Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Naukluft Hiking Trail #6... Blisters

I left the camp, or rather the slab of concrete we called home the previous night still chewing frantically on a peanut bar, trying to get my energy levels up to a point where I'll be able to walk up the steep canyon for a few kilometers and scale a few chains inbetween. My normal, hearty breakfast consisting of coffee, a generous helping of Futurelife, and my blaster dosre of vitamin pills and energy sweets would have to wait until we reach the top of the canyon, 400 leg breaking meters above us, where we'd agreed to pause at a rock pool to eat and stock up our water supplies. I say 400m up, because the horizontal 14-17km we walked each day wasn't the issue, it was the daily slog of clambering in and out of canyons that took its toll.

On the way up we walked past the ubiquitous quiver trees flowering bright yellow bouquets, the first time I've ever seen them in bloom. Their flowers weren't unique; all along the drably coloured trail small splashes of colour decorated shrubs as if a giant artist spilled droplets of paint among the rocks and boulders that littered the way.

After about an hour of walking we reached the bottom of the first chain, the same one we'd used to descend into Ubisis Kloof the previous day. I felt a bit wobbly having had no meaningful sustenance but managed to heave myself and my kit up all of the chain sections, finally reaching a spot where, as usual, the fast walkers were already lighting their stoves and boiling water alongside a rock pool in the tiny stream that trickles along the base of the canyon.

Here's a tip on how to enjoy the Naukluft: Don't count kilometers. Day after day you'll be cris-crossing canyons that, if you're not careful, will feel like a never-ending rock-strewn eternity. Don't worry, they all do come to an end. And all have stunning landscapes that very few earthlings have ever visited and had the privilege to see. So make the most of your time there - stop often, enjoy the scenery, pause, be in the moment.

On most days the afternoon's hike is generally across flat plains, or runs down-hill. The designer of Naukluft, apart from being a chain fanatic, was also a master at understanding hike philosophy: Nothing breaks a hiker's spirit like a long uphill trudge climbat the end of the day when the hut is within sniffing distance. Here there are none of that, it's always a gentle roll up to the hut.

So it was a relatively easy walk across a few low rises to our next stop, Adelhorst Shelter. It was once again a roofed stone kraal, this time a round one with a hand crank water pump right next to it. By now stringing a washing line had sort of by default become my job at each stop-over, and within half an hour of it garments of all colours and shapes and sizes were fluttering in the wind.

It always strikes me how quickly daily rituals develop on hikes. One of the those on Naukluft  was the regular pre-dinner plaster session, bandaging up the day's blisters. And blisters there were aplenty, and they multiplied as the days went on. Of the eight hikers only two were blister-less by the end, and I wasn't one of them. Boulder-hopping, rocky canyons and sheer distance took it's toll.

Fortunately one forward-looking hiker brought along zinc oxide plasters, which kept the pain and agony at bay. And most importantly, she brought enough along to keep a small army marching. I salute your foresight and sharing spirit, Comrade.

You can see all the pics from Naukluft in my Flickr gallery.

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