“Making an Impact by NOT making an Impact”: Source Collaboration

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We’ve been huge fans of the hydration systems by SOURCE for years now. Their water bladders last forever and are super handy companions on every hiking trip. In fact, we also use them in everyday life when we go running or biking. Now, the company asked us to write a little something about what “sustainable travel” means for us. In return, they gifted us a new hydration system about which we will write a product review soon. Best part though, they published our article on their blog, sweeeeeet

Thanks a bunch for this reSOURCEful collaboration!

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Photocredit of first pic: Shantina Rae Photography, Quadra Island. Thanks again, you crazy talented person!!

Roadtrippin’ from Sea to Smoke

So here we were: Heartbroken from our recent realisation that we could not provide a suitable home for a dog like Freya, a rescue who needed a calm environment and patient re-socialization more than anything. Despite all our efforts, all our love, we couldn’t provide what she needed and had to return her to the shelter. We miss her every day and are happy to report that she was re-adopted last month.

Despite our heavy hearts, we were excited about our friend Felix’ visit who came all the way from Munich to travel with us for 3 weeks and who did an excellent job at comforting us and cheering us up with his dark and oftentimes incredibly blunt humour. Initially, we had planned to travel the Chilcotin area and the famous Banff and Jasper Nationalpark with him, yet, we had to change our travel plans drastically…

Wildfires were roaring all over BC at that point.

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Cortes Island: an (almost secret) paradise

Although it’s been a while since we had “a whale of a time” on Cortes Island, it took us forever to edit and upload out video about this trip. But good luck finding fast wifi in the middle of nowhere! By now, we’re full-time travelling with our campervan ‘Billy’ through the Yukon and Alaska and it’s definitely getting more remote up here… So this time, we even have a legid excuse for our delay 😉

Anyways, here’s the video! Enjoy 🙂

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Canada’s Surf Capital: Tofino

“Deep inlets with timeless views, on the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations. Sandy beaches that seem to go on forever while waves crash into rocky headlands. Surfers sitting up on their boards, waiting for the swell. A celebrated food culture that reaches beyond the size of our village. Then, there are the distinctly West Coast restaurants, cabins and galleries dotting our salt-bathed streets. It’s out there, and it’s a place you’ll never forget. When you come here, expect Tofino – because there’s nothing like it.” That’s what the official Tofino tourism site promises the visitors.

We sure set off with high expectations!

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Travel Canada sustainably and affordably

As it´s getting more convenient and cheaper to fly for a wider range of people we seem to forget about the impact of our actions too easily. According to a 2014 statement by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of passengers will be expected to more than double within only twenty years. At the same time, the aviation industry strives to cut emissions only by 50 percent to 2050 compared to 2005. Questionable math skills considering the Paris Climate Agreement, huh? For those of you who have never heard of it, flight radar is a pretty convenient tool to check out in real time what´s going on in the sky above you.

 

We made the decision to lower our environmental impact while traveling a while ago. You can say we are not perfect but we are getting better with every trip and we feel good about our growing environmental responsibility. Yes, the best solution would be to cut down on traveling in general, but our Fernweh is still too harsh… So, we try other ways: Back when we were still based in Berlin, we hitch-hiked all the way to the Pyrenees, took a bus into the Italian Alps and shared a camper van with two other people to the South end of Spain. Not to mention that we try to take the train as often as we can afford it. It was neither the comfort we chose, nor the time. We wanted to experience more along the way than waiting in an overcrowded airport terminal, plus, we didn’t want to increase our CO2 footprint by flying. And with the sacrifice of time and comfort, we always ended up with a story to tell or people we got to know. Some of these stories are still our favourite bonfire classics. Like this one time, when we hitchhiked with a Polish couple in Norway and ended up witnessing his wedding proposal on top of Preikestolen! Over the course of all these trips, we only had one bad hitch-hiking experience, which some of you might have read about.

 

Concerning our big Canadian adventure, we actually did some research about getting here on a cargo ship – only to find out that emission-wise, it was not really better than taking a plane and it was also extremely expensive. The only true alternative would have been to row here but that adventure had to stay on our bucket list for now… However, we made the resolution to not book any inland flights until we go back to Germany. Therefore, we would like to share some easy tips on environmental-friendly travel in Canada with you (even though some guidelines are the same all over the world). If you stick to these simple rules you should already make a change:

  1. Avoid flying if not necessary
  2. compensate your flight if you can´t avoid it
  3. take the public transport as often as possible or
  4. use car sharing, rideshares and hitch-hiking opportunities

Of course, Canada is HUGE so we understand why many people prefer a plane over a Greyhound bus (quicker, cheaper, easier booking, …). In that case, you should make the effort to compensate your flight. Our own flight to Vancouver was compensated over atmosfair, a German carbon offsetting NGO Sebastian used to work for in Lesotho. But that´s a post in itself as CO2 compensation is a huge topic we´ll talk about another time. Feel free to send us an e-mail if you need some advise. So, let’s get to the nitty-gritty:

Getting around in Canadian cities:

Travelling responsibly is easy if you are within the big cities. The main question that you should ask yourself is: “Do I really need a car?”. In his book “The High Cost of Free Parking”, the author and professor Donald Shoups names some interesting facts about using a car in cities. For example, in under-priced parking areas, an average of 30% of congested traffic is only causes by people cruising around in search of parking! Furthermore, the average usage of a car during its total lifespan is only 5% compared to 95% standing around in your backyard. After living in Berlin for more than seven years, we can state that it’s easy enough to find alternatives. Same for the big Canadian cities. Buses, Subways, Skytrains, Metro – they often get you to your destination quicker than a car because they are able to avoid the city’s rush hour and you don’t have to worry about parking. Another alternative but not yet available in every city in Canada would be Car Sharing. There´s quite a variety out there (evo, CAR2GO, Modo, zipcar…) which are  worth checking out. And if you think public transport and car sharing both suck, go get yourself a bike, longboard or inline skates. We´ve found especially Vancouver to be an extremely bike-friendly city.

 

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Downhill Skating in the Sudetes Mountains, 2017.

Traveling loooong distances:

Cities: easy-peasy. But what about long distance, for example traveling from the East to the West coast? As you might have heard, the population density of Canada is pretty low in most of the interior provinces. Public transport might not even be available and then, it’s comparably expensive. We found that some shuttle buses on Vancouver Island charged more than it would have cost us to drive our own car… Indeed, it’s not as easy as in Europe over here. Nonetheless, it’s still the better choice if you want to lower your emissions.

  • Travelling by Bus

basti.busThe major touristic long distance buses companies we´ve used are Greyhound (USA/Canada), island link (Vancouver Island) and the Tofino bus (Vancouver Island). Unfortunately, we must say that we found their booking systems more complicated and not as organised as the ones we’re used to from Europe. But it’s manageable and we didn’t have any other serious complications. If you are looking for an overall listing of in Canada operating bus lines, the lonley planet offers a nice summary including the areas they are operating in.

  • Travelling by Train

If you want to see Canada by train you could book the grand tour from Toronto to Vancouver with a total of 4,466 km, taking up to 3 days and 4 nights in total. We would absolutely love to experience more of Canada’s wild landscape by train, as there is something very convenient about traveling by train. It gives you the opportunity to work, hang out and see the country all at the same time without having to worry about directions, gas stations, accommodation etc. Yet, we haven´t had the opportunity to experience that trip ourselves, so check out this helpful blog post where you’ll find pictures and quite a lot of information concerning the whole trip. But keep in mind that this post is also advertised on the VIA Rail Canada, a company with a travel-by-train focus, so it might not be neutral!

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The Canadian Railroad is mainly operated by CP (in this picture) and CN.

However, although you won’t see any dark fumes behind the train, you should keep in mind where the train’s electricity comes from. States like British Columbia already use up to 98,4 percent of renewable energy, which makes this choice a low emission alternative but that’s not always the case. Alberta for example produces 47,4 percent of its electricity from coal, 40.3 percent from natural gas and only 12,3 percent are generated renewable. And there’s another downside: most of the train fares are pretty expensive. Compared to the low petrol prices in Canada, trains just aren´t the regular alternative for most travellers. But if you can afford it, they sure are a great and more comfortable alternative to a Greyhound bus!

  • Travelling by ferries and cruise ships
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Travelling on a ferry to Vancouver Island.

Even though we highly recommend taking a longer trip in a kayak or a canoe, not everybody has the time, gear or physical condition to do something like the race to Alaska. Most likely, you will eventually take a ferry or cruise ship to visit some of Canada’s famous coastal islands.

We won’t give you a list of every ferry operator all over Canada as there are quite a lot of them out there. BC ferries are a large one and a good example since they offer an overview of their sustainable operation program online. They are also part of the Green Marine, a programme which issues certifications for environmental responsibilty.  Furthermore, their fleet is operated with diesel, which is not perfect, but at least they are not using heavy fuel oil. (FYI: heavy fuel oil/crude oil is a low quality and cheap by-product of the oil industry with an extremely high amount of sulphur. It’s commonly used in the heavy marine industry such as cruise ships and cargo vessels).

And what about cruise ships? Ahhh, that topic has us ranting on a regular basis. Just don’t. According to a 2012 study of the German NGO NABU, the daily SO2 emission of an average cruise ship is comparatively the same as the daily emission of 376,030,220 cars and the numbers about CO2, NOx and particulate matter are equally shocking. Yes, that figure is not a typo, check it out. It’s mainly so high because these beasts of the ocean run on the already mentioned heavy fuel – which is not allowed in traffic on land due to its toxic composition and wouldn’t work in normal car engines anyways. The pollution caused by cruise ships is just one of the reasons why we would never book a trip on one; there are more environmental, ethical and economic issues which led to that resolution.

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Check out the latest cruise ranking by the NABU in 2017.

  • Ridesharing and Hitch-Hiking

Have you ever heard of POPARIDE? The idea is to share rides and therefore fuel costs and emissions. It’s very common in Europe so we were surprised how few local people know about that Canadian version! Canadians really are as nice and helpfulas their stereotypes and even though everybody seems to have a car, not a lot people seem to share rides to work. We see it here on Quadra every day: Ferries are packed with big trucks and parking lots seem to take up more space than buildings. That “big-truck-mentality” felt strange to us when we first arrived and reminded us of similar experiences in America and Australia. Anyways, why not start offering rides to other people – especially when public transport is rare? Sharing is caring and with most Canadians being so friendly and social anyways, we can’t see why ride sharing shouldn´t get more popular around here. Ride sharing instantly helps your travel to become more eco-friendly, cheaper and way more social! If you have never tried it, do it with your next ride. Log in, offer or search a ride, and see who you get to know that way. Oh, and there´s also a pretty big variety of local ridesharing Facebook groups out there. If you do need help finding them, let us know and we might be able to help.

pop.logoYes, hitch-hiking is completely for free but ride sharing is still cheap and in our experience way more organized, more comfortable, safer and it lets you plan your travel schedule (e.g. departure & arrival) better. If you think about the big picture, ride sharing and hitch-hiking are no long-term solutions either, but at least it helps to reduce emissions quickly and easily until humankind figures out a better solution. We’d love to hear back about your personal experience with it!

 

Last but not least: Our own mobile situation

It would be hypocritical to withhold the information that we have – for the first time in our lives – bought a car over here. We made it to month 4 without one but then we came to Quadra Island. There’s ZERO public transport here, some roads are lone dirt tracks and the island is just too big and wild to always go by bike.  So, with a very heavy heart, we finally settled on a Subaru that allows us to get around here. We still take the bike on short distances, pick up every hitch-hiker we see and offer rides over Poparide (which we really hope will become more popular over here!!). Yet, that car remains a thorne in our side and we are looking forward to the day we won’t need it anymore. We still strongly believe that even small changes in everyone’s lifestyle can make a big difference and although it’s harder over here, we keep trying and so should you 😉

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Exchanging a front calliper with the help of our knowledgable friend Gerald (and Hattie, the goat).

a FAIR amount of caffeine

Coffee Tasting with Helene

Quadra Island does not only offer beautiful scenery but also a very inspiring and welcoming community. Helene, a beautiful French-Canadian woman, is part of it. She’s also the owner of the Aroma Roastery. Helene has invited us to a couple of super interesting (and delicious) coffee tastings by now where she taught us so much more than the difference between ‘fragrance’ and ‘aroma’ (fragrance is the smell of the freshly ground beans and the aroma is what you sniff when you hold your nose over a mug of ready-to-drink coffee). My brother, the modest Pro-Barista, was honestly jealous when we sent him pictures of the elaborate event and we can’t wait for the next one!

 

 

In Helene’s roastery, she processes organic, Fairtrade beans from a cooperation that supports only female growers. And it was her who inspired us to write this post and made us more conscious about our choice of beans.

Why exactly? Let’s see…

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Theo, the Mountain Geezer

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Theo in his favorite chair.

Let us tell you a story about a man. A man who’s 64 years old but can still stem more weight than most young men in their bloom. A man who grew up as the son of a wealthy Belgium entrepreneur who taught him how to work with any material you can think of: wood, stone, leather, … A man who grew up as the son of a nature-loving mother who owned a farm in the South of Spain and taught him the language of dogs and horses and the secret whispers of plants.

His name is Theo.

Theo deeply impressed us and made our stay on his farm in Andalusia as memorable as it was. Let’s say he truly was that extra pinch of cinnamon in our morning porridge. That extra dab of cream on top of a warm apple crumble. That extra … ah never mind, I guess you know where I’m going with this. Keep reading to learn more about our stay with him and be fascinated…

The Man

Theo was born in Belgium but has been living in the South of Spain for more than 40 years by now. His life story contains a trillion of bends, peaks and dips which we won’t mention in detail. But as always, his childhood laid the foundations for his eventful biography: He inherited priceless skills from his parents. His father owned a successful, internationally operating picture frame factory and little Theo had been playing between the machines since he could walk. Later, he led the company himself and had by then perfectionated many working skills. All the buildings you see on the pictures – he built himself.  All the plants you walk past in his huge gardens – he planted himself. And that’s due to the fact that his mother led a very different lifestyle than his father: After their divorce, she bought land in Spain and taught her son how to plough, plant, harvest as well as how to work with animals such a donkeys, horses and dogs.

We spend almost every evening with Theo and couldn’t get enough of his anecdotes. He is as cheeky as he is smart. As quick-tempered as he is gentle. As stubborn as he is generous. A true character.

The Farm

Theo owns a whole mountain. Not kidding. His property is located close to the village “Cortes de la Frontera” and encompasses about 450hectars. Even after 10 days there, we did not see all corners of this vast area. There are about 5 uninhabited houses which are mainly used for storage. Theo himself lives in a construction site. Although his gorgeous pool and the ground floor are ready, the second floor and the upper tower (yes, a tower) remain unfinished. It was a true adventure in itself to climb up those steps!

 

The Gardens

Then, there are two huge gardens out of which he only tends one at the moment. There, he grows so many fruits and vegetables that you can’t help but think of Eden: Apples, pears, peaches, pomegranates, figs, grapes! Cauliflowers, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, corn, potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, courgettes! Plus, many flowers, herbs and medical plants. He cultivates them all in permaculture and only uses his self-made hummus as fertilizer. Only seldom, he sells some boxes of his harvest for cheap or gives them away to neighbours. The rest, he eats himself or feeds to his animals. According to his own opinion, the gardens give him a hell lot of work but even more pleasure. And we felt the same: More than once, we (voluntarily) helped him to water, plant and plough and shed more than a few litres of sweat in the process. But it is satisfying work and just as I have loved the months of farm work back in Australia, I’ve loved it in Andalusia.

 

The Animals:

At the moment, he shares the huge area with 16 horses, 8 cats, 5 dogs, 4 pigs, 1 mule and 1 donkey. Then, there are some scorpions, snakes, spiders and a variety of bugs. Most of the animals roam freely through the land, only the gardens and the outer borders are fenced. And that’s just a momentary count, the number has variated greatly over the years…. Personally, we want to put the focus on the horses because we ended up taking care of them and even mounting these beauties without saddles – true Western style. But before we could ride for the first time, we first had to catch them.

“Say what? Didn’t you just write that they live on the farm?”

Um, technically, yes. But they are too much work for Theo at the moment which is why he prefers to let them roam freely through the surrounding lands. The majority of the neighbours is fine with it, the state does not care at all and the area is so remote that the chance of them striding over a highway is like 0%. So, we had to get them back onto the farm first. To make a long story short: Theo caught the leading mare of a group of six horses, put the string in my hands and waved goodbye. We then led the herd a few kilometers back to the farm and spend the next few days cleaning saddles and bridles and finally riding them. Theo barely supervised us and fully trusted my knowledge – something that would NEVER happen to you in Germany. Already on our second ride, we went without saddles (brave Sebastian!). It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to come back and work more with these beauties.

 

 

Intrigued?

We are happy to provide Theo’s contact details if you are interested to get in touch with him. Be prepared to work hard and sweat harder (in return for food and accommodation). It’ll be worth it though: Priceless scenery, soul-satisfying work with animals and plants, endless life lessons and the chance to meet one of the most fascinating characters we ever crossed paths with. As for ourselves: We already pinkie-promised to come back with more time on our hands… Fare well, Theo!

 

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Sneak-Peek of Val Grande’s Snappy Peaks

We’re back! After 8days in the Italian National Park Val Grande (and two more days at Lago di Mergozzo to soak our wretched feet and sore muscles), we’re back in Berlin. The crowded subways and busy masses were a big, smacking slap in our sun- and windburned faces, but we are used to that from other returns. Which is why today, I preferred to hide away in my flat on a Friday night, providing you with a first sneak-peek of our adventure. We’ll probably need a couple of weeks to sort out all our footage, but I promise there will be more visual input soon. So, here are our first flashbacks of this wild “big valley”:

The bloodstained history

Interesting! As a matter of fact, Val Grande was not always as remote as it is today: There used to be many alps and logging was also popular for some time. However, most workers would prefer to overwinter down in the valleys. So even back then, large parts of Val Grande were uninhabited for whole months at a time. During World War 2, the area became a bloody crime scene: In 1944,  German SS-units and fascist Italian troops scoured the whole area, searching for members of the Italian Resistenza (an anti-fascist movement), who were hiding in the mountains. During that mission, more than 500 people got murdered – not a few of them belonging to the local farmers who were accused of hiding the partisans. This cruel event contributed even more to the retreat of people out of Val Grande and left many villages in ruins. In 1992, the area was declared as a National Park (the name deriving from the remotest of the valleys). But even decades later, you come across many old stone huts – most of them in ruins. Especially Sebastian loved exploring them while I was often just as spooked as I was fascinated.

 

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A village in ruins….

 

The park management restored some of those huts and created quite comfortable bivouacs. They are very basic but open to anyone and free of charge. And trust me, they will make you feel like a king*queen in his*her castle after a rough day’s hike! Some shelters even have solar panels but don’t expect a shower or feather beds there 😉 We slept in those Bivacchios whenever we could – sometimes sharing them with other hikers, sometimes having a hut all to ourselves. Only once, we needed our tent. But more on that later.

 

The wilderness ranking

A 9 out of 10 considering the fact that it’s in the middle of Europe and so close to other touristic hotspots such as the Lago Maggiore. Big! Wild! Rough! We would have never expected that it is even possible in the Alps to hike for a few days without meeting ANYONE! It is possible in Val Grande though, especially if you stick to the little paths. There are only a few tracks which are properly marked and maintained by the park management (and even those are only footpaths too narrow for two people walking next to each other) and once you leave them, you can be pretty much sure to be all by yourself. Skinny-dipping ahoi!

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Not an unsual sight: A more than brittle bridge over a gorge. We took a different way around it…

And even if you stay on those marked tracks, you will probably encounter only 1-4 other hikers per day (of course, that can be different at other times of the year. There are only two small villages (Colorro and Cicogna) close to the park’s borders where people live all year around and which you can reach by car. Very few other huts inside the park were actually occupied or looked like someone would slowly rebuilt them. So from those two villages onwards, you have to walk. Walking off-track, however, is often impossible due to the thick vegetation or insurmountable cliffs. Some paths seem to be long forgotten goat tracks which can’t be found on any map and suddenly end in the middle of no-where. On two days, we could only proceed with the help of chains and ropes, so you need to be sure-footed and an experienced hiker to conquer those challenges (climbing experience also helps). Personally, we navigated with map, compass and GPS and found the combination of all three very helpful.

 

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Nonetheless, we would say that the National Park offers paths of many difficulty levels and we met a fair number of people who seemed less fit than us and still enjoyed their hikes. If needed, you are able to reach civilization in 2-3 days. Just make sure to inform yourself properly and be aware of the possible dangers. Val Grande has already claimed lives.

 

The animalistic companions

Thick bushes always mean that you will have neighbours and lurkers in the shadows. In fact, we met wild animals every day… But don’t worry, except for some vipers none of them are truly dangerous. And although some people even call the park “the valley of snakes”, we only saw a tiny (dead) one on a street. Just make sure to lumber through the wild like an overweight elephant (stomp-stomp-stomp) and you probably won’t come across any of those shy reptiles. Who we encountered regularly, were lots of birds and spiders, even more lizards and mice, a couple of fireflies, ticks and slugs, swarms of mozzies, a few chamoises and one dormouse. So not too wild. Are you terrified of wolves and bears? Good news then: You won’t meet any in Val Grande. Only the mice are a real pain in the a%# since they eat everything you haven’t secured properly over night (put all your food and garbage in closed bags and hang them up where they can’t be reached by hungry animals).

And last but not least: The social factor

Val Grande is remote and lonely, so make sure to take a good travel buddy with you – not only for safety reasons. Right at the beginning of our trip, we were all by ourselves for three long days and nights in a row. So, if you are more the companionable-scouts-kind-of-type and dislike silence, bring some jolly fellows with you. Because here is a list of the great entertainments of trekking-life: You can play carts, try to see your future in the flames of a bonfire or determinately belabour your walking stick with a knife until it has become a fine piece of art. Oh, and I guess there are a trillion good spots for playing hide-and-seek… But that’s it. Oddly enough, we NEVER got bored. Walking, preparing food, collecting firewood and edible plants, eating, sleeping, packing, unpacking and repacking, walking again, … – our lives consisted of very basic duties and we loved it.

Read the full stories here:

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4    V-Log

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“It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.” Andre Gide

 

Hiking in Cape Town

“Now shall I walk or shall I ride?
‘Ride,’ Pleasure said;
‘Walk,’ Joy replied.”
― W.H. Davies

 

And so we started with a classic: The steep hike through Platteklip Gorge up to the city’s iconic Table Mountain. It’s the most direct and therefore the most popular route. The time to get up to the top ranges from 60min (“for the very fit people”) up to 3h. According to our hiking map, the reason for this variety is the fact that Platteklip has a very steep ascent. And jeez, it’s true. Brilliant timing that we had slept in that day and had to push ourselves up there in the blistering midday sun, with almost no shade to speak of. Nonetheless, we arrived 65min later – absolutely DRENCHED in sweat. What a fantastic workout! Up at the top is where you will meet the touristy crowd. Those people who (literally) wait 2-3h for a seat on the cable car and then have an ice-cream up on the summit thinking they earned it. It’s crazy how crowded it was around the cable car station and ridiculous how few people you would meet if you would only walk 50m away from it.

The plateau of Table Mountain encompasses 60km² and there are a great number of other hiking routes up there; the majority of them is considered to be dangerous. In fact, someone told me that each year, more people die on Table Mountain than on Mount Everest!

Interesting (slightly nerdy) fact: Table Mountain was selected as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2011. One reason for this is that there are more plant species growing on it than in the whole of England together! Personally, I was pretty impressed by that piece of information. Oh and ever heard of the “Table Cloth”? Due to the cold, wet air coming in from the ocean there is usually a oddly shaped cloud clinging to the top of the Mountain. The nickname of that phenomenon is perfectly fitting!

When we got back from this hike we showered and then – would you have guessed? – set off for our 2nd hike that day!

We were told that going up Lion’s Head at night to toast to the full moon is one of Cape Town’s traditions. Hence, we figured that it was an ideal summit from which to greet the new year. The walk up there is pretty steep and at some points you need to climb ladders, so it is URGENTLY advised that you take a headlamp or some sort of torch with you! The Cape-Townians know what they are doing though: The view from up there is truly breath-taking (although the fireworks were rather small compared to what we are used to from Germany). You get really amazing views over all the golden city lights. So if you ask me, a nocturnal hike up Lion’s Head (e.g. to watch the sunset) is a definite MUST! But please be more responsible than those smashed, flipfloppy and gin-bottle-but-no-torch-carrying tourists we had to bring back down the mountain… I was honestly relieved when we reached the foot of the mountain without seeing anyone tumble down some dark slope.

Two very awesome hikes! However, learn from my mistake and don’t do them on the same day… Even if you have as many ants in your panties as me – don’t listen to them! I woke up in 2017 as stiff and aching as a 99year-old granny…

But Cape Town offers many more impressive peaks: For instance, if you visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (also highly recommended!), you should know that there is no fence at the back of the terrain. You just keep walking and soon you will be passing signs for hiking trails instead of flower beds. I wish we had known this before I decided against a sporty outfit on New Year’s Day… (at least that was my excuse, but the actual truth is that I could barely walk without flinching my face in pain with every step. Seriously, my legs were on fire! Gee, was I whiny that day….).

The other hike I can recommend is the one up to Chapman’s Peak. There’s actually a very popular scenic ocean drive at its foot (http://www.chapmanspeakdrive.co.za/). But naturally, you get an even better view when you get your ass outa the car 😉 The walk with its many wildflowers is very enjoyable and the views you get of the coastline and the other mountains is – again – epic. If it hadn’t been so damn windy that day, I would have wanted to stay up there forever!

Oh yeah, and a little P.S.: Watch some video footage from these hikes in our V-Log about Cape Town.

The Solar Mission

After the first joy of reunion had abated and we had sorted out all necessary preparations (getting the car ready, buying groceries, packing up all gear, …) we set off to the first half of our road trip on day 3. For the next week, we would be travelling Lesotho and the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa.

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Our trip first took us to the Malealea area around Christmas. A lovely lodge awaited us, as well as a – long time overdue – horse ride. When it comes to horses and me, all girly prejudices become true: I love them. I’ve been horse-riding for about 5years as a teenager and I’ve been missing it ever since. And by horse-riding I don’t mean dressage or longeing but western-style trail riding. One day, I’d love to do a horse trek over a few weeks (gotta put that on my never-ending bucket list, now that I think about it…).

So you can tell that I was excited as a 10year old when we went horse-riding in Malealea. For Sebastian, however, it was only the 2nd time on horseback but he seemed to be a natural (as he always is when it comes to sporty activities…). I mean, he was unable to make clear to Brown Sugar, his pretty gelding, who the boss was but come on, at least he never fell off and was comfortable enough to trot which is more than you can expect from a beginner. Speaking of beginners – our route was definitely NOT for beginners but led us through the deepest valleys, up the steepest mountains and along the most precipitous hillsides. One false step of our wiry horses and we would have tumbled down some canyon into our deaths. Luckily, our mounts were sure-footed enough to always find the right way – pew!

 

But why did we do this?? Well, as I said before, we were on a mission: Michael had asked us to deliver some solar lamps to a remote village and we figured that we preferred to reach it by horse rather than carry everything ourselves. What an adventure! With a sore butt and stiff legs, but very much alive, we reached the settlement after a few hours and were greeted warmly. The families of Ha Machakela village are also part of the Save80 project (see the last article in the archive to learn more about it) and already knew Sebastian. To whoever completes the repayment of the stove, Michael offers the purchase of a solar lamp (again through microfinancing); this is how the selling of the stove and the lamps is connected. Here are some of the technical details of the SunKing (also see http://www.greenlightplanet.com):

  • 36h of light
  • 2 USB ports for cell phone charging
  • 3 different light intensities

So all in all, a pretty cool lamp and very useful for people who live without electricity. It took longer than expected for all the new owners to show up (some were on their fields and had to be called first) but then, the handover went smoothly and Sebastian explained the technical details to the proud owners while I took some photographs and played the clown for some of the kids. I just love how you can make people laugh without speaking the same language: pulling funny faces just works with children all over the world. Please note that all pictures were taken with the permission of the locals. In addition, we want to encourage you to pay attention to the fact that the huts (as poor as they may look) often offer unexpected comfort inside. Yes, many people here are poor compared to the Global North, but we really don’t want to deepen prejudices (e.g. the one of the starving children and families sleeping on clay soil in rudimental huts – it’s not like that everywhere!).

 

Check! Mission completed! We hauled ourselves back on our horses and took a less dangerous route back, stopping shortly at a waterfall. I would have loved to stop for a swim (FYI, our long-sleeved clothes on the pictures have two reasons: 1) the sun burns with a crazy intensity on this altitude and 2) it’s simply not appropriate to run around half-naked in the villages, especially not when you are working). My favourite game on the way back was to lead my skinny gelding Blue close to Brown Sugar who didn’t seem to like my horse at all. As soon as I was next to them, Brown Sugar would immediately fall into a trot and determinately move away (a cursing and swaying Sebastian on its back) – I never got tired of that view 😀 However, I stopped this mischief when dark clouds began to gather in our backs. Rumbling thunder made us spur our horses into a trot while we kept glancing back nervously. My parents told me from an early age on: If there’s a storm coming, get down that bloody mountain quick and look for shelter ASAP. And that principle is even more important here because Lesotho is the country with the most lightning strikes in the world! Electrical thunderstorms here are craaazy and often appear out of nowhere. Sadly enough, it’s not uncommon that people die (remember, there are barely any trees on these rough tablelands and Lesotho’s altitude is an impressive 1400-3482m above sea-level).  Fortunately, our timing was absolutely flawless: 5min after we had reached the lodge, the sky opened up and a heavy downpour started, followed by hammering hail. Lucky us! I would not fancy getting stuck in that Armageddon scenario with a nervous horse beneath and a deep gorge next to me…

All in all, a very fantastic day! However, we would be sore for a couple of days after this 😀 Did that stop us? Hell no. But read about our next trail-running and hiking sessions in the next posts…