Walking the Daisies
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I’d cycled to Rocking the Daisies in 2013 (on a downhill mountain bike no less) but I needed a new challenge - and Walking the Daisies was right up my alley (or pathway in this case).
A 53 kilometre trek from Big Bay along Bloubergstand to Darling’s Cloof Wine Estate, Walking the Daisies selects up to 200 applicants to walk to the eco-friendly music and lifestyle festival, Rocking the Daisies.
You don't have to be super fit. Relatively fit will do - and though it's tough at times, the beauty of the surrounding enviroment quickly take your mind off any aches and pains.
An annual two-day hike, Walking the Daisies started in 2008 when Cape Town botanist Greg Nicolson returned from a 700 km hike from Cape Town to the Namibian border to research endangered wildlife species along the N7.
Nicolson, a student at UCT at the time, had clearly got the hiking bug and convinced a friend to trek back up the coast with him to Rocking the Daisies. “We hoped to get free tickets to the festival”, he recalled. “It was a gamble that paid off!
And it’s become a legacy. Greg is one of many to have done the hike every year since it began some 7 years ago, spreading to 20 people the following year and growing to nearly 200.
For me it was my first time which didn’t stop me from feeling confident. I’d managed many overnight hikes before and the promise of flat lands, not having to carry anything but a backpack, full catering to the festival, and a tent set up and waiting for us at the campsite was about as glamorous as it gets for a seasoned (eco) traveller. All for just R300 including our weekend pass to the festival!
We met at Eden on the Bay where the buzz of anticipation was in the air. Greenpop’s overland safari truck (that had taken the team to Zambia for their reforestation drive) was there loading up our luggage, and walkers, some dressed in onesies and ridiculous hats, some barefoot, lurked about in keen anticipation.
On registering, we received an awesome free hemp T-shirt from Hemporium, which proudly sported the WTD logo (and proved a blessing in the day’s heat).
I chatted idly to other walkers as we waited to begin. Their motivations were varied - some were just there for the joy of it. Terry Spurling was a sponsor (and soon to be walker buddy) - giving us water from Mountain Falls Natural Spring Water and, proudly flying (ahem, walking) solo.
Gabrielle Andrews, a 55-year old life coach who quickly became our matriarch, was a keen lover of the outdoors who has walked Spain’s Camino Santiago.
Our team leader was from Sustainable Brothers and Sisters, a Stellenbosch-based collective that helps communities plant food gardens and educates students about recycling. Personally, I’d come to mitigate my impact on climate change, and hopefully inspire others to do the same - there's no greater from of eco-travel than walking after all.
Fun fact: did you know that nearly half of all trips worldwide are under 5 kilometres (3 miles). So if you had to walk or bike that - you’d be mitigating nearly half your total carbon footprint for travel alone? Now imagine everyone doing that and the global impact is a lot more significant than say, driving a Prius.
Walking the Daisies gives you the chance to walk 53 kilometres in one go - so that’s a big carbon footprint reduction for just two days (roughly 30 kg of carbon per person).
Of course, the whole point is to realise how easy, exciting and in fact enjoyable it is to walk instead of drive - and that you don’t need to destroy the planet to have a good time.
It was inspiring to hear that mostly everyone did the walk out of concern for the environment, which shouldn't be surprising given that Rocking the Daisies is one of SA's greenest festivals, promoting recycling, alternative energy and carbon reduction, among other initiatives.
Walking along the soft, sandy beach, we were furnished with a big plastic bag each to collect rubbish as we passed. Some took it more seriously than others but in the end the beach looked significantly cleaner after we’d passed through.
As we reached Koeberg Nature Reserve (and the nuclear power plant) we stopped for a lunch of Fry’s plant-based veg burgers. Inexplicably, we’d left the beautiful beach to enjoy them on a grassy patch on the side of the road.
We waited there for the shuttle to pick us up and take us to the other side of the Reserve (apparently we didn’t have permission to go along the coast). Frankly I’d rather have walked it - mostly to keep to the goals of the hike but also because I seriously dislike waiting.
Back along the coast again, we discovered some beautiful beaches, sandy dunes and rock pools all the way to Silverstroom campsite, where we’d be camping for the night.
We were one of the last teams to arrive, which meant there weren’t enough tents. Luckily we had our own - and uncomplainingly bunked down for the night on a grassy patch next to the Safari tents.
Each walker got a free beer - we missed that one too ( could there be greedy walkers out there?) - and after watching the sun set we had dinner (sweet potatoes, lentils and an array of meat that I found surprising for an eco walk - given that the meat industry has such a huge carbon impact).
The night was magical - singing and guitar by the fire kept me up way later than intended for the next day would be our toughest - a stretch along the road all the way to Mamre in what would be unrelenting 30 degree heat.
Nevertheless, spirits were high as we set off - marching along the tar to Mamre, the least beautiful part of the trip, in punishing heat, only breaking at a pit stop to enjoy Bos ice tea (an all-natural, refreshing rooibos drink) and an incredibly delicious raw superfood chocolate bar (with hemp protein) sponsored by O’natural.
Much to my amusement, I overheard many a walker exclaiming: "wow, it’s dairy free, sugar free, gluten free, wheat free!
Apparently 2014's Walking the Daisies organisers had only 3 weeks to prepare (due to a management change, which explains minor hiccups such as catering by Zulu Overlanders not meeting many dietary needs, less sponsors etc) so big up to Cheritop Productions and everyone else who pulled everything together to make it such an incredible experience.
Arriving at Mamre, we had a traditional band entertain us as we planted a community garden in the village before enjoying an extremely tasty veggie stew for lunch.
The last stretch over to Cloof Wine estate was much more beautiful - the wild flowers were in bloom as far as the eye could see and the uphill stretch, albeit tough after such a long journey, was certainly do-able.
As we reached the top we were given a biodegrable balloon, which we released in memory of a girl who’d passed away. The views out over the festival were outstanding - and being so close was invigorating.
Though many walkers had blisters and sunburn; others had problems with ashthma and hayfever and had to be transported part of the way, everyone did the last stretch.
As as we approached the festival grounds we ran together, singing the “Walking the Daisies” song and “I would walk 500 miles”, and leaping and twirling in the air.
Would I do it again? Definitely. After all, making a difference (and having fun doing so) is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.
- Walking along the West Coast with no sound other than the crunch of shells and lullaby of the sea
- Spotting a whale close to shore
- No pressure to keep to a set pace, plenty of breathers along the way
- O'naturals hemp chocolate bar - which gave us much-needed energy
- Group carmaderie and easy conversations with some seriously interesting people, professionals and students alike
- Planting a community garden in Mamre to the jazzy music of a local band
- Running towards the finish line!
- Try do some walks beforehand to get your muscles loosened up
- Stretch after each day
- Bring sunblock
- Wear a hat
- Bring Powerade or Rehydrate
- Bring lots of snacks (dates are a really good and quick energy boost if you're flagging)
- Bring plasters for blisters
- Bring slip-slops that you can put on if you need to (some people walked barefoot but I saw them limping later)
- Wear shorts
- Wear hiking boots or sneakers that you're comfortable in
- Chill out and have fun - it's a lot easier than you think
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