Naukluft Hiking Trail #2: Preparation

I knew well in advance you don't tackle the Naukluft with kid gloves. So long before the Big Day of Departure arrived I went to work on prepping the old body, getting good kit, and generally making sure I survive the trip more or less intact.


Eating


I'm a lucky fellow when it comes to hiking cuisine. Adeline went to work on preparing a gourmet menu that  was the envy of everyone during the trip. Every daily portion was designed for optimal weight and nutrition, but most importantly, done to actually taste jolly good under the rather austere circumstances. There were the lunchtime standards such as the John West tuna packs but she steered clear of the cliches such as Toppers and mash. Like, when last did you have gnocchi on a hike? That's the sort of standard and innovation I'm talking about, all packed into a weight of one kilogram.


Sustenance for two, for eight days on the Naukluft. The wine, tins and custard were transported directly to the fourth day. 

Kit

Before we left I retired my 25-year-old, old school Karrimor for an all-mod-cons Osprey. What sold me on this one is the special outside hydration pack pocket which means you don't have to unpack the backpack to get to the hydration pack (I can see you rolling your eyes but hey, I grew up in the eighties).  In retrospect it had its own quirks and shortcomings, but since the days of external aluminium frames and bulky side pockets a few backpack designers have put some time into improving convenience and using plain common sense around design. If you're still carrying the backpack from 1989, do yourself a favour and upgrade. It's the little conveniences and modern inventions that make the difference on a challenging excursion like the Naukluft.


Boots

I hiked in a sturdy pair of Hi-Tecs that had seen a few hikes but still have lots of tread on them. By the end of the hike the soles were coming loose and the rubber was so badly chipped by rock-hopping that I ditched them at the first One Stop on the way back home. On the way one of the laces broke, fortunately a foreseeing fellow hikers helped me out with a spare one. Yes, shoe laces break when you don't expect them to.


Bottom line, you need the very best, worn in but still fresh hiking boots you can find for the Naukluft.


Side note: I replaced the Hi-Tecs with a pair of Keens, expensive but the build looks super and they're really comfy. I'm walking 900km on the Camino de Santiago in them, so the proof is going to be in the pudding, as they say.


Clothes

To keep weight down we stuck to two set of clothing, including thermals, and washed along the way. The nights in mid-June were so cold I had to wear every piece of clothing I had.


We took a few things along that didn't work. We borrowed two fancy inflatable ground sheets that were a waste of time because it's almost impossible to keep them inflated. I might as well have taken the old standard blue foam mattress.  Some things cannot be improved on. One guy brought a lilo along, that might be worth a try next time.


How fit is fit?

I hate exercise. Walking is OK, but you won't catch me pumping iron or looking silly on a treadmill at the local Virgin Active. But after doing one of two test day hikes at Suikerbosrand that proved to be more exhausting than I had hoped, I upped the number of brisk walks around Emmarentia, and a few weeks ahead of departure we hopped up and down the Westcliff steps twice a week. The final prep to test stamina and strength was hiking the rather tough Ribbok Trail in Golden Gate, which didn't go too badly, and that was it. So no, Naukluft isn't just for gym bunnies and muscle men. It's more about being brave and wearing enough sunscreen. And remember, it's not a race. Pace yourself.


The bottom line is, you need to be a hiking pro to make sure you have a good Naukluft hike. You should've experienced a few hard knocks on hikes where you forgot the loo paper, had to sleep in a wet sleeping bag and suffered sunburn - lessons that teach you the essentials of good hike preparation. No amount of reading and watching Youtube videos teaches those simple but essential tricks of the trade

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