An early morning start with mist whirling around us was the introduction to Mbona Private Game Reserve. A cooler day compared to the week of hell hot that we have had, was a welcome relief. Six of us set off, ably led by our leader from Karkloof Conservancy, up a steep slope into a natural forest. With no view being available we looked at what was closer to us.
Previously when I did this hike, I was so focused on the beautiful views, that I did not pay close attention to the wonders of nature much closer in my visual space. After the beautiful rains, and the heat, the slopes we alive with a variety of different flowers, all beautifully draped with dew crystals. Vast expanses of bright red paper flowers could not be captured with a camera. The mind memory has to take these photos and keep them in my head. The mist kept us focused from forest to grasslands and back to forest. Clambering through the path to the incredible giant Yellow Wood forest. These trees are giants in their natural habitat. A story book feeling. So peaceful, with the noises of nature being calming and easily receptive to the human ear. We sat in silence for a time without speaking, without any interaction, to enjoy the sounds of living nature. I could have stayed for much longer and just listened and looked. The return journey continued to be shrouded in mist. We found the most incredible Lemon Wood trees with hollow centers and all branches coming out of the hollow center being solid, large and incredible.
From ringing stones, to flowers, to fungi to spider holes we enjoyed all. With a sense of awe at natures creation our hike was slowed to a pace that allowed us to truly interact with nature. To slow down. To be tactile. Enjoy the natural smells. To feel emotionally, mentally and physically.
In today’s world of frenetic functionality we need to stop. We need to give ourselves time to regenerate away from screens and everyone else’s opinion. We have to have time to be creative, interactive and to find solitude. Be happy and comfortable in our own skins. This hike was all of that and more.
On the weekend of the 9th October, Ali Engelbrecht, took to the road to compete in the Virtual 125th Boston Marathon. Residents of Howick are possibly familiar with the site of the pink peak hat and Women In Business T-shirt pacing the streets. As a long distance walker and a seasoned virtual competitor Ali couldn’t resist the opportunity to participate in an international marathon. Added to which her virtual team mates, affectionately known as Bernie’s Bitches, had all registered to participate. FOMO (fear of missing out) set in, but was alleviated by a very kind sponsor who entered Ali, and it was all systems go from then on.
This was her 1st ever Marathon and she walked it, every single kilometre of the 42 kilometre distance. The support, encouragement and incredible feeling of accomplishment made the tired muscles all worth it, said Ali. Midlands Hiking Club members, ably led by Hettie Randall set up a relay of support vehicles and fellow walkers. Friends and family encouragement along the route was incredible. Starting and finishing at WESSA Umgeni Valley was extra special as this is Ali’s ‘happy place and space’. The sunrise start to the Boston Marathon was spectacular. Beautiful clear morning with the promise of a great day ahead and the rain stayed away. From WESSA, Ali headed up Karkloof Road, past Karkloof Market, the Old Mushroom Farm, Karkloof Club, Karkloof Conservancy, and past Karkloof Canopy Tours, turning back to walk the route in reverse, finishing at a “real” finish line set up by the well wishers at the WESSA entrance. Even though this was a virtual event, there was the feeling of rapport with her fellow Canadian #BerniesBitches viz Janet Black from Surrey, Mela Williams from Manitoba, and Martha Franklin from Ontario. In constant contact with one another the updates on each one’s progress was detailed. Approaching the finish, Ali admits to being very emotional with friends and family waiting for her, together with her beautiful new rescue dog Willow. Yes, I was tired, she said. Yes there were many moments when she questioned her sanity. Would she do it again….., her answer “Oh hell yes”!
When asked to explain the interesting team name and how she came to be part of a Canadian group, Ali laughed and said ‘they are crazies but they keep me sane’. In 2019 Ali participated in her first long distance virtual challenge to complete 2,019 kilometers in 2019. In 2020 she did the same, walking 2,020 kilometers. Through these two challenges Ali became virtual friends with Janet, Martha and Mela. They decided in their crazy wisdom, to create a team and virtually walk across Canada from East to West in The Big Canada Run Challenge. A distance of 8,000 kilometres. Of course a name had to be found for this virtual and ‘international’ team. Janet has a rescue dog named Bernie and we had become very fond of Bernie and her antics, explained Ali. Bernie had become the team mascot, therefore the name Bernie’s Bitches became our team name. The team certainly stood out with a name like that and they fast became a group to be reckoned with. The postings on social media of their walking and running adventures being enjoyed by all who follow them. In 2021 they all participated in the 2,021 km challenge, plus they registered for the Big Canada Run again, but this time they upped the target to 10,000 kilometers. This challenge they are currently completing.
Virtual challenges are possibly more difficult than in person ones. There is usually no support, no encouragement from onlookers and all supplies have to be carried by the participant. Since her first event in 2019, Ali has learnt, by trial and error, what to carry and to carefully plan her routes, sometimes not very successfully, she laughs. Competing in many virtual events, organised across the globe, including the Comrades Half Marathons, Ali has amassed several incredible medals and made virtual friends with many walkers and runners from around the world. Ali explains that the virtual tourism is amazing, as she gets to ‘visit’ many of the local places of interest and learn first hand from the residents of the towns and cities where other participants reside.
We asked Ali why she participates and what drives her to do this virtual walking. Her answer was simple, its cheaper than anti anxiety medication, it’s the best stress reliever and she gets to meet and interact with incredible people. Ali had dedicated her walking to an awareness campaign known as #Walking4Women where she endeavours to raise awareness of how far, the average South African woman, who is reliant on public transport, has to walk to get to and from work every day. The average distance walked is 8 kilometers a day just to get to work and back. Ali appeals to management, leaders and the public to be kind and empathetic to all staff who need to sometimes just sit and rest their legs before commencing work. “Think of how far they have had to walk, whilst you may have only had to drive your car”.
Follow Ali on Facebook to keep up with her walking adventures. If you would like to support Ali by sponsoring branded walking apparel please contact Ali on firstname.lastname@example.org
Efficiency and effectiveness are often at odds with procrastination. As humans we tend to do the stuff we enjoy or prefer in favour of those rather mundane, awkward or disliked chores/functions/tasks.
The last few weeks have taught us a very valuable lesson. “Do it now, while there’s time”. No one expected or predicted the force of the vandalism, looting or pillaging that occurred in KwaZulu Natal and parts of Gauteng in South Africa. Putting ‘stuff’ off will have a ripple effect on those around you. If you don’t do what needs to be done, then others can’t do what they need to do. As an entrepreneur that can have a devastating effect on your business or your clients or even yourself. You’ve heard it before. “Time is of the essence”! It truly is. Don’t put off what you could do today as you do not know what tomorrow will bring. Don’t ‘faff around’ and miss the ‘zero hour’ for any reason at all. Make you “To Do List’ and stick to it. Where possible delegate to allow you to ensure that you look after yourself and your business. There is a difference between urgent and essential.
Find you trigger points, those things that distract you. How can you manage them better? Routine usually works well to help with distractions. Manage your time. Take note of what distracts you and what eats into your time. I’m willing to bet it’s emails and WhatsApp chat. Switch them off. Close them down. Focus on the task at hand. You will get it done far quicker, and better if you choose to focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking and being efficient do not fit into the same sentence or way of life.
The idea behind a pilgrimage walk is to get in touch with oneself and leave the troubles of the world behind for a short while. The pilgrimage gives you time to decide what is important and what is not. Getting one’s priorities in the right order.
Yet amongst all this self reflection there is also the opportunity to discover new interests, places, knowledge and friendships. I tend to get so bogged down in the day to day activities and the roller coaster of life, that I forget to appreciate the amazingness of nature. Being away from home, although always good to be home, sometimes I need to leave to give myself space to just be. Having a few days in which to be ‘irresponsible’ and not having to think or make decisions is truly good for the soul, heart and emotions.
I recently took part in my second Sungazer Trail along the Historic Route. It’s one of the shorter trails, but incredibly interesting. The first day gave me a chance to really unwind. 22 kms of gravel road, with incredible Eastern Free State scenery. Arriving at Holhoek it was liberating to take off my hiking boots, have a hot shower and put my feet up. A communal braai and home made Gluwein rounded off an incredible day.
A Free State breakfast, of a gastronomic nature, started the day off before we left to explore the dinosaur footprints and eggs. I cannot begin to explain the awe that I felt being in a place where millions of years ago the giants of the world roamed. To be able to be right up close to all this evidence was a treat. To tread where this mighty giants roamed was humbling. I want to know more, I want to be part of this excavation. I want to be part of this amazing discovery. We even came across a wonderful Bushman Painting.
Getting back to Holhoek, we finished off a second round of breakfast, thanks to generous catering. We then set off to our next destination at Uniondale. Uniondale was like landing in heaven, with soft beds, hot baths and showers and catering to absolutely die for. Do not expect to loose weight when on a Sungazer Trail. That aint ever gonna happen. Ending a short pilgrimage in a place like this was so special and the kindness of the staff was wonderful.
Where is my next adventure? Who knows? I take them as they come. Hopefully I will post more often as I really would like to keep a diary of my journeys that I am blessed to be able to participate in.
#Walking4Woman has given me many opportunities to reflect on how grateful I am for so many aspects of my life.
According to The Secret, Daily Teachings, by Rhonda Byrne, ‘To change your life fast, use gratitude to shift your energy. When you put all of your energy into gratitude, you will see miracles take place in our life. To change things-quickly, commit to writing 100 things you are grateful for each day, until you see the change. And FEEL the gratitude. Your power is in the FEELING that you put into the words of gratitude.”
Today’s walk took me to the Mandela Capture site, where I was able to walk through the forests and grasslands surrounding this famous site in South Africa. Every time I have the opportunity to walk in nature, I get the time to reflect. I allow my mind to relax, not have any conscious thoughts. I just allow my mind to be open to the silence, the sounds of nature. Clearing my mind is a type of therapy, whereby the creativity of my mind can take over. How fortunate are we that we have this opportunity to walk in freedom and in the open spaces to reflect, to meditate in a sense, and be able to go home at the end of the experience. Unlike Nelson Mandela who was locked up in the Prison at Robben Island. He didn’t have the opportunities that I had today until he was released. And when he was released he showed gratitude in so many ways. An amazing man who was a superb role model.
Through grasslands and man made forests I trailed. Enjoyed the sights, smells, sounds and freedom. I have the privilege of walking as a hobby. Many women in South Africa don’t have that option. They have to walk to work and back. They may have access to public transport but they still have many kilometers to walk to get to the taxi ranks from home and from work. The #Walking4Women campaign is endeavouring to raise awareness amongst employers to be empathetic to women who have long distances to walk and who have to stand on their feet all day at work.
This plant is possibly the smelliest plant I have ever had the displeasure to smell. Yet it attracts hundreds of insects, which are its food. Aseroe rubra, commonly known as the anemone stinkhorn, sea anemone fungus and starfish fungus, is a common and widespread basidiomycete fungus recognizable for its foul odour of carrion and its sea anemone shape when mature. Wikipedia There is amazing diversity in nature. Thank goodness. Can you imagine how boring life would be if everything was the same.
Back to gratitude. Be grateful every day for all the good things (small and large) that you have in your life. I’m glad I’m not that shongololo.
So often we walk/run without noticing the small things around us. We always looking for the obvious, and yet the small little things in life are often as interesting if not more so. All my life I have walked in the Umgeni Valley but only last year and again this year did I notice the fungi growing out of an ant hill. Not knowing what it was, the fungi became affectionately known as Thingie Fungi. On a hike during the course of last year, in discussion with a fellow hiker, I discovered that ants farm fungi. It helps with their food storage and breaking down of the food into edible units of food.
Made me think about how oblivious we, as humans, generally are. We look for the obvious but don’t investigate the not so obvious which quite often solves a problem or offers an answer. Like the ants use fungi, why don’t we as humans co-exist and help one another. In the current COVID crises we are looking at the virus and seeing death, destruction, financial ruin and devastation. Yet if we just take the time to look, investigate, try something new we may find the answers to the success we so desperately seek. Look away from the obvious and look into what’s not so obvious.
Add to that the beauty around us like the sunsets and even the scary snakes in our paths we can appreciate life and what it has to offer. In the obvious we take for granted that snakes hibernate in winter. Yet this winter I have seen more snakes than in any other year. They cross our paths and we cannot be held to ransom for this block in our path, go around, jump, hop or skip over the obstacle. Again don’t look at the obvious there is always something to be grateful for even if it seems like a block in our plans. The winter cold brings with it beauty as well as obstacles, but that should never stop us from reaching for our goals.
My goal to complete minimum of 10 kms a day for the month of July to celebrate and raise awareness of those who have to walk to and from work. Lets not let the cold, snakes and daily chores stop us from getting out there and enjoying what life and nature has to offer us.
Two years ago I came home from a particularly wet and muddy hike. Left my very expensive, incredibly comfortable hiking boots on the tail gate of my Land Rover to dry. Completely forgetting that they were there, I drove off the next day with the boots still on the tail gate. The boots obviously fell off and some lucky person picked up a pair of amazing boots who had travelled many thousands of miles on my feet. I was very sad as those boots and I had history and many memories.
I tried various other hiking shoes and boots but didn’t find anything that suited me or felt right. Today I received a pair of Hoka Hiking boots that I had ordered online and decided I would take a chance on. A quick diversion here. I discovered Hoka walking/running shoes through interactions with the various international virtual walking/running groups that I am part of. I fell in love with my #Hokas. For the first time in many many years I do not suffer from burning balls of my feet during and after a walk. I decided that if they can make shoes that fit my soles then they can be the soul for my hiking boots.
Couldn’t wait to take them out for a trial hike. Off I headed into my favourite valley this morning. WESSA Umgeni Valley is my happy place. Tried these new boots on grass, dirt, rocks, steep inclines and sandy rocky banks. 10 kms later I arrived back home with comfortable happy feet and a smile on my face. Have fallen in love with my new hiking boots. Looking forward to many miles and memories to be made.
It does make me realise how blessed I am that I can purchase a pair of beautiful boots for my leisure and pleasure, whereas there are many who cannot afford a pair of shoes. Be blessed, stay humble and be kind.
Each day we need an incentive to keep going to achieve an end goal. A friend and I registered to wander around Rome (virtually). 100,000 steps was the challenge. We both thought it would take a lot longer than it did. Now we done. So what’s the next challenge? Who knows. I’m sure Facebook and Google knows what’s next as they both have an uncanny ability to make suggestions. Let’s wait and see what the next adventure will be compliments of suggestions via social media.
“Kind words and kind deeds keep life’s garden free of weeds”.
Not sure who wrote this but it certainly strikes a cord given the current crises the world is facing right now. The feelings of anxiety, stress, fear which are constantly eroding confidence and planning. It takes nothing to be kind, to smile, to share a compliment with someone. So why are we not doing this more often.
Walking almost every day I come across many different persons. Some are quietly avoiding me and not wanting to make eye contact. Yet when they do and I greet them with a friendly tone (through my mask) their facial features (eyes) light up. Just a simple good morning with a happy tone can make a difference. There are those who greet back wholeheartedly and a short conversation takes place. Usually leaving me feeling good about the positive interaction. These regular walks mean I get to recognise an number of people coming to and from work. We have a lovely routine of a hello/howzit how are you. It’s inconsequential conversation but with the right tone you can make a difference to someone. Those who are finished with a night shift are tired, having to take care of someone needing mental, emotional and physical help. A kind word goes a long way with someone who is tired.
The cashier at the supermarket has been on their feet for a long shift. Be kind. Be nice. Leave them feeling like you really appreciated the work they do. You like to be appreciated, offer the same in return.
“Days are like suitcases – the same size, but some people are able to pack more into them than others”. Anonymous
How true is that? At the end of some days, I look back and I think to myself…..what on earth did I achieve? On other days I look back and say, wow that was a phenomenal day.
How does one ensure that you pack into your day’s suitcase as much as you need to? No answer to that question, I’m afraid. Each day brings news challenges, new knowledge, new interactions and life happens. What you do need to ensure is that at the end of the day you can put your head on your pillow knowing that you have done, what you can do, and not beat yourself up about what you couldn’t do. During the day in your suitcase there needs to be a space for you. A breathing space for you to be you, to enjoy you, to do what you want to do. And don’t ever let anyone guilt you out of this. BUT and its a large BUT ensure that you have achieved something each day.
When we pack for holidays, we usually over pack and take far too much. That’s what our days are generally like. We try to pack far too much into them, instead of planning what we need and using only what is essential and leaving behind the unnecessary baggage.
Do yourself a favour and leave the unnecessary behind and enjoy what you have packed into your suitcase.