The Sphinx. Photo by Garrett Cunningham

I admire Bear Grylls and all his survival programmes, and going on an overnight hike is one of the things I’ve always wanted to do. This is a brilliant opportunity, with the ideal people and place. I’m going to Monks Cowl Nature Reserve, which is one of my favourite parts of the Drakensberg. I’m going with my wonderful boyfriend and other people, including one of my best friends.

Monks Cowl Reserve is situated in the lovely Champagne Valley, where part of my novel The Ripmender is set. I have been up to the rock formation called the Sphinx, which is on our route, but I have never been to Breakfast Stream before.

My shoes are the ones I wear to gym, because I don’t have proper hiking ones. I don’t have thermal underwear or waterproof clothes. I feel hideously unprepared.

We do have a tent, which my boyfriend bought a few months ago. I borrowed back pack and a hiking stick from my friends, and I have a warm hat, scarf and gloves. I used to hike with the Durban Ramblers for a few hours a week, so I’m hoping that I will be able to make it without having to be dragged back home by my left foot.

One of the things that freaks me out the most is that one has to carry everything!

Want a nice warm jersey or winter socks? You have to carry them. Water a problem? No problem… just carry as much as you are going to need for drinking and washing and cooking. Extra shoes – carry them. Snacks to keep you going – carry them. I suddenly have to worry about what everything weighs, instead of whether it is useful or tastes nice.

The food itself is a huge issue. I’m usually concerned about whether something is healthy, flavourful and filling. Now there is an extra dimension to hiking food apart from how heavy it is… The energy it gives you.

It’s no good if something just fills you, and makes you have a comfortable evening in front of the TV. When you are hiking, especially over long distances, it is the kilojules that should concern you. So I have been Googling energy snacks, and mean to make two different types of hiking bar for munching on when I need some extra oomph.

And let’s not even talk about the other thing that is freaking me out, and that is the lack of toilet facilities in the mountains. I’m dreading the 3am wake up that always seems to happen to me recently. I’ve even done some reading on the subject, which actually freaked me out even more.

I can see that my week is going to be sorting through clothes, planning food and maybe sneaking an extra zumba class somewhere in there. But, I said that I wanted to have adventures, and this definitely is going to be an adventure

Garett Cunningham(g)
Champagne Castle (flat mountain) and Monks Cowl (pointy mountain) overlooking the Champagne Valley, KZN Drakensberg. Photo by Garret Cunningham


Want to learn how to do things properly when going on an overnight hike…
Grab a copy of this book. It’s definitely an interesting read!