Slack-packing: not as easy as it sounds

Lindajane and Trevor Thompson are outdoor people.  Lean and fit, this retired couple from Belvedere near Knysna epitomises what it means to enjoy the outdoors actively, right into your sixties and beyond.

“When we retired in 2007, we decided to keep active as a lifestyle choice.  Nine years later, we are still going as strongly as ever,” explains Trevor, the former co-owner of a successful transport and removal company.

One of their favourite activities is slack-packing.

Lindajane explains with a smile.  “Slack-packing is a version of backpacking, but without having to actually carry your pack.  Across South Africa there are numerous guided walks, usually taking three to four days, where a group of between six and ten people walk between 12 and 17 kilometres a day.  The trip is highly organised.  You have a guide and each night the organisers arrange accommodation and meals.  Your personal stuff is taken from point to point so that you don’t have to carry it.”

Sounds easy?  Forget it.  Slack-packing is challenging.  “Depending on the trip, you can walk over mountains, on trails, along beaches and even wade through rivers.  You need to be fit as the group moves at a steady pace, no matter what the terrain is,” emphasises Trevor.

The Thompsons have slack-packed all over the country.  “One of our favourite trips was the Oystercatcher Trail from Mossel Bay to Gouritzmond.  It was along the coast and each day’s hiking was different.  We went from cliff tops and sea front caves to unspoiled beaches, rocky bays and massive sand dunes.  Each night was spent in a different bed and breakfast.  We had dinner in the evenings and carried a packed lunch for our daytime meal.  You certainly needed it with all that walking,” says Lindajane.

fixedw (1)The Thompsons are not alone in praising the Oystercatcher Trail.  Getaway Magazine rated it as one of the top five hiking trails in South Africa while in 2007 and 2008 National Geographic considered it “one of the top fifty tours of a lifetime”.  High praise indeed.

“Tourism in South Africa is extremely sophisticated,” says Trevor.  “Companies offering slack-packing trips give world-class service and the range of options is growing exponentially.  For example, you can do a guided walk through the Cape Winelands that offers expert wine-tastings as part of the evening entertainment.  The Wartrail trip in the Eastern Cape highlands near Lesotho offers amazing mountain peak hiking far from civilization.”

Lindajane and Trevor undertake several walks each year.  “Our next one is in October when we’ll be doing the Hermanus to Pringle Bay walk.  This is along another beautiful coastline at that time of the year when whale-watching is at its best.  We have heard that this is one of the areas where abalone catching is very popular.  Of course, this can be legal or illegal and apparently abalone poachers have methods that have to be seen to be believed,” said Trevor, laughing.

A love of the outdoors, a spirit of adventure, basic fitness and a good pair of hiking boots is all that is needed to enjoy slack-packing.  And Lindajane and Trevor Thompson of Knysna have all of these in abundance.  We look forward to hearing all about those colourful poachers.

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