My Drakensburg Grand Traverse experience of a lifetime.
I heard about this hike called the Grand Traverse, last year when the Warriors did the mini traverse hike in the Drakensberg. But the Grand Traverse hike was something completely unexpected as it is often referred to as the world’s most difficult hiking trail.
When the MAIs and I found out that we would be doing the Grand Traverse, I started to remember why we chose to go through the Multi Activity Adventure Instructors training. At that moment I knew we would do what we do best and take on another adventure. Little did I know that this one would top any and all adventures we have had until this point. Were we ready to do such a hike? No, but we put on our brave faces and went on prepared as best we could. My strategy was to look at this hike as if we weren’t going the world’s most difficult hike.
Day 1 was one of the most challenging parts of the hike because of our 30kg bags and getting into the rhythm of things. This is when I really started to realise what we are taking on and what to expect over the next 8-10 days if we could even finish it in this time. Never mind the fact that this distance we are doing is meant to be done in 12-14 days, with someone to restock your food at the middle of the hike, so your bag isn’t too heavy. But hey, why not do it our way!
Day 2 I wake up more ready than I’ll ever be. I didn’t know that for the first time in my life, I would start to get a sharp pain shooting up my Achilles at the start of day 2. The pain was extreme and did not seem to go away. This made me question my ability to carry on with this hike because it was just the start. But I pushed through the pain, and as the day came to an end, I recuperated and soaked my legs in the beautiful cold river water, trying to ease the pain.
On day 3 my Achilles was not getting any better, making me believe that it would be impossible to carry on if I remained in this much pain. Every step feeling negative energy shoot from my leg to my head. Later that day, Emil looked at me, seeing my pain and started to tell me a true story about a US military soldier who was captured by the enemy and was told to hold a heavy log above his head, and if he were to drop it, he would be shot. After holding the log for a very long time, it eventually looked like he was about to drop the log. At that very moment, he shocked the enemy by lifting the log even higher above his head than he had it before, with a face crying in pain. This making the enemy show him respect and him living to tell the tale. This is a story that helped me see my situation differently. My mindset shifted, and I felt strong enough to carry on. Nothing was going to stop me.
Day 4 was the day where I made a permanent contract with myself that I am all in. This day was amazing, and I was able to embrace all the beauty around me and be grateful for my life and where I am right now. Then day 5 came with an injury in my left knee. Almost as if I was being tested, as if I have not been pushed far enough already. Besides the pain and mental game, I wasn’t going to let it ruin my experience. Every break we had and every campsite was a great time to reflect, be grateful, and motivate each other to keep going. A positive mindset was crucial for the condition I was in.
The countless beautiful rivers we walked next to and the amazing high mountain cliffs we came across was breathtaking. Thanks to my friend having some strong pain killers, I walked the rest of the days as if my injuries did not exist until the painkillers work off just before the end of every day. Not being able to sleep from the pain became normal but man did it feel amazing to just lie down. Towards the end, we were all in such a rhythm it felt like we could have stayed there. The day that we started felt so long ago.
I shed a few tears on my own throughout this hike. This was the most life changing parts of the hike for me. It is one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever done. Through this, I gained an old Warriors mindset that I had when I was a Warrior but lost unknowingly. Something I forgot about. A feeling of emotional fitness and how through the toughest times, we become the best versions of ourselves if we choose to push through. Remembering that through discomfort is a side of yourself you will not find unless you push past the limits that you did not know existed in yourself. It gives you the feeling that anything is possible again.
When you get to the point where having something as simple as a bed to sleep on at night is all you could want. That is when gratitude is at its most powerful form. A feeling that no one can describe. A feeling worth anything. The Drakensburg Grand Traverse brings you much more than you would have expected it to.