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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Magical Slackpacking

When you close your eyes and think of a trail, what do you see? You might picture unwashed, malnourished thrill seekers shuffling down a mountain side, or making their way through some river gorge that would fill the most ardent adventurer with trepidation. It's all about lugging a ton of pots and pans, dried food and tins of bully beef, right? And who can forget about the prospect of finding some sort of creepy crawly inside one's sleeping bag, having to shake it out before bedtime. There are some that can't get enough of this… but chances are, you're not one of them.

It may well be that you do, in fact, enjoy a day out in the wilderness, soaking up all that’s best about the great outdoors. Whether it’s on foot, on a mountain bike, or in a kayak, you may be one of those folk who can appreciate nature as being one of the best things in life, but would really prefer to finish the day with a great steak and a beer, or two, before heading off to a comfortable bed in a luxurious room. Why can't a trail be a relaxing weekend getaway, instead of a six-day grind? After all, you work hard enough as it is. While a resort just hasn't got the excitement, it would be nice to get four star pampering as well as an adventure that only mother nature can provide. Welcome to the world of slackpacking!

Here on the West Coast, on the southern tip of Africa, we have an area that is rich in biodiversity and culture. In fact, it's unique enough to be recognised by the United Nations. Carrying only a day pack containing a water bottle, a raincoat, and a snack, a slackpacker quickly discovers that the trails of the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve aptly showcase this region and everything that is best about it. Employing the slackpacking model, a visitor can expect an experience that has its foundation in the ethos of UNESCO's "Man and the Biosphere" program. Without taking away any of the spoil and exclusivity that is so special about these products, one leaves knowing that one has made a contribution to something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. The unspoiled natural beauty is breathtaking, the cuisine is mouthwatering, and everyone you meet is welcoming to a fault. You've had the time of your life but, unknowingly perhaps, you’ve made an impression that it is far more lasting than your footprints. It feels good to know that what was a holiday to one was also an exercise in poverty alleviation, social upliftment, and the promotion of sustainable tourism. One person can indeed change the world, one trail at a time!

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