While off-road driving in the wilderness is visually spectacular, walking is an unbeatable and visceral experience and the reason Slackpacking is quickly becoming the next big thing.
On foot one feels part of the environment as you tune into every aspect of nature, including the small things that are often missed when driving. On foot, you get to see, hear, smell, touch and sometimes taste what the animals do, and experience nature from their perspective.
Maverick wildlife filmmaker and photographer, Kim Wolhuter – known for his extraordinary ability to befriend wild animals – takes it a step further and walks around barefoot in game reserves. He says it helps him to feel more in tune with nature as walking barefoot allows him to understand what soft-footed animals deal with as well as become aware of changes in the substrate.
While we don’t recommend hiking barefoot, we do encourage adventurous travellers to take a walk on the wild side at least once in their lives. South Africa is blessed with some of the world’s most scenic hiking trails, strewn across the country in diverse climatic and geographical zones. From the sub-tropical KZN coastline to the rolling hills of the evergreen Mpumalanga Lowveld, the majestic Drakensberg mountain range to the rugged Wild Coast, the Namaqualand, Table Mountain and the untouched West Coast, there is a bucket list hiking trail just a shot left from everyone’s hometown.
Not up for carrying everything on your back and sleeping in the open every night? No problem! Slackpacking combines what the dirty boots hikers are looking for with luxury accommodation and all meals catered for.
“This implies less planning and more home comforts whilst wearing a fresh set of clothing every day because your luggage is transported. When Slackpacking, you basically only have to arrive; the rest is all catered for. You walk at ease and stay in comfort, triple bottom line,” explains Anette Grobler, founder and CEO of Silent Steps, an organisation that takes hikers into uncharted territories and allow them to have experiences that are only possible on foot.
SnoMaster caught up with Anette to learn more about slackpacking and her extremely popular walks. She also shares her top three tips for prospective slackpackers.
A pioneer in every sense of the word, Anette is the crème de la crème of hiking guides. Her most significant achievement to date is being the first person in history to successfully complete a solo walk along the treacherous 570 km Skeleton Coast Park coastline. She was also the first person to traverse the 570 km Angolan Death Acre alone on foot.
As a former SANDF Major with eight years military experience, she was in 1995 one of the first women in history selected to attempt the extremely tough Special Forces’ entry course (Recce course).
1. Why slackpacking?
About 5 years ago I realised that there is a market for hiking with only the bare necessities on your back and sleeping in a bit of luxury at night. Most of my hikers have done the strenuous Fish River canyon, Otter and Nauklift trails. They are now at the point where they want to hike with a small backpack and once they covered the distance for the day, have a warm shower, hearty meal, some wine with ice and sleep in a bit of luxury, being it a guesthouse or hotel en route to their end destination. Slackpacking means they can still enjoy the outdoors without suffering whilst doing it.
2. Tell me about some of your routes: the reason you chose them, and some highlights of each.
All our routes were developed by us over the past 5 years. They range in distance and difficulty, but they are all slack packs where we transport your entire luggage, provide all meals and even set a table for you in the middle of the desert.
The Wilderness walk and the Shoreline of the San are our two easy routes. On the Shoreline route we take our hikers on a journey the San would take, frequenting caves and coves and covering most of the shoreline between Elands Bay and Strandfontein. Our local guide teaches the hikers about foraging, how the San used to live and show them some San rock art in the area.
The Khan is a more difficult route in the Namib desert, stretching over 100 km in 5 days. Your entire luggage is still transported and all your meals provided whilst sleeping in your own tent every night.
The Hantam hike was initiated to fundraise for the farmers in the Calvinia district and has become one of our most popular hikes. Here we move from farm to farm interacting with farmers and eating meals prepared by the farmers’ wives – true Karoo cuisine.
The Death Acre is a 100 km hike along the Angolan Coastline. This is our most strenuous route but once again, we provide all the meals and make sure you carry only your small day-pack.
3. What kind of person should you be to enjoy a slackpacking adventure?
A person who wants to experience the outdoors with other like-minded hikers will enjoy slackpacking. Someone who likes to learn, interact and socialise with fellow hikers, regardless of the size of the group.
On our hikes we make a point of not asking people what they do for a living, because in nature none of this is actually important. The kind of person you are and how you relate to other people is the most important aspect of a hiker for us. You don’t have to be experienced, you don’t have to be a pilgrim (someone who has done Caminos etc.), you can only be yourself and say “yes, I am here for the experience”.
4. What are your top 3 tips for prospective slackpackers?
Make sure you have a good 20 or 30-litre backpack with straps around your waist and chest. Sometimes people arrive with a backpack without straps. This is problematic because your waist belt is needed to make sure your backpack, however light it is, does not hang from your shoulders only. Always have water with you, no matter the distance. Never wear brand-new shoes on your hike.
5. What should be in every slack packer’s day pack?
Water, sunblock, a buff and a mobile phone.
Are you ready for an outdoor adventure? Remember to check into our online shop to make sure you have all the gear you need to travel in comfort. Check out our range of camping fridges, 12V portable pressure washer and 200W portable solar panel kit and more.