Summer Quest, Part Four: The Best hike of my life.

A misty forest, damp smelling shoes and mostly wooden cabins. Our journey lasting 4 nights and 5 days between majestic pine forests and an exotic pathway in the foot of the valley of The Magoebaskloof  Mountain’s, Our first of many hikes of the year- as well as my all time favourite hike.

A place us Warriors called “The Afri-zon”- (by “us´ I mean myself and Rowena), walking across fresh water rivers carrying 17 kg backpacks: where some backpacks were bigger than the person carrying them. Coffee and Biltong were considered precious items and guarded under all conditions. Walking up to 15km to 21km per day along mountain faces and through the pouring rain, nothing could break our Warrior Spirit. Singing and dancing, on the brief water breaks our happy voices echoed through the pine trees. Where the fresh air refilled our lungs and the cold water restored lost faith.

Day 1 –

“Row, how far to go? – Row- “only about 3 or 4km”…. 2 hours later and 6.5km UP hill extra we arrived at our cabin for the day)

This was the day we learnt to never trust whenever a map, person or GPS gave an estimated distance. We added 6km to that to not be disappointed. This was also the day Courtz received his Warriors nickname “Frodo” because he did majority of the hike barefoot (Madness! I know).

Day one of the hike was quite a trip, we left Base camp in the rain- walked 6km down the mountain and upon arriving at the bottom on the mountain we passed through a paddock of “man eating cows” (Brahman Cattle) of which started to run towards us when we entered the gate: Tristan’s foot got stuck in a hole, so as decent friends we couldn’t exactly run away, we had to help save him. However, I tried.

Walking through one section of the forest on a back road, Michelle spotted a snake and yelled “Oh look, Snake!” and with that I turned into Usain Bolts African cousin and sprinted up the hill, backpack and all! I did-not-care how heavy it was! Funny story behind that was Michelle previously had a dream the night before stating in her dream she saved me from two encounters with snakes!! I guess dreams do come true! After this dramatic encounter which turned out be a simple brown house snake, Lindy and myself took a nap on one of our breaks. This was a perfect opportunity for the Warriors to scare us- They waited for us to doze off and SCREAMED at the top of their lungs while running away, immediately Lindy was up and following after them. As for me you ask? I stayed in the same position awaiting my fate of whatever was going to eat me. I didn’t move a centimetre, though my heart went into cardiac arrest, I played it cool.

Lunch was by the local Debengeni waterfalls. While us girls sat and focus on the more important things in life, food. The boys swam and slid down the smooth ridge of the waterfall face, leaving the pool underneath the waterfall with leaches the size of your pinky in their underwear!

After a long- long day, a hot shower was most definitely the highlight of the day. In a creepy house, with squeaky wooden floors and no lighting.

Day 2

Symz was our hero, facing spider web after spider web along the pathway to our next cabin.  At this stage he was the tallest of us, therefore he walked in front of the group catching the webs, protecting Rowena behind him and Courtz way at the back once all the spiders had been cleared away. (You want to get Courtz going, scream “RED ROMAN” and you’ll see a man cry, do the splits and jump into a tree at the same time!)

Day 2 had the most beautiful scenery- Devan said it best. “What I have absorbed is the sense of freedom, 5 days walking though nature, no worries in the world- beautiful scenery. No stress, no deadlines! We just walk through nature and sleep for the next 5 days”. Breaks were often by a fresh river- so we filled up our bottles with the sweet taste of nature’s natural blessings. This was also the trip I started collecting my rocks, on every trip of the year- in every significant moment, or at any beautiful placed I picked up a rock.(I now have a box of rocks from my Warriors Gap year)

On this day we came across the Tallest Planted Tree in the World and learnt a lesson that a local type of moss called “Old man’s beard”- only grows in an ecosystem with fresh oxygen.  Once at our cabin, which coincidentally was creepy as hell and almost most certainty haunted- Francois (Rowena’s boyfriend) and James came to visit us for a late beer/dinner. James couldn’t join us on this hike because technically he broke his ass. He swung off a 1 story platform a few days prior to the hike. The rope broke mid-air, leading him to land on his coccyx.

To end off day 2, I’ll quote Michelle “I don’t know if I’m wet from the rain or sweating”

Day 3

Lee kept slipping over every bridge, rock and log while couldn’t walk over a bridge upright, so I walked over with my bum in the air on all fours.

Near the end of the day Lindy and myself were slacking behind, talking about life in a scene that looked as if we were in the highlands of Scotland. With our cabin in sight, it started to rain- so we all dashed through the reeds and fields along the path for safety. Upon arrival Lindy, Devin, Michelle and myself climbed and swam in the nearby waterfall. once back at the cabin after our swim, we met some friends, Juliana visiting her boyfriend from Argentina and her boyfriend Stefan from South Africa- I am still in contact with Juliana to this day. Along the way Row’s food was taken and misplaced, so as a family- we shared our food with her.

Day 4

Courtz- drops bag dramatically and runs toward a pond of water. Kim- Drops bag and runs the opposite direction thinking that there is another snake. To hear “I THINK I FOUND GOLD” Without hesitation, I now turned around and ran toward him at a more enthusiastic pace. To our disappointment, what we thought were nuggets of gold in the water- outside of water turned out to be fallen acorns from the tress above that reflected a gold coloured object in the water, because we were surrounded by acorns, in an acorn forest! Never saw that one coming right?

Walking through a pine forest, the Warriors stage was set- this was the day we reacted the famous twilight scene where Jacob and Edward make eye contact- the wolves and vampires fight as well as throwing in some of Trevor Noahs “Venacula” for some light African comedy to Twilight.

Arriving at The De-Hoek Cabins- we met our friends Juliana and Stephan again. Who took a different route than us to the cabin during the day. Juliana and I sat for at least 2 hours talking, about what? Girls can never remember anyway! She introduced me to an Argentinean type of tea “Mate” which to be fair looked like a mix between dried Marijuana and garden grass- and tasted like, you know… I’ll leave no comment there. I think it’s most certainly an acquired taste. In return I introduced her to a Traditional South African meal- 2 minute noodles and Biltong. The rest of the group swore that they could hear our conversation word for word  100 meters away by the fire- you know girls!

Day 5

The WORST day of my life.

It was pouring with rain, not like a few drops. Imagine driving in your car and the wipers don’t even help with visibility. That shit was real. Our hiking bags, shoes and bodies were wet, and for me this lead to the worst rash on my inner thighs in the world. We had a long walk home, a long walk- 2 hours into the day I was already in tears. Until female Courtney introduced me to her green anti-bacterial spray. I renamed it “Devils breath” after that encounter. Basically, imagine having a wound on a sensitive part of your arm and you spray lemon juice into the wound right? Then add some vinegar. And above that scratch that open wound with sand paper. THEN use a disinfectant in the wound. That was roughly how it felt spraying Devils breath onto my rash. The Warriors who waited for me a distance away around the corner heard me scream, a type of soul screeching- heart breaking scream of pain.

And that’s the story how I cried like a little baby in the middle of the forest.

Overall, with Devils breath, snakes and the disappointment of false gold- This was most certainly one of my favourite adventures and memories on Warriors. The most beautiful hike I have ever done with the most incredible nature. To the day we still talk about My dramatic event with Devils Breath in that forest, remember the man eating cows when we passed them on trips to town and I still Courtz “Frodo”.

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Summer Quest, Part Three: The Short lessons.

Like everything, life needs to be balanced and Warriors was most certainty balanced. With life, and key tool lessons to help us through it.

We often had lessons in the barn on  liferainy days or after a long tiring trip, swe gave our body a chance to rest and our mind a chance to work. One of the first lessons was a 2 day workshop with Charles ( All around good guy, and Director of The Warriors Instructors programme) on Edward Deion’s Six thinking hat strategies. This is basically a way of thinking within a team environment, where there are 6 main predominant types of people:

  • Managing Blue – What is the goal? Can look at the big picture.
  • Information White – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Emotions Red – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Discernment/Safety officer Black – logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative. Practical, realistic.
  • Optimistic/ Positive thinkers Yellow – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony. Sees the brighter, sunny side of situations.
  • Creativity Green – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes. Thinks creatively, out of the box

I was totally white- information. I mean who am I kiding? I’m stubborn and hard headed and if I don’t have the right information. I am going nowhere. I am fact driven, none of that fairly tale nonsense.

Over the course of the next few days we also received a Quantum Energy Coaching (QEC) workshop with Rene in the Dungeon (Rudi’s Wife, The Queen of Warriors). This is a simple technique, based on new energy medicine, which changes beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours at the subconscious level. When old self-limiting beliefs are changed for positive life-affirming ones, the brain develops new neural pathways which continues to grow. This was interesting to see how we can merge the right and left side of our brain by intertwining you hands and fingers in the right way: as an example. Which thoughts come from which sections of the brain and how we react to old emotions within our subconscious and muscle memory.

Spending 2 days to gain our level 1 first Aid and CPR qualification, a day with Rudi on creating our personal professional websites/ LinkedIn accounts, a Bicycle workshop with Ruan and Healing your Body with Rowena were also some of the other smaller workshops we worked through.

Base Camp is one huge family, we Have Glynn (Body Talk Specialist) who was our life saviour when our bodies couldn’t go on anymore, she often did “body talk” sessions with us and fed us probiotics through her yummy homemade Kombucha tea, homemade Kimchi and taught us many tricks of her trade of which she had dedicated her whole life to. Glynn was our Doctor, and the first smile we received in the morning. As well as Gran and Ouma who contributed to the Warriors environment with their individual lessons and quick small chats in-between one thing or another. (Gran was head of the kitchen and made sure we were all fed the best food in the world, she even woke up early some days to bake us deserts)

Warriors farm pets, Robby/Robert/Dobby/Robster- who is the Warriors guard dog and best friend, he would great us every morning and be the first one on sight when we came back from a trip. Midnight/Toothless (his original name is Blackie) the cat, Ginger, Sugar, Yoda, Jerry/Geronimo- the Warriors puppy who we watched turn into a beautiful German Shepard and of course the Princess’s dog- Lula, who ran the farm! Not forgetting the chickens, snakes, monkeys and Rene’s parrot.

The first few mornings were spent cycling 6km up and down the hill to a neighbouring farms dam so we could train for the upcoming Ebenezer mile Swimming race, taking on the obstacle course as well as a very special cycling trip to Blueberry Farm. Cycling 13km up one of South Africa’s most dangerous roads was one of the most difficult mentally- not only physically challenging things I have ever done, I must even admit I would lie if I said I was ON my bicycle for more than half of that cycle. We arrived at Blueberry Heights, picked beautiful organic blueberry from their orchard and then ate from their organic, healthy blueberry based restaurant. Luckily enough a few days later, we managed to negotiate that we were able to go see “Deadpool” in cinemas on a more relaxed day we had.

We aren’t even 20 days into the Summer Quest of 2016! And we were slowly finding our feet, discovering the “Warrior Way” and eager for the next few trips.

 

Summer Quest, Part Two: Base camp.

Base camp for all intensive purposes was our home.

We lived in cute little wooden cabins down at the bottom of the hill in the middle of a forest, with up to 3 roommates (As there was only 5 girls on the programme and 7 boys- we were a small group being majority South African- and James the Londoner). Often we would wake up to the birds singing over the orange sunset rising over in the distant mountains and monkeys swinging in the tress next to us. The fresh morning breath of forest air-filled our lungs, and then we were ready… so we thought. 

An average morning started at about 5:30am (excesize was at 6am in summer and 6:30 in winter due to lighting) when we woke up for daily exercise at 6:00. And each morning, we struggled to get out of bed- Female Courtney, my roommate for the quest; woke me up at least 5 times each morning- we were both not morning people. She was lucky if she got a morning grunt from me as a greeting- then she knew it was going to be a good day. Surprisingly some of us were even going to bed by 8 am, however this did not help us wake up earlier. Depending on how much time we had we would do a 6.6km run, the obstacle course to build strength or a quick 2.4km run. Sometimes we would even have a beautiful morning session of Yoga or TRE with Rowena (Co-owner and over all the one who makes The Warriors Academy Gap Year possible) to mix it up.

Rule above all rules was to NEVER be late, because “Reaction” is a thing. Reaction is a term used where in life for every action you’ll have a reaction, may it be positive or negative. “Reaction” has taught us punctuality, and knowing right from wrong as well as owning up to your mistakes and facing the consequences. In summer quest we learnt that if we didn’t divide into teams to light the donkey  (a firewood based geyser for hot water) after exercise or at night-time to shower, we would always have cold water. So majority of Summer Quest we had cold, cold showers. During shower time we would also clean up and sweep our rooms, colour coordinate our clothes on the shelves, make our beds and get our backpacks ready for the day. Teaching us to be hygienic, tidy and basic organisational skills; in my case could catch an extra snooze.  After inspection was done, we had 1km to hike up the hill to the barn for breakfast which took most of us 10-15 minutes. Breakfasts were different on each day; simple, but wholesome and yummy eggs, toast and beans, oats or pap (an African type of maize porridge that you either hate or love). The food was always, always the best JUST like home based food, as if your mom was in the kitchen.

Another thing we learnt was never getting used to anything or feeling comfortable. To always be ready for change. Every quest we changed cabins, roommates and teams for duties (We had 3 different duty teams- Kitchen, dining room and equipment. Kitchen team washed dishes and cooked food when we camped or went away, dining room made sure everything was always neat and tidy and equipment team packed the trailer for trips, set up the barn for classes or events and cleaned the bus after a trip). We sat in different seats in the bus or at the dining table, next to a different person each time. Overall this taught us that in the real world you can’t always chose who you’re with, what work team or environment  you’re in or what your situation will be, you need to be ready for change and embrace it. Consistency is something that restricts you and doesn’t promote growth.

Base camp was home, without the technology. We handed in our phones every week before we went on trip or had classes scheduled. After trips, or over the weekend and/or for projects we would get our phones back to contact family and friends- whom could follow our day-to-day adventures on our Facebook webisodes. The freedom of not having your phone, social media as well as the stress or negativity from the outside world was incredible. We communicated with each other more, we slept early, and we focused on our language. Here I’m not talking about the language of swearing or not swearing, I’m talking about choosing to talk about the good things, being positive, how we talk about ourselves and situations. Language was a very important part of our lifestyle, after all the words you speak; you become. The “Warrior Way” was simple, do your part, say what you feel and follow rule number 1 and 2. Rule number 1- HAVE FUN. Rule number 2, don’t screw up rule number one- as Rudi (Founder and Co-owner of The Warriors Academy) would always say

This is also a good time to introduce you to “Wally”. Wally is our mascot Teddy bear, he was orphaned and abandoned until our Princess Rowena (We call her a Princess because that is what she is) found him, dressed him in his knitted red Warrior shirt and since then Wally goes with us everywhere. On trips, to lessons and especially on cycles (which is his favourite sport) -Wally even gets qualifications with us. Wally finds a new place in each class of Warriors hearts, Wally is the bomb-diggity. Tristan and myself share custody of him outside of Warriors.

Our days are planned out to the “T”, our trips and our meals; but what we determined is what we got out of every moment, what we learnt or decided to change about ourselves. Life is about the choices you make, and how you make your way through them. In every situation we had the choice to do it or not, either to live in our “Courage zone” or “Comfort Zone”. Your Courage Zone is a place that promotes growth, builds you up and opens you up to new experiences this is a place you come across by being a bas ass and taking every opportunity that come your way. Your Comfort Zone is a place that holds you back from life, prevents your growth and keep you stuck in the same uncomfortable place- this is the place you stay when you’re a loser.

At Base camp, and Warriors in general we promote fitness. But not only physical fitness, we learn about emotional and spiritual fitness alike. By learning how to practice emotional hygiene and emotional well-being we can tie that together and that will represent who you are as a person. How you think, what you say, the way you act. Many people just focus on being fit and toned physically but so many forget to focus on their soul (morals/ beliefs, who they are, what they do our don’t like)  and forget about emotional fitness (the way the feel, the way they see themselves inside, what the care about). If your mind, body and soul are in sync- all at healthy and at top performance, so shall you be.

It’s easy to say one thing, and do another. So we stopped saying and started doing.  Stopped complaining and started living.

 

Summer Quest- Part One, River Rafting.

And so it begins…

Day one of the Warriors Summer Quest 2016 has arrived, the buzz and excitement of the year is at its highest. New faces, a new home and a new adventure.

For the Adventure of being ALIVE.

The first week was pretty much hush-hush as we walked through the steps of our TOLTEC workshop experience with Rudi, but after 5 days- Warriors started. Our first shavathon. A Shavathon is a right of passage if you will, the initiation and first steps of becoming a Warrior as well as creating awareness for cancer. For most of us, shaving our head somewhat represented letting go of the past, and growing into our future as one unit; as a family.

Usually this passage is aimed at the boys because the girls bluntly refuse, but the class of 2016 has been the only class where everyone, male and female has shaved their head. The boys had a full number 1 cut (and clown eyebrows) and the girls had a side stripe or the back section of their head shaved. For some, this was an exciting experience- for me, with beautiful long brunette hair, this was mortifying. I was held down, jumped on top of and had to be motivated to do this. Tears were shed, tears were definitely shed. I remember thinking to myself “I am going to regret this, I am GOING to regret this”, “What am I doing?  What is the point of this”. . And also the famous thought “Crap, what will my parents think”. But looking back 8 months later, I don’t regret it at all, in fact I’ve grown into it and up-kept my shaved “Warriors stripe” every quest. It’s a key conversation starter in almost every crowd I enter!

Our first adventure together was a 5 day, 60km River rafting exhibition on the Olifants River with Ruan, in summer. Now summer in Limpopo, South Africa, already on average is 35 degrees. Let alone being on a river, that has dried up partially due to a drought and unknown circumstances lead us to forget to pack sunblock. As this was our first experience, we obviously over packed our hiking bags, our knots to tie our bags to the crocs (boats) were either pathetic or undoable, there was no in-between. Michelle (whom I call Firefly) and I shared a croc, she was positioned as steering and I was power.. however we spent majority of the time either rowing backwards down the river, in circles as the other teams passed us or fighting to see who would pull the boat off the sand bank. The river is a quite, peaceful place- but our croc, never had such silence until the day came that I lost my sunglasses to the river. Michelle swore she had never seen me so dead still before, she said could see the steam leaving my body from anger of losing my glasses.

My experience wasn’t nearly as bad as James’s though

– James was from England, with this, his English skin burnt his fat rolls onto his tummy, lost his E-cig and above all his fancy camera got wet going down one of the rapids and refused to work. When I found this out, I was really actually quite okay. Michelle and I fought, cried, laughed on that river. So much so it got to a point where we both sat, arms crossed, frowing – facing each other. Both of us refusing to move/ paddle or get out of the boat. For a solid 5 minutes it was dead silence, until one of the teams paddled passed us with concerned looks on their faces- Michelle and I looked at each other and burst into laughter. Shared a tent in the rain, one night we even risked life and death itself by cooking food inside my tent due to the rain drowning us outside.  Camping is a beautiful experience, throw in some thunder, 2nd degree sunburn, lightning and camp fire duties through the night, and you have a perfectly balanced adventure. Well that would be so, if James woke up for his duty; which he didn’t- he got a slap on his sunburnt tummy for that.

We spent 2 of the 5 days paddling through 4 separate sections of various large valley’s between the mountain ranges covered with crusted jagged edges and slates of lime stone, the air constantly smelt of Africa: the sound of the cow bells clanging together and baboons playing were the sounds above the silence of the river, when we weren’t too busy singing Disney songs or coming up with terrible jokes to pass time.

Due to the drought, we spent the rest of the 5 days dragging our crocs over sand banks, rocks or shallow water paths. This not only added heat to our patience and tolerance but our legs and arms felt the heat too. We faced one or two slight grade 1 rapids, those were incredible and some of the warriors even faced one of the rapids in the water themselves. Over all, when we arrived at our camp sights each night, we were tired but felt so blessed. We split into teams, half neatened up the crocs and added order, while the other half went to find firewood. For Male Courtney (there was both a female and male Courtney) one firewood trip lead to his first broken finger of the year, one of many.

The nights were beautiful, the summer nights sky put on a show for us at each camp sight- a storm or two to bring the fresh smell of rain, and good old camp fire conversations that went on at each hour shift change.

Our first trip set the tone of the year, we had no idea what was coming for us but we knew each day was about to be an adventure. We knew our lives were about to change, drastically.