The bitter taste of ‘everyday’ life from your soul! #adventure #getoutside #positive http://ow.ly/i/mbEUF
K-Way – Scott Ramsay – Umfolozi Wilderness Trail Expedition
I can not go without giving credit where credit is due. From the day we were announced as the winners of the contest we received only the absolute best service and attention from the staff at Cape Union Mart. There were no delays in arranging our gear, getting us in contact with Scott Ramsay, arranging plane tickets and shuttles. The communication and guidance from both Penny Parker and Gabrielle Stein was excellent and it was only a pleasure dealing with Cape Union Mart and specially you guys.
As part of this contest, we were fortunate enough to be sponsored with top of the range clothing and kit by Cape Union Mart and K-Way. As for Cape Union Mart and K-Way, these brands are synonymous with South Africa- it is a label that we can wear with pride and totally rely on. Few people know that Cape Union Mart and K-Way is a family owned and managed, local business which was founded in 1933 and has a factory located in Cape Town. An interesting story we heard on the trip, Scott Ramsay asked what the origin of the name K-Way was, Pierre Pienaar explained to us what he believed to be the real story. The the original founder, the late Mr Phillip Krawitz was commonly referred to as Mr K by his factory staff and a joke between his employees about how things were to be done in the factory, there was no compromise on quality or workmanship and Mr K made sure of this and so it came about and the saying originated, “Nei man, you must do it the K-Way” and so too the birth of the brand name. I don’t know how accurate an account this is but I quite enjoyed the story none the less 🙂
Enough about them and more about our cool trip, our clothing and gear. This is my personal feedback on the kit that we were sponsored and that we put to the test while taking on the Umfolozi Wilderness Trail.
K-Way Explorer Kloof Trousers – Looking at the way my shins and ankles looked after the trail, I obviously did not wear my trousers nearly enough, none the less, these are excellent, and despite being very tough, they are made of very light weight fabric that keeps you cool in the heat of the day but also offers protection and keeps you warm in the evenings. The zip up and zip off legs are legendary and essential when you are doing as many river crossings as we did, the original design that just zipped off was near impossible to get over a boot and if you did manage, the inside would be wet or full of mud by the time you got you boot through. The cargo pockets are also very handy, especially when carrying a backpack, as they are more easier accessible than your standard side pockets. Another awesome quality is that they dry very quickly if rinsed on the trail, most times you get to camp late afternoon and not much time to leave washing on the line.
K-Way Explorer Uvongo Shirt – Excellent, excellent! Firstly I am not one for long sleeve shirts but here I will make an exception. These light weight technical shirts keep you cool and protect you from the sun, the sleeves also roll up comfortably and have button tabs to keep them there. As with the trousers the fabric is light weight and moisture wicking and dry super quickly, which is great when carrying a backpack around, just a short rest stop with your pack off and the shirts is dry. As with the trousers great for rinsing out after a hard day on the trail.
K-Way Contrail ¼ Zip Fleece – I think this was and still is my favourite item of clothing, I don’t like thick heavy sweaters or jackets that hinder my movements, this fleece, fills that gap perfectly. It is not very thick but offers sufficient warmth against the elements, it is super light and gets shoved into any available pocket on your pack, always close at hand. Really a must have item for winter as well as summer evenings on the trail.
K-Way Fleece Beanie – Always essential in our winters, even though the days get hot, once that sun sets in the evenings the temperatures plummet quickly even along our warm east coast where they never really have winters. It is also perfect to keep your head warm in the sleeping bag. When I wasn’t wearing it at night, it doubled up as a lens pouch in my backpack.
K-Way Mercury Shell Jacket – This is really a great piece of gear, especially for hiking, it is really compact and does a great job of stopping the cold wind at night, fortunately we did not have any rain on this trail so did not have to test waterproof ability.
Deuter ACT Lite 40+10 – The Rolls Royce of backpacks, I must say I was very impressed, these bags have come a long way from the old H-Frames and Internal frames that I was used to. The pack itself is nice and slim so does not protrude out to the sides, though there is an option of adding side pockets if you like. The Deuter 40+10 is a medium size backpack and it just managed my items for the 5 day trail but if I had to do it again I would go larger for such a long trip and would recommend the 40+10 for a two to three trip.
Besides the equipment that we were sponsored and got to test on the trail, there was a lot of other K-Way kit in in my backpack, K-Way Aspen Sleeping bag, K-Way sunglasses, K-Way Soft Shell Jacket, K-Way Micro Fibre towel, K-Way Thermal vests, just to name a few:-)
Wait, all this clothing and gear nicely stuffed into my K-Way Evo Gear bag, essential to keep everything together while flying to your destination.
This was a great initiative by Scott Ramsay and Cape Union Mart to offer a competition like this. It was a brilliant trip and I can still not explain how fortunate we were to spend this time with such great people in such a wonderful setting and with an ambassador of note, Scott Ramsay. I actually mentioned to the group, at a stage while we were hiking through the bush I was trying to think of a way to describe Scott in a word and this verse just kept coming to mind, ‘A Gentleman and a Scholar’ (and a consumer of fine whiskey). Only now that I did some research, I see that this phrase was first coined by Scottish poet Robert Burns and these words really summed up Scott Ramsay – The Scott, to a T.
You can read more about the trail and our trip and find photos on the following web pages;
2014 - Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park Brendon Muller, camp, Camp Cooking, Camp Fire, Hiking, Hluhluwe, outdoor, outdoors, Primitive Trail, Scott Ramsay, South Africa, Umfolozi, Wilderness Trail Leave a comment
Diary Entry 6 – 6 June 18h00
I am home with family, warm in the comfort of my bed, as I write my final entry.
Our final morning, it was once again a very cold night out on the wet riverbed, so close to the water. Got in a bit more sleep though than the previous nights, I think it was catching up on me. We needed to pack up and leave early as we all had flights flying out later that day and it was a good 3 hours drive to the airport.
As we were packing up a few elephants crossed over and came for a drink. We were just about to leave when we spotted a lion on the riverbank, there were two just watching us, eventually the rest of the pride arrived and soon there nine in total. We could not stick around and had to get going but this was a great end to our adventure. We left camp just after eight and pushed to get there by ten. We unpacked all our kit and had a quick well deserved hot shower at the tented camp. We packed the vehicles and said good bye to our new friends, we would leave behind Nunu and Nontobako, and Bruce and Meghan would head back to Durban for the final week of their SA stay. The five in our group would head back together to King Shaka Airport and then too say our goodbyes before all heading our separate ways, back to where we had come from.
We would head back to our families and share this wonderful experience and if they can’t comprehend what we experienced we will be left with no option but to return to this special place with our loved ones so that they too can be one as we were with our wonderful Mama Africa.
As much as I may have missed my family, I don’t think I missed the comforts of home.
2014 - Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park Brendon Muller, Camp Cooking, Camp Fire, cooking, Hiking, Hluhluwe, nature, outdoor, Primitive Trail, Scott Ramsay, South Africa, Umfolozi, Wilderness Trail Leave a comment
Diary Entry 5 – 5 June 02h00
Our final full day in the bush, I don’t want it to end, I could easily stay longer. Tonight we will set up camp for the last time. We were spoilt this morning, as we were breaking camp a heard of buffalo started drinking at the river, we stopped everything and watched them in the warm glow of the morning sun, first there were just a few, then another few came, and so it carried on till that there were almost 200 buffalo drinking in the river.
We got going as soon as our stuff was packed, luckily our backpacks were considerably lighter but you still feel them after not carrying them the previous day. It is once again going to be a scorcher of a day and we soon feel the heat of the day. It is not long until we pick up on our first rhino spoor and we start tracking, soon we spot a white rhino bull lying under a tree, the adrenalin starts pumping. We stalk slowly trying to keep as quiet as possible as not to startle the animal, stopping as soon as we see him turn his ears towards us and pick up on our sounds, luckily we are downwind from him and he does not pick up on our scent. We get within 30m from him before the ox-peckers sound the alarm. Immediately he is cautious, he stands up and backs up a bit, he is staring us down, we move a little closer, closing the gap but eventually he gets annoyed and heads off into the bush. It was so great after a day and a half of tracking to eventually catch up to a rhino and get so close to such a majestic and marvellous creature.
The excitement wears off and we move on, it is not even 10minutes later and we spot a mother and her calf also resting under a tree, how lucky could we be. This time the mother is much wearier and does not let us get very close before she runs off leading her calf to safety. The morning sped past with all the excitement. We soon found a beautiful Wild Fig tree, this would make the perfect spot for lunch break.
We all rolled out our mats, kicked off our boots and relaxed under the tree, we snacked on crackers, with tuna, cheese and salami. We spent about an hour and a half just chilling under these beautiful trees. Eventually-boots back on, packs on and we were on our way, the sun was already low in the sky we had to get a move on to make camp before the sun sets. We soon got to the riverbed, this would be our camp for the final night. On the opposite bank there was a lone elephant taking a drink. The riverbed was covered in tracks of elephant, rhino and hippo, lion spoor a few meters from where we would make our beds.
We had barely settled in when two more elephant also came to drink from the river, they had just left and a large troop of baboons made their way to our side of the river to their home on the cliffs behind our camp. Just as they left, another couple of elephants crossed the river heading home. What a great camp, we went and washed up in the river on the way back we were checking spoor and Nunu was teaching us how to identify between elephant, rhino and hippo, all I still needed to see were hippo and then I would have seen what I wanted, his words were scarcely cold when out of the reeds, a couple of hundred meters from us, a hippo appears and heads to the river for a drink. What more could we ask for, all this happening on our front stoep. This has really been a fun filled exciting day. As it gets dark, we sit around and have supper, Scott also asks us all to share the highlight of the trail. By what we heard from our friends, everybody has enjoyed it tremendously. For me it was the idea of being so primitive and making do with the bare essentials, I also did not want to sleep tonight, I wanted to first lay under the skies with my eyes wide open I wanted to memorise every star in the night sky, once that was done I would softly close my eyes and record all the night sounds.
Soon after coffee and tea we all retired to our beds hoping it would not be as cold as the previous two nights.
Diary Entry 4 – 4 June 01h00
It’s 01h00 and I’m back at my favourite spot, I’m on fire watch again. It was extremely cold when I got back to bed yesterday after my watch. There was a lot of dew and our sleeping bags and everything else that was exposed was soaking wet. I think everybody was happy when morning came and more so when the sun showed itself for the day.
Soon everybody was up and ready for the day, it was decided that we would spend another night at this camp so we didn’t need to take our backpacks, just a few essentials for lunch on the road.
Our task today would be to track rhino, a life in the day of a tracker or maybe of a poacher! It was simple we would go out and walk into the bush until we picked up their spoor and then track them down. It was nice not having our packs on, you get to see a lot more, you get to keep your head up without the weight off your backpack pushing you down into the ground. We soon picked up on a spoor and started following, there were tracks of black rhino heading into the thicket and white rhino on a foot path, so we opted for the white rhino.
While on their trail, we spotted several other animal, giraffe, impala, nyala, kudu, zebra and lots of baboons but the rhino always just seemed to keep one step ahead. It was a good morning walk and at lunch-time we climbed to the top of a cliff high above the Umfolozi River. We once again had a good meal prepared by the ladies and then it was siesta time. Some people found shade under a few trees scattered around us and a few of us moved down the side of the cliff face to try hide from the sun and spent time just chatting and learning more about one another and where we came from. From the view point we had a good view of a well used drinking spot, it was far but we rhino, zebra, buffalo and wildebeest drinking even two elephants came along to take a drink, this was exciting as it was our first elephant sighting.
Eventually we were up again and would continue tracking the rhino in the direction of our camp. Unfortunately we never caught up to the rhinos but it was still a most enjoyable day. We eventually got back to camp in the elate afternoon. It was hot and soon everybody was changed and headed down to the river for our bathing ritual in a foot of water and to rinse some clothing.
Soon the fire was going and Nontobako was bust making supper, tonight on the menu will be white rice and a few mixed cans of veg, tomato relish and chakalaka. Soon we were once again around our little fire sharing a meal and stories. People were rather exhausted and did not sit around long, it was getting cold and before we knew it people were heading to the warmth of their sleeping bags, soon the first watch began.
Again I lay awake till late into the night-a pride of lion could be heard in the distance moving closer to us, what better way to be lulled to sleep than by that of the roar of lion just across the river. These roars continued into the early hours of the morning and till my watch started. I got briefed that they had crossed over to our side of the river but they had become quiet but I’m sure we will hear them again soon. Again almost time to hand over the shift to Scott, top up the kettle, wake him up and get back to bed. Hopefully I’ll get a good couple of hours worth of sleep.
It’s sad to think the time is drawing to an end, this was our third night in the bush already, only one night remains, the time is passing way too quickly, the idea of leaving this peace and tranquillity is sad, I feel so good being out here, being so out of reach, without the hustle of life back in the city. As we were talking earlier, even a bad day in the bush, beats a good day in the office. Though even when we leave here, we will take with us a piece of this experience and so too we will leave a part of our hearts in the bush. I am sure for a long while when I look up into our African sky and when I see the constellation of Scorpio, I will travel back, even if it is just for a moment-I will be back on the banks of the Umfolozi river, gazing up into the night sky, listening to the night noises as one can only hear when you are close and one with Mama Africa.
Under the canopy of our night sky
The serenity of the wild night sounds
The shimmer and crackle of a Tamboti wood fire
Even the crisp cold wind blowing at my back
All make me feel one.
A calmness passes over me and warms my heart
A peacefulness that cannot be explained
But only experienced.
Diary Entry 3 – 3 June 02H00
I was up before sunrise, Christo had been on last shift, Scott was also awake already. Besides not getting much sleep, I was not at all tired. Slowly the rest of the people started waking up, drawn towards the warmth of the fire. There was a good mood in the camp and I think everybody enjoyed doing their hour or two of night watch, more so these in the early hours of the morning that got to hear the roar of the lions.
I am now busy with my second night shift while I am writing this, I chose an early morning shift again it is about 02H00. It is very peaceful and everybody is sound asleep, nothing but the night noises of animals and the fire to keep me occupied.
Our breakfast was simple, muesli, coffee and tea, Nunu and I got stuck into the previous nights left over pasta. Soon we were all cleaning up, we had split the rations once again and everyone started packing their backpacks, ready to take on day 2.
Putting our backpacks on, we could feel a few tender spots on the shoulders and around the hips, nothing unusual especially to us not being used to carrying round a backpack of 20 plus kilograms. We got off to a nice early start, it was nice and cloudy and this would help keep us cool for the first part of the day. A good hour or so into the trip Nunu spotted what looked like lion about 2km down river in the opposite direction to what we were walking. We decided to down our packs and track them along the riverbed. We stuck close to the reeds to as they offered a bit protection and would hide us from the lion’s direct view. The track was dense and overgrown but was made easy by the fact that we were travelling bareback. After a good hour we got to the spot where the lions would be, just on the other side of the reeds that were camouflaging us. We tried to move quietly through the reeds to get to the other side but their ears and senses were way too fine, just as we broke through the reeds to the other side, they the upped and dashed off into the bushes, we were just fortunate enough to get to see them, three males and a lioness. The big male was beautiful with a very dark mane, very much like the lions of the Kalahari. We crossed the river to where they were lying and then followed their spoor off into the bush. We tracked only for a short while but then found a nice big tree and took a break. We decided we could not waste more time as we needed to backtrack to out kit and still make it to camp by a reasonable hour.
We had just finished resting and ready to leave and as we were getting up, Pierre somehow popped his knee out. He was in quite a bit of pain and could barely stand. We rested it for a while but it did not want to click back into place, later Bruce and Nunu were trying to twist, pull and manipulate it back in to place, but still it just wouldn’t. Now we had no choice, we had to push on, we strapped it up as best we could, and luckily I had one trekking pole with me that he could use as a walking stick. He pushed on with a bit of a struggle. About an hour on we got to where we had left our backpacks, I had codeine tablets in my kit and he popped two to ease the pain. We didn’t rest further and went on it was tender but progressively the pain started to wear off. We only walked for about another hour and then stopped on Shaka’s Rock for our lunch break. Nontobako and Pinkey prepared us a wonderful platter for lunch. Fresh tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, salami, boiled eggs and sea loaf, a treat in the middle of the bush, overlooking the river from a wonderful view point high above the river. Everybody just relaxed and took in the moment, we had an awe inspiring view, and it was magnificent. We must have spent a good hour or two there before we decided we must get going to make camp, it was apparently not too far and we would take the most direct route. We arrived in the late afternoon. It was a rough day and you could see people were a lot more tired than after the first day. Our camp was lovely, perched on a rock face above the river, the water was a bit further and nor as easily accessible but at least the camp was well protected. A few of us headed to the waters to try wash away the days’ sweat and dirt. Pierre’s knee was feeling a lot better and we were just hoping by morning it would still feel the same. While we were down at the river the others got the fire going to prepare our lamb stew and putu pap. Everybody was lazing around camp, just lying back and relaxing.
As the sun was setting we were fortunate enough to have black rhino come down to the river to take a drink, they picked up on our scent and the noises and they were scared off quickly. Later, two white rhino and a small heard of buffalo also came to drink. Food was ready just after sunset and everybody got stuck in, it was a delicious meal, and we sat around and chatted for a while. We were lying on our sleeping mats and soon everybody started fading, keen to rest their weary bodies. Well it is 03h30 and time to hand over my shift and try getting some shut eye.
Diary Entry 2 – 2 June 2014 02H00
Our camp was good the first night and the weather rather mild. We prepared supper just after sunset on the first evening, this is quite early in these parts and set just after 17h00. Our campsite was up close against a rock-face, West of us, so we lost direct sunlight even before 17H00.
Our cheesy spaghetti and mince was excellent and everybody got stuck in and enjoyed. It was nice having a good, nutritious, warm meal. After supper we all lazed around the camp-fire for a while having coffee and hot chocolate, just chatting and getting to know one another a little better. The older I’m getting, the more I realise that it is great getting to know new people from different places, backgrounds and countries. It is made easier by the fact that the people you find in these strange remote places, will already share a common interest with you or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.
As the evening moved on, Nunu explained to us that for the time we would be on the trail, we would all share the responsibility of doing a night watch session every evening/morning, this would last for about 2hrs and would start once everybody had retired to their sleeping bags, you would do duty on your own. You would tend the fire and keep watch, making sure we were not surprised by any strange animals in the camp. This would be a time for you to be alone, at peace and one with nature, a time to reflect or just enjoy. A chance to absorb everything around you and believe me-it was a sensory overload. I loved this idea and could not wait for my turn. Eventually everybody started drifting off and went to bed. I must say, the first night, I did not get much sleep, I think I didn’t want to close my eyes, it was so beautiful.
The skies were our ceiling, a magnificent canopy of stars, unlike any other and the night sounds were astounding, to me this is the Life. I believe this is as close to the perfection of creation one can get, still unspoiled by man. I think after God had separated heaven and earth and on the fourth day when he added the moon and sun and all the stars to the heavens, when He sat back and admired His masterful work, this is how awesome it would have been and I believe that is what He would have wanted us to see.
I lay awake quietly, watching the fire and everybody doing their watch. Eventually it was my turn, the time went by so quickly as I sat there writing this diary entry.
It was really something special sitting there on your own, out in the wild totally unprotected from the elements or anything wondering out there. Just before I handed over my shift to Pierre I heard the roar of lion just up river from us, it makes your heart skip a beat, it is such an unbelievable sound in the pitch darkness. I shortly briefed Pierre, handed over the torch and snuggled back into my sleeping bag and eventually nodded off for a while.