Walking with the crazies and rocking the daisies 2014

WTD 1

MOST of us started out as strangers, but after 48 hours of Walking the Daisies and bonding over tired legs and swollen feet, we parted as friends and
fond acquaintances.

pucture by Willem Law

pucture by Willem Law                                                               

We were the more than 120 “crazies”who took on the challenge of the 53km trek from Bloubergstrand to Darling’s Cloof Wine Estate to attend the ecofriendly music and lifestyle festival, Rocking the Daisies, at the weekend.

Walking the Daisies is an annual twoday hike that was started in 2008 by Cape Town botanist Greg Nicolson, after returning from a 700km hike from Cape Town to the Namibian border. Nicolson, a UCT student at the time, was researching endangered wildflower species along the N7 road reserve. He and a friend decided to hike back up the coast to the Rocking the Daisies festival, hoping to score free festival tickets for their efforts.
“We roughed it and slept next to the road. We also didn’t plan the route but just followed the road,” he recalls. The next year the first official walk started, with just 20 people. Now dubbed the “Walk of a Lifetime” because of its scenic route, hundreds compete each year
for a spot in the event. “It’s a way for people to experience our natural heritage, and is aimed at also stimulating conversation about environmental issues,” Nicolson says. “The event draws interesting characters and over the years has been the source of many friendships and in some cases is responsible for bringing life partners together.”

picture by Willem Law

picture by Willem Law

I joined Nicolson and others at the start of the facilitated hike. The group of walkers was mostly made up of yogis – like me, vegetarians, avid hikers, hipsters who walked barefooted, and those who just wanted a good adventure.

Each of us had our own reasons for doing the walk, but the common one was
concern for the environment – and we wanted to “rock the daisies” with a clear conscience. The festival promotes recycling, alternative energy and carbon reducing plans, among other initiatives.
Gabrielle Andrews – the “mother”of the group and a lover of the outdoors who has walked Spain’s Camino Santiago – said she was participating as a personal
pilgrimage.

“The peninsula is bursting with sacred sites and we sometimes forget to celebrate the diversity of our natural resources,” says the 55-year old life coach from Constantia.
We started at the Big Bay Mall, where we left our camping gear and luggage with event partner GreenPop to transport to our overnight camp site at Silwerstroom.

With just a backpack of essentials, such as a bottle of water, energy snacks and a change of clothes, we started with a beach clean-up at Bloubergstrand, picking up litter there and all along the way. It was a clear and sunny day as we made our way along the West Coast’s shores, bordered by the N7 and R27. We walked past Kreeftebaai, Melkbos,
Brakkefontein and around the back of Koeberg.

picture by Willem Law

picture by Willem Law

Crunching sea shells and the sound of crashing ocean waves made for an awesome
experience. But the walk is not for the faint-hearted or the unfit. There were moments when everything hurt, from my glutes to my calf muscles, and times when I felt as if my legs were about to give in.

Walking on soft sandy dunes and up sandy hills almost brought me to tears, but the camaraderie and determination in the group kept me going. There was no pressure to keep up with anyone and there were adequate breaks along the way. A good pair of sneakers was essential as the terrain was rough at times, and we made sure that we lathered ourselves with sunscreen to guard against the harsh sun . Some participants hobbled along with blisters, but there were no serious injuries.
For R330, the walkers got a fully catered experience, as well an overnight stay at the beautiful Silverstroomstrand resort and a weekend pass to the festival.

picture by Willem Law

picture by Willem Law

Spotting the occasional breaching whale along the way made the experience
even more special. The highlight on our second day was a lunch stop at Mamre, where we planted a vegetable garden for the community. The garden will be tended by a group of
unemployed women who will sell the vegetables to feed their families.

For Mzoxolo Mayongo, 28, who has attended the festival several times, taking part in the walk was about seeking a new experience. “The hike makes it extra special, it’s not just about partying at the festival. This is us being conscious about environmental issues affecting our world and doing our bit to raise awareness,” he says.
On Thursday afternoon, we descended the hill towards the wine farm as victorious gladiators who had taken took on a challenge most thought crazy.

VICTORY!!! pic by Willem Law

VICTORY!!! pic by Willem Law

As Nicolson puts it: “It’s about pushing your body to its limit. It is hard and sometimes people struggle to the end with blisters, but determination will get you there”.

[This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on October 7 2014]

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