On the 8 July 2020 I decided to start making a difference in my life and to change my lifestyle. I had ballooned to a whopping 152kg after giving up smoking and felt that my obesity was affecting my knees and my health. I knew I had to lose weight and was not quite sure what I was going to do. I changed my eating habits but knew that this alone was not going to give me the results I wanted fast enough and hence began my love for walking.
Now before going into the details I must add that my thoughts on walking and running were never very favourable and the fact they had invented the wheel made both of these obsolete in my opinion. Yet here I was thinking that seeing as though I was taking the huskies on a walk daily, why not do it in a way that everybody benefitted. My new found love for walking was born. However, one of my colleagues by the name Dirk Wessels offered to take me up to the Cross on the mountain as a starting walk and boy was I excited. I had walked for weeks on the road so a quick 5 km walk up and down the mountain should be a breeze, right? Wrong, it was bloody awful. We set off in Ernest and as promised to the dogs Ice and Flame were about to become hiking Huskies.
The beginning was started with Gusto and my ego was pushing me up the link at a speed that I thought was impressive. We departed the trail and I could feel my lungs clapping hands in my chest cavity. My heart was beating at a rate that made a Rave party’s beats per minute sound so calm they may be mistaken for meditation music. Needless to say we entered the trail to the top and despite the calmness and reassuring messages to take my time and stop when ever I needed to my ego was telling me to push ahead. About 30m below the railway line which seperates the bottom section from the more testing second stage, my legs, lungs and heart seized and I was forced to tap out and surrender the challenge.
Since then the huskies and I have walked literally thousands of kilometers together and infact if we had set out on a journey at that time, we would already be well in side Zimbabwe already. I hooked up with a group called for the love of hiking that was organised by Hester Stander an amazing woman with a passion not only for hiking but also for helping novices and people with disabilities to live out there dream of becoming hikers as well. This is where Carl De Campos and I became really good friends and in September 2020 we wanted to attempt climbing up to the George Peak and we wanted to raise funds for charity. Unfortunately it did not go to plan and thanks to bad weather we were forced to abandon our attempt at about the 6km mark on the way up. We attempted the long way round and even then we battled and were only able to complete a total of 13km of the 21km hike.
The dream of reaching the summit was born but every time the opportunity presented itself something came up and shattered my dreams, the second attempt I had agreed to go with I had to withdraw from because of Covid 19 and that my goal for raising funds also went out of the window.
It was as if the powers that be were telling me that the mountain was out of my league and that I should set other goals for myself. Covid 19 effected my health badly and I lost a lot of fitness because of it and once 2021 had arrived I almost thought that I may never be able to reach the summit. I wanted to try on the 27th January 2021 in honour of my son’s passing and could not because I had not recovered fully and then I aimed for the 17th February 2021 on his birthday but again things came up and prevented even trying to summit.
I was starting to really give up on the idea, after all I am 57 years old, I have bad knees and thanks to my earlier bike accident I also have a lot of back issues that could all jeapordise a safe journey to the top and back down. Then I thought about it, what about the 1st April 2021, the 13th anniversary of my new life after the life changing accident. Even that was made to be unobtainable due to work responsabilities and again my thoughts were that this was never going to happen and that nothing that I wanted to do in order to honour Shawnie or give thanks for my abundantly good life was going to materialize.
Out of the blue on Thursday the 8th April 2021, a friend I had made and started assisting with short hikes and testing walks in the forest with posted a link to an event being hosted on the 10th April where a organised walk was taking place vertically on the front face of the mountain to the peak passing the cross that Renee Jurgens and I had been up to on 3 or 4 occasions. She inquired about me taking part in the event and taking our opportunity to see how far up we could get and if need be turn back if need be.
I agreed and agreed no hiking Huskies, no preconceived ideas of how far we were going to although we did tell everybody we were joining the group. We set off at 6h30 the morning and from the beginning of the walk there was a type of unspoken understanding that we were going to give this attempt everything we had and even though we did not discuss it, we knew we were aiming for the top. No illusions, we knew that because of my handicap we were going to be pushed to our physical and mental limits and boy were we. There were parts going up that both of us almost gave up. Parts that needed team work and brute strength and determination because having only one arm was not part of the technicality. Reneé literally was required to pull me up and I was forced to trust her with my life, simply because there were areas that were vertical and if either of us were unable to grip the walking staff that I had deliberately made extra length to give me a further extension on my arm. There were times that we were both almost in tears from anxiety and the pressure that this mountain was putting us through. There were 3 of us climbing together and each was feeding off the other 2 for motivation and inspiration as each faced our inner fears and demons.
12h15 I let out a bellowing scream of joy as I touched the beacon at the top of George Mountain and the tears flowed freely. I together with 2 others had achieved what we had dreamt of and I could finally say that I had honoured my son, celebrated my survival and more importantly I had conquered my mountain even when all the odds were stacked against me. At that very moment I realised that I was in control of my own destiny in setting my goals but in many cases I could not achieve my dreams without dedicated people who understood me for me and that I could trust to have me best interests at heart without judging me. People that would be there to pick me up when I fell.