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Rock Your Socks Off

Rock Your Socks Off

Sep 2015

Words & pics Shaen Adey

Tomorrow 150 walkers will start their 53km hike to the annual Rocking the Daisies festival. Shaen Adey reflects on this journey, designed to highlight sustainable practices and reduce the festival’s carbon footprint.

There was a buzz of excitement in the air when I arrived at Blouberg, just north of Cape Town. And despite being double their average age, I soon fitted in with the happy youngsters. The dress sense was creative with skimpy clothing, flowers, balloons and a dab of face paint adding to the already sunny scene. We could not have asked for a better day as we started our trek north along the sandy beach to the Rocking the Daisies concert.

It all started in the spring of 2007 when Greg Nicolson walked the full length of the N7, studying the plants on route to assess whether the roadsides are a refuge for indigenous species. His 690km journey took him from the Namibian border through Namaqualand to Cape Town. A year later his friend Nathan Heller had the idea of walking to Rocking the Daisies, an annual music festival on the West Coast’s Cloof Wine Estate. The festival’s motto is to “Play Hard, Tread Lightly” so in keeping with the green spirit of the festival, he negotiated with the organizers for subsidised entries for anyone prepared to lower their carbon footprint and walk – or cycle - to the concert.

Participants have to motivate for their place and most were studying (or working in the field of) sustainable development. Some were walking for a cause: two girls were celebrating the life of a friend recently killed in a motorbike accident in Vietnam. There were some obvious party animals in the crowd who had volunteered as guides or to give massages to weary hikers, while others brought along guitars or hula hoops as entertainment. Challenge was definitely part of the game, with one group of mates pushing and pulling Dries Millard, a paraplegic, along the route – and carrying him when his wheelchair got bogged down in the sand.

The colourful group set off from Blouberg beach armed with rubbish bags, embarking on a large-scale beach clean up before reaching a refreshment station which was pumping out loud music: good acclimatisation for Rocking the Daisies! The group were ferried a short distance around Koeberg power station, then it was back to the coastline with its flowering daisies and stunning views all the way back to Table Mountain. By late afternoon many weary feet rolled into the overnight stop at Silverstrand, where pitched tents, a warm shower and a cold beer was the reward for their efforts. A few brave souls dipped in the icy Atlantic before sitting around enjoying the sunset, strumming guitars and reliving the day’s walk.

Day two saw the group crossing the N7 and heading up to Mamre, a small missionary station on the West Coast where a plot of land had been prepped two days earlier. The plot is owned by a wonderful woman called Thelma April, who, being too old to till her own soil, had happily granted permission for the walkers to transform it into a market garden for the community. Trays of seedlings, grown especially for the occasion by the Sustainable Brothers & Sisters, were distributed between the walkers. The hive of activity drew a crowd of amused locals, and some of the kids even joined in on the fun of planting and watering. Hilda Adams, Thelma’s daughter and a powerful community member, had arranged for lunch and a local band to pluck a tune on their guitars and squash boxes as the hikers busied away.

From Mamre it was a bit of slog through Groote Post Wine Estate and up to the summit of the hill overlooking Cloof Wine Estate. But at the top the venue came into view and the hikers spirits soared. From the elevated vantage point the numerous stages and thousands of small tents looked much like flowers dotted about the surrounding fields

Seeing the long line of cars snaking slowly up the dusty road to the event, few hikers regretted walking. They descended the final hill and strode into the festival wearing their Walking the Daisy T-shirts with pride, gaining respect from other revellers before taking up their prime camping position near the stages. Blisters, sunburn and other battle wounds were soon forgotten as the party shoes quickly replaced worn out takkies. It was time to rock.

Walking the Daisies takes place in October every year (1-4 October 2015). 

The fully supported and guided 53km, two-day hike is limited to 150 walkers. There is also a one-day ‘Cycling the Daisies’.

Nightjar Travel