“Life should not be measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of times you are left breathless” – Anon.
When I came across this quotation nearly four years ago, it helped me to realise that I needed to make some changes to my hectic and stressful world. Little did I know then the huge impact that this inspirational maxim would have on my life …
At the time, I was burned out after 20 years of ‘hard labour’ in the UK corporate IT market. Having reached my dream job of Sales and Marketing Director I realised that whilst I was rich financially, I was poor in love, laughter, health and spirit. A reminder that you must be careful what you wish for in case it happens! I have always loved travelling, particularly in Africa, but my career meant that I had never had the opportunity for a Gap Year as so many students are fortunate enough to do today. Some ‘me time’ was well overdue.
In 2006 I left for a solo adventure around Southern Africa. My original plan was to be away for three months, but at the end of this time my return tickets and my watch were thrown into the braai fire with gay abandon and on I stayed. After eight months I had fallen in love with the South African landscapes, wildlife, culture and people, so made the decision that I wanted to live here for good. It saddens me that many South Africans that I meet express genuine surprise that someone would want to leave the UK to live here. I joke that the grass definitely is greener in England, because it rains all the time! Reason enough to stay in sunnier climes.
I spent a fabulous month indulging my love of wildlife to qualify as a safari guide before returning back to the UK to sell up my house and all my worldly possessions. Having just spent the best part of a year travelling through some very poor countries and surviving on just what would fit into my backpack it really was a shock to come back to the materialistic world that I had previously lived in. I was appalled at how much clutter I had managed to accumulate over the years – eBay and car boot sales became a full time occupation for 4 months whilst I awaited the sale of my house.
I returned to South Africa with the intention of working as a field guide on a game reserve, but fate intervened. I ended up meeting up with friends to watch the Rugby World Cup Final – and finally got together with a wonderful South African guy who I had worked with during my previous travels. Shortly thereafter Phil and I moved to a remote part of the Drakensberg mountains and over the last two years have established a fast-growing adventure trails business. You can take the girl out of corporate UK, but you can’t take the ambition out of the girl it seems!
The Eastern Cape Highlands where we have established our base has aptly been branded as “The Wild Side of the Drakensberg”, reflecting the pristine environment and the dramatic mountains that surround us. Historically most of the tourism income to the area has been during the winter months due to the regular snowfalls and our close proximity to Tiffindell Ski Resort. In order to attract summer visitors to this little-known part of South Africa we felt it was important to come up with “something different” and thus we developed Wild Mountain Adventures and our very unique High 5 Adventure Trail. This multi-sport activity holiday is based on the slackpacking concept of travelling between different overnight destinations, with no bags to carry. What makes our trail so different is that (if you wish) you can choose a different mode of transport each day – hiking, horse riding, mountain biking and river rafting.
Since we launched Wild Mountain Adventures in 2008 we have received valuable publicity from SABC and a number of magazines including Getaway, Drive Out, Go! and OutThere Adventure. This exposure has encouraged us to develop further trails and we now have a fast-growing portfolio of holidays.
We really do have the most idyllic life here in the mountains, and are so proud of the business that we have created from scratch. I smile at the fact that finally my life is full of those ‘breathless’ moments, both physically and figuratively speaking. Even more rewarding is the fact that through Wild Mountain Adventures I have the opportunity to create ‘breathless’ moments for others too!