The Berg. Aaaaah, pure transcendency! A place the average Capetonian will go to see what a real mountain(s) looks like. Designed millions of years ago by the Divine Potter so eager to show off his skills, and he did. A place where effort and reward are so deeply intertwined that more often than not ‘biting the bullet’ will be the doorway to utter beauty, tranquility and majesty. One can get lost in the playful seriousness of hiking in the berg. But the purpose of this article is not to talk about how cold, hot, dry, sweaty, windy, snowy, bloody dangerous, possibly deadly, debilitating; or in true essence; introspectively grounding, engaging, gratifying, perfect in every way, euphoric, life changing, and eye opening the berg can be. It is to talk about those few items that you really don’t need but are oh so grateful to have, like wet wipes…
So let's get going with what you really do not need, to need.
Number 1: Wet wipes
I used to set out on multi day hikes with the mindset that I was going to be dirty for the next few days and that's just something I would deal with. I had no problem with it. I still sometimes do the odd excursion and forgo the luxury that is the wet wipe. But on one of my hikes up Rhino Peak I met the mountain magician Michaela Geytenbeek. Our separate hiking parties decided to hike together and overnight in Pillar cave. It was a short hike on a typical summer day in the Berg and needless to say my ‘covered’ places became a little scented. In our overnight stone home Michaela offered me a wet wipe. I accepted.
Now I don't need to go into details but my idea of hiking has been changed. More so than wiping the body down the handy wet wipe can also be used to clean pots and cutlery when water is a scarcity. A common predicament when hiking certain routes or during the winter months. As refreshing and welcoming as a wet wipe can be, one must remember that the majority of wet wipes are not environmentally friendly. So don't just chuck’em. Take them back home and dispose of them correctly. And don't use wet wipes as TP! Use TP as TP... Its biodegradable.
Number 2: Speaker
Now I had some hesitation when adding this to the list as one of the many reasons for hiking in the berg is to get away from electronics and noise. And for the most part that still is my mindset. However, I do believe that there is a time and place for everything and 90% of the time don't use the speaker. But there is that one time where it can actually help and that will be with team morale. Towards the end of a hike when everyone is running low on gas and the team ‘gees’ has gone out the window. Hearing Queens ‘we are the champions’ or Bon Jovis ‘living on a prayer’ can really help cement the group together and push on. It truly is amazing the connection and willpower you can get through hearing a song that is subconsciously linked with positive memories. Not only that but when you have reached your destination and everyone is in agreement; it can be nice to relax, listen to some tunes and eat some dehydrated food whilst watching what will undoubtedly be one of the most beautiful sunsets. Bearing in mind the noise pollution that a speaker brings to the peaceful mountains of the berg. Ask your fellow hikers if they are alright having a little tune play in the background.
Number 3: Moka pot
Now this is definitely on the side of luxury. But the coffee culture is such a big thing now days that we might as well take some of it into the berg and the Moka pot is best for that. There is nothing better than the tactility of spooning in the coffee, adding water, assembling the pot and putting it on the boil all to the oil-painting-backdrop of the Berg mountains. The great thing about the Moka pot is that you can get big ones. So all your hiking buddies can enjoy the fruits of your labour. They do however come with one draw back and that is weight. When going on multi day hikes I would rather opt for instant coffee so as to make walking a little easier.
Number 4: Small towel, cloth.
This one comes with a myriad of uses! I walk with a small towel or thin rag tied to the front of my shoulder straps and whenever there is that annoying dribble of sweat it can be dealt with. When crossing a stream use it to absorb water and then wipe and cool down your head and neck. It will also stay moist for the next leg of your walk and offer a good mobile cooling system. In camp or the cave it will come in handy when wanting to wipe things clean including your hands. There is of course its primary use of drying yourself off after a dip in some water.
You will always be surprised when a cloth, wet or dry, will come in handy. So take him with.
Number 5: Bin Bag.
Firstly a bin bag is waterproof. No matter what the manufacturer says about the water stopping abilities of their backpack, if you walk for 4 days in rain it will find its way into your bag. So definitely pack your clothes in a black bag and your sleeping bag in its own bag as well. Then put these bags in your backpack. For good measure take an extra bag with you. More so than keeping things dry it can act as a bag for all your rubbish. If forced to sleep on wet ground it can be cut open and laid down as a ground sheet. The possibilities are endless…
The list of inessential essentials could go on forever but everything comes to an end sometime right? So I hope that after reading this you have planted in the back of your mind some items to take on your next hike to make it that little more comfy. Furthermore if you are new to hiking in the berg go with a guide who knows the area and its weather patterns. As a first timer hiking with a guide will take off the underlying anxiety of ‘are we lost’ and make the whole experience a lot more pleasurable. If you do decide to take on the Drakensberg mountains get in touch with Pathfinders SA run by Michaela. The knowledge and safety of walking with a vetreran is worth its weight in gold and she will go that extra length to ensure you walk within your limits and have a great time. I have done many hikes with Michaela and she is just brilliant!
So do your boots, swing up your backpack, and organise a hike in the Drakensberg because seeing, is believing.
Legend times with legends Mike and Michaela - appreciate the sharing of local knowledge guys!
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