Go Take a Hike: The essential guide to gaining weight in five days!

Note from Lisa: So Willie has agreed to write a few guest posts on the my blog re: The Otter Trail. Yay! 🙂 It turns out he’s got quite a lot to say, so be patient, your questions will eventually all get answered. He’ll also be responding to any comments to his posts personally! Over to Willie . . .

We stumbled into Peter (a biologist from Oregon in the USA) at the restaurant at the end of the Otter Trail. Useful to have a restaurant at the end of a hiking trail with a captive clientele walking into your restaurant on an almost a daily basis. People lusting for food of the non freeze-dried variety that has been prepared using oil and decadent spices, and that does not need to be resurrected by soaking it in warm water.

Restaurant at the end of hike

But I digress. Peter saw our hiking bags behind us in the restaurant and came to ask us for advice about the Otter Trail. He had discovered the previous day that a spot has opened up on the Otter trail, and was going to start walking the trail on the day that we met him. Cool. Peter had just come from Porterville on the west coast of South Africa, where he had been parasailing for a month and a half. Looking fit and in good shape he was probably up to the challenge, except for his preparation, which was somewhat unconventional. His hiking bag is actually the bag for his parasail, the same basic configuration as a hiking bag, but without any padding in the hip or shoulder belts. “No problem” Peter assured us. He had a warm jacket to sleep under, and he had solved his problem of not having a camping stove or pots by getting the restaurant to boil six eggs for him to take along. He was also very impressed because the eggs were free range and should last longer on the trip. I must add that Peter looks like and has the mannerisms of a younger Robin Williams, and talks like George W. Bush, so it was particularly hard to take him seriously. We made up a collection of leftover energy bars and other useful bits and offered it to Peter. He accepted those, but promptly returned the large jars of peanut butter and mayonnaise that Ian lugged for the length of the Otter Trail. More about Ian and his special skills later. Anyway we dropped Peter of at the start of the Otter Trail when fetching our cars, and wished him luck. He was going to need lots of it. I hope that Peter does not become a candidate for a Darwin award.

Unlike Peter we had less faith in the virtues of free range eggs, and packed a variety of light weight high-density foods, protein and energy bars and a variety of isotonic-type drinks. The calorie intake of the daily packs probably exceeded the calorie intake of two normal days, which was fine with the expected level of strenuous exercise. We also made sure that we could have a good braai (barbecue) on two evenings. The last evening on the trail, one of the foresters who works with me, went to the trouble to hike in from the closest plantation via one of the escape routes. He delivered meat, some chocolates (I do not eat sweets so did not benefit from the chocolates), and 12 of the most amazing beers ever to us!

Combined with the restaurant meal mentioned above, and despite doing up to 7 hours/day of exercise, I managed to put on a couple of kilograms of weight. I guess Lisa did not need to be concerned about my little parcels of food after all. All the weight gained was of course pure muscle.

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


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Categories: Guest Bloggers, Random


I am a forestry scientist living and working in the Southern Cape, South Africa.


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12 Comments on “Go Take a Hike: The essential guide to gaining weight in five days!”

  1. January 30, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Hi Willie! Thanks for sharing!

    Sounds like Peter approached his Otter Trail adventure in true Survivor style. Must admit I have more faith in the way you prepared for it – and since you didn’t end up on the Darwin list, I must be right, right? 🙂 I’ll be sure to get some serious meal planning advice from you before/if I ever go on a hike again. I made some bad judgement calls on that in the past.

    How much of a morale boost did you guys need toward the end? Not sure how you could pass on even one bite of the chocolate, but it sounds like the beers were greatly appreciated 🙂

    Great post!

    • Willie
      January 31, 2011 at 7:46 am #

      Thanks. I think Peter’s mission in life is to be different and do things in his own alternative style. He needs to clock up some “braggables”; doing the Otter or any other activity in the conventional way would just not work for him. I was wondering how the other people on the trail are appreciating his special approach.

      Just let Lisa know if you require the meal and general planning spread sheet for your next hike. There are two basic variations: low cost conventional food (pasta, soya etc.) or more expensive freeze-dried imported food.

      The morale was actually pretty good towards the end, and most people did not want the trail to end. However at about day two or three the cabin was smelling like that of a rugby team before a match, with the smell of deep heat (anti-inflammatory) in the air. At that stage some people also needed a warm up walk, to turn their walking style from stick insect to normal.

  2. Estie
    January 30, 2011 at 3:38 pm #


    Well written! Sounds like you had fun. Could you find out at the restaurant what happened to Peter?

    • Willie
      January 31, 2011 at 7:47 am #

      Thanks. Peter’s story was such a great one that it was easy to tell. The trail is certainly fun and was a privilege to do.

      Peter is venturing out for day three of the trail as I am posting this answer, hope he is still in high spirits. We will listen out for news of him.

  3. January 31, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    Good to meet you, Willie (sort of meet you, that is). I hear from Lisa that you have exceptional packing skills. Since I may well be one of the world’s worst over-packers, I hope you’ll impart your packing wisdom in a post some day.

    As an American, I wouldn’t take someone someone who sounded like George W. Bush seriously either. Good for you!

    Hello from Haiti,

    • Willie
      January 31, 2011 at 7:50 am #

      Hi Kathy, thank you for the kind comments.

      Lisa’s post made me sound a little bit like an obsessive-compulsive planner/packer/trainer – but I suppose there may be some truth in it. For me the key to doing any of these well, is structure and of course a good list. Planning is serious business, and I am not sure it will lend itself to a good post. 🙂

      I think that Peter was genetically programmed in a number of ways not to be taken seriously; the voice by itself makes it a sure thing.

  4. January 31, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Hi Willie
    Peter sounds like a nutter! I look forward to reading more of your posts

    • Willie
      January 31, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      Thanks. Peter is certainly unconventional and entertaining, so “nutter” is a very good summary. His intensity level is certainly off the scale, and this may be a challenge (for others) after a while.

      My ventures into blogland will not be that often, it will only be when I am doing something more interesting. There are a couple of Otter Trail posts left, as well as some posts on the photo blog.

  5. Sarita Botha
    January 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Poor Peter! I hope he knows what awaits him.

    Look forward to some more Otter Trail posts and the photos.

    • Willie
      January 31, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

      I think Peter’s reality check should be kicking in by now, as he must be finished with the third day of the trail. The evening of the third day is a stopover at my favourite camp Oakhurst, at the mouth of the Lottering river.

      Next up I will attempt to answer some of the questions asked while I was doing the hike. There is no chance that the boss of this blog will let me of the hook on that !!

  6. Thinus Botha
    February 1, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    Hi Willie,
    Well done on the hike, most certainly one of the nicest trails I have walked.

    Must say one would not say you are an very smart guy. Peter is just doing it the easy way, you were the first “suckers” that felt sorry for him. There should be eleven other well prepared hikers with him on the trail, why should he carry anything with him?

    • Willie
      February 2, 2011 at 5:12 am #

      Hi Thinus

      I have to agree, the Otter must be one of the best hikes out there !!

      You may have a point about Peter, he could have been working with a very clever plan 🙂

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