Intrepid journeymen cross paths in Plett


PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Two intrepid travellers crossed paths in Plettenberg Bay on Monday, March 10. Grant Christie is a South African,who started walking from Alexander Bay on the West Coast in October 2013 and intends walking to Kosi Bay on the KwaZulu-Natal North coast, carrying all his possessions on his back. Willi Kroeker is a German citizen who started cycling down the East Coast of Africa in February 2013 and is currently en route to Cape Town.

The two made an instant connection when they ran into each other at the Market Square shopping centre where Christie was picking up supplies for the next leg of his journey from Plett to Nature's Valley after a night's respite at the home of family friends in Keurbooms.
Christie was born and raised in Pretoria. He studied Civil Engineering but said he realised long before he had completed his degree that this was not where his passion lay. He nonetheless finished what he had started and spent three years working off his student loan in Pietermaritzburg before he set off on his current adventure.

Both Christie and Kroeker were reasonably fit before they set out on their respective adventures. They agreed that their bodies soon became used to the rigours of life on the move. Both said that people along the way had been generally friendly and supportive of their respective endeavours. While the young men are equipped to camp along the way and carry enough food in their packs, many people had opened their homes to them.

Although people they comeacross often express concern for their safety when they hear what these guys are doing, Christie said, "Chasing your dream is worth every risk. Fear is what holds so many people back. It is a risk to quit your job and head into the unknown." 
Kroeker laughed, "We are young and reckless," he said, to which Christie retorted, "Youth is a state of mind. So many of our fears are unfounded, the result of sensationalist propaganda." Kroeker said. "Usually if you stay out of the city, you stay out of trouble."

The two men have much in common, including the fact that their families have been supportive of their expeditions. "A supportive family makes a big difference," said Kroeker. They also share an appreciation for small things and seemingly inconsequential details by ordinary standards which can make all the difference when one is on the road. Kroeker will return to Germany at the end of April.

It took Christie three days to walk from Knysna to Plettenberg Bay along this treacherous stretch of coastline. Overcoming the sheer cliffs, sharp rocks and dense forests proved a harrowing experience.

Christie's expedition, Six Million Steps, is endorsed by the Wilderness Foundation South Africa (www.wildernessfoundation.org.za). The purpose of his journey is to uncover the environmental burdens on the coastline and to raise awareness of these issues as well as for two of the Wilderness Foundation’s conservation programmes. 

He called the journey Six Million Steps because that is the number of steps he estimated would be required to complete the 30 000km journey along South Africa's coastline.

"The success of the project depends on the ability to document the journey and thereby relate the story to the public as it unfolds through written, photographic and video updates as well as talks along the way," said Christie.

Although Christie has a website, he regularly updates his Facebook page along his way. Those interested in supporting him can follow his journey on www.facebook.com/sixmillionsteps.

Christie's expenses are self-funded although his shoes are sponsored by Vibram FiveFingers, a solar charger is sponsored by Powertraveller (supplied by Wintec Solutions) and a pedometer and action camera sponsored by Oregon Scientific (supplied by Imtech Marine). He can be contacted via his Facebook page.

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Shark Cage Diving

In Gansbaai at the southern coast of SA you find the highest concentration of Great White Sharks anywhere. Starting as research teams somebody got the genius idea to put some tourist into the cage and generating a business, helping support the studies about the still very unknown behaviour of sharks. After a short boatride out of sea the crew throw some fishoil into the water and the wait for the sharks begins. We had to wait just a few minutes before the first Great White showed up and tried to catch the tuna head which is dangling on a fishing line and pulled in towards the cage, while you are sitting in there, head just above the waterline and waiting for the shout to "Go down"! Then you see the shark out of the blue approaching the cage, sometimes have a little bite at the iron bars, checking out if it's edible. I really don't want to meet one of this creatures out in open water,  but seeing them so close behind the safety of the cage was great! Thanks a lot to Julie and Liz, who helped to organised this trip and of course WHITE SHARK PROJECTS for sponsoring it.






Bungee Jumping

The Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa is the perfect place to jump down. With 216m it was once the highest commercial Bungee Jump in the world, and still is the highest from a brigde. Africa probably isn't quiet the place to put your trust in local safety standards, and I was quiet surprised at the lax fit of the harness (compared to NZ) and that they let me jump barefeet. A few years ago at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe the rope snaped and an Australian girl fell into the Zambezi River. She was lucky and just broke her collarbone. There are various versions told, but it is said that after that incident the president jumped, to give back faith and boost tourism :) For the country of Zimbabwe it had been better if the rope had snapped again with low water level. Here never an accident happened and although I have done it before in New Zealand, I couldn't resist, with just around 50€ it's a bargain. Also, this one is a lot higher and you fly for a long long time, feels pretty awesome!






Kingfisher

My first MTB race! More information here:

https://www.facebook.com/KingfisherMTB/timeline

http://www.kingfisherchallenge.co.za/sample-page



Snakes

Although I sleep almost every night in the bush I haven't come across many snakes. Mostly you see them on the road, just crossing quickly or run flat by a car. They sense you long before you come even close and usually move. An exception is the highly poisonous puff adder, which isn't aggressive at all but lies in ambush and would bite if stepped on. Out in the bush, on a bicycle with no mobile phone, you're in trouble! Sit down and hope it was a dry bite, chances ain't too bad, about 50/50 ;) Next pictures were taken at the Lawnwood Snake Sanctuary near Plettenberg Bay.






... and back to South Africa

Leaving the county was the easy part, reenter the more difficult. It's not allowed just to get in and out for a new visa, and it's tightly controlled. But I must get back to SA, I ain't no finished with this country yet. There still some things and people I want to see, also l stored some stuff in Capetown and it's much cheaper to flight back to Europe. Luckily I am the owner of two passports, the immigration officer can skim through my documents as often as he likes he won't find any sign of a previous visit. To distract him I start telling about where I come from, riding my bike all through Africa to come to his county. That usually makes a huge impression and often I have to repeat myself because they can't believe it. It's a nice problem solver...


Welcome back to South Africa, my third and for this time last visit to this beautiful country. It was a great relief to successfully cross the border and  riding again on these roads made me feel somehow like coming back home.


Short excursion to Swaziland...

Actually there wasn't really much attracting me to go to Swaziland, this little kingdom between South Africa and Mocambique. I heard it's full of sugarcane. But after I failed to get my visa renewed at the little border post when I came back from Lesotho I had to leave South Africa. Because I already overdued my time I choosed a remote border, hoping they ain't got to sophisticated computers. 


They got. And after the officer scanned my passport I can see a message pop up on the screen causing some confusion. He looks down at the expired stamps, can't figure it out and asks me where I entered the country? Lesotho - Sani pass, I reply. I guess I wasn't registered back into the system and now he don't know what to do. But he does the right thing and just stamps me out :)



Drakensberg

Back in South Africa. Crossed the border at Sani Pass, a long and windy descent down the Drakensberg Mountain Range. The last weeks have been strenuous riding and I'm happy to have here a place to stay and rest. Also, it's a great opportunity to see the Drakensberg area (which is really stunning and a World Heritage Site), and Willie, my namesake and host, whom I met when I was in Capetown, recommend me a beautiful hike up the mountains.






Funny White Man

What is he doing there? When I start to cook I can be certain to have the full attention. Every step, from fireing my multifuel stove, to pouring water from my water bag into the pot, getting my pocket knive out to cut some veggies, to finally throw the pasta in, is accompanied by hushes and laughter. If you then get your camera out and take some pictures, and show them around, you make everybody happy. Camping in a village can be very tiresome, but also very funny :)





Backcountryroads

The infrastructure of the country is upgraded rapidly and the Chinese are busy improving the dirt roads to pavement standard. To see the very best of Lesotho, means the remote and therefore truly unspoiled areas I had to look a bit closer through a number of maps and found some old dirt tracks, marked as "Extreme 4x4". That sounded pretty good and I was looking forward for some rough terrain. What I then came upon I hadn't expected at all, the road was totally fallen apart, massive rocks blocking the way, big drops and river crossings where I had to carry my bike over. At some points the vegetation was so much grown over I had to search for the track to continue, riding on at some single footpaths along the riverbank. No surprise I didn't come across any vehicles (just donkeys and horses, the best and only way of transport up here), the road is definitely inaccessible these days. For me, it was one of the best riding experience on my whole trip!