Go Take a Hike: A Tale of Two Bags

If you ever need to plan an expedition, and you’ve never done it before, my advice would be don’t. Get Willie – or somebody like him – to go with you and take care of that side of things. Willie is a planner – in his profession life and in his personal endeavors. He does it so well, and quite frankly he wouldn’t be happy with anyone else’s efforts. If I’m going along on the trip, I usually let him handle the planning bit, and just do the jobs I’m told to do. Much less stress for everyone that way!

This year there are two major “expeditions” coming up. One is a kayak fishing trip to Mozambique, and the second another visit to the Kalahari. Yes folks, we’re going back there again. And yes, Willie is going to be doing the planning for both of those.

First however, is a mini-expedition. A 5-day hike of the Otter Trail along the Tsitsikamma coast in South Africa. Willie was invited to go along by his older sister and her family, together with a couple of friends. When Willie started emailing out spreadsheets of clothes, equipment and food that needed to be taken by each person, I thought they might reconsider ever inviting him again! Like in the Survivor reality show where the guy that takes charge and tries to organize everyone, gets voted off the island first.

So Willie did his planning thing. This included checking tide tables (it is a coastal hike – got to know when the best time is to cross rivers) and weather and wind forecasts. Apparently, Windguru is the best site for this as you can identify the exact area (by GPS co-ordinates!) you’re going to be in, and Windguru will model the weather based on the closest weather stations.

About 2 months ago Willie also started to get serious about improving his fitness levels. He hadn’t been hiking for “a while”. I have to point out here though, that he is pretty fit to begin with. He regular goes to the gym, and goes mountain biking and fishing. The kind of fishing which often requires long walks along the beach to get to the perfect fishing spot. With all his fishing gear on his back. Now he added swimming and going for a walk up the nearby mountain. Rosie, our dog would get excited when she saw him put on his hiking boots. She thought she was going for a leisurely stroll in the forest. Poor thing would come back panting heavily and exhausted!

So that was all taken care of. The one thing that Willie didn’t worry too much about was his rucksack. He knew he had one packed away somewhere. Okay, it wasn’t the latest technology, but hey it would probably do for a 5-day hike. That was until he actually got out the bag. Even a quick look told a very sad tale. The bag was about 30-years behind in “rucksack technology”! Besides being very dirty and not in such good repair. So a new rucksack had to be acquired for the hike.

The photographic evidence is below. On the left: the new, modern rucksack with all sorts of nifty straps and side pockets. On the right: the old, funny looking one!

Just a quick glance at the photo below, will show what a long way things have come in back support for hikers. From no back support 30 years ago, to some very comfy looking padding today.

Posts in the Go Take a Hike series (about hiking the Otter Trail) are:


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Categories: Lifestyle/Travel, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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24 Comments on “Go Take a Hike: A Tale of Two Bags”

  1. January 24, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    I hope I get a chance to go on an expedition or 2 while I am on the other side of the continent from you, while I am over there. Even though I will not have “Willie” as a guide, I am sure to be sure to have a good one.

    • January 24, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

      Ah, but with your background I’d think you’d be able to plan your own expeditions! 🙂

      • January 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

        You are right, I probably could. One of them does include going out with the Japanese and chasing pirates…

      • January 24, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

        You are going to need some very good planning then. Take care!

  2. January 24, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    LOL. Got to love a guy who can plan! 🙂 If they vote him off the island, they’ll probably regret it pretty soon.

    This reminds me of the few times I went on a hike. I didn’t have someone like Willie to help with the planning, though – had to do it all myself. I walked part of the Tsitsikamma trail years (and years!) ago. But the Otter trail? That one always scared me as you need to be very fit, and in my opinion a bit of an adventurist, to tackle that. Hope Willie enjoys it!

    • January 25, 2011 at 5:53 am #

      Yes, but they still get voted off every time!

      I have heard that the Tsitsikamma trail is quite challenging too, although the terrain is less rugged – not so many ups and down.

      Will pass on the message to Willie.

  3. January 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Everyone needs a Willie to plan out all of the mundane details that go into an expedition. I have an “Andy”. lol. Looking at the rucksacks, I think about all of the adventures the old orange one had in its day.

    • January 25, 2011 at 5:58 am #

      What’s that saying . . . “The Devil’s in the details”? So yes, one does need a Willie or an Andy around. Hope you appreciate Andy!

      Yes, the old orange rucksack went to some interesting places. Although it’s been “in retirement” for a while.

      • January 25, 2011 at 6:14 am #

        I should add that Andy is my best friend/next door neighbor and not a boyfriend or more….just in case you wonder why I’m going back to Ireland for a man when I have an Andy. 🙂

      • January 25, 2011 at 6:26 am #

        Yes, I did realize that Andy was “just a friend”. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t appreciate him though. 🙂

        Going to Ireland for a man. Interesting that! Thought there had to be more to the story than just the opportunity to take pretty pictures.

  4. January 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    Good God, Lisa–this is hysterical. Willie sounds JUST like Sara. I have got to read this to her when she gets home.
    Happy hiking, my friend. And regards to Willie and his spreadsheets——

    • January 25, 2011 at 6:00 am #

      I told you they were clones! 🙂

      Oh, I’m not going hiking! Just Willie and the others. In my next “hiking post” you’ll appreciate why.

  5. bagnidilucca
    January 24, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    My idea of hiking is treading the footpaths of Milan, Paris or New York. I would love, however, to see your part of Africa.

  6. January 25, 2011 at 12:25 am #

    I hope having fun is on the list! This is so funny.
    I remember backpacks like the orange one in the photos – a relic from the 80s, I think?
    How wonderful to be doing the Otter Trail – what a fabulous part of the world you’ll be hiking through.
    Sunshine xx

    • January 25, 2011 at 6:03 am #

      Fun? Maybe . . .

      The orange backpack: Relic is a good word! Yes, I think Willie got his in high school.

      I won’t be going along . . . am just the armchair hiker on this one!

  7. January 25, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    My dad did the otter trail many years ago and it sounded rather strenuous but was probably one of the best trais he ever did. He hiked it all alone. I have just walked part of the first day till the FREEZING waterfall. It really is gorgeous there. I hope Willie takes lots of pictures.

    • January 25, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

      Yes, the scenery there does look stunning. Your dad was brave to walk it alone! Although I guess there are always other people on the trail behind you, should you have a problem.

  8. Sarita Botha
    January 25, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    I hope he enjoys the hike. It is beautiful there.

    • January 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

      He was quite excited when he headed off this morning! Hopefully I’ll get some news along the way. The forester from Lottering is meeting them at one of the huts.

  9. January 25, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Can’t wait to see the pictures!

    • January 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

      Our camera is too big to lug around on a hike like this, but I’m sure somebody will have a small camera with them.

  10. February 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    The difference in the tech of backpacks is night and day. Found that out when I used to haul my son around in a kid pack. The cheap one got tossed and a “good” one took it’s place after a week.

    • February 8, 2011 at 6:41 am #

      Sorry I’m so late in replying to this comment . . . Kid packs also come hi-tech?! My backpack is slightly newer than Willie’s old one (i.e. it already has some of the nifty pockets and webbing) but it doesn’t have the amazing back support and padding of the very modern packs. There’s been a huge technological leap in the last 15 years.

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