A group of hikers, with the help of Hortgro, Kromco and the Paul Clüver clan from De Rust Farm in Elgin created a hiking event in the Groenland Mountains. It was labelled Hiking for Hunger. The idea was to walk for apples for the hungry. However, before the end of the day, a different rescue was needed … Gerrit Rautenbach
It was a perfect day for hiking. The sun was bright, yet the morning still crisp when we got together at Paul Clüver Wines on De Rust, our hosts for a great hike through the fynbos of Groenland Mountain, the backdrop of De Rust. Their superior wines were not to be tasted yet (waiting patiently for our return), but we were treated to coffee, croissants, muffins and fresh fruit. This was the inaugural Hiking for Hunger, a project where hikers contribute by having a portion of their hiking fee utilised to purchase apples for local feeding schemes.
We got introduced to Andreas Groenewald and Patrick Mapanye, our (very) qualified guides. After the briefing, we aimed for the mountain. The first part walking along the jeep track, past an irrigation dam, might seem a boring opening move, but alas, with Andreas, Patrick and Liesl Rust (née Clüver) our hosts, it’s more like a moving botanical classroom. Fynbos spotting suddenly had meaning. With over 8 700 species in the biome, it’s a long road of discovery, but our three specialists could identify every plant we saw.
“Aah, wow! A flowering painted lady! This late in the season! You guys don’t know how lucky you are!” yelled Andreas ecstatically.
We went up and up until we got to a very special landmark. The ruins of an ancient sheep’s kraal. This was at an elevation of around 650 metres.
“It has been used by our family for four generations, but it has been here for much longer,” Liesl explained. The ancient ruin oozed a kind of energy, a sense of the life that had been there over many years. A perfect spot where we had some of the farm’s scrumptious snacks while taking in the endless views with some dramatic clouds completing the canvas.
More or less at our summit point of 800 metres, Andreas took us into the ice age; rock formations called Pakhuis Tillite, dating back to around 440 million years. Even older than the sheep’s kraal. Soon after the ice on the rocks, we started working our way down.
It was good to be there, good to be alive and healthy. Good to know that, while we were having this awesome experience, being there and doing what we love, our outreach was helping people to stave off their hunger. It’s an incredible thing, this inherent drive in humans to (contrary to what we sometimes witness) do good for other people. It’s inherently a basic instinct to want to help.
So is walking also a basic instinct. It’s how homo sapiens is supposed to move. Running is not natural. Running and riding horses and chariots and bicycles and cars happened because we wanted to move faster. But sometimes that tempo makes the wheels come off. That’s when you have to stop the motion madness and put on your hiking boots. And get out there and walk. And stop. And look at the fynbos. “Here’s a Cape Snow, Syncarpa vestita, one of our most beautiful and large ‘everlasting’ flowering plants. Sewejaartjie in Afrikaans,” said Andreas.
Walking is just like meditation. Meditation in motion. Left foot, right foot, breathe, focus. Solvitur ambulando, or “solve it by walking” said Greek philosopher Diogenes 16 centuries ago. A universal timeless wisdom. If you want to solve a problem, walk … and the answer will come.
That was how Hiking for Hunger came to be. I wanted to make a difference by walking. Because of the gratefulness to be able to hike. Walking is my religion. Then Hortgro came on board. Because they wanted to make a difference. Then the Clüver clan, growers (amongst others) of awesome apples, offered to host the hike on their farm. Then Kromco offered to donate 45 boxes of apples to the local (and hungry) community. It is all about humanity – an inherent desire (maybe even need) to help your fellow human. The longer this project carried on, the more I became aware of how everybody really just wanted to help. But … I just ain’t seen nothing yet.
Near the end of the 13,7 km hike, we walked into a magnificent gorge. To help us get down the uneven and slippery rocky surface, some solid anchor ropes were strung down the gorge. Holding onto these, we descended. As I needed both hands for this, I stowed my camera in my backpack.
Somehow, suddenly, uncalled for and not part of the script, a piece of rock, like a soccer ball, got dislodged and went catapulting through the air, hitting me bulls-eye on the backpack, disintegrating my new camera. Which saved my life by protecting my spine. Secondly, my right foot got caught in a gap in the rock in front of me. While my body went flying forward, this leg stayed behind and promptly broke in four places. Which yet again saved my life. Because without the stuck leg, I would have gone over the edge of the gorge…
Andreas, the chief guide, immediately went into rescue mode. My right foot was dangling precariously. He did everything right by leaving Patrick and Liesl with me while taking the rest of the traumatised group back to the farm. And to search for rescuers.
We were about 100 metres from the end of the gorge. Down there I could see a structured wooden bridge and thought I’ll be better off if only I could lie on it, instead of sitting skew and unbalanced on wet rocks with my broken leg dangling.
“Patrick, you will have to secure my broken leg and then I’ll bum-slide down this gorge to the bridge,” I said and Patrick nodded. He was ready. “Let’s do it,” Liesl said, bringing a lump to my throat. A brave one, she … With Patrick holding my leg and Liesl keeping me upright from the left, I used my hands to slide over those rocks. I couldn’t believe Patrick. His eyes never left my mangled leg while his feet were finding their own way, in reverse, down a slippery skew slope giving most hikers the jitters doing it forward. “I must not bounce your leg, I must not bounce your leg,” was Patrick’s mantra. All the way down to the little wooden bridge. A bridge not too far…
There I was met by more noblemen from the Clüver Clan; Paul Clüver Jnr and Paul Senior’s grandson Andries Burger, two able bodies who didn’t have to wait for Mountain Rescue. With my hero Patrick still holding onto (and not bouncing) my leg, I was carried to Paul Clüver Senior waiting at his 4×4, at a point as close to me as he could drive safely. Patrick all the way still faultlessly in reverse. He saved my leg. I tell you, humans are good people.
Askew on the back seat, I knew I was safe. Liesl had her hand on my shoulder. I came to help people in need of food. I was helped by people in my need. I knew I was not going to hike soon, but I was going to hike again. Walking is my healing, so I will heal. And walk again…
It always comes down to one thing, I thought, remembering a quote by Abihijit Naskar, a neuroscientist who loves using walking as metaphor: “Keep walking, despite the impediment most heavy – keep walking, despite the agony most torturous – keep walking, despite the mockery most foul – just keep walking, for your walk counts – for your walk is not just your walk, but the walk of our whole humanity.”
While I was being patched up in the hospital, Kromco, the Clüvers and Hortgro ensured that the 45 Kromco boxes of apples got to help the hungry on 26 January 2021 via the Beans and Mielies scheme in Grabouw, managed by Elzaan Walters (0828962722). If you would like to contribute to those in need in the EGVV region, feel free to contact Elzaan.
I missed that part, but for doing that, I thank you.