It happened so abruptly: Ivan Groenhof (co-founder of the Rim of Africa) and I were walking in the midday heat and sun when we came to the top end of a valley, passed through a fence gate, and dropped into the next valley ahead. But then we stopped, looked at each other, and knew – this is it, the END. The fynbos bushes, Cape Fold mountain ridges, and wildlife were all replaced by fields of hops or apple orchards, ridges of pine and jagged stone, and the buz of farm machinery. We had taken a few steps past the crest of the rise and the air was cooler and wet, the ground covered in pine needles, and the there was a scent of freshly cut wood all around us… we had just walked through one fence and everything changed.
When waiting for the midnight bus to Cape Town, I realized that I had walked out of the mountains and this epic was behind me. No more ‘bundu-bashing’, storms, or wretched porridge. All that’s left is the memories of wind and cloud washing over me on high ridges and the story of a wandering soul who found more than he ever expected in the mountains of South Africa.
I feel the journey is complete, but know that as it still slips from my fingers I wish I could hold on to it tighter, make it last, walk further, or at least hide in the mountains until my food runs out.
But in reality walking the Rim of Africa Mountain Passage is only the first step of my journey. It’s now time to fundraise, interact with youth groups, blog/publish materials, and share my experiences openly. I want to keep tapped into the energy I can feel now, of excitement and of awe of what my two feet just did, to fuel my future work in trying to spark inspiration (especially in youth) for conservation and the desire to venture into the wild places of our world. My journey will unfold with the same utterly unknowing that I felt as I walked this never-before-done route and I am excited where it will take me.
“just as a white summer cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth freely
floats in the blue sky from horizon to horizon following the breath of the
atmosphere– in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of
the greater life that… leads him beyond the farthest horizons to an aim
which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight.”
–Lama Govinda, ‘The Way of the White Clouds’
Now I can celebrate: this was the first-ever complete walk of the entire Rim of Africa Mountain Passage. My walk has more-than doubled the length of the Rim of Africa, which now extends 650 kilometers across six mountain ranges from the Pakhuis Pass in the Cederbreg Mountains to the Outeniqua Pass outside of George. It is the first mega-trail initiative in Africa and hopes to use the creation of a contiguous mountain trail to foster experiences which support personal and cultural reconnection to nature.
I am extremely thankful to the National Geographic Society’s Young Explorer Grant Program and the growing list of other groups and individuals who have made this trip possible : the Rim of Africa (with lots of support from Ivan Groenhof and Galeo Saintz), the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Center, Cotton Carrier, Voltaic Systems, Claudia Rauber and Phakalane Living Ritual Center, Nicola Zaina and the Healing Tree health shop, Chris Davies, Lolla Odendaal, Fran Hunziker, Charles Powne, the Rim of Africa Trail Leaders, my family, friends, and others.
As this journey continues forward – through the editing and publishing of my Multimedia Trail Journal, networking and creating partnerships with South African youth groups, and the outreach to global educator resources, I will continue to ask for financial support to make this project possible.
And as I spend my last 10 days in Cape Town busy with work and exciting things to do – I wish you all a great holiday season and end of a fantastic year.