Grant Christie

Explorer. Conservationist. Guide. Mentor. Speaker.

This page is being updated periodically. Read more Six Million Steps blogs on Africa Geographic as well as on the Six Million Steps Facebook page.


Die Wind Waai Woes in die Weste :: Alexander Bay to Port Nolloth :: 20 October 2013

There is very little that tops the energy and enthusiasm of a bunch of excited teenagers. The matric class of Hoërskool Alexanderbaai were enthralled by this crazy engelsman about to tackle an expedition that only the geography students could begin to fathom.
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“Forwards forever” I said.
“Backwards never!” they cheered, as they walked to the school gate with me.
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The high spirits didn’t last long. It wasn’t 2 km before I was adjusting and readjusting the pack - weighing upwards of 30kg. 11l of water, enough food for a week, a pile of gadgets, and too many fiddly bits; this would be my burden for the next three days. I should have known when it took two of the bigger boys in the class to help a girl lift my pack onto her back that there was going to be trouble.
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Just outside Alexander Bay there is a hilltop covered in orange and green lichen. Yet another world heritage site in this corner of our country, this desert lichen-field is the largest in the world and contains some 26 different types of lichen. Lichens are composite organisms made up of a fungus and an algae growing in a symbiotic relationship. Able to grow just about anywhere they often form the basis for habitation by other organisms. It seems co-operation and teamwork are a common thread in surviving this harsh environment.
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One of the early lessons I learned was this: Die Wind Waai Woes in die Weste. When they called PE the Windy City, they lied. Sure the wind in PE blows your hockey ball away, but the wind here nearly blew me away. Glen told me it was forecast at 45kph for my first day out of town. As I walked straight into it, I believed him. Despite the sunshine and clear skies I wore a jacket (or two) consistently over this stretch.
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The look on people’s faces as they drove passed was rather entertaining. Some hooted excitedly, others waved tentatively as they looked on, bemused.
“Six Million Steps: confusing people since two days ago.” I laughed to myself.
One guy stopped and asked what I’m doing.
“Ek loop, Oom.” I stated the obvious.
Upon hearing that I am a Vaalie he remarked, “Ja, dis net julle mense wat so mal is!”
What makes big city folk so restless compared to their relaxed and content small town counterparts?
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“Balance” was the theme word for the first two days. Make sure your rucksack is balanced, Grant. Grant, you have to balance the amount of food you have to carry with the distance you have to walk. Perhaps balance is part of the answer. A balanced lifestyle of work and play. A balanced diet. Some crucial aspects that often get overlooked in the rush of city life.
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A few people stopped to offer me a lift. At times it was tough to turn them down. I did not however turn down the ice cold Sprite I was offered. A couple had driven past me and some way down the road, turned around and drove back to give it to me.
Accepting help is a difficult thing for me. I am so used to my independence and being able to do things for myself. Under these conditions though, saying no to a generous offer would be unwise. But having the humility to say yes, is not always easy. Is it a pride thing? Is it the isolation from community that we live in these days?
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Striding with my head down to reach my targeted distance each day, I didn’t look up too often. Not that I missed very much, the vegetation was sparse, and the scenery unchanging. What I did notice though as I stared intently at the ground directly ahead of me, were the ever-increasing signs of life. Tracks in the ground ranging from little bokkies and small canids, to large antelope and the strandwolf that Vissie had warned me about.
“Oh to see the Gemsbok” I though to myself as I pounded the road, step after painful step. I dreamed that the strandwolf came to steal my water. But I saw no life larger than the bright green lizard I nearly stepped on as it basked in the warmth of the road.
But then, after kilometers of barren landscape, there it was, as real as the blisters on my feet; a jackal-like creature with a bushy tail as big as its body, bounding across the road in front of me and off into the scrub. The Cape Fox, as I discovered later, is the the only true fox and smallest canid found in South Africa. Believed to kill lambs and therefore considered vermin by farmers (this is seldom the case though as they are so small), their greatest threat is irresponsible (and often illegal) use of agricultural poison. This little guy gave my psyche a much needed boost on my third afternoon of hardship.
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I made it to the first Stop Sign in Port Nolloth, but no further. There I slumped down on a concrete bollard and phoned Oom Wikus. He found me hunched over my rucksack with my head in my hands. He grunted as he strained to lift my pack into his bakkie. At their home Tannie Marinda prepared a pot of rooibos. That and the plate of rusks and biscuits disappeared in minutes. A slab of chocolate later, I had gathered just about enough energy for Oom Wikus to take me to the Richtersveld Experience 4×4 Lodge where I would spend the night. After soaking my aching feet in a tub of cold water and then lying in a bath of hot water, I gobbled up Tannie Marinda’s boerekos dinner and crawled into bed.
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Oh my ShatteRRRed nerves! Never before have I endured such pain and agony.
I learned some tough lessons in these first three days…
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Day 2: 38 176 steps, 26.7 km
Day 3: 43 397 steps, 30.1 km
Day 4: 42 152 steps, 29.2 km
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Total to date: 138 563 steps, 99.9 km

Alexander Bay High.jpg

60 to go.jpg

Port Nolloth.jpg

grantavious - 10:50 @ Six Million Steps, Expedition, South Africa, Beach, Coastline, Hiking, Nature, Outdoors, Conservation, Wilderness Foundation, West Coast, Northern Cape | 1 comment

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