and Axel discovered Victoria Falls...... sometimes it's better to let the pictures do the talking.

First Glimpse

The water hits you from every direction

On the edge

Glad I brought my coat

Took a Microflight to get a birds eye view

Some pics from Axel's flight

It would be tough to find a better sunset

Not my pic.. .. but gives you scale of what we saw.
The face is currently 1.7km across
At the moment 900mil litres are following over every minute

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lusaka Sausage

Me and Axel have been on the road for 3 days now. We're currently sitting in a bus at Lusaka Inter-city bus terminal. I made a bad move before. I ate this sausage.
It was one of those 'the moment got the better of me' things. We'd taken an unwanted taxi ride tour of downtown Lusaka because our driver and his mate had no change. It's a recurring theme on this journey.... no change. Here in Zambia it is even more prevelant when you compare the reality of the divide.
You can have an egg and bread breakfast for K2,000 (Kwacha) and at the ATM you can withdraw K2,000,000 out of the machine.... yes 2 mil. Or to simplify, that is a 1,000 egg and bread withdrawl, and that comes with 4 slices of bread, with butter! Then consider that the smallest note that comes out of the ATM is a 25 egg and bread note and you can see the problem for the local merchant. Even if he has a busy morning it is still going to take many an omlette sale to build up the change I need to buy one helping and then what if Axel is his next customer... bad luck.

I'm no economist but when you can get $500AUD out of an ATM and then only pay 50 cents for your breakfast , well that's what I call the 'Lusaka Sausage'.