It all started many years ago, in fact I was only a “little guy” and this hike I will remember. My Dad who was involved in outdoor education put a bag on my back and said lets go. This was my first real hike up the local mountain and to add to the excitement, the first time with the right equipment on my back. You know what it's like when you not only look the part, but also act it too....well try to at least.
I will never forget the tough hike which just never ended and the feeling of how big this mountain was and the never ending UPHILL. We'd stop from time to time to admire the fauna/flora; my Dad had an exceptional outdoor knowledge and enjoyed passing it on to anybody who showed interest. Getting to the top and after setting up our tent for the night, Dad came up with an interesting method of cooking a wholesome meal without actually having to attend to the pots for hours on end. This clever system was called the 'haybox', a method where after the initial cooking is done, the pot gets wrapped into a series of foils/cloth and then eventually your sleeping bag, this is then left for an hour or so, and then ready to devour within 10 minutes. In those days, there were already a number of dehydrated products on the market, all offering their nutritional value but which came at a price. We enjoyed taking a tin of bully beef, some fresh beans, a stock cube, a potato or two and making a stew. There was NOTHING better than savouring the aroma while your stomach churned, and then getting into your sleeping bag with a mug of hot tea.
Many years later, I started working on an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo. This was the start to my life outdoors and my love for everything wild and woolly was implanted into my system. It was here that I met another crazy person. I remember Robert taking me off into the veld with a pair of binoculars, sitting me down at a water point and starting to tell me all about the birds we were seeing coming in to drink. At first I thought this very boring but it did not take long before my interest in ornithology was born. I bought my first Newmans Bird book and shortly after that I bought Roberts, the “Birding Bible”. We would, on occasion, spend the entire day around the farm just birding. I started to show the ostrich farm guests the different birds we had whilst doing the one hour guided tour. On the odd occasion a traveller doing a bicycle tour around the world would stop in on their way along the Route 62 which bisects the Little Karoo from east to west or west to east, depending on which direction you were travelling. This form of travel interested me and living on the farm I would invite them up to the cottage to spend the night and get a good nights rest, and listen to all their adventures while having a traditional South African braai, or BBQ as the rest of the world new it.
After working on the farm for a few months Robert, who had been there a lot longer, decided to move on and go to Namibia. He managed to find a job with the Department of Tourism and Conservation and moved to the Etosha National Park, situated in northern Namibia and covers an are of 22000 square kilometers, 9000 of those is a salt pan in the northern section of the park. It did not take long before I heard from him, asking me if I was interested in working up north. My excitement was no longer measurable, it was flowing out my ears. So off I went, and started working in the main camp of Okaukuejo. We would chat in the morning via camp radio “five zero - five zero this is six zero OVERRRRRR” and so the banter would begin......