There are many ways I could go about recounting my Walking the Daisies experience. I could write a chronological order of events: from the Ocean Minded beach clean-up to dancing with Touchwood at the overnight camp, to the Greenpop tree plant in Mamre. I could write about the background of the walk: the annual environment leadership campaign that started when Greg Nicholson and Nathan Daniel Heller made the walk all the way back in 2008 as a continuation of Greg's UCT Masters project. I could write about the mission of the walk, and the extent to which this was achieved: to inspire and motivate active engagement and responsibility in our immediate natural environment, raising awareness and having a good time along the way. I could write about the flawless organisation of the walk: the goody bags, the various water and snack stops, the fantastic and filling vegetarian meal plans, the tents that we found upon our arrival, already constructed, at the overnight camp, the evening's entertainment, the morning yoga. I could, finally, recount our magnificent entrance into Rocking the Daisies, whooping, hooting, high-fiving and dancing our way to the main stage where we were presented heroically to the festival. But I'm not going to write about any of that. Instead, I want to write about the people.
For me, at least, it was the people that made the walk so special. Their stories, their gees, their dreams, their culture. I was continually inspired and challenged by like-minded individuals intent on making their mark in this too-big world of ours, all while having some fun along the way. To the walkers, a new adventure such as this is an opportunity, somewhat scary but massively rewarding. I met the crazy whale-eating skinny-dipping plant-loving life-obsessed guide with big bold plans for his environment. I met the aspiring pilot with stories from my high school. I met the hula hoop record breakers, I met the banter boys, I met the singers, the dancers, the skippers, and the chanters.
I wasn't, unfortunately, able to meet everyone; there were many stories I missed, many plans I didn't get to appreciate. But I did get to catch a few. I met a lone Dane, down in Cape Town for his studies. He spoke of his approach to travelling: finding the seedy 1 star hostels where he could discover the gritty secrets of wherever he was. He spoke of the mess that is today's political system, and how we should just travel back thousands of years and start all over again. He spoke of his infatuation with the lead singer of Touchwood. I met the most incredibly humble Capetonian, the sponsored mountain climber who spoke of his trips to Russia and the Alps, and his future trips to the mountains of South America. He spoke of his flirtation with death, trapped by the freezing weather up in the Kenyan landscape for a mammoth 18 hours. He spoke of these experiences passionately (although that could partly be down to the gaggle of girls that immersed themselves in his stories).
I met an Aussie with an infectious smile that matched her personality, who is studying in Stellenbosch for the year. She spoke of new experiences and the importance of sharing them with new people. She spoke of the wonders of her first time in South Africa, and her immediate decision to move out of the international residence in Stellies at the beginning of the year so that she could stay with the local people of the student town and live their perspectives.
I met a Joburg-bred Capetonian student with fierce Scottish blood who never ran out of conversation. He was fantastically curious about everyone else, unconsciously refusing to tell his story until he had heard theirs. He spoke of anything and everything, such that it is impossible to pinpoint anything in particular, but most importantly he was never afraid to be himself and was never afraid to offer his insights. He was one of the most genuine and honest people I have met.
I met the dynamite social work student who has started her own jewellery company. She spoke of living far away from family members, and the independence associated with the absence of mom's cooking. She spoke of the beauty of Cape Town as we soldiered through the soft sand and the sharp shells, the tar roads and the daisy-splattered hills. I met the Zimbabwean UCT student who supports Australian rugby. He spoke of his years at various boarding schools and how that shaped who he is today. He spoke of bee swarms and the countless merits of a cold beer at the end of a long day.
It was incredibly easy to talk to these strangers, often about issues you’d only usually discuss with close friends. Along a stretch of grassy hills we spoke about fears: I met the Czech lady from Cambodia whose biggest fear is the blood sucking leeches that clamp themselves onto any piece of exposed flesh. I met the Capetonian freelance photographer whose biggest fear is jellyfish. I admitted my own fear of mass open water. Although it wasn’t possible to hear everyone’s story, Walking the Daisies 2013 gave us the opportunity to find the conversations amongst the walkers that inspired and motivated us, all while reducing our carbon footprint. I cannot express enough gratitude to all the organisers, all the sponsors, all the guides and most importantly all the people for a truly wonderful experience that none of us will forget. Looking forward, here's to Walking the Daisies 2014, and all the new people there are to meet.