I have been on a number of guided, self-drive, camping, lodge etc. safaris and I have to say that whilst I love the professionalism of the guides, with all their knowledge that I couldn’t hope to learn, the off-roading and being able to get up close to the wildlife, there is nothing quite like driving yourself through somewhere like the Kruger National Park and coming up on anything from a massive bull elephant in must to a tiny mongoose skitting along the roadside.
The flexibility of planning your own routes, working out which circuits you can squeeze in before the gates close for the evening (strictly at 6pm – season dependent) can be an exciting part of the whole holiday. My husband and I have had a number of holidays in the Kruger, from early childhood family holidays to just ourselves, and the main argument we have now is whereabouts to stay, the north or the south (Ryan wanting the south and me the north). The south is the busiest part of the park in terms of vehicles but it does have a fantastic concentration of the big cats. The north however is much quieter and more remote but there are less big cats, or rather, they are well hidden on the Mopani forests! In recent years we have done both to avoid arguments but once we’re in the vehicle with our ‘eagle eyes’ ready, it doesn’t seem to matter.
Ryan can be quite the drill sergeant when in Kruger. We are always the first vehicle waiting to get out of the gate, heaven forbid we get out second!!! And our lunch stops and waterhole viewings are timed precisely to maximise game viewing hours. While most people return to their chalets during the heat of the day for a leisurely lunch or time to chill on the veranda with a book, we are out driving in the boiling car (without aircon because the window MUST be down to ensure maximum clarity in being able to see), even though all the animals are probably asleep in the shade or hiding in the deepest bush. But the funny thing is, I wouldn’t change it one little bit. The main reason being is the excitement of what might be around the next corner and the feeling that if you’re indoors you are likely to miss out on some spectacular sighting, and that keeps us out trawling the bush from dawn til dusk.
The evenings are then always the same, sitting around the BBQ (braai) with an inappropriate amount of meat cooking, a few beers and chatting about what we’ve seen followed by the dreaded plan of the next day! Bliss!
Self driving safaris are not for everybody. Some people go on holiday to be pampered and looked after and the thought having to pack everything but the kitchen sink, plans meals, cook for yourself etc is not everybody’s idea of fun. But if you’re looking for and exciting adventure mixed with bringing some household chores with you then have a go! I am sure you won’t regret it!
OK, so we’ve been doing our regular boot camp sessions with Jay at The Barn300. After starting at twice per week, we’re now attending three sessions and can’t believe the difference. We’ve noticed it in our strength, stamina and body shape but I have to say the biggest change is our appetites!!! We are eating like horses. It’s a good job we’re burning it off.
Typical session includes running around obstacles in a field (often wet and muddy!) carrying a fireman’s hose or scaffold pole, interspersed with numerous press-ups, burpees, star jumps, etc. Jay is great at keeping us on our toes – literally as well metaphorically. Just as we think we’ve achieved the target he’s set us, he adds another one! But it all contributes to a great work-out and we all feel exhausted but proud at the end of it. To get some walking exercise, Ryan and I have been doing some local walks as well, the UFO trail in Rendlesham Forest being the most recent. Sadly no UFOs or weird phenomena were seen but walking 7 miles around the forest was certainly beneficial and very pleasant.
Sal, Ryan and I are happy to say our new boots have been walked in nicely and there has been no sign of blisters. We’ve also started collecting equipment – hiking poles, ski jackets, warm woolly hats, thermal vests, etc. Although the climb only lasts 5 days, the climate goes from one extreme to another so we’ll start off in T shirts and shorts, but have to be prepared for minus 15 deg at the top. We are borrowing LOADS of items from various family members and friends and I think it’s slowly starting to sink in that we are getting quite close to the climb. 10 weeks and counting……!
Our training continues on My Kilimanjaro Challenge! So, the first few weeks of our boot camp training sessions have been completed! With what feels like thousands of sit ups, squats, push ups, dreaded burpees, plus a load of more of Jay’s ‘toys’ (scaffold poles, tractor tyres, jerry cans and more), I honestly thought I would hate these sessions but have found quite the opposite! Here we are with Jay, our trainer from The Barn300.
I can tell you honestly that we’re already feeling the difference in a good way. The first week was certainly the hardest in terms of how our bodies felt afterwards – the words ‘been run over by a steamroller’ came up a few times! We’ve done a few more sessions (Sal and I attempting burpee repetitions) and are finding our bodies are starting to adjust and build more stamina. As Jay knows, we still have a fair way to go but we’re certain his encouragement and sergeant major style approach, and our determination, will help drive us to the summit!
The next stage of our training is adding some walks to break in our boots and here I am on my first attempt, a 6 mile walk on the Great Eastern Pingo Trail (exotic I here you say….!). I’ll be honest I am not that interested in Pingos (circular ponds created in the ice age when water beneath the surface froze, pushing the soil up to create the hillocks which have long since collapsed) but the walk is very good for uneven terrain through the forests and farmlands, giving my poor boots one hell of a break-in. I am pleased to report it was a success! No blisters, bruises or pain. Kilimanjaro here we come!
Here is the next installment of My Kilimanjaro Challenge! You’ve already read about the challenge I am undertaking in June, but now I should give you a little background info on me and introduce you to two of the people joining me on the trek! Introducing the Tribal Trio……!
Tracy Edwards – I’m 31 years old and have been a diehard Africa fan for many years! I’ve worked in the travel industry for a while now and have specialised in Africa for the last 5 years. Hiking has never been a passion of mine, especially since I did my Duke of Edinburgh Award many years ago with a 4 day hike around the Lake District, ending up with blisters from ill-fitting walking boots and a wasp sting. But we send a number of our clients to Kili each year who return exhausted but extremely proud of their achievement. Not only that, my parents made it to the summit and if they can do it (in their 50s!), so can I. I also have a fitness-fiend of a sister who regularly does marathons and has recently completed an Ironman, who will never let me live it down if I don’t at least try to get to the top!
Ryan Smith – Ryan is my husband. He is 29 years old and is a born and bred ‘saffa’ (South African). He shares my passion forAfrica and like me, hiking is not something he really enjoys, but the challenge of climbing the world’s highest free-standing mountain is one he couldn’t refuse. However, I think Ryan’s toughest challenge is going to be the food! He is quite the ‘foodie’ in that he does most (or all) of the cooking at home and on the off-chance I do cook, he is not far away offering ‘suggestions’ on how it should be done. It’s going to be quite interesting to see how he copes with others doing ALL the cooking!
Sally Thompson – Sally is a friend who I met when she did some marketing work for Tribes. She is 38 and a single mum to two little kiddies, Wilf (5) and Tess (3). Sally does a lot for local charity Camille’s Appeal (supporting children with brain tumours) and when she heard I was going to be climbing Kilimanjaro she jumped at the chance to join me to raise money for the charity. A month after agreeing to the challenge and having done some research, she is slightly more daunted by the prospect of the climb, especially the minus temperatures we are likely to experience but she has invested in the boots and is focussing on raising the sponsorship. Coming with her on the climb will be her sons Class 1 toys, Spike and Julia. More accustomed to trips to the zoo and the local park, she is hoping that Spike and Julia will provide some warmth and companionship on the chilly nights!!
If you fancy joining us on the trek then please do get in touch on 01728685971 or email me at email@example.com, the more the merrier.
I’ve been toying with the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro for a few years and now that the opportunity to climb Kili with a group of Tribes clients on the Discovery Tour of Kilimanjaro, I have jumped (or should that be hesitantly hopped!) at the chance to do it. I have to be honest, I am apprehensive about the actual climb but I am looking forward to the feeling of being able to say to people (and myself) that I’ve done it. My parents climbed it successfully a few years ago and a number of my colleagues have done it so it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is and get up there!
Having booked numerous clients on the climb for a number of years, I’ve got a fairly good grasp of what to expect but I do still have concerns, two in particular; the freezing cold and my feet/boots!
Anyone who knows me will tell you my blood doesn’t flow properly. My feet, hands and nose are always cold and I mean ice-cold! Winter, summer, doesn’t matter, always cold, cold, cold! Nothing warms them and I am not going to have my cosy electric blanket on the slopes. Although, one good thing is that my husband Ryan is doing the climb with me so I will just have to put my cold hands and feet on him! (I bet he can’t wait!)
The second thing that terrifies me is wearing decent boots that won’t give me blisters. I did my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award some (many!) years ago and wound up walking in boots that didn’t fit me properly. The blisters on my heels were horrendous and it made my whole walking experience a nightmare – and that was only in the Lake District!! This time around I am sure it’s going to be somewhat harder.
If anybody has any tips or hints about getting good fitting boots then please let me know!
Ryan and I have been given the opportunity to train with Jay of The Barn300, a local ‘freestyle fitness’ centre. We naively thought it was going to be a nice cosy gym with lots of leisurely machines to use. But no – our initial sessions are taking place in a muddy field and it’s boot camp training. We started training this week and we’ve found muscles I’d forgotten I had, but I do have to say it was brilliant fun if anyone can get us into shape then Jay can! I’ll let you know how our progress goes – if we make it!