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DON’T WAIT FOR YOUR SHIP TO COME IN – IT WON’T

The title above is a famous cliché and it is mostly true. Many folks sit around moping and waiting to be invited on hikes or scrambles or climbs or camps in the wilderness. They wait and they wait and they wait. Then then moan and they moan and they moan! Nobody thinks of me, poor me, myself and I.

Don’t do that.

A whole wonderful  world opens up to you when YOU realise that YOU can control everything! An amazing thought is: You are actually allowed to organise events – hikes, climbs, weekends away …  Seriously!

For me, the most exciting part of it is that I get to go where I want to go – I don’t have to fit into others folk’s plans and idiosyncrasies.

A word of warning, you need to KNOW what you are doing so it is great advice to get professional training, especially if you are going to lead hikes and longer overnight trails – I was privileged to get my training from VENTURE FORTH – They were totally amazing (And I’m not getting paid to tell you this J).

You also open up a world to all those other folks out there waiting for someone to invite them – just wishing that they could have an adventure. That used to be me. A taker!! I have learned to become a giver! And folks generally really appreciate this. Some folks can’t thank you enough! A wonderful feeling.

Firstly you have to make a decision – Ask yourself:

Where do I enjoy going?

Some of the events I have organised in the past 2 years (Covid and all!!) include:

  • A long weekend at Heuningvlei together with a hike up the majestic Krakadouw with its stunning Cedar trees. (18 people)
  • A seven day hike over Christmas and New Year (DEC 2020) from Weldedacht up Uilsgat, across to Crystal Pools (3 amazing days exploring all the kloofs), then up Asias kloof to the massive Asias Cave with the nearby mountain swim – into the mountain!!! Then across to Sneeukop Hut and on to Sleeppadhut for New Year’s Eve (where else would you want to spend New Year’s Eve?). Then up Tafelberg and down to the cars at Weldedacht parking area. (10 people)
  • A 5 day hike / climb at Turret Peak above Op-die-Berg. (14 people)
  • A 14 day trip to the Transfrontier National Park in the Richtersveld. (4 people)
  • A 7 day Fish River Canyon Hike – some even from Tanzania (friends).  (18 people)
  • Numerous day hikes on Table mountain including some of my favourites, “Not Woody Buttress” and “Cairn Ravine branching to Joshua’s Cave”.

Some of the Advantages of organising your own events include:

  1. You are in control.
  2. You can go whenever you choose.
  3. You can go as often as you like.
  4. You can choose who goes with you.
  5. You get to go where YOU want to go.
  6. You learn new skills – organising permits, planning routes, sorting out  accommodation, working out the safety requirements, and so on.

Disadvantages …..  Really? Are you serious?

Ask yourself :

where do I love to be most in the world? Cederberg, Winterhoek mountains, Table Mountain? Richterveld?  Everest Base Camp? Then sit down and brain storm:

I generally get an idea, eg. (This is an actual event I’m planning):

Cederberg – 7 days – December 2021 – Explore Nuwejaarskloof with its 7 pools, waterfall and 2 cave – let’s make it happen – So I put it to our group and I have 8 takers already  We’ll include sleeping in 3 caves: Welbedacht, Nuwejaars and Asias Cave  with 2 full days at one of my favourite places in the world – Crystal Pools. And best of all – I get to plan the entire trip and be with people I enjoy.

It really is as simple as that.

Dream, Decide, Put it to a few friends and Plan it. You will be surprised – most folks are just waiting for someone to organise something.

I was walking my dog, Kevin, in the Green Point Park last week and a great friend of mine, Tony,  phoned and asked if I would be interested in a hike in “Schaap River Canyon” – I had never heard of it – such excitement – of course I said yes – so someone else planned a hike and enriched other folks lives.

We live on an amazing planet – just being up there looking down on the creation is worth all the effort in this crazy world.

So here is the thing, don’t wait for your ship to come in, it won’t  – you have to swim out and meet it.

So swim out – you are allowed to 🙂

AND REMEMBER – GET THE TRAINING IF NECESSARY – IT IS ALSO FUN AND THE RESPONSIBLE THING TO DO 🙂

7.32% of operators in the market can be considered legally compliant!

Adventure Motorcycle Guided Tours in the Republic of South Africa, Legislation, Statutory Requirements & Legal Compliance

Purpose

The purpose of this document is to inform and educate prospective customers and tourism service providers within the South African adventure motorcycling market, both foreign and local customers, vendors, service providers and affiliates. The document is intended to inform said market and its end users of the existence of governing legislation, certain responsibilities and legal liabilities associated thereto which affect both the customer and the vendor alike.

Scope

Adventure Guiding is the third sector of three main guiding disciplines in South Africa. They are Culture, Nature and Adventure. This document’s scope is focussed on legislation surrounding professional (“Registered”) as well as unregistered adventure guiding of motorcycle tours, be it leading one customer or a group of customers. The scope is inclusive of any and/or all event organisation surrounding the same activity within the borders of the Republic of South Africa.

Further to the abovementioned, the scope of qualification is that of a Generic Site Adventure Guide (GASG) as recognised by SAQA and managed by CATHSSETA as an established NQF4 Level Qualification which is based on set unit standards.

The scope of this document further relates to the constraints of operation as imposed by the National Tourism Act No. 3 of 2014.

Best Practice

Best practices are described in this document, within the scope and given context of the document as being the operational practice of vendors and service providers either arranging guided tours, motorcycle rides or sponsoring events which incorporate the same service in a manner which is considered to be legal within the terms and definitions of the Law of The Republic of South Africa.

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Statutory Bodies

The statutory bodies associated with the legislation in question as well as tasked with both  enforcing it as well as administrating it are as follows;

Eastern Cape ProvinceEastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency
Free State ProvinceDepartment of Tourism and Economic Affairs
Gauteng ProvinceGauteng Department of Economic Development
Kwa-Zulu Natal ProvinceDepartment of Economic Development Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA)
Limpopo ProvinceDepartment of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism
Mpumalanga ProvinceMpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency
North West ProvinceNorth West Department of Tourism
Northern Cape ProvinceDepartment of Economic Development and Tourism
Western Cape ProvinceDepartment of Economic Development and Tourism
NationalSouth African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)
NationalCulture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA)

In each of the nine provinces appointed departments of the National Department of Tourism (NDT) is managed by a provincial registrar who is appointed with the responsibility of administrating the issuance of tourism guides registration numbers and tourism agency/company numbers within their given province. There is an overarching National Registrar who ultimately reports to the Minister of Tourism.

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The Act and Applicable Legislation

The Act (Tourism Act No. 3 of 2014) serves ‘To provide for the development and promotion of sustainable tourism for the benefit of the Republic, its residents and its visitors; to provide for the continued existence of the South African Tourism Board; to provide for the establishment of the Tourism Grading Council; to regulate the tourist guide profession; to repeal certain laws; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

Referring to the above extract from the Act, aside of references to good standing Section 50’s subsection (2) “proof of competence” and subsection (3), (d) are those deemed to be the most likely to land an unregistered guide or touring company on the wrong side of the Law. It is parts that elude to the Acts purpose in assuring that tourist, customer or end user’s best interests are upheld, that quality service is offered and that their safety and wellbeing is observed and protected whilst they are being guided or receiving guiding or tourism related services from a vendor acting as either a guide or tourism company.

It is this section, subsections and clauses that encompass the principals of “Duty of Care” and closely linked thereto “Negligence” when duty of care has not been upheld by a party. It is when an event, incident or accident occurs and parties begin to establish or seek liability that the aforesaid principals of the Law are tested and/or implemented in a punitive manner. The most common manner in which this occurs is prosecution by the responsible statutory body and/or through litigation in civil courts of law.

There are many a tourism operator who believe that an indemnity form or waiver signed by their customer/client safe guards or limits their personal liability, however, said waiver or indemnity is in fact only as good as the ability of the operator/guide to prove their competence which is ultimately tested against compliance with sections 50 and 51 of the Tourism Act No. 3 of 2014.

Further to the above the prohibitions and clear instruction with regards to providing tourism or guiding services is detailed in section 57 of the Act as follows in the extract hereunder.

It is noteworthy to mention that in the eyes of the Law and within the context and scope covered by this document that a company or person(s) employing and/or soliciting the services of an unregistered guide or tourism company are complicit by way of ‘Ignorantia juris non excusat or ignorantia legis neminem excusat’, the aforesaid legal principal in Law which states ‘that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that Law merely because one was unaware of its content.

Requirements for Legal Compliance by a Tourist Guide and/or Tourism Company

1)

What is required before a person may make application to their local Registrar:

  • The applicant must be at least 17 years of age (18 for assessment).
  • Speak and understand the English language at NQF level 3.
  • The applicant must already be competent at the technical aspects of your activity. In the instance of this scope, the applicant must hold a valid full motorcycle licence.
  • In terms of routing, an applicant has two options with regards to gaining the required qualification which is required in order to make application to either a Provincial or National Registrar. The first route is to enrol in courses which are aligned to the agreed curriculum for GASG and where training is offered by CATHSSETA registered training providers, and more recently also the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). The second route is that of Recognised Prior Learning (RPL), where an applicant is required to not only meet and achieve the unit standards set out for a GASG qualification but to also prove a requisite level of experience in the given sector, field and scope.
  • The applicant must have proven their competence academically by way of successfully achieving certain NQF4 level unit standards under the mentorship of a registered Assessor. Assessors noted as being registered with CATHSSETA and thus recognised by the Registrars as bona fide trainers, auditors and persons capable of vetting applicants.

The unit standards forming the GASG:

The modular breakdown of the actual program

 

  • The applicant must have proven that they are physically capable of performing the tasks required of them in the field in due course of performing a service to their Clients
  • Accrued and recorded experience in a logbook where the same experience can be ratified through written feedback or certificates supplied by CATHSSETA qualified trainers and/or previous Clients with regards to the specific activity or scope.
  • The applicant must have enrolled for first aid training by competent and qualified persons and successfully achieved a Level 3 1st Aid Certificate. Said certificate is mandatory document to be supplied when making application and for adventure guides already registered, their registration is only deemed to be current or valid where they hold a valid Level 3 1st Aid Certificate. Each and every 1st Aid Certificate has a finite period of validity and as such must be renewed periodically by guides.
  • The applicant must comply with Section 50 of the Act.
  • The applicant must sign and swear to uphold a code of conduct as set out in the Act.
  • Given that all of the above points are successfully achieved the applicant’s or applicants registered Assessor may then make submission to CATHSSETA (through the Training Provider) upon which CATHSSETA will issue a certificate with a certificate number which is both unique to the applicant’s credentials, identity and scope of qualification.
  • Once the applicant has received their certificate number from CATHSSETA they may take the same to either a Provincial or National Registrar for processing in order that the Registrar might issue a l guide registration number which is recorded in the provincial and national tourism guides register.

2)

The process detailed in Point 1 above has to be successfully completed in order for an adventure guide or adventure tourism company/agency employing registered guides to gain access to public liability insurance (PLI) and/or 3rd party cover.

3)

The above Points 1 & 2 pertain to guide registrations, in the instance of appointing a single entity to plan, arrange and coordinate events such as outride events, tours or weekends away for groups of riders where said entity is responsible for maintaining safety, marshalling and arranging accommodation, hospitality etc. then the company being employed strictly speaking needs to be a ‘registered tour operator’ which utilises the services of ‘registered adventure guides.’

4)

All of the above Points 1 – 3 amount to a business or person(s) exercising “Duty of Care” when arranging such events as mentioned above. To provide a hypothetical scenario or case study regarding the liabilities and risks involved for an individual or company arranging events, rides, tours and away weekends, let us consider a hypothetical worst case scenario where a rider and/or their pillion are seriously hurt, maimed or killed as well as where public property may have been damaged or 3rd parties injured, affected or killed i.e. other motorists or pedestrians involved in an accident.

The first thing that any ambulance chasing attorney will do is to go after the organiser or sponsor of the event, attempt to establish whether all necessary precautions were taken into account in order to limit or mitigate the chance and risk of an incident/accident occurring and whether said mitigating actions involved people deemed to be competent to lead, coordinate or facilitate such an activity.

It is usually at this point that a litigator will look to what is the nearest and most applicable legislation that applies to the incident which in this instance is essentially a tourism based activity or event as you are leading people to pre-arranged destinations by way of a guided activity, as such the Tourism Act No. 3 of 2014 will come into play or there will at least be reference made thereto.

If a claimant or claimant’s lawyer/attorney pursue a case against the Road Accident Fund (RAF) then the RAF’s defending counsel (which is likely to be well versed in similar cases) will invariably seek to take action which sees the focus of their defence heading in the direction of “negligence on the basis of abrogation of duty of care” In proving that duty of care was not exercised by the parties concerned the Claimant’s counsel will more than likely turn to the Tourism Act. In turning to the Tourism Act the national Registrar for South Africa guides will be contacted in order to verify whether or not the individual or company guiding a person or group was registered, qualified and deemed to be competent etc.

You then possibly have all sorts or arguments being made by a claimant’s counsel along the lines of, “the organiser did not brief or explain to the Claimant what sort of road surfaces would be encountered” or “the organiser did not ensure that the riders had an adequate level of competence to participate in the event and as such led an unsuspecting customer into a dangerous situation” or “the organiser(s) did not thoroughly brief the group before embarking on the activity.”

5)

Further to Point 4 above, it is also not impossible that underwriters and insurers may seek compensation for losses and damages incurred as a result of negligence proven through a court case and ruling.

6)

The requirements for legal compliance of a Tourism Company or Tourism Agency are as follows:

  • That the company is registered with a tourism association.
  • That the company employs registered, qualified and competent tourist guides for the given scope of their intended activities and services offered to customers and clients.
  • That the company holds current and active public liability / 3rd party insurance.
  • That the company is registered by the Registrar in the province in which the company is registered and based.
  • That the company and its registered guides are in good standing with the Act’s Code of Conduct, ethics and any other applicable statutory bodies of the Republic of South Africa.

7)

A number of operators in the given market list membership and/or association with tourism associations and/or bonding agents such as SATSA, some even cite pseudo qualifications by way of training or certificates offered by large brands such as BMW Motorrad, however, membership with such associations, agencies or ‘training’ received from large corporate brands does not constitute recognised legal registration with the Department of Tourism and its various provincial department offices and their Registrars.

Compliance Statistics

 The data represented hereunder has been collected through personal research via the internet, Google searches and by of word of mouth, thus, said data has not been audited or vetted by the respective provincial Registrars.

  • The total number of companies and/or single operators identified in the country as offering motorcycle tour guiding, tours or similar services to the market is forty one (41)
  • Of the forty one (41) operators identified, only three are noted as being legally registered with the Department of Tourism
  • Points 2 & 3 above imply that only 7.32% of operators in the market can be considered as being legally compliant

Download this White Paper in PDF format here

Knowledge vs. Safety in Guiding

Guiding a group of clients successfully in any activity requires the Guide to have knowledge of the subject in order to educate and entertain as well as the ability to look after the safety of the clients. These are the soft and hard skills of guiding.

In some industries the hard skills or safety skills are far more pronounced then in others. A guide, who leads white water paddling trips, offers mountain climbs, leads a nature trail, or goes hiking etc, needs to have a very well developed ability to ensure the safety of the clients in what is potentially a high risk activity. The ability to provide the activity safely is far more important than the educational knowledge imparted during the trip. We can think of these hard skills as the Guides “Drivers Licence”, the skills needed to run the physical activity.

The soft or knowledge based skills are less important in Activity or Adventure Guides then a Guide whose primary focus is providing an overview of South Africa to a visitor from the comfort of a coach.

However these skills work together – so where should we place the greatest importance?

Camping near the base of Thabana Ntlenyana

Any Guiding activity that is primarily low risk and focuses on educating the client should have a high importance placed on the soft skills of guiding. A Guide who works from a coach or vehicle primarily imparts knowledge, and the safety of the groups travel is in the hands of the driver. This is what prompted the regulations about driver guides, as a driver of a vehicle can not adequately look after the safety of the physical trip (driving) if they are focusing on educating the visitors about South Africa.

In activities that are primarily high risk, it is imperative that importance is placed on the hard skills, or the ‘Drivers Licence”.

If we cannot guarantee the physical safety of visitors during an activity because we are focusing too much on imparting knowledge then we are failing in our duties as guides. The physical activity MUST take preference over the knowledge imparted in all cases.

In this light, a guide who holds a national qualification in Culture or other knowledge based subject, and who guides outside of the safety of a coach, should also hold an additional qualification that proves their competence to run the physical aspect of the trip, such as, Mountain Walking, Paddling, Dangerous Game, Rock Climbing, Surfing, Kite-boarding, 4×4 etc. Not to do so could be regarded as a failure in our duty of care and could be regarded as gross negligence.

To Summarise:

There is a safety aspect and there is an educational aspect to all guiding. Being able to recognise birds in a coastal forest should not qualify a Guide to take clients to view Bearded Vultures by foot on the Drakensberg escarpment unless you also hold a qualification to enter into that specialist environment.

The safety of clients is fundamental and that is often dependent on the environment we enter into – if you are a qualified SCUBA diver, does that mean you can now fly a Kite Board as well – and walking on flat terrain is very different to walking in a mountainous area?

Training guides in the educational aspects of History, Culture, Nature etc is one thing, training them to escort clients safely is completely different and non-negotiable and the current industry associations recommendations where available should be enforced by Provincial Registrars for all guides.

Are Guides Who Lead Walking Tours Different?

We must define the duties, and examine the hazards faced by “walking  guides” before deciding what qualifications need to be held.

THE TERRAIN

Walking guides” are those guides who lead groups on tours where the primary means of travel is on foot in remote areas, such as game reserves, the coastline or mountains, in fact, any area could be included where the party walks over terrain that has not been modified by permanent fixed walkways, and is remote enough that assistance can not be reached on foot within one hour. This makes it “Walking Guide” terrain.

Clients going on such a trip are in many cases not adequately prepared by the tour operator and guide for a trip into the outside environment. Serious problems arise when the “easy” walk gets more difficult because of unexpected changing conditions. Nobody is prepared for or recognises the changes, but the trip will often go on as planned. Modern civilisation makes the average person inefficient to travel in the outdoors. It strips us of our skills of walking in remote unmodified areas.

Says experienced Tour Guide Dave Sclanders,

I believe that anyone who goes into the outdoor environment should have appropriate walking training and registration. (There is) a problem with large tour operators who have guides who have no ‘Mountain Experience’ taking day tours by foot into the mountains. If tour guides are city graded, that’s where they must stay.

THE QUALIFICATIONS

The usual qualifications that tour guides hold fall into three main categories: Culture, Nature and Adventure. Neither the Culture nor Nature qualification unit standards have any “walking skills” built into them. (Although some providers may add some as extras) There are no requirements that the guide knows how to cope with for example:

Group Leadership on foot in the outdoors,
• Navigation
• Hazardous obstacle avoidance
• Steep ground movement
• Water hazards

Only the Adventure Guide Qualifications include these as specific requirements.

Says Grant Hine of FGASA,

Given the nature of and potential dangers in mountain areas it is imperative that Nature Guides working in this type of “speciality” environment attain the relevant mountain guiding unit standards over and above the nature unit standards, before being legally allowed to guide in these areas.

This can apply to all on foot areas and not just mountain areas, as well as to all categories of guides and not just nature.

Searching rough terrain

ACCIDENT STATISTICS

Very few statistics are available that look at accidents and causes, but there is one good resource, the Mountain Club of SA – Cape Section, which looks at the Western Cape area over the last 100 years or so, (1881-2004), and the statistics are interesting:

Of 1041 accident entries in the database, 645 or 62% of accidents involved walkers, the highest of the eleven categories listed. Of 197 fatalities in the same period, 88 or 45% were walkers. Table Mountain was detailed as the most dangerous area of the Western Cape as the access is so easy, and it is still today the area where the most unsuitably qualified guides are leading walking trips.

DANGER POINTS

In outdoor & or remote areas…

  • Weather: Changes occur much faster and effects are more severe and the guide must know what to do, in all circumstances. Temperatures down to -10° C occur in mountains regularly in winter causing hypothermia. However, high temperatures can also occur, causing hyperthermia.
  • Altitude: 8 in 10 clients who go beyond 2400m above sea level will experience mild (or worse) symptoms of altitude sickness. High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema is possible in the Drakensberg. A person not treated correctly can die within 18 hours.
  • Fitness & Nutrition: The tough outdoors environment takes its toll on people who would be seen as fit on average tours. Energy consumption is higher and dehydration is more likely. Guides need to provide suitable meals and advice as well as closely monitoring the clients.
  • Injuries: Distances to get help are much greater. Often, the nearest help may be 2 hours to 2 days walk away. There are no easy communications and cell phones often do not work. Normal first aid courses are not suitable, especially the current minimum requirement of Level 1. There are specific protocols for alerting rescue teams that are not known or taught to normal guides.
  • Biodiversity in our remote areas is often more spectacular than in the more urban areas. The environment is much more sensitive to our impact. Guides need advanced environmental training to learn about this complex system, not only to tell guests about it, but to keep them safe and preserve it.
  • Distances: Trips led by walking guides vary from less than a kilometre to over 300 kilometres in South Africa. Walks are usually unsupported. A greater degree of fitness, strength and self-sufficiency is needed.
  • Navigation. Practiced skills and local knowledge are essential. Restricted visibility is very possible year round. Compasses are not usable in some remote areas due to magnetic aberrations and Guides must know how to use alternative methods. The survival of a group is dependent on the Guide being able to navigate in zero visibility. And this includes “urban areas” like Table Mountain.
  • Leadership qualities: A walking guide requires better leadership and team skills than a normal guide. Walking guides work 24 hours a day on tour. They are guide, friend, companion, shoulder to cry on, cook, dishwasher, general encyclopaedia and story teller. Many matters have to be attended to during the night, such as chasing away predators and standing guard over toilet visits.
  • Cultural heritage: Remote areas have a rich cultural heritage that requires specific knowledge. Visitors to rock art sites need special training, as do guides walking through sensitive tribal lands.
    10) Steep Terrain: Movement on this type of surface requires specialised training and skills which normal guides are not taught. A “walking rope” is invaluable.
  • Camping: There are no facilities in remote areas so specialised equipment is used. The use of this equipment is not taught to standard Guides, and some of this equipment can be highly dangerous in inexperienced hands.
  • Water hazards: Rivers and other water bodies are a significant hazard to anyone. Many people are killed each year trying to cross rivers incorrectly.
  • Dress: The outdoors requires specific dress codes, especially if one is to stay out overnight. Simple things like inadequate footwear can cause major problems.

A walking guide qualification can be seen as your ‘drivers licence’. Without a drivers license, regardless of how expert you are on the fauna, flora, culture or history of an area if you crash the coach you will kill your clients. If you want to guide on foot, obtain the correct drivers licence first then enhance that with your specialist knowledge. Brilliant knowledge and stories will never make a badly led walking experience safe.

What a walking guide needs to know is learnt from many years in the outdoors and from targeted training – it cannot be learnt from a book in a few weeks. If you lead trips on foot in the outdoors, make sure you hold the correct qualifications — both for your safety and that of your clients.

Long term patient care on a walking trip

Culture Awareness

Adventure activities like Trekking by nature visit places that have cultures different from our own. In visiting these places, we will be exposed to different customs, values and ways of life which may be very different to the norms we are used to, and it can be very easy to upset the local people by infringing in some of their cultures which they hold dear.

Fitting in with the local cultures will not only avoid confrontation, but it will help ensure sustainability and future access to the area.

Some General Pointers

There are simply too many different cultures worldwide to try to be specific about the do’s and don’ts of every variable, but there are some common universal pointers which should at least keep you out of trouble.

  • Do not take photos of people unless having permission to do so. In most cases we are not talking about people in the far distance. We are referring to close ups or where the subject of the picture is a specific person or group of persons.
  • When visiting religious sites, preserve what you’ve come to see and never touch and remove religious objects. Respect the beliefs and traditions of others even if you do not agree with them.
  • Dress modestly – No flimsy clothes and sleeveless shirts, shorts should come down to your knees for men and women should have longs or a skirt on.
  • Always respect local people and their ways. Allow them to change you, but don’t try to change them!
  • Always ask before taking close-up photographs of religious places / shrines.
  • Don’t give money to children, beggars. There’re better ways to help them – make donations to local projects/organizations.
  • Particularly in rural areas, do not dish out sweets to children. They may not have access to dental care and you are simply ruining their health. Rather give fruit if you want to give something.
  • Abstain from showing affection out in the open. It may be okay in your culture, but it is not in many, and you could even end up in jail.

  • Not all cultures are happy with physical contact, even a handshake can be an insult, so be led by the people you are meeting. If they extend their hand to shake it, then fine, but rather wait for them to make the first move.
  • Watch carefully what is going on around you with others and follow their example.
  • Eye contact can be a good sign but also a sign of aggression. Looking away when talking to someone may be a sign of respect, so try to gauge what the locals are doing and follow suit.
  • In some cultures, men should not sit with women. Again, follow the lead of the locals and observe what they do.

Where On Earth Am I?

COMPASS READING: Your GPS has died and you are lost in the wild!

So our GPS batteries have died and we need desperately to know where we are. Fortunately we are careful hikers and we have packed a 1:20 000 map, a pencil and a standard hiking Polaris compass in our kit. We do know the names of two distant peaks (Call them Peak 1 and Peak 2. How will we go about “triangulating” our position?

We haul out our Map, pencil and compass. Find a relatively flat surface for our map.

Study the compass above and note the names of the components

  1. Point our compass at the first peak (Peak 1). When we do this we make sure that we aim the Direction of Travel Arrow directly at Peak 1.
  2. We turn the “N” on our Rotating Housing (with the Degree Dial) until the Orienting Arrow is exactly below the Red painted end of the Magnetic Needle. (ie. The magnetic needle fits perfectly into the Orienting Arrow).
  3. We can now stop pointing the compass at the peak because the angle is fixed on our compass.
  4. Read the angle between the “N” on the Rotating Housing and the Direction of Travel Arrow. (e.g 109°) This is the angle between the red Magnetic Needle and the Direction of Travel Arrow. (Note: Degrees are always read clockwise starting at “N” if no direction is indicated (e.g. East or West).
  5. Now adjust the angle to take into account the MAGNETIC DECLINATION of our location.
    • NB: IMPORTANT  NOTE ON DECLINATION: Remember that the compass needle does not point at the “True” North Pole. It points at the Magnetic North Pole which slowly migrates across the globe in the vicinity of the North Pole. As of May 2018 it is situated off the North Pole at 86°N/173°W). In Cape Town the Declination is 25° West (-25°). In Mumbai, India, the Declination is 0°, i.e. True North = Magnetic North!!. In Sydney Australia the Declination is 12° East (+12°).
  6. In our actual example we are have an angle of 109° between Magnetic North and Peak 1. To determine “True North” we must subtract 25° from 109°. This gives us an angle of 84° between True North and Peak 1.
  7. Now rotate the Rotating Housing to the right so that the angle between True North and the Direction Housing is 84° (East of North).
  8. Now we can place our compass on our Map and line up the meridian lines with the Grid on the Map. Thus True North is now lined up with the Grid lines on the map and the Orienting Arrow is pointing at 84° East. Once we have done this, we carefully slide the compass on the map until the one edge of the compass is exactly on Peak 1. Draw a pencil line towards where we are located.
  9. REPEAT for Peak 2 – e.g. Let us say that Peak 2 is located at 73° East of us. Now we must ADD 25° because Peak 2 is West of us. Thus 73° + 25° = 98° East,
  10. Place the Polaris compass on the Map again and line up the meridian lines with the Grid on the Map. Carefully shift the compass until the one edge of the compass is exactly on Peak 2. Draw a pencil line towards where we are located.
  11. Where these two lines intersect is our location (within a few feet / meters).
  • Any mistakes are my own – Let’s hope there are none!

Naismiths Rule Calculator for Estimating Walking Time

Naismiths Rule

Naismiths Rule

Naismith's rule helps with the planning of a walking or hiking expedition by calculating how long it will take to travel the intended route, including any extra time taken when walking uphill. This rule of thumb was devised by William W. Naismith, a Scottish mountaineer, in 1892. A modern version can be formulated as follows:

Allow one hour for every 3 miles (4.82 km) forward, plus an additional hour for every 2,000 feet (600 m) of ascent.

The basic rule assumes hikers of reasonable fitness, on typical terrain, and under normal conditions. It does not account for delays, such as extended breaks for rest or sightseeing, or for navigational obstacles. (Wikipedia)

In Kilometers
In Meters
Hours (Excluding Stops) (distance/4.82803)+(altitude/600)
There have been many attempts and adapting this, and all have pro's and con's to them. In my personal; experience in the Drakensberg, mainly climbing to high altitude, I have found my own variation of the rule which works for me. My estimation works on the assumption of walking at 2km/h.
Hours (Excluding Stops) (distance/2)+(altitude/600)

Try setting your own walking speed.

In Kilometers per hour
Hours (Excluding Stops) (distance/your walking speed)+(altitude/600)

Compare your results with the Energy Kilometers method.

Nutritional Needs and ‘Energy Kilometers’

How much Energy do we need on a walking trip? A sensible and healthy diet is vital when physically active. Over and above any normal expenditure of energy under stress, you must also anticipate extra energy requirements caused by certain typical situations such as cold (even when you are resting), altitude, and a drop in atmospheric humidity.

To trek/hike successfully, the body must produce the right kind of energy to fuel the muscles. Without that fuel, the body will slow down, falter and refuse to walk.

Energy is obtained from the foods that we eat. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins which are modified by enzymes in our bodies to produce a form of energy the muscles can use.

Our Three Main Energy Needs:

Immediate

This is for a short period of time, e.g. dodging a falling rock, regaining balance after a stumble.

Short Term

Energy used for short bursts of intense exercise lasting less than 30 seconds usually, like running away from a fire. This uses stored glucose and glycogen but has lactic acid as a by-product. e.g. the muscles feel like lead.

Long Term

Here the addition of oxygen from breathing promotes efficiency and strength in the cardiovascular system and burns the stores of fat for energy. Fat is very efficient at producing energy and the colder it gets, the more fat is the best choice of energy. In Polar Regions, pure fat is often eaten to produce energy.

Good nutrition is the key to energy. Individual nutritional needs vary, but all of us have a continual need for the essential nutrients supplied by food – for energy, growth, maintenance and the renewal of the body tissue, and for the regulation of vital functions in the body.

 

Some pointers:

  • Without water we cannot process food. Regardless of altitude we need to take in a minimum of 30 ml or water per Kg of body weight per day to process the food you take in or the energy stored in that food is wasted.
  • At 2000 to 3000 meters (top of the Drakensberg) you must drink at least 3 litres of water a day to make up for losses just due to the altitude. Even when resting you will be consuming about 6000 kilojoules in twenty-four hours.
  • Under stress when trekking, with an oxygen consumption rate that can reach 3 to 4 times the normal rate, consumption can reach as high as 15 000 to 20 000 kilojoules a day.
  • The optimum food ration, however, is only 50% of the Kilojoule requirement; it is advisable to divide it into small, repeated snacks of 1000 – 2000 Kilojoules each, so as not to overload the digestive system. The Kilojoule deficit indicated above is not significant for short periods of up to 4 days as your body has enough reserve to cope with this.
  • The ideal diet contains one gram of protein for every kilo of body weight per day, dividing the rest between 70% Carbohydrates and 30% Fats. However, do not get all your kilojoules from simple carbohydrates such as sweets. Rather get them from complex carbohydrates such as full grain products. (Whole wheat Pasta, Brown rice etc.)
  • The glucose required by the body’s cells is stored by the liver in the form of glycogen, extracted from carbohydrates, fats and proteins (Food). The body normally converts the glycogen to glucose with enzymes and oxygen before using it in the muscles.
  • With exertion, the consumption of oxygen in the tissues increases, but if this is not sufficient, there is a shortage of oxygen and the body starts drawing directly from the glycogen reserves, with the resultant production of lactic acid.
    • This ‘oxygen-less’ reaction releases 16 times fewer kilojoules than those produced in normal aerobic metabolism. In this state the muscles become intoxicated and there is a typical sensation of fatigue. (The heavy burning sensation in the muscles)
  • Lactic acid can only be digested when resting, with an inflow of oxygen through breathing, which turns it into carbon dioxide and water.

Time and Energy is often more important than Distance

You are out on a trek. It’s 9:30 am. The sign at the trail start says there is a great lake just 1.5 kilometres from the camp you are staying at. Easy enough for you and children in the group to do with you and be back at camp for lunch. No need to take food with. Right? It’s only 3 kilometres return. Even at a child’s pace that’s only 2 hours.

Wrong…

What the sign does not tell you is the lake is 300 meters higher than where you are now, and gaining altitude takes energy.

As you gain altitude each 100 meters of ascent uses the same energy as walking between 1.5 to 2 kilometers depending on your walking speed. So that 300 meters ascent will equate to 4.5 to 6 kilometers extra “Energy kilometers”.

Assuming the distance to the lake is 1.5 km each way, that makes it 3 km total, but now we add the energy kilometres needed for the altitude gain which is an additional 4.5 to 6 kilometres. (We only count the up hills)

So now the trip to the lake is going to be a total of between 6 to 9 “Energy Kilometers”. Can you and the children do that before lunch without having substantial drinks and snacks along the way?

A child walking at 1.5 kilometres an hour is now going to take between 4.5 and 6 hours. An adult will take 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

Energy Kilometers Calculator

Energy Kilometers Calculator

In Kilometers
In Meters
Average in Kilometers per Hour
Minimum
Maximum
Hours (Excluding Stops)

I have found this method to be a bit more reliable than Naismiths Rule, but like any method you need to personalise or adapt it to your own hiking style.

Your Turn

Give a few examples of trips you know that take longer than anticipated. Do the math. How about Table Mountain in Cape Town? Work out the Energy Kilometers of the popular routes up and add your suggestions to the comments below…

Guide Better by Travelling More

You are passionate about your activities you offer, spending an inordinate amount of time out there doing it. It consumes all your free time in addition to the time you spend guiding others. But does this make you an experienced guide?

No matter how much time we spend honing our technical skills, we will always be able to learn something new, or better equip ourselves to provide what our clients need. Often what they want and need are very different to what we offer.

Take for example simple things like greetings. Many cultures will shake hands as a form of greeting, but there are others that do not. Could you inadvertently upset your client by offering your hand when meeting for the first time? What about foods, dress codes, sacred days etc. There are many different ways we can be ignorant about what our clients expect or are used to.

A Guide purchasing supplies including live chickens slaughtered in the shop for her clients at a vendor on Morocco.

Yes, they are on a trip away from home in another culture, and we do not want to try to make our country just another version of their own, but understanding their background and framework of understanding will go a long way to help us accommodate their culture, needs and expectations in a way that is positive.

Over the many years we have been training Adventure Guides, one of the biggest failings we see is that guides fail to travel enough themselves outside of what they do daily.

Ask yourself:

  • When last did you take part in an activity that is not one of your guiding scope?
  • When last did you travel to someplace you have never been, (local or international), simply to see what is there?
  • When last did you book on a guided trip with someone you do not already work with?
  • What research have you done on the culture and backgrounds of the clients you regularly work with?

In my own experience a ‘wake up’ came when I had a client book for five days climbing. On the first day of the trip we discovered that his interpretation of ‘climbing’ and mine were very different. To him he wanted to ‘climb some mountains‘, to him that meant ‘walk up them‘. To me it meant harnesses, ropes, carabiners etc and vertical rock faces. It took some very fast negotiation to quickly set up a new itinerary that would serve his needs.

Having traveled a lot world wide, I have a far better understanding of what is considered the norm in many other countries. ‘Wild Camping‘ and ‘Wild Swimming‘ are regarded as the extreme end of the activity to many, whilst it is the norm in South Africa. (TIP: Maybe this is a niche market you could tap intoWild camping/swimming tours)

Think of the horror on your multi day trek when the clients expecting a heated refuge or at least a ‘Bothy‘ are presented with a tent and sleeping bag, or even worse a rock shelter.

Wild Camping – image Pixabay

Imagine your predicament when your group of clients strips off for a bit of nude sunbathing on Clifton beach. Quite normal in many places around the world on public beaches, but did you inform them about our local rules, and can you explain why it is still okay to sit watching a local tribal dance group when often the ladies will be topless, but they cannot get a tan themselves?

Local culture can cause confusion…

Even understanding the cost difference of items between your clients home country and your own can be used to your advantage. That easy cappuccino at R27.90 in South Africa, (M&B) is a steal compared to a similar coffee converted to +-R52.00 in the UK (Costa). You can use this information to your advantage.

Getting to the mountains takes serious wheels in Iceland

Travel tends to broaden the scope of reference we all have and allow a Guide to better meet the expectations placed on them by their clients. Not only is it a great way to experience unknown places, cultures and activities, it allows you to observe other guides working and learn from their mistakes and best practice.

Learning about pastries from a local guide in Venice

Travel is fun and all Guides should make an effort to travel as much as they can outside of their own guiding operations. It does not have to be international if money does not allow it, even just going to explore the next town from where you live, taking part in a new activity, or, hiking an area you do not know will assist you to become a better guide.

Image: Steve Jurvetson

Can you think of other reasons to travel more as a Guide? How will it improve your own guiding? Tell us in the comments section below…

 

Walking Skills

Walking is one of those skills we mostly take for granted and people who spend a lot of time in the outdoors will develop efficient walking techniques over time without having to think about it.

Many others however often spend little time in the outdoors except when on a walking trip. The rest of the time is usually behind a desk at work, so these skills and techniques do not come naturally but can make a huge difference to your experience on the trip by relieving stress and strain on the body, conserving energy, providing good balance and confidence and generally making it easier to cover the distances required comfortably.

Being Prepared

Of course the first aspect of good walking skills is to be properly prepared with well worn-in and fitting boots, good socks, comfortable balanced pack and possibly trekking poles. There are two very different techniques when using walking poles. Trekking technique and Nordic Walking technique. It is not our aim here to teach the difference, but just to say once you know both you will be about 80% more efficient when walking.

Once out on the trail, there are a number of things you can do to make life easier. Even walking on a good trail will make your heart and lungs work harder so you need to take it easy the first few days. Steep terrain and rough trails put extra strain on the body so this is where good technique comes in to make your body into an efficient walking machine.

To find out more about how the terrain conditions, what we call ‘Conditions Under Foot’ (CUF) affects your walking, have a look at the section on the CUF Scale.

Basic Principles

Before we get into the actual techniques, here are some basic principles that always apply:

  • Keep balanced. Nothing should be tied loosely to your backpack – swaying / swinging items affect balance.
  • On easy terrain legs are generally swung from the hip and the head is centred between the front and back foot for good balance.
  • Start off dressed a little cooler than you’d like to be – strip off a layer just before starting so you do not have to stop after 10 minutes to take off a layer.
  • Check boots and laces before starting to walk. Seems obvious but most people don’t and they have to stop a short while later to tie them properly.
  • If you still need to make adjustments, stop after the first 20-30 minutes:
    • Adjust backpacks
    • Adjust boots
    • Shed or add a layer of clothing
  • Pace your self – most walkers start at a fast pace, enthusiastic to get out on the trail, but this is counter-productive. The body needs time to warm up. You should not get out of breath when walking. If you cannot hold a conversation and walk at the same time you are going too fast.
  • Try to maintain a constant rhythm when walking – if necessary adjust your stride length. You need a pace that you can sustain all day.
  • Try not to take too frequent breaks – they disrupt your rhythm and you never really get going. Resting for 10 minutes every hour is great, but in very wet or cold conditions you may want to keep going until you have found shelter as you may become more prone to hypothermia. If there is no natural shelter, carry a portable emergency group shelter. Just a two person one is fine.
  • On up-hills take baby-steps: find the smallest step up that you can each time.
  • Trekking poles are a great tool for saving energy.
    • They assist with balance, saving leg muscles and reducing injuries.
    • Also useful for river crossings and difficult terrain.
    • Using Nordic technique will turbo boost your walking.

Foot Placements

The placement of each footstep must be deliberate and focused on stability. This will become automatic with practice.

  • When moving uphill step over small rocks, not on them.
  • On boulder terrain, use the stiffness of your boots sole to ‘bridge’ between rocks.
  • If you are forced to cross boulders, step directly on top of the boulders, moving slowly from one to another, always ready to hop to the next if the one you’re standing on shifts or rolls.
  • Look at rocks and judge what leverage you’ll be applying before you step. Will it move? If it does what will I do? What’s my next step going to be?
  • In grassy areas step on the uphill side of the grass tufts – the ground is more stable
  • In areas of boulders look for texture on the rock on which to get grip. Choose lichen-covered rocks, since lichen is usually a sign of long-term stability, the rock is less likely to move.

Walking in Groups

Walking in a group can be a challenge for many people. You may not be able to maintain your favoured pace, and on narrow trails, stopping can hold up the whole group. However we need to adapt to the situation finding our most efficient pace and walking style whilst still in the group.

 

Experienced walkers will often have forgotten what it was like on their early treks so will set a pace inexperienced walkers cannot maintain. When walking in a mixed group, remember newbies will take longer to get ready, walk slower and stop more frequently. Experienced walkers can assist the group by helping newbies with packing, advice and befriending them whilst walking. The conversation can help them maintain a faster pace. If they are still slow however, perhaps offer to carry some of their load, or simply accept the slower walking speed.

Group sizes should ideally be small, but commercial treks become unviable in very small groups so they tend to be larger. Large groups have a greater impact on the land, local population and other trail users. Also the bigger the group, the more there will be differences in abilities.

Walking in a group has other benefits. More knowledge and expertise to draw on, easier to carry loads, bigger range of interests and experiences to share, better safety. However you will also be less likely to see wildlife in a large noisy group.

If there are children in the group, everyone will have to realise that the pace will be much slower. There are advantages though as children tend to see much more than adults do. For the child the experience is totally new and opens their eyes to the wonders and excitement of the natural environment. Adults can be reawakened to this as well by the children’s excitement.

A few tips for walking in a group:

  • Discuss at the start of the day how the group will plan the day. How often will stops be? Fast or slow pace? What will the group do if someone is battling?
  • In a group, try not to get too close to the person in front – 3m is already too close as:
    • You can’t anticipate foot placements
    • You can’t compensate for changes in place
    • You can’t compensate for sudden stops
  • Try not to get too far away from the group – if the group gets too spread-out the leader has to stop too frequently to re-group which ruins everyone’s pace.

Walking Through Bush

Trails often have sections of dense bush – especially in the gullies where rivers flow. Certain precautions make walking in bush easier:

  • Allow additional space between yourselves to allow for branches flicking back
  • Remove your hat – the brim obscures the branches you’re going to hit your head on.
  • Be aware of the possibility of stumbling across wild animals who may be frightened by your sudden appearance.

Waterlogged Ground

Trails will invariably try to avoid waterlogged ground, but if the weather has been very wet this may not be possible. The mud becomes very difficult to cross with each step becoming an effort as the mud sucks at your boots trying to keep you in one spot.

If you have to cross waterlogged ground, try to follow as many of the following hard spots as possible. Look for and follow natural hard spots. Tufts of grass will often provide a firm footing, as will the ground around larger trees a shrubs. Rocks also provide hard stepping-stones. Your poles come in handy for balance here.

Steep Terrain

Most walking routes will avoid steep terrain, but they do not always do this. If you have to walk in steep terrain there are additional skills and knowledge which can make life easier and safer for you.

Gullies are narrow areas which channel falling rocks like a funnel, so avoid entering or passing below a gully when sun is melting snow or ice, loosening rocks above or when there is a group ascending or descending the gully. If you have to climb a gully, do so one at a time, and don’t climb directly above or below companions. You could send a rock flying onto someone below you. If staggered travel is impossible, walk close together so rocks loosened by one walker doesn’t have time to gain speed before striking those below. If a stone goes flying, shout “Rock!” to alert others. Wearing a helmet is wise if they are available.

Be very weary of climbing up unknown gullies or slopes unless your leaders / guides have specifically told you to. Scrambling upward is always safer and less awkward than coming down, because your eyes lead your body, making holds easier to find. That’s the reason people get stuck up high, they’ve climbed up through sections they later find too frightening or difficult to descend. Look down while going up, imagining yourself coming back down. Don’t like what you see? Then turn around before you get too high.

The constant freeze and thaw of some environments loosens potential hand-holds. These can come off suddenly if pulled on, causing falls or showering loose stones on others. Test every hold before you rely on it; pull, hit or kick down to see if it shifts and listen for a hollow sound which means the hold is loose.

If you have to cross snow slopes, check the “run-out”, the place you’d end up if you slipped and slid. Don’t cross hard snow if there is a cliff or hard rocks below. Look for a crossing place with a smooth soft run out of snow or grass that will catch you.

Moving Up Hill

Ascending is physically more difficult than descending, but is easier for most people as your eyes can easily see where to go and what the next safe step is. When descending your vision is less clear and often you cannot see exactly what you are going to step onto making for a more hazardous movement.

A few points to remember when moving uphill on steep terrain.

  • The first tip is do not rush. Constant slow movement will get you to the top faster than trying to race up. By constant movement we include mini breaks of a few seconds to get your breath back. It does not mean you cannot stop.
  • Look backwards often to see how much you have climbed. The top always seems far away, but when looking back you will be reassured that you are gaining height.
  • Soft scree is hard to go up (two steps up and one step back), but great to go down. Try to kick toe steps and create platforms for firm footing. For better traction zigzag with your feet angled across the slope rather than pointing straight up.
  • On harder surfaces with stones on them, put your toe on the slope and heels onto a stone. This will help level out your foot-bed.
  • Employ the mountaineer’s rest step to conserve energy in very steep terrain. With each step, pause for a breath or two with your lower knee locked, bearing weight on your skeletal structure.
  • Loosen any pack straps that inhibit your ability to twist and turn or step high. For instance, the “stabilizer straps” on the sides of your hip-belt, shoulder straps and load-lifters, but do not make them so loose that you become unbalanced.
  • Loosen the upper laces on tall, stiff boots so your ankle can flex fully forward to relieve strain on the Achilles tendon.
  • When moving uphill step over small rocks, not on them.

Moving Down Hill

Moving downhill can be more dangerous because it is not as easy to see the footholds you will use, and because the mind thinks it’s easier so relaxes your concentration just when you need to concentrate more. Make an effort to keep concentration high when descending slopes. Most accidents happen on the downhill section of trails.

  • The best way to go down a steep, soft surface such as snow, scree or soil is to plunge your heels hard into the surface (Plunge Step) with your knees slightly bent. Bend forward at the waist slightly for stability.
  • Pull your pack’s hip-belt and stabilizer straps comfortably snug to prevent your load from shifting.
  • When crossing slippery slopes, use the edge of the boot to ‘cut in’ to the slope to make a more comfortable footing.
  • On harder surfaces with stones on them, put your heel on the slope and toes onto a stone. This will help level out your foot-bed.
  • Lace your boots snugly by lacing the lower half of the laces tight for optimal support and stability, and to avoid jamming your toes into the front of the boots.
  • In descent, the centre of gravity should be over the load bearing leg which prevents tumbling forward.
  • Step down moderately steep slopes sideways crab style. This will assist with keeping good balance and allows edging with the boot for good stability.
  • When descending steep terrain, “Bum It” by facing away from the slope and go down “crab” style, using your bum for friction (but don’t let your pack launch you out from the slope). As the descent steepens, face sideways to the slope. This allows a good view of holds and the route below. When it’s nearly vertical, face directly into the slope, just like when climbing down a ladder.