Africa,  Creative Writing,  Travel

My First Ever Travel Blog: Five Days on a Mountain!

I had previously mentioned that I had been blogging (or trying to blog) since I was 15 years old. I have made multiple WordPress blogs over the years and by chance came across one of my first pages, and found my very first travel blog post that I had ever written about one of the school camps I had gone on!

I have always wanted to become a travel Blogger / Writer / Photo Journalist, and even forgot that I used to document my journey from such a young age! I had written this post in March 2010, just six months before I fell ill.

I thought I would share this post, just for laughs, and also to show just how far I have come, and that dreams really do come true! Please excuse the terrible quality of photos, I really have come a long way! 

Five Days on a Mountain, March 2010.

It was bad enough that I had just started at a new school, but two months into 10th grade, we were thrown into the deep end and we had to go on a camp to The Drakensburg, where we would complete the Enyuka challenge!

I had never been camping before, and never even put a foot inside a tent, and here we were, at 15, having to hike up the Drakensburg, and spend 5 days on a mountain!

So the journey started at school, we were all quite excited, loading our luggage into the bus, about to hit the road, the first hour was fun – ofcourse ! Feasting, and singing, playing games, but little did we know, just how long the journey would be. Almost FOURTEEN hours later, we arrived at base camp where we were put into our groups, which would be the group we hiked up the mountain with, and into our sub-groups of 3, which we were going to be sharing a tent with. We had to sleep in a tent from day one. Now someone who had never been a camping person, only seen the Drakensburg through hotel windows – I was definitely being stretched out of my comfort zone!

Base camp was fun though, it was just our whole grade chilling out! And at least I had my best friend, Daniela, with me the entire time! Daniela was an exchange student from Mexico, and only spoke basic English when we met, but after being friends for a month, we instantly became inseparable and soul sisters!

The next day we woke up early and walked to a local primary school nearby, where we had done some outreach work. I loved this, working with and teaching little underprivileged children, dancing with them, repainting classrooms and my favourite part – even playing soccer with them.

At the end of a very long but fulfilling Saturday, we made our way back to base camp, where we needed to get a full nights rest before our journey began the next day.

Although, that night, instead of resting, I was running around base camp, thrilled with excitement, ready to just start hiking – looking back now, I have no idea what was going through my mind! I was very excited to start this experience. I was jumping around with my backpack on my back – yes everybody thought I was crazy!

Carrying my backpack (that weighed 20kgs) just a bit more than excited

So the next morning, I had my last shower for 5 days, and we started our hike! So you know how excited I was the night before? Well that had only lasted a few hundred meters of our trek. We had to walk for kilometers and kilometers of dirt road before even reaching the foot of the mountain, and with a backpack that weighs half your weight, pulling on your shoulders, the walk is nothing short of tedious. As we were on the dirt road, the rivers were nowhere nearby, and we couldn’t fill our water bottles, and therefore, struggled in the blazing heat.

I’ve been hiking before – but usually short and guided hikes from resorts which are easy and 4 – 6 hours long, so this was definitely new and a challenge for me. Although I was physically fit, I was just not an outdoors girl or adventurous at the time.

Note how I say “at the time”, it’s so strange because I wasn’t adventurous at all then, but I’m so outdoorsy and adventurous now you would swear we are two different people!

The gorgeous mountain that forms the backdrop of the photo is the same mountain we were to summit. 

I think my entire group could agree that our most loathed line on the trip was “Almost there, just around the corner” – Because little did we know, just how long the corner was, we were exhausted, and seemed to have been walking for thousands of kilometres. One thing I did absolutely love was drinking the water from the rivers and streams that we passed – it was delicious and tastier than my favourite bottled water – Evian!

We finally reached our first camp site, I could not believe that I was going to be staying in the bush, no bathrooms and no showers! So for supper we took out our mini double cooker, and made… I don’t even remember, but yes, besides our luggage in our bags, we had to carry the tent, food, and a cooker. Now bear in mind, we were just 15 years old!

(Looking back I was so dramatic hahaha)

About to start hiking up this mountain on Day 2.

I had survived my first night, and the second day of hiking was even worse! Probably double the distance, as it was our goal to reach the top of the mountain and summit that night, and finally, after climbing the Rockeries route, in the pitch dark, we summited the mountain, and walked another 3 kilometres to our camp site. It was pouring with rain, we had to set up our tents, and cook in the sheeting downpour of water. Our cooker wasn’t working so we ate raw macaroni. Daniela and I documented our trip on video, and on this night, I burst out crying on camera, I was freezing, and sore, and I couldn’t manage anymore, I missed home, and I didn’t like being so uncomfortable. Our tents were set up on rocks so that was definitely a really uncomfortable sleep, not to mention – it was freezing!

Morning of day 3 – On top of the mountain!!

The morning of day 3 was definitely a bit more relaxed for all of us, we were on top of the mountain and had the day to rest, recover and explore!!!

Daniela and I at Vultures Canyon. The mist is blocking the view of a very steep drop down the mountain!

We made our way to Vultures Peak/Canyon or something (I cant remember)
and I had heard that at this spot you get cellphone reception, so I pulled out my little Motorola pink V3 flip phone, which was hidden in a waterfroof bag in my backpack, punched in my moms number, and to my delight it started ringing. “Hello” said my mom, and right then, right there, waterworks volume two. We both burst into tears, and I was so happy to hear her voice, but then, my phone died. FAIL!
At least I got to speak to her, and she knew that I was okay.

Crying on the phone to my mommy!

After that, I felt abit better and enjoyed the scenery with my friends. We devoured the food we had left (provitas and cheese), and just enjoyed the moment we were all in. 

One of my classmates and I both represent SA Rugby (which I have never watched before) :’)

When we got back to our camp, I took out my secret weapon, MILO! Yes I had carried Milo, and mini boxes of milk UP A MOUNTAIN! It was key to my survival, and oh so very very satisfying!

Yes, I was gulping it down! Tasted like magic!

We bumped into the other group, who was passing our camp site, and we were so excited to see our other friends.

The mist ensured we got lost plenty of times. This is the point where we unofficially crosses over into Lesotho.

Finally on Day 4, it was time to start our descent, and make our way down the steepest rockery path called The Mweni Pass!

That steep rocky path in the background- yes we just zig zag our way down that!

Luckily, I had found my ipod, so plugged it in, and jammed some tunes the entire way down, to avoid my clumsy self falling straight down. Finally we made it to the bottom and had to navigate through kilometers of weeds, taller than we were, and here, of course, I slipped, and fell over 20 times.

By the bottom, our shoes were absolutely demolished, and torn apart.

These need a wash – or to be thrown away!

It was then time for us to set up our camp site for the fourth night. We were camping right alongside the river, anyways we were exhausted, and I was ready to sleep. We weren’t supposed to camp there, but it was dark, and we couldn’t go any further, so off to bed I went, excited that tomorrow I would be back at base camp! LITTLE DID I KNOW WHAT WAS IN STORE FOR ME! 

So in the middle of the night, I feel my best friend punching my shoulder – oh that’s normal… not!

And in her broken English, and spanish accent, she says in an alarming tone, “Lisa, there is something in our tent!” I wipe my groggy eyes and lift my head slightly, only to find I was looking into the eyes of a puff adder, casually coiled less than 10 cm away from my head, and it was just looking at me, staring into my eyes, and it’s mouth was puffed – so I knew it was full of venom, ready to attack.

Ofcourse we screamed! But we had a slight problem. Our tent was broken… and it only opened on the side which the snake was. I jumped out my sleeping bag, and I had an adrenaline rush, which gave me such immense stregnth, that I tore down the other side of the tent, and this was all at 3a.m. by the way.

What if the snake had bitten me? Or slithered in my sleeping bag! It was all thanks to me wearing my Rosary that God protected me. Our tour guide rushed to our rescue, and said that the smell of the snake had been so strong, it is definite that the puff adder had been there the entire night, and that that was the baby and the mother was lurking nearby.
Why did we camp next to a river??? WHO KNOWS!!! Well it’s because it was dark and we couldn’t walk any further – Anyways, I was in shock, and literally froze standing in one spot for 4 hours until we had to leave. 

Thankfully, it was the last day, and we were going to make our way back now, we walked for hours – it was the longest walk back, but we finally made it!

It was a very intense trip, I learned alot, and it was a good experience. Would I do it again? NEVER!

But it brought me closer to the people in my grade, and taught me stregnth, and for that I am grateful!

An Update 8 Years Later:

Looking back and reading this after 8 years, really made me laugh. Firstly, I was so dramatic, and Secondly, I would LOVE to do something like this now. This really goes to show just how much people can change as they grow, back then I was not adventurous at all, and I was not an outdoor person, but now, I am completely taken by anything that involves adventure.

I think one of the main things that has caused me to change was the fact that I have been so ill for so many years, and the more you have no control over your body, the more you yearn to do and see more. In that sense, I am grateful that my struggles have made me so willing to learn, and do anything, I now crave these sort of adventures!

I’m grateful for the growth and how far I have come as a person, I love my sense of adventure now, it challenges me and changes me to do anything and everything. I didn’t realize how much I’ve grown in 8 years until I read this ❤️

8 Years later – oh how times have changed! Wakeboarding in the Vaal River!

Jumping into the ocean in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Snorkeling in Koh Tao, Thailand!

Scuba Diving in Nusa Lembongan 🙂

Surfing in Uluwatu, Indonesia:) 

Swimming in the Ganges in India 🙂 

Tell me, have you changed from when you were younger until now? Perhaps you were adventurous in school and the opposite now! I know I used to hate sports and fitness in school but started loving it from varsity! Let me know in the comments below!

Love always,

Lisa ❤️

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