Yesterday I went on a very easy, 12 km walk across a neighbouring farm on the plain below the Kobee Mountain. I decided to change my usual pattern of walking up the mountain, in order to bring some variety into my training.
While walking I thought about my planned trip and possible survival situations that may arise. Experience has taught me that dreaming about, and planning a trip is one thing; actually executing the plan is quite another. There is always the unexpected, no matter how carefully you plan your adventure. The best you can hope for is that those unexpected events develop into pleasant and interesting experiences, and not survival situations.
When I first started planning my upcoming trip I had in mind to plan a route along the mountains. However, it occurred to me that during summer there would be no water on the mountains, except for the odd spring here and there. As a result I changed my route so that I would hike along the Kobee and Doring Rivers where there is water in summer, albeit sometimes a mere trickle.
What else could go wrong? Of course, anything could go wrong. As I always say to Lana, anything can happen, but it is the probability of it happening that is important. The key in planning for a safe adventure is to minimize the probabilities of possible unpleasant occurrences. And this is only possible with knowledge, which is gained through experience or, if experience is lacking, by doing research or consulting others who have the experience. In my mind I listed the possibilities: food shortage, fuel shortage, injury, dangerous animals, natural disasters, etc.
As far as food and fuel are concerned, I always make a point of packing some emergency rations to allow for an extra unplanned day or two. These rations must be lightweight and should not require any cooking or heating, e.g. energy bars, peanuts and raisins, etc.
Injury is something that happens when you least expect it, but you can avoid it by recognizing your physical limitations and being aware of your actions and environment at all times, and of course, using reliable equipment.
Dangerous animals? Possibly the most dangerous animals that I am likely to encounter are snakes, mostly Puff Adder and Cape Cobra, both deadly. The Puff Adder is a lazy snake and is easily stepped on by an unsuspecting hiker, so being vigilant at all times is absolutely essential. Cape Cobra would most likely get away as fast as possible, unless surprised or cornered. They also tend to spit at the eyes, so wearing eye protection, e.g. sunglasses, is a good idea. Then, there are leopards and baboons. I’m not really worried about leopard, unless it is a female with cubs, in which case I would make a hasty retreat. Baboons have been known to attack single persons, but this is not common. In any case, I’ll be carrying a 9 mm automatic pistol, for self-defense only. It is not my intention to go and shoot animals, except with a camera.
The only natural ‘disaster’ that could occur, is flooding of the rivers in the event of unusually heavy rain. This is unlikely since the Western Cape is a winter rainfall area; but it could happen. So, to play it safe, I’ll try to ensure that I have a clear escape route to higher ground where I camp at night.
The final consideration is communication, or lack thereof. Of course, this doesn’t really worry me much, but Lana is concerned about it, understandably. Packing a cellphone is out of the question since there is no cellphone coverage in the area where I’ll be hiking. The only other option is a satellite phone, which is extremely expensive (in South Africa) and which I cannot really afford. I’ll have to think about this some more…