What is the best way to Honor the lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic?

Respect. Honor. Remembrance.

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” – World Health Organization.

This post is challenging because I know how emotionally charged COVID-19 is, primarily due to the devastation felt by so many. It’s difficult to separate noise from the truth these days – so I listen to my gut as I evaluate what people say and how their actions speak to that. What does someone stand to gain from what they’re sharing? Is there any conflict of interest?

We’re over a year into the pandemic now – which allows us to examine data to remove uncertainty around ‘what ifs.’ This is critical to take emotion out of our thinking as we make informed decisions on how to move forward.

This article serves to expand the scope of understanding and alleviate any fear built up around this virus and ‘opening up.’

Setting the Stage with Context

I’m saddened by the breakdown of “trusted” sources incapable of exploring all the possibilities, especially with anything contrary to the main narrative of COVID-19. I admit, being at the epicenter in New York as it turned into a ghost of its usual self last year, I was gravely concerned. For loved ones, and humanity at large. It immediately spilled into my behavior, cleaning every item from the grocery store before packing it away.

At that stage with fear circulating about the potential death rate of COVID-19, my biggest fear grew: what about people living in shacks where social distancing isn’t an option?

As it stands, 2.9* million souls have died. That’s 2.9 million families, friends, colleagues, partners mourning a loved one. My deepest sympathies go out to each of them – especially as funerals and gatherings have been stripped from them too.  

Death is deeply personal, painful, and tragic. Never in history has our mortality been forced onto our radar simultaneously around the world. In most western culture’s death is taboo, not spoken about, never mind thought of as part of our journey.

That’s another topic entirely – but necessary to put context into our fear currently.

I applaud everyone’s genuine concern and desire to reduce deaths; however, taking a meta-view around what the lockdowns are doing has created one wish:

Can the care we exhibit to save people’s lives, be equally shown for the quality of people’s lives?

Growing up in South Africa exposed me to the reality of poverty. It’s heartbreaking. The exposure has entrenched a deeper perspective to evaluate decisions made in society more broadly and to think about its impact.

Like lockdowns.

This is where it starts getting a bit uncomfortable, maybe even heated for some. As it should! These are tough conversations to wrap our minds around, but it’s necessary to evaluate all sides, after all – isn’t that how we come to the best solutions?

I get suspicious when Facebook and YouTube start ‘deciding’ what’s suitable for us to hear and censor conversations contrary to the current narrative – like the fact that vitamin C is shown to help not just with coronavirus – but all colds and flu. Please take the time to listen to Dr. Andrew Saul talk about this censorship and details the benefit of vitamin C to save lives.

Life.

Possibly the most sacred word that encapsulates this precious gift our experience on this gorgeous planet truly is. This interview comes from someone that values it deeply – I don’t feel the same from mainstream media or governments. Shouldn’t we gladly embrace anything (no matter how simple it may appear) that saves lives?

I do wonder whether the heightened fear-based reactions to this pandemic has a deeper meaning, is it less about dying – and rather the confrontation about how we’re living? What we’re not doing with our life now?

The fear of a life unlived?

I certainly haven’t done everything I should’ve at this point in my life. I’m not immune to the human condition of failing to live up to my capabilities. Death is a reminder about why it’s necessary to work through blockages and live according to my beliefs and values. Knowing I will die – is why my focus is measuring how many people get an opportunity to use their life to express their talents?

I’ve always had a fatalistic view of life from as young as I can remember, but one traumatic event cemented this way of thinking.  

At 23, armed robbers stormed the store I was working in and robbed us. I couldn’t help notice his hand holding the gun shaking.

The first accidental shot fires off – ricocheting off the floor into my colleague’s leg. Moments later, the second shot fires off – bouncing off the floor and passing through my trouser material, narrowly missing my leg.

Next, he raised the gun – I didn’t wait to see if it was aimed at my head. I lifted my arms and bowed my head in submission – waiting for the third gunshot, wondering where it could hit me and survive.

It never came.

I could just as easily have been killed that day.

That day showed me how little control I have over what happens to me, and I started saying ‘yes’ to life more than I said ‘no.’ That created 18 years’ worth of ‘bonus’ experiences: the opportunity to experience living in the U.K. and USA, live in major cities like London, Cape Town, San Francisco, and New York; countless friends made, love shared & found with my wife, beauty felt. Almost gone in one moment.

Building an Awareness around our Outrage

Since then, my journey has incrementally developed my understanding of the lack of equal opportunities in South Africa, and frankly, throughout the world. This brings me to my wish: the quality of people’s lives.

Why does this matter?

Well – I see rage and judgment expressed about masks but is that rage expressed about people living in poverty?

We need to be honest with ourselves – In February, at the peak of the pandemic, the daily deaths worldwide were 17,704 – compare that to 10,000 children dying from starvation every day.

25,000 if you include adults.

Please read that again.

UNICEF estimates an additional 130 million people threatened by starvation through lockdowns, with an additional 150 million people pushed into extreme poverty.

I understand why the outrage is unequal – if I don’t experience it, why would it be a priority?

The reality is we have as much inequality in outrage – as we do in wealth.

I have no issue with outrage – as long as it’s not just focused on what affects your privileges. It’s easy to be outraged when we have the bandwidth to contemplate it; most people impacted by the decisions being made have no bandwidth – they’re just trying to survive and feed their families.

We are not responsible for a human being’s suffering – but we can be part of the solution to change their life once today.

We mustn’t get bogged down in comparing life’s challenges – but being aware is essential to provide context to our outrage and think about what we choose to chastise others over publicly. Is [insert outrage topic] really the standards we should hold ourselves accountable to? I understand how complicated it is to teach children on Zoom – I’ve seen it. Yet there are families without books, never mind laptops, for their children to learn.

There are 1.6 billion children out of school because of worldwide lockdowns. I imagine the quality for the majority of children learning online dropped dramatically too. Having spoken to my friend that teaches – the quantity of work just to get by is staggering.

I wonder how many ‘thank yous’ they’ve received? If you’re reading this take this as my highest gratitude for your service.

I also have the utmost respect for parents juggling work, homeschooling, stress, emotions, partners, and more. I can understand, too, if parents’ outrage is fueled by having no bandwidth to process the current circumstances. Life is unbelievably complex at the moment.

It’s an unbelievably tough situation we find ourselves in; everyone deserves our respect as we collectively mourn the loss of loved ones.

Let’s start thinking about how we honor their memories and the sacrifice these souls have made going forward. It’s time for compassion.

How do we honor those that have died from COVID-19?

I heard a beautiful purpose-led discussion with Dr. Zach Bush on the Rich Roll podcast initially aired a year ago, on March 26th, 2020. His heartfelt hope-filled epilogue directed at nurses, doctors, and practitioners on the front lines succinctly encapsulates the spirit of what I’d love us to embody:

“Life is something much greater than human. Life is a gift. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of the loss, and get better at acknowledging the gain of a life well-lived. This was a person that loved, it’s a person that has created in their lifetime. ….. a state of being that is free of fear, let them be part of the message that this virus is trying to teach us. Let them know that it is not in vain, that we will learn from this, that we have taken too many steps away from our purpose, our real nature, our real potential. Let them know that they are part of the rise of consciousness on the planet and not the collapse of biology. 

Yes, this disease is killing people. Yes, we want to protect as many people as possible – but there are alternatives that aren’t born from fear.

Let’s stop trying to box everything as right or wrong. We can simultaneously hold two opposing views: this virus creates suffering through death, and it causes suffering through lockdowns. There are over 40 million new jobless claims as thousands of small businesses close and people’s ability to earn a living is shattered.

The speed at which this virus spread across the world has shown us how connected we truly are – we can use that to spread positivity just as quickly.

Let’s break down lockdowns, asymptomatic spreading, and our own immune system as a start.

LOCKDOWNS

If lockdowns worked – the truth is we wouldn’t be in this position today. A detailed open letter to the FBI has been put together from ten prominent figures regarding lockdowns’ validity (and criminality).

We are writing this letter to request that a federal investigation be commenced and/or expedited regarding the scientific debate on major policy decisions during the COVID-19 crisis. In the course of our work, we have identified issues of a potentially criminal nature and believe this investigation necessary to ensure the interests of the public have been properly represented by those promoting certain pandemic policies.

This document is compiled by Michael Senger (lawyer), Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding (he has extensive knowledge in trading with China) Sanjeev Sabhlok, Ph.D. (from India), and Maajid Nawaz (political activist & the founding chairman of Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank that seeks to challenge the narratives of Islamist extremists) to name a few.

The full article (a 69-minute read) is available here for you to see the detail they provide to back up each point in their investigation. Namely:

  • Evidence about the origin and historical precedent of lockdowns;
  • The scientific literature and debate behind them;
  • The provenance and quality of predominant COVID-19 testing protocols and models;
  • The motivations, biases, and qualifications of confident prominent lockdown supporters; and
  • The source of public-facing communications surrounding these policies.

Re lockdowns, they say:

“Not only are lockdowns historically unprecedented in response to any previous epidemic or pandemic in American history, but they are not so much as mentioned in recent guidance offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). Judge Stickman continues:

“Indeed, even for a ‘Very High Severity’ pandemic (defined as one comparable to the Spanish Flu), the guidelines provide only that ‘CDC recommends voluntary home isolation of ill persons,’ and ‘CDC might recommend voluntary home quarantine of exposed household members in areas where novel influenza circulates.’ This is a far, far cry from a statewide lockdown”

This begs the question as to why all governments have been so quick to implement this?

ASYMPTOMATIC SPREADING

One of my biggest worries (and I imagine all of ours) was this notion that we could feel fine, have the virus, and spread it to loved ones and possibly those that are elderly or immune-compromised. Not only has this never been the case with any virus in history, but ALL the data ‘supporting’ this comes from China. No other country has been able to replicate this scientific analysis.

DATA ON CONSEQUENCES OF LOCKDOWNS

“Data from the website yelp.com has shown that over 60% of business closures during the COVID-19 crisis are now permanent, amounting to more than 97,000 businesses lost in the U.S. Nearly half of black-owned small businesses have been wiped out. Unemployment in the United States reached as high as 14.7% and highways jammed with thousands of vehicles awaiting their turn at food banks. Nearly 5% of the United Kingdom population went hungry during the first three weeks of lockdown.”

If governments are so concerned about helping minorities – enforcing prolonged lockdowns is clearly counterintuitive.

INCREASE IN SUICIDE

“In Japan, government statistics show suicide claimed more lives in October than Covid-19 has over the entire year to date.

And, despite being at virtually no risk from COVID-19, as a result of lockdowns, children have suffered the most of all. Nearly one in four children living under COVID-19 lockdowns, social restrictions, and school closures are dealing with feelings of anxiety, with many at risk of lasting psychological distress. In recent surveys of children and parents in the U.S., Germany, Finland, Spain, and the U.K. by Save the Children, up to 65% of the children struggled with feelings of isolation.

Children’s health and intellectual development have regressed.”

We are going to have to work very hard with our youth to manage their mental well-being.

Their conclusion finishes with a chilling understanding about why we all go along with it:

“For the general public, the idea that anyone might accept some outside incentive to support such devastating policies while knowing them to be ineffective — needlessly bankrupting millions of families and depriving millions of children of education and food — is, quite simply, too dark. Thus, the public supports lockdowns because the alternative — that they might have been implemented without good cause — is a possibility too evil for most to contemplate. But those who know history know that others with superficially excellent credentials have done even worse for even less.”

This is why it’s incumbent of us to speak up and share these facts with people still scared by a narrative that stands behind ‘back the science’ – but has failed to provide a report what that science is as this.

IMMUNE SYSTEM

I am not a medical doctor. In no way am I giving medical advice – I’m a concerned citizen who researches this information to share. It’s for you to ask your doctor and make your own decision.

I posted the link to the video on Vitamin C and how anything on Facebook or YouTube related to natural remedies was hidden, suppressed, censored. Why?

Why would something cheap, easy to do, and SAVES LIVES be suppressed like this??

Sadly, the main driver looks like money. What has a more significant margin – a vaccine or a box of vitamin C?

$40 for a new vaccine that hasn’t been tested against all strains, OR

$20 for 250 doses of immune support? (a daily cost of 8c)

One is man-made – the other produced by all animals naturally as a defense mechanism. Even though we lived in the epicenter in New York for a couple months, I was never fearful. I believe in the power of our immune system – after all, ours is the product of thousands of years of evolution, tweaking, adapting, and allowing the human race to still be around.

So why isn’t there a focus on the impact lifestyle has on our immune system?

I only know about this because I benefitted from my formative years being a wasteland of infections: whooping cough, mumps (which took the last of my hearing in my left ear), tonsilitis, ear infections by the dozen, chickenpox – all cast indescribable trauma on my parents spending endless days and nights worrying about me in hospital. In a heartbreaking moment enduring another whooping cough episode, I declared, ‘I don’t want to be Andrew anymore.’  I can’t imagine what that did to my parents.

Little did I know this was my immune systems Navy SEAL training to become an elite force against infections. I haven’t had a flu shot since leaving school – and might have had flu once?

Being Careful Doesn’t Make Me “Anti”

The vaccine story becomes even trickier because there are loads of factors to evaluate the risk factor. Age bracket; Health, pre-existing conditions, diet. the current number of deaths in my age group (the US only) is 0.04% – that’s without looking at any other health factors. If you have pre-existing conditions, are worried for your health or life, or in an age bracket where you feel concerned – I genuinely hope you’re able to be vaccinated soonest and feel comforted with added protection.

Again – I’m perplexed how much emphasis has been given to vaccines as THE support for our immune systems.

I understand why masks and vaccines have become people’s savior. Our immune system is complex, and also our responsibility to manage.

Society is only as strong as our weakest link. Imagine how different this past year would’ve been if we had a healthier population? There are many reasons for disease, and I hope a spotlight is shed on the importance of food being a source of medicine for our bodies. I’ve been saddened by the lack of communication in media and government about what people can do to strengthen their immune systems.

There’s a wonderful article by Harvard Medical School with 9 simple ways to build a healthy lifestyle that supports a robust immune system. There’s no silver bullet, and it’s up to each of us to decide what a healthy lifestyle looks like and means to us.

Worst of all: fear switches off the immune system.

It’s a fascinating evolutionary development. Think of your immune system as an army; when an army is at war, they need additional food and resources to defeat an enemy. That means whatever energy we have is dedicated to the effort of defeating them. Now imagine suffering from an infection and coming across a tiger. The body recognizes the tiger is a more immediate lethal threat, thus diverting all energy resources to the flight receptors  (your legs, lungs, and heart) to speedily escape!

It can’t do both.

Engaging in endless hours of fear-driven media, YouTube or T.V, listening to how many new cases and deaths is the equivalent of coming across a tiger. We’re literally cutting off our own supply chain to the army designed to defeat the enemy. That’s like living in fear of being burgled and constantly leaving your front door wide open.

What we feed our minds, is as important as what we feed our bodies.

How do we build a more engaged, conscious community?

I hope understanding the complexity of health is the start.

Becoming armed with as many facts to remove emotional bias eliminates fear-based irrational responses. Commit to listening to all sides of a discussion with an open mind – like people at The Great Barrington Declaration, which say:

As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.

Coming from both the left and right and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health – leading to more significant excess mortality in years to come. The working class and younger members of society are carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

My dad sent me a well-constructed video by actuaries articulating all these points. This was shared by a Biz news – one of the few media outlets with this assertion: their community’s intelligence should never be underestimated and they never overestimate their knowledge on a topic.

I love that. This is essentially what this article is all about.

Right on cue – YouTube has taken down the video citing “….removed for violating Community Guidelines” – utter RUBBISH. Thankfully, PANDA has a backup so you can visit their website (Pandemic – Data & Analytics) and see what they’re doing for yourself and peek behind the curtain of the digital dystopia YouTube are busy creating through censorship.

PANDA’s response to being de-platformed is

“After half a million views, an outpouring of emotional positive responses, no complaints about veracity & 100 likes for every dislike,  BizNews presentation, “The Ugly Truth about the COVID-19 Lockdowns” was de-platformed by YouTube.”

These are reputable sources providing facts and data to support their position. It’s worth taking the time to investigate them all.

The most impactful word I heard Nick Hudson use in his presentation succinctly captures the fear being generated:

Homosapienophobia – everyone is dangerous until proven healthy.

I am glad to confirm that asymptomatic (otherwise known as healthy people) cannot spread the virus.

I am not dismissing the disease or the deaths – simply that the methods being used are not based on reality and are doing severe damage. We can no longer ignore the other side of this coin.

How do we move forward?

With compassion. Towards everyone.

Share this information with as many people as possible to reduce the amount of unnecessary fear being circulated. There’s a reason for concern; yes. Concern is healthy – fear is excessive and detrimental.

  1. Taken from PANDA’s website:

In brief:

  1. Lift all Covid-19 specific restrictions and mandates
  2. Offer protection to vulnerable individuals
  3. End mass testing, contact tracing, quarantining, and lockdowns
  4. Ensure public transparency of all efficacy and safety data of vaccines
  5. Reassert open scientific debate and freedom of speech, opinion, and choice.

This will ease the pressure, but by no means relieve it.

Next, we need to ramp up how we think about building our communities again, incorporating the quality of people’s lives as a priority.

Evaluate our Health

We need to share as many podcasts and information about our micro gut biome (Dr. Zach Bush talks about it but check out his website too!) Spend time learning about how food can fuel and nourish your body to naturally assist your immunity. Watch that Vitamin C discussion!

Get Fit & Build Community at the same time.

Let’s honor the lives lost in the best possible way – and work together to build ubuntu into every act we take moving forward. I’ve created the 50in50 challenge to stay fit, challenge my mind, and build community by raising funds for education and housing – I’m nine weeks in. It has two aspects:

  1. Recreate each American State’s outline using my sports tracker,
  2. Climb the equivalent of every state’s elevation by the end – roughly 365 Empire State buildings, an average of nearly 2km of vertical climbing (1,2 miles) every Saturday morning.

This isn’t about how much – it’s about participating and getting support in the process. If you think the numbers above are out of reach – note that I started with 103 flights a year ago (44 minutes) creating a 12-week plan to incrementally built up my fitness, taking a further eight weeks to reach 660 flights (my current capabilities). We’re talking about building a healthy sustainable lifestyle.

It’s not about how much we do – it’s about committing to building the practice. Pledge to join whenever your state comes up (see list for each week below) while using it as a way to invite people to make investments in building communities again. No amount is too small and there’s strength in numbers, after all – for someone with nothing, our something – means everything.

All while creating a healthy lifestyle that contributes to a robust immune system.

I’m committed to demonstrating there are no quick fixes, but we can develop sustainable healthy habitats filled with purpose aligned to our true values. We can create a world where we grow and use resources to support those without hope and opportunity with a hand up. Who’s with me?

Please share with someone you know is feeling overwhelmed by everything, and if that’s you – reach out to me and let’s chat.

After all, my mother taught me well:

A problem shared is a problem halved.

VIRGINIA23 April 2021
NEW YORK30 April 2021
NORTH CAROLINA07 May 2021
RHODE ISLAND14 May 2021
VERMONT21 May 2021
KENTUCKY28 May 2021
TENNESSEE04 June 2021
OHIO11 June 2021
LOUISIANA18 June 2021
INDIANA25 June 2021
MISSISSIPPI02 July 2021
ILLINOIS09 July 2021
ALABAMA16 July 2021
MAINE23 July 2021
MISSOURI30 July 2021
ARKANSAS06 August 2021
MICHIGAN13 August 2021
FLORIDA20 August 2021
TEXAS27 August 2021
IOWA03 September 2021
WISCONSIN10 September 2021
CALIFORNIA17 September 2021
MINNESOTA24 September 2021
OREGON01 October 2021
KANSAS08 October 2021
WEST VIRGINIA15 October 2021
NEVADA22 October 2021
NEBRASKA29 October 2021
COLORADO05 November 2021
NORTH DAKOTA12 November 2021
SOUTH DAKOTA19 November 2021
MONTANA26 November 2021
WASHINGTON03 December 2021
IDAHO10 December 2021
WYOMING17 December 2021
UTAH24 December 2021
OKLAHOMA31 December 2021
NEW MEXICO07 January 2022
ARIZONA14 January 2022
ALASKA21 January 2022
HAWAII28 January 2022
WASHINGTON04 February 2022
SOUTH AFRICA11 February 2022

Turning Dreams Into Reality ~ What the Grand Canyon Can Teach You

Life’s greatest experiences lie on the other side of overcoming challenges

We all have dreams and aspirations, but not all of us turn them into reality.

Born with varying degrees of opportunity, circumstances and resources – they act as unique challenges to overcome in order to realise our dreams. One thing we all possess though, is the capacity to make a decision to change our circumstances.

Wanting to do just that, I stumbled across Jim Rohn. As they say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. His video ‘ How To Set Goals For The Life You Want And How To Actually Achieve Them‘ details the power of writing down your goals. Goals are broken down into career, personal development, the things you want, the places to go (my focus today) and the people to meet. The aim: to tick them off and keep adding new ones. This gives you something to aim for and celebrate as you accomplish them.

This was in 2016; The Grand Canyon was 18th on my list. 3 years and some change later, words on paper become a link to one of the greatest days of my life.

This is by far my longest post, but just as the Canyon isn’t described as ‘Little’, so too would a 5 minute read do this an injustice. Get comfy as I take you on a journey.

The purpose is to develop your power by building a habit of listening to your thoughts and desires, writing them down, and taking the next step to make them come true.

If you want to 'cheat' - scroll to the bottom and see which lessons resonate with you, and apply in your own life.  

Nothing could prepare me for the Grand Canyon. Nothing.

Firstly, I need to give you some context into why this dream metabolising into reality is so meaningful.

The Grand Canyon is our third stop in two days as we embark on an epic road trip organised by Jessie. Covering 1 215km (755 miles) across Nevada, Utah and Arizona from Las Vegas to Phoenix with nothing but the best nature has to offer in between.

One epic road trip

Today’s our most adventurous by far. It starts with a 3am wake up to watch the Springbok rugby team play England in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan. It’s worth it – we beat them for our 3rd title, becoming the only team never to lose a final. You must understand though – 18 months prior we were probably at our lowest point in history. Two men’s leadership is what turned it around: The coach, Rassie Erasmus and our inspirational captain Siya Kolisi. Together they transformed a team at it lowest into the worlds best in record time.

It happens to be at the last place with WiFi to watch! We’d driven to Bryce Canyon yesterday from Zion, arriving as the sun kissed the horizon goodnight in a clear sky leaving in its wake a trail of colours melting into each other.

It’s November 2nd – and it’s freezing.

Sunrise is at 7:57 and pumped full of adrenalin there’s zero chance of going back to sleep, Jessie and I grab breakfast mercifully open at 6am. It’s all working out perfectly, giving us an hour to find a spot overlooking the canyon to enjoy the magic of sunrise.

We… are totally unprepared. The car says -11° C (12° F). The heater’s full blast but eventually we have to bite the bullet and leave our sanctuary, immediately my bodys like ‘what what WHAAAAT?!?!’

We’re 2 700m (9 0000ft) above sea level with the landscape dropping away from us. It feels like we’re on top of the world.

A cloudless sky is dotted with the final specks of stars, holding on for dear life to be seen. The horizon flickers with orange and yellow gradually burning the lilac sky as the sun is reborn.

Even the monotone dark shadow of the Canyon starts morphing into lighter shades revealing jagged monoliths rising out of the valley, as if protecting the ground running away from the rims edge.

Whatever pain we suffer thanks to the cold for this – it’s worth it. I’d balanced my phone close to the edge supported by a rock to ensure a steady time lapse video. Nature puts that adrenalin to use, a breeze picks up and blows my phone over the edge. Thankfully, I anticipated this and before Jessie even knows whats happened I’ve dived across grabbing it on its bobsled ride down. Barring almost losing my phone down the cliff, I hope this is a sign of what’s to come.

You’ll see it fall over the edge at the end 🙂

We head south across the Utah border into Arizona, spending over five and a half hours in the car covering 500km (311 miles) so we’re both thankful it’s autumn as the midday sun beats down through our windscreen.

My first clue to how unprepared I am for the sight of Grand Canyon should’ve been at Horseshoe Bend. I don’t ever recall seeing pictures of it before googling the Grand Canyon on this drive. It grabbed my attention amongst the plethora of pictures, but it never crossed my mind to check where it is.

We’d quickly stopped at Lake Powell to walk across the bridge admiring the dam wall and the river gorge. It’s already impressive, at 305m (1000ft) the Chrysler building would be devoured with just 14m of the spire visible.

It certainly gets my juices flowing, but we’re completely oblivious to the fact that Horseshoe Bend is 10 minutes away. Sometimes not having everything planned out leaves space for beautiful surprises.

The flat fifteen minute walk up to the edge does its job to erode any expectation. Geography taught me about horseshoe bends as part of river ecology, who knew I’d see THE Horseshoe Bend. Eventually the river will cut through the bend creating an oxbow lake. Just a couple more millions years I guess, it’s only taken 5 to get here.

Everything ‘missing’ below us – is thanks to the tireless carving skills of the Colorado River.

That. Blows my mind.

I’m not afraid of heights, but standing on the edge certainly gives my stomach butterflies. A boat making its way upstream to visit a group camping on the riverbank helps add scale. It’s breath taking – what an unexpected treasure!

The next three-hours is a mixture of flat lands quickly morphing into majestic twisting mountain passes. Huge shadows in the distance usually reserved for clouds reveal deep cracks in the earth – as though an earthquakes ripped it open.

Finally, we turn off the freeway towards the Parks South Rim gate. The lengthy journey’s been building my excitement to fulfill a dream born 15 543km (9 658 miles) away. Much like the walk to horseshoe bend, the drive into the park is unassuming dense with trees either side.

And then it happens.

‘Navajo Viewpoint’.

I might look calm but inside I’m like anyone ten seconds away from meeting their hero. My eyes are teased with snippets. Stepping through the trees the true scale slams into you as though opening a door to a flooded room.

It’s the kind of beauty worth traveling from distant galaxies to see. It stirs something deep inside.

One thing’s for sure, the word ‘Grand’ doesn’t do it any justice.

To put the scale into perspective – the distance from the rock of Gibraltar to Africa’s nearest point is 14km (9 miles) which is almost 4 kilometers (2 miles) LESS  than the widest gap between the north and south rim and instead of flat like the ocean textured with colour and millions of years of craftmanship. This chasm easily fits one and a half Table Mountains from Cape Town. The late afternoon sun caresses every undulation for the shadows to act as guides for our eyes.

The top of the cake is the whiteish Kaibab limestone, which gives way to a sheer wall of Coconino Sandstone of similar colour. Next the rock changes outfit to a redder colour as first the Hermit Shale dazzles your eyes before the Supai Group takes over the baton. Now it’s the Redwall Limestone having a turn before the red shade is replaced by the grey Mauv limestone. We’re getting closer to the Canyon floor as an infusion of the green, purple and browny red layer of Bright Angel Shale hooks our attention. Tapeats and Great Unconformity layers add some yellow before the lowest layer currently dancing with the river, is Vishnu Schist, a dark grey granite.

These are just a taste of the 40 layers that combine to create one of the most jaw dropping inspired moments of my life. How amazing Jessie and I are both in our 40th year seeing it for the first time together.

I’m grateful it’s so quiet too. The perfect soundtrack for this view is silence, instilling grandeur usually reserved for mountains.

In this moment, nothing but love and peace exists.

Under the Canvas

We’re still 50 minutes away from our ‘home’ for two nights, enough time for the stirred waters to settle.

We’ve already hiked 15.5km (just under 10 miles) in Zion and Bryce Canyon’s 4km ‘quickie’ was the equivalent of scaling the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco (61 flights) racking up 5 hours on our legs. We have all day Sunday to explore so we’re eager to chat to the staff to figure out what our best options are to maximise our time.

Enter Krocky, a Canyon expert and nominee for ‘Best First Impression Ever’.

Table Mountain taught me the importance of asking an experienced local the right questions. There’s already a handy guide describing route options detailing distances, elevation drop/gain, time it’ll take and difficulty levels as you can see below. My point is made with this line about attempting a rim to river hike:

If you think you have the fitness and expertise to attempt this extremely strenuous hike, please seek advice from a park ranger.

Really fantastic way of clearly describing the options

Fitness: I’ve been training like a demon possessed in San Francisco in preparation for my next challenge averaging 150 flights of stairs per day over anything from 2-3 hours. That’s almost doing Table Mountain up and down every day. As for Jessie? I watched her fly across 10 time zones and smash 6 consecutive climbs up Table Mountain. I’m not worried. She’s a machine.

Expertise: Our backpack will have food, water, space blankets, a torch, a backup charger for the phones, maps of the routes, emergency numbers, warm clothes and snacks for good measure. With sunrise at 6:52 and sunset at 17:30 a start latest 8:30 gives us a 9 hour window to finish; excluding a 30 minute twilight bonus period.

The weather looks perfect, so my biggest concern is time.

Krocky patiently listens to our detailed explanation of what we’ve done through his experienced lens of a Canyon veteran. To his credit, he’s not outright telling us not to go all the way down – he makes sure we’re being realistic about our capabilities, which I respect. I’ve seen too many people unprepared on Table Mountain putting others lives at risk not to take this seriously.

“Just so you know – when I hauled ass, I took 3 hours to get down to the river on the South Kaibab trail. It’s 4700ft drop in elevation you’ll need to climb back up, so if you do this it’s going to be one heck of a day”

Krocky had our full undivided attention, we’re grateful for his time. I quickly calculate 3 hours 30 minutes down gives us 5 hours and 30 minutes to climb up including time for breaks. I know we can climb Table Mountain in an hour – which although shorter in distance is far steeper than the Grand Canyon.

So far so good. Plus my intuition isn’t sounding any alarm bells.

“Now South Kaibab has no water on it at all – it has two bathroom stops but no water. So if you come back up that way you’re gonna need enough water to get home. You’re lucky, November’s probably the best month all year to do this. Don’t be fooled though it could be snowing at the top and 75° (24° Celsius) at the river. Use loads of sunscreen.”

We’re starting at the coldest time of the day, so if we’re warm with enough space in the backpack to shed layers later – we’re golden.

“Now if you do make it all the way down – and again I’m not recommending you do – but if you do, I highly recommend coming up the Bright Angel Trail which will finish at the Grand Canyon village. Depending on what you decide, leave your car there and catch the park bus across to the start of South Kaibab trail. Not only does this route have water points, but essentially you have a river / stream running next to you the entire time. If you run into any rangers by all means – DO NOT tell them your going all the way to the river”

Boy am I glad I ended our hike early on Friday to leave some extra gas in the tank for the legs! Krocky gives us a knowing grin.

“Be safe out there and enjoy the Canyon – you’re in for a treat”

He wasn’t lying.

A Day Steeped in Awe

Some ‘technical difficulties’ with the fire stove in our tent means we got smoked out. Opening the ‘window’ and ‘door’ flaps wide open in freezing conditions to clear it isn’t ideal. It’s only the next day, after sharing with reception what I thought was my poor fire making skills, that the manager himself checked it out and finds that the chimney’s blocked. Unfortunately, after a long day I wasn’t thinking straight which means no fire – and sleeping in freezing tent.

Jessie ends up putting on all the clothes she’d laid out to get dressed in the morning. Long johns, thermal socks, an extra t shirt and about three more layers of jackets – and she’s still cold under our duvet and blanket. I’m envious when I wake up getting changed in the cold.

We’re on target happily sipping coffee and tea warming our hands enjoying a Canyon sunrise. I don’t have the superlatives to express how warm my heart is absorbing the view.

Our plan’s simple: take it as it comes. Our intention is clear: we want to reach the river. If either isn’t sure about making the trip back in time – we’ll immediately turn around.

Under the Canvas are fantastic. They clearly listened to Jessie’s reason for our visit, a pre birthday card and drink waiting for me in our tent. Experiences are not just about what you do – it’s where you stay. Krocky set the stage for how everyone would treat us and after our phenomenal dinner – are disappointed we leave too early to enjoy breakfast. They have us covered though, we’re able to choose a packed lunch prepared fresh before we leave. Our stomachs are incredibly happy about this as both our meals are delicious. After filling our water bottles, we still buy 3L spare. It’s not predicted to be that warm, but rather safe than sorry.

We’re ready.

Parking at the ‘end’ (in case) we wait for the first bus to collect us, only two other  women with almost zero leg coverage with us. Madness! Not just any women though – trail runners. Seriously fit trail runners. They’ve completed Iron Man. Okay that explains the madness.

“You’re running it?? All the way down to the river and back up Bright Angel Trail, wow that sounds insane. How long do you think it’ll take?”

“Uuuuuuum, about 9 hours?”

Jessie and I share a look. Same route. Same hopeful time. Only we’re not running.

“How far down are you guys going?”

With Krocky’s words ringing in my ears I casually respond, ‘Oh we’re don’t know, just gonna see how we feel and decide as we go”

“Yeah that’s a good idea”

It would’ve been fun to see their faces if we told them the truth.

Once the bus drops us off, they set their watches and disappear over the rim. I’m not put off by their estimates, their time doesn’t make sense. If we hadn’t spoken to Krocky we’d probably panic. Although, I’ve learned from my runs up and down mountains in Cape Town that sometimes running wears you out so much, that the difference between power walking and running/walking can be a few minutes. Granted that’s over smaller distances but still. Maintaining a good speed power walking versus burning myself out trying to run is also far more enjoyable. Either way – we’re positive and ready to rock!

We start 3 minutes off our planned time filled with excitement and anticipation. That is, until this sign 7 minutes later:

They don’t mess around with the warning sign, do they?

“Don’t be like Victor!”

I can’t help but laugh. Especially as Jessie points out it’s not a red shirt he’s wearing! Ouch….

It seems a bit extreme, but I guess it’s here for a reason.

We quickly start understanding the scale.  Dropping down we’re able to compare the thin layer on the far northern side to whats around us. That thin line is about a 10-story building and puts the thicker lower layers into perspective, only 445 story’s to go.

Even though we start in freezing temperatures, I’m happy to be in the shade cast by the rims edge. It’s going to be a loooong day, the less we’re in the sun the better. It’s almost an hour before we emerge out of the shadows and need to shed layers.

It’s so unusual climbing down a ‘mountain’ first. It’s completely foreign to me. The path’s wide enough for mules to transport goods and people down to the Phantom Ranch which has basic rooms and only open April to October. Krocky suggested their restaurant to visit – although it will add another 40 minutes to an already arduous hike. Still, it’s good to have options.

The mules follow the opposite route, only going down Bright Angel path and up the South Kaibab trail. We’d see quite a few groups of people using this option, needing to step aside and squeeze against the cliff as they pass. Once all our warm clothes are off and in the backpack, I kind of feel like a mule myself. I laugh thinking about a mule seeing me and saying ‘I’m glad I’m not you buddy’

This trail is predominantly along the ridges, constantly giving us panoramic views to marvel. It takes us 40 minutes to reach our the first reference point on the hiking guide: the majestic vantage point aptly called ‘ooh aah’.

It’s like being on another planet. A cloudless sky highlights the stark contrast of the grey, brown and red layers capped by white icing. Can you imagine being one of the first European explorers arriving here? Crossing the great plains to suddenly arrive at this? No one back home would believe them.

Now you just type ‘Grand Canyon’ in Google and hit images to see every picture linked to that tag word ever taken. It’s not the same though. I’m grateful for that otherwise what would be the point of traveling?

There are precious few that understand what it means to connect to this place more than a day trip. There are 6 Native American tribes, Hualapai, Havasupai, Navajo, Paiute, Novi and Zuni in this region that see it very differently through a myriad of lenses. A place to be feared and respected. A harsh land but a place of opportunity. It’s inspired centuries of cultural expression. It’s sacred to them. A holy site. They share history, but more than anything, they call it home.

Kaibab is a Paiute word and means “Mountain Lying Down,” their term for the Grand Canyon. Much of the hiking trails are based on the old migration paths used by the Native Americans for centuries as they followed the rhythms of nature, and even though this route was made in 1924 – imagine what it must have been like doing this hundreds of years ago. Climbing down commands your respect and full attention and adds to the appreciation of this landscape.

Snaking along the ridge, a vast ‘plateau’ roughly halfway down is sprawled below us. It’s like a plain I imagine reams of wild animals roaming as they forage on the sparse vegetation.

Skeleton Point is our last stop in the ‘be careful’ range before dropping into the red zone. All you can do is marvel at the ‘mountain ranges’ towering above you in every direction. Natures Colosseum. It also means we’ve descended 640m and traveled 4.8km (3 miles). Next is The Tipoff a further 500m down and the equivalent of climbing down Table Mountain to sea level and already 100m back up.

Only we still have another 330m to reach the river.  

The Colorado river looks deceptively close, the turquoise green line meandering between the V shaped jagged cliffs. An Australian couple are nervously contemplating whether they should turn back. I’m grateful for Jessie’s machine like powers; we’re feeling great after 2 hours 20 minutes – comfortable we’re on track to beat sunset.

Less assured, they ask us our plans. We share Krocky’s advice, but they have no food and no warm clothes. Deciding to go the whole way, we pair up and get to chat them for the next 30 minutes down to the river. Sharing where we’re all from – they congratulate me on our win yesterday which is a nice surprise. I’ve become accustomed to few American’s knowing rugby let alone follow the World Cup. They’re on a epic journey themselves, taking three months off to do a road trip in a camper van up the west coast finishing in Canada.

Being over the river on the Kaibab suspension bridge is mind blowing. If this was Horseshoe bend, the cliffs looming above would be the rim. Now that’s the plateau with another entire ‘mountain’ to climb above that.

This is all from erosion. EROSION!! It’s astounding. It’s one thing for existing mountains to change over time thanks to weathering and gravity – this is just erosion?? Okay I suppose gravity must be given some credit too. This is an amazing display of what is possible with patience and time, never giving up and being persistent.

I wander if the dams have impacted the erosion by disrupting the natural cycles at play?

Teddy Roosevelt had the foresight to create national parks and protect the endless beauty on display. He said it best:

“I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

Only One Way: UP

Used to the sheer drop on Table Mountain, this climb’s  been far gentler and manageable, with pockets of steep sections zig zagging down. In contrast though, we’ve traveled 12km (7.5 miles) versus Platteklip’s 2.1km direct route. It’s taken us 3 hours 19 minutes and 11 seconds. I’m comfortable we’re within the range to enjoy a reasonable pace. I’ve had experience climbing up Table Mountain in the dark, so even IF we take longer, I know it’s far safer than if the reverse were true. You’re always stable as you place your next step to stabilise and pull yourself up.

Nevertheless, we cross back over the river on Bright Angel suspension bridge – choosing a shaded spot to eat our packed lunches, fueling the legs for the tougher second half of the journey. We watch a river raft party navigate some rapids, careful to avoid the swirling whirlpool below us.

With a moment to chill at the river, I finally grasp the Victor warning. If this was summer? I’d never make it back up in the heat of the day. Granted – with mid-summer sunsets at 19:48 you have time to start later. I’m sure there’s great places to swim for a couple of hours, but even if there’s shade – the stifling heat radiating out the Canyon must be unbearable. If I ever do this in summer, it’ll be with a night’s stay at the bottom enabling a 5am start for both to beat the heat.

The path follows the river for about 2km before it sharply turns left turn at another toilet station – now with more water to refill. So far, I’d say Krocky’s descriptions have been spot on.

This path is completely different. Climbing up the cracks of the Canyon we’re always dwarfed by towers of rock above us, the only view is what the isn’t obstructed ahead.

TIP: If you only have time or the capacity to see one trail: Pick the South Kaibab Trail and take loads of water.

Both are completely different experiences, but to truly experience the vastness and magnitude of the scale you’re a part of for a moment in time – is inspiring, humbling and its own rite of passage to appreciate.

There are few places that make me feel ‘home’, filling me with deep inner peace and gratitude for the beauty I’m given, wanting only one thing in return: respect.

The Grand Canyon joins Iceland, The Karoo, Table Mountain and Yosemite in my top five.

The perfect day to explore the Grand Canyon

Reflections

The stream means this route is greener and lush with vegetation, even hanging gardens as plants cling to the rock walls as though they have suction cups for roots. The contrast is incredible, and I’m reminded the most important aspects that make today possible:

  • My strong legs that work
  • My healthy body
  • My eye sight
  • Our timing
  • My girlfriend Jessie

On the way down, we’re always aware of what’s coming. Now, it feels like we’re being tormented as each layer above feels like the rim – just to have more cliffs above that. At one point the layers so thick I have to do a ‘pano’ pic just to get it all in. It feels daunting after already completing 800 vertical meters. The never ending tease of another false summit dwarfed by the next challenge.

With an extra 20kgs (44 pounds) on my shoulders, my legs, knees and ankles are managing better than expected – my shoulders and back on the other hand are taking serious strain. Again – I’m eternally grateful for the time of year, as most of the climb happens in the shade. The lower trajectory of the sun allowing the rim to protect us. I’m doing my best to keep a steady pace, constantly monitoring the time to make sure we’re on track. Every now and again seeing glimpses of the Australians further back. They should be okay.

I’m extremely grateful that Jessie’s able to do such extreme things and we’re able to enjoy the conversations that flow while doing these types of things. Today’s talks center around all the emotional challenges that we’ve gone through in our lives and what we’ve learned.

Today’s been a beautiful way see the Grand Canyon – but more importantly FEEL it too. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of nature than up close and personal on your own steam. I now understand my souls calling early in life to make this a ‘must see’ experience in my lifetime. All thanks to Jessie spoiling me for my 40th.

I know I’ll be back.

While I’ve tried to convey what this experience means to me – I can safely tell you that nothing will ever do it justice until you experience it yourself. All I ask – is that you give yourself as much opportunity to explore and watch time evaporate. Don’t cram this in, make it a priority. I believe you’ll leave it with a deeper appreciation for life.

After 7 hours and 39 minutes and 20 seconds covering 27 km (17 miles) – we’re back on the rim. A full hour ahead of schedule with ample time to enjoy a bar snack and well-deserved beer before watching the sun set over this sacred place. The perfect bookend to an unforgettable day.

What a way to celebrate my last Sunday as a ‘thirty something’ year old.

We get back in time to hear Krocky’s tales of the Canyon as part of his unorthodox quiz night, his smile relieved as much as it is congratulatory.

‘Krocky, is this ‘Victor’ sign really necessary’ I say bringing up my picture.

‘Oh yeah! In Summer there’s at least one person every day like that’

There you go. Don’t be like Victor – speak to Krocky and get the best advice for the experience of a lifetime. Although sad to be leaving, we’re given a new dream to reach for as they hand us their ‘passport’ to get stamped at their other locations: Moab, Yellowstone, Glacier Park, Zion, Great Smoky Mountains and Mt Rushmore all great places – but that’s not enough so they’re adding Acadia, Yosemite, Sonoma, Catalina Island and Joshua Tree to the list.

Again – we’re ready! We’re excited to meet each ‘Krocky’ to maximise our experience.

What. A. Day. Now it’s time to cap it off  under the stars, under which even the Grand Canyon is dwarfed.

How does this apply to you as you carve your own life through layers of challenges?

  1. Keep room for spontaneity in your life, the room will always be filled with unexpected treasures.
  2. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will always give you bonus opportunities to enjoy.
  3. Just because you want to do something, doesn’t mean you can. Be realistic about matching your capabilities with what’s required.
  4. Never be too proud to seek council from someone more experienced than you.
  5. Respect nature.
  6. Be prepared. More information makes better decisions resulting in more enjoyable experiences.
  7. Do less in a day with more intention, and the experiences will create profound memories instead of tick boxes you forget like boxes in the garage.
  8. Always be grateful for your experience and timing. Always
  9. Become an ambassador for these oasis of beauty

Goals linked to experiences, enrich your life beyond measure

~ Andrew Patterson

How Can You Learn From A World First?

365 Ubuntu Climbs thank you
Me pictured after finishing my last solo climb, number 366 on January 1st 2019

Thank You

(In about 8 minutes of reading)

Climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 was an idea inspiring me to bring people together focusing on what I can do; instead of on the problems.

It worked.

This has never been done before and having completed it – I know why. It was the most taxing challenge on all levels: Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Everything was tested – and I never had a days respite.

I had plenty of fears and doubts creeping in before and during – but I always knew with every cell in my body that I could achieve this to get peoples attention – and participate. And that was summit Table Mountain. Every. Single. Day.

The greatest lesson you can take away from this, is that all the power and strength it took for me to complete this – lies within you as well; and when you believe that? Will take your life from ordinary to extraordinary.

Below is my thank you letter I sent to all the investors of 365 Ubuntu Climbs. I’ve decided to share it in general too because doing something that’s never been done before, doesn’t happen in isolation. It takes a strategy of what you want to accomplish; how you plan to do that; what help do you need from others; and gratitude to appreciate being able to do all of it.

Here it is:

Thank you for taking action and empowering others, so that:

– 7 families now have a warmer home to come back to after work instead of a shack.
– 30 new families will hear that their loved one has found a match because of the people added to the donor registry, and
– 5 Schools have parents sleeping a bit easier knowing that their children are being taught to read through the books donated because of you.

It’s been a busy year, but that’s no excuse for writing so late – while I may be incredibly disciplined climbing a mountain every day, admin isn’t my strong point and procrastination is a daily battle. Apologies for taking so long to let you know about the final numbers and more importantly – to thank you.

Below I’ve included:

  1. Donation Total
  2. Media Coverage & stats
  3. Links to each charity for continued support
  4. Special mentions – The Monthly club and The Mandela Ubuntu Award
  5. A year in numbers – stats
  6. Cash Handover pictures

It’s hard to put 2018 and my gratitude into a letter. I cannot stress this enough – you were responsible for creating an incredible experience. By receiving this email, you’re in my deepest gratitude and will always hold a special part in my life.

365 Ubuntu Climbs wouldn’t have been nearly as soul inspiring without your participation. The 738 climbers that joined; the 500+ donations received and meeting the people we helped, taught me the essence and understanding of ‘Ubuntu’, and what it feels like when we work together. It was a humbling experience to be on the generous receiving end of time, money and spirit.

Together, we raised R 535 679,15 – split between The Sunflower Fund, Habitat for Humanity and One Heart for kids (including the R28 524 received in cash over the 12 months see below for handover pictures) These organisations continue to provide these services – if you’d like to keep supporting them, click on the links below:

The Sunflower Fund  / Habitat for Humanity / One Heart for Kids

UKND0491

            The first stair and the final stair climbed – with 970 898 stairs climbed in-between

Thanks to all the media support, we managed to reach just shy of 56 million people (these are not absolute numbers) worth around R5.9 million in awareness, which essentially equals R17.7 million for the three companies. This excludes all the shares and posts you all did with your support. This reminds me that exposure alone is not enough. If it were and 1% of people donated R1 per climb, we’d have raised R16 800 000 every month. Take heart from these numbers because it shows whats possible when action is taken why it’s also important to bring others along with us. You made the difference.

When a house is built, we don’t expect the plumber to build the whole thing – so we shouldn’t be relying on governments alone to solve challenges.

Just look at what we achieved in a year that has long lasting implications to not just families today – but their generations to come. We’ve helped break the cycle of poverty.
Most of you only know my name or my face through this project, but I’m certainly no island and last year wouldn’t have been possible without the special group of people I’m surrounded by: My Parents, My Sister and her family, my extended Family, My friends, and my girlfriend Jessie.

Initially, I included everyone that contributed to the success of 2018. At last count there were over 50 people – so I decided to leave that out and prevent this from becoming a short story. It’s another reason why currently writing my book is important to me: I get to share the details of all the incredible people and their efforts. From gifts across the oceans to international and local fundraising events done. From sending me on my way at 4:33am in person to messages of well wishes from afar – everything played its part in getting my weary legs over the finish line and my spirits high. 

nelson-mandela_650_330_70_s

THE MANDELA CLUB

Considering this challenge took place in his 100th anniversary, it felt fitting to name this award after him. Going above and beyond is not always about the money. This group of people helped raise over R75 000. The people getting this award are:

Astrid Gillwald and the Crook family – the late Joshua Crook, his brother Matthew and mum Susan.

Joshua was introduced to me and the project simply because Astrid shared what I was doing with him in Australia. Astrid also invited me to speak at her Women’s Property Network events and spoke with Warren Brusse at SA Property Network, where I was invited to speak twice too. He was also part of the final day climbing party after multiple summits and donations.

Joshua and Susan shared my posts and story with people in person and online and Matthew even joined me on climb 110.

This is a powerful message, that its not about how much we donate individually – but how we get behind one another and share it within our own networks. You never know what may come of it.

A special memorial climb up Table Mountain was held on Australia Day this year, January 26th, in honour of Josh and his late wife Roxanne. Both families joined in an emotional tribute to two special souls.

 

2018.01.01
My first climb, and sunrise on January 1st

2018.12.31
The final view sunset 31st December, the perfect book end

THE MONTHLY CLUB

These 9 people donated every month:
 

Iwona & Jono Smit

John & Di Smale

Allan McCreadie (LA Barista mobile coffee company)
Mark Giese
Nixi Kennedy
Kym & Karl hill
Ragmah Solomon
Lisa Thompson-Smeddle
Gary Light
Thank you for being a constant throughout my year and making me smile at the end of each month!

Cape Town 365 Ubuntu Climbs final climb
The magnificent view on my last climb at sunset – I loved seeing the flat shadow

BY THE NUMBERS:

The money raised is what I am most proud of; what I did to achieve that: is a very close second. I thought I’d share some interesting insights about the year below.

A MASSIVE thank you to Safety Mountain Tracking for always having a volunteer tracking us and ensuring everyone got off the mountain safely; as well as Cape Union Mart for their clothing sponsorship – the rain gear in particular was helpful beyond belief.

I climbed 970 900 stairs in 40 days 4 hours 18 minutes and 43 seconds on the mountain. I covered 2 429km – which is just 400km shy of walking the entire coastline of South Africa. I climbed a total of 262,8 vertical kilometers – the equivalent of 71 Mt Everest.

In 365 climbs:

175  – were solo climbs.
22 – Most solos in a month both January and August
9 – Most number of rainy climbs in a month, belongs to August (bear in mind this wasn’t the actual number of days it rained, just when I was rained on. Tried to avoid it where possible)
40 – Total number of rainy climbs
4 – most number of consecutive rainy climbs
1 in every 4.5 days – how much i averaged climbing up and down.
280 – Number of times used cable car.
R2.29 – the cost of each cable car ride using their yearly pass.
125  – days climbing alone and using the cable car down – my fastest day was May 2nd climb 122 in 1:18:35. I did almost the same time a week later, on climb 129 – 1:18:58.
50 – days done alone up and down. My fastest climb was 1:55:50 on June 17th climb 168.
190 – days when people joined.
155 –
number of times those climbs were just up and down cable car. We averaged 2:58:54 compared to 1:48:35 when I was alone.

35 – number of days joined going up and down, we averaged 3:54:17 compared to 2:39:18 when I was on my own.
9 – Most consecutive days alone (this was the end of June and 2 days in July)
12 – Most consecutive days with people (this was in December)
193 days started early (before 8:30 – remembering sunrise in winter is just before 8am)
33 – days starting around 6am, most common time starting.
53 days between 8:30 and midday
59 days between 12 and 15:30
60 days starting after 15:30
04:33 – Earliest start time (January 1st to watch sunrise up top)
18:07 – Latest start time (December 17th – I was on my own and would summit before dark)
22 – number of barefoot climbs.

I couldn’t go the entire year completing early morning climbs. Winter climbing was especially weather dependent and always tried to go when ‘safest’. This meant, especially in summer when heat demands climbs either start before 7am or after 15:30 – that sometimes I would do a late afternoon climb and then get up 12 hours later and do an early climb. Effectively two climbs in a day.

45  – number of times this happened, almost every week.
7 – most days in a month a late climb followed by an early one happened: December.
13  – Most consecutive early morning climbs (February 27th to March 11th)
7 – Most consecutive late afternoon climbs (January 26th to February 1st)

 

Picture 1: I picked a stone every day to represent the climb, the people joining, your donations made that day, and ultimately the people we empowered together.

This was the final rock picked to sit atop the Ubuntu pyramid. There’s a stone in there with your name on it.

Picture 2: The Ubuntu pyramid complete with the final triangular rock on top. It reminds me that just because you can’t see the first rock – doesn’t mean its not as important: it created the foundation.

The year was about inspiring people to see what can happen when we work together – now – and forever. But now is more important! Now that I know it’s possible, I will continue to work on expanding this idea. I wish you could meet the people who’s lives you’ve touched. Seeing and feeling the gratitude from another person because of how you’ve helped them is one of the most rewarding moments you can experience.

You Get What You Focus On

I chose to focus on what I could do – and you know what? All year I was surrounded by incredible human beings; because dickheads don’t want to get up early on their weekend to climb a mountain for someone else. Its not about ignoring what challenges we experience and living in a bubble – it’s about choosing to let go of what and who doesn’t serve you. Its your choice.

There are more movie critics than there are producers.

It’s easy to point out what others don’t do right. The real question is: what are you going to do that sets. Your. Soul. On Fire.

I believe in you – so take your first step today!

Perspectives on Lifelong Learning

Learning new City Renaissance Guy
From Cape Town to California

I’ve been procrastinating on my writing like you cannot believe since finishing my challenge – I think I’ve finally found a groove.

In many ways the past three months have shaped this first post of 2019, of which more will be coming your way as I ground my learning into tangible insights to share.

Coming to San Francisco is like becoming a child; I see and experience everything for the first time.

Fresh city smells as winter rains falls; sweeping views transformed as nights veil descends and the new sounds of their famous cable cars bustling down Washington Street. An overload for the five senses but more importantly: another opportunity to learn.

I forgot how many day to day decisions have become second nature that I take for granted:

Knowing where the grocery stores are, how long it takes to walk there. What food they have! How its laid out, what it costs, and even just what the difference in taste between 2 products is.

rwts4764.jpg
The juxtaposition of city by morning and lit up with lights

Then there’s figuring out how the city fits together like a jigsaw; how different our words are for the same thing – traffic lights not robots. Cilantro not coriander. People not understanding my accent on the phone. Finding a barber to cut my hair decently (that serves beer believe it or not!)

Which gym to choose?? I think you get the idea

In primary school, a Greek boy arrived age 6 speaking no English. The teachers encouraged us to be patient and be teachers ourselves.

Thankfully, I have an amazingly supportive partner that’s helping me (together with her friends) to learn and settle in quicker than doing it alone. Now I’m the Greek boy

Learning from others

One thing I’ve been blessed with, is having the opportunity to sit with, speak to and learn from inspirational people.

Renaissance Guy Learning to See Blog

Today’s post is dedicated to Joyce – our blind neighbour.

A Japanese American, Joyce has lived in San Francisco since the age of 22 in 1972. As an artistic woman, she expressed herself through dance and painting.

Her sight was always poor requiring her to wear glasses. As a ballerina she was unable to wear them during shows. She was never worried though because in practice, she learned to understand spatial awareness – not needing to see the edge of the stage, but rather operated in a finite piece of space.

As a painter, she constantly pushed herself to look at every day items from another perspective. To learn to see things differently. She loved the challenge and enjoyed it.

When she speaks to you about that, you feel her joy about that.

Fast forward to 1992 and she meets the love of her life. Wayne. Three years later she moves in with him – and hasn’t moved since.

Tragically, he died in 2011 and she was devastated. This is when I heard something I perhaps wouldn’t believe if it wasn’t first hand.

I lost the rest of my sight soon after that, and thankfully too. Having to learn the city all over again from a new perspective kept me away from the debilitating grief.’

Learning to ‘see’ again saved her life.

Watching and talking as we walk to dinner, she shares her knowledge of ‘seeing’ this way. Her spatial awareness is incredible – hitting a knobbled patch of pavement asked ‘is there an alley?’

There certainly was. She was spot on.

Sitting at the feet of Teachers

Okay – we were at a restaurant so it wasn’t exactly her feet, but it felt like I should be. Hearing her talk about catching the bus, buying groceries, going to her favourite restaurant and how cooking takes four hours were bringing learning a ‘new’ city into perspective.

Imagine going blind aged 61?

I don’t want to use the word terrified, but just closing my eyes trying to feed myself is a scary thought.

Not Joyce though, to escape her pain she threw herself into learning how to ‘see’ the world with this new experience.

She’d taught herself from an early age to be excited to learn new ways of experiencing things – and this was just another opportunity.

We were celebrating the Japanese tradition always done on 3rd of March (3) – Hinamatsuri or Girls Day. It’s interesting to note that Japanese do not celebrate Mothers or Fathers Day; they choose to celebrate what will come (the children) versus what has come (the parents)

She shared her knowledge about the fact Japan only opened its borders in 1853 – not by choice – but because an American Commodore demanded they open ports by sailing into it.

See from Others Perspectives.

Its not always what we do that’s harmful – but how we do it.

I learned that the hard way in my twenties; when I saw how I spoke to friends and family. How I spoke bordered on abuse.

Seeing Joyce in the streets perhaps you’d feel compelled to help, no? First thinking from our own perspective that it’s impossible to get around without someone helping.

Joyce gives some advice we can all learn from.

  1. Ask – instead of assuming someone needs help ask first. In many cases its more difficult being led by someone you don’t know or trust compared to walking with your cane. If someone was really in trouble, they’d cry out for help.
  2. Listen – when someone accepts help listen to how they need it. She prefers someone walking behind with hands on her shoulders and NOT in the middle of the sidewalk. When she walks alone, bright vest and cane, the curb provides her a straight edge compared with the middle. Like walking with your hand along a cliff face. As she says ‘close your eyes and tell me where straight is’ – a frequent command given to her.
  3. Respect – one woman yelled at her to get off the streets because its dangerous. Some people tug at her to walk with them. As you can imagine this can be quite distressing and more importantly – breaks her concentration. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. If you are curious, set an intention to find out just what life is like for someone living with a disability (as most people call it) or their gift.
  4. Change behaviour – Its one thing to change our own behaviour, but we can all do more to teach others how to stop feeling awkward when we meet or see someone with a disability. Just with most things in life – when in doubt speak up and I’ve never heard of someone being upset with someone that respectfully and genuinely wants to learn about another person’s circumstances.

Fresh Eyes

Walking around San Francisco, I pay much more attention to sidewalk cracks, how fire hydrants, lamp posts, signage, trees and post boxes are Joyce’s daily obstacle course. I’m more aware of colours, textures – and the ease and speed with which my five-minute walk up a nine-storey hill takes to get to our neighbourhood grocery store – a store that makes their own honey on the roof I might add!

Joyce is one of those people that radiates; with her smile, her words – and her heart.

She reminded me why one of my daily things I express gratitude for – is my five senses, to experience this incredible planet we live on.

Renaissance Guy Quote
I think both are true

Taking Stock of 2018

Table Mountain Panoramic 365 Ubuntu Climb summit

It’s December – and for many that means a downhill slide into holiday mode; a panic for many parents about what to do with children on holiday and navigating the busy malls for Christmas presents.

To me, it represents 11 months of successfully achieving what I set out to do in January: 336 successful climbs up Table Mountain out of 365 with no injuries or any illnesses worth speaking about and 29 days to go…

I cannot begin to express my gratitude enough for my healthy body and legs – even though it’s something I do before every climb.

November’s a wonderful birthday month for me as well many friends and family; all Valentines Day babies methinks.

I’d always known my birthday was 56 days away from the end of the year but never calculated that meant it was the 309th day of the year.

This year I turned 39. You can’t script things like this and has been the type of amazing synchronicity experienced all year to remind me how special this year was meant to be.

And not just on one or two days – but all of them.

Sunset climbing back down 365 Ubuntu Climbs Cape Town Table Mountain

Looking back – Before you look Forward

I invite people climbing with me to take a moment to look back down the mountain; to appreciate for a moment how far they’ve come and what they’ve already accomplished.

Goals are great. They give me a direction to work towards and purpose in some cases. I’ve learned that climbing mountains gives me opportunities to learn valuable life lessons, one of which is – that the end goal and view at the top is not the be all and end all. Its about learning to value beauty in each step as much as the view at the top.

It can be a hard slog no doubt – but no one ever said you had to do the whole thing in one go. We’re allowed to stop every now again and look around.

That’s what I feel like I’m doing now with climb 337 looming. Stopping and looking around at whats come before me.

People have experienced snippets of what I’ve been through but as with most things in life, until experienced for yourself you can never truly understand.

The closer I get to the end now the further away it feels; I haven’t had a day off all year.

A wall of cloud on the summit of a 365 Ubuntu Climb Table Mountain
These kinds of majestic gems await me on some of my summits

Daily Thinking for Final Stretch

I learned when I get closer to the top and/or the bottom, my tendency is to want to ‘just get there’. This is how accidents happen. When I try push my already fatigued body and mind, I lose focus and start thinking about the end instead of the next step – so I’ve taught myself to maintain the same steady pace no matter how close to the end and excited I become.

I need to do just that for the next 28 days.

With immense excitement looming it’s hard.  When your girlfriend (who lives in San Francisco) is flying in under 2 weeks time and your whole family will be coming down from Johannesburg around Christmas time to support me; the mind has plenty to distract you with.

Distracted is dangerous, just look at car accident statistics – an estimated 52% happen within 8km of the home.

I sat with my performance coach around what data we’re going to measure this last month that can be used to analyse my efforts when I’m done. Heart rates, sleeping, emotional state, physical state you name it. We can compare these stats when I’m fresh again next month and do speed tests on the same route.

This is the most dangerous time now, these next few weeks. Keep the mind strong.

These words from him are valuable – particularly that I’ve fallen twice in ten days in exactly the same spot on the way down. Luckily just caused a stiff ankle nothing sprained.

It happens that quickly.

Distractions are compounded by every person you meet asking “whats next?!” and “what are you going to do on January 1st?”

At least the second one is easy to answer: I’m doing my 366th climb in a row and my last solo climb. This is to take stock of what I’ve accomplished in 2018 and how many people we – you and I – have helped by donating time and money to those living in appalling conditions.

Fulfillment comes from walking your most authentic path; Significance is when you can align that to empowering others in the process.

Its interesting to me how people’s reactions have flowed since having this idea.

1st Phase: That’s crazy, why on earth would you want to do that for a whole year?

2nd Phase: (usually only hear this much later on) you’ll never finish

3rd Phase: Oh you’re going to miss this when you not climbing anymore

4th Phase: Whats next??

(sidenote – asking what’s next is expected from someone who’s asked all the relevant questions and understands the persons current feelings and state of mind)

Lessons from these Questions

Very few people are ever willing to sit with someone in their pain or discomfort and challenges. The reality is no one is on this planet to save anyone else. Not when it comes to how you think and what you choose and how you act.

  1. Stop projecting

Recognising that all my responses are based on my experiences and what I would do in that person’s situation.

  1. Ask questions

Listening to understand means asking questions to learn where someone is right now.

  1. Think about the present

Its always easier to say than do but getting a gauge of where someone is right now based on what has happened, is far better than trying to play crystal ball and predict what someone’s future will be. The future is made up of tons of ‘right now’ decisions.

  1. Not my job to convince

Whether my project, religion, Politics, diets, exercise regimes – you name it. It’s not my jobs to convince people whats right for them. It’s my job to hold people accountable to learn to think for themselves and use what they know in action of service to others. What good is it knowing something great and keeping it all to yourself? Significance…

  1. Empathy and understanding

Understanding what someone is going through from their perspective means I can learn why they do certain things or behave in a particular manner. Just because something seems illogical to me, doesn’t mean its very real for them.

Misty Cable car Table Mountain 365 Ubuntu Climbs
We don’t always see where we going – but taking action every day means we’ll get there eventually

Final thoughts

One of the greatest things I’m doing, is learning from other’s behaviour. Sometimes most of these things appear innocent and not detrimental to others. And maybe it isn’t. But is it not worth behaving in a way that helps someone in your life feel completely supported and safe to share their current state of mind?

We live in a world fraught with enough pain and negativity – its time for each individual to start evaluating if they feeding that; or if they shining a spotlight on where all the beauty in this world lies.

I know what I’m choosing

Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 and raising money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity (housing) One Heart (Education) and The Sunflower Fund (Leukaemia) by inviting people to sponsor R1 per climb. head over to http://www.365climbs.com to be part of the Ubuntu Family.

Andrew Patterson 365 Ubuntu Climbs Table Mountain

 

5 Essential Lessons for any Challenge

Orange Breasted sunbird2 climb 272 365 Ubuntu Climbs
Sunbird (male) quietly surveying the city below                      Photo Credit: Natalie du Preez

As I sit here I can’t believe nine months of the year have come and gone.

Thirty nine weeks have rocketed past and being in an extreme challenge like this, climbing Table Mountain every day, brings with it extreme learnings.

Observing  how many people focus, even 277 days into my challenge, on what could go wrong and ‘negative aspects’ – weather, injury, sickness, ‘stuck in Cape Town’, you name it, it’s been said.

It’s the perfect mirror of life.

Few think about all the positive aspects – seeing the mountain in every way imaginable; the phenomenal views from my office; the personal growth; the extraordinary people I get to meet; and the conversations that brings with it.

Ignoring the difficulties I face would be fool hardy. It’s important to understand all the aspects of a challenge including difficulties – just don’t focus on them.  This reality of potential dangers was given to me when Gert, challenging himself to climb Table Mountain every day in September, sprained his ankle badly with just five days left. It can happen that quickly.

My focus cannot waiver for one second.

What a Week

This year, last week was the second longest amount of time spent climbing the mountain – but because of the extreme weather differences; my toughest to date.

Thankfully, I only had two solo hikes and five amazing groups to pull me through. Not just any groups:

Top of Table Mountain Heritage DayMonday: two special men, Bulelani and Siyabonga, started a tour group called Corner2corner tours and arranged a group to climb up on our National Holiday – Heritage Day. Not just hike up though – clean the mountain too. They believe the mountain gives us so much that they wanted to give back to her. It was 30 degrees at 11am and after a bitterly cold month, a bit of a shock to the system. Everyone made it up and we walked off with three full bags of rubbish removed.

VML Foundation Day climb on day 270Thursday: VML, a creative agency worldwide with offices here in Cape Town, have a yearly day to volunteer with various organisations – I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of them. This day was windy, icy cold, wet and downright miserable for a tricky ascent and descent. This usually deters people, but fourteen amazing people came and challenged themselves for the benefit of others. They had wonderful smiles, never complained and helped each other get down safely. Real team spirit.

Family climb 271 365 Ubuntu ClimbsFriday: I’m blessed with an amazing family and Aunty Di and Uncle John have been terrific with their support. Having seen them (they live in Durban) in February they promised they’d be back in September and would join – this was the day. After loads of rain, they were treated to the spectacle that is Table Mountain with rivers in full flow and waterfalls galore; even paths become water features. Their spirit and tenacity to get up adds to my memories of people who’ve pushed their limits; and chatting about all their holiday ‘s overseas is how I get to travel this year: vicariously.

Climb 272 365 Ubuntu ClimbsSaturday: a fellow blogger for Future Females and friend, Natalie, joined with her husband. We had a hot day again; thankfully with a breeze. My legs were taking strain, and they were happy to stop often and get pictures (picture above is hers!) much to my weary legs delight. Hard to fathom the previous 4 days were all cold and wet, and tomorrow is going to be even hotter…

Tibetan Monks on top Table Mountain 365 Ubuntu Climbs

Sunday: Lisa, Amanda and Alice brave a 06:30 start – always impressed by people willing to do that on a Sunday. Its Amanda’s birthday too! We start early for two reasons – on hot days sunrise hikes equal avoiding the heat and we have the privilege to host four Tibetan Monks, an astrologer and a healer all the way from India at the top. It felt as if the monks were already at the top and hauling me up step by step as we ‘rushed’ to ensure we didn’t keep them waiting. Thankfully we made it up in time meeting them at the cable car. This experience would never have happened without this challenge happening and my good friend Nicci connecting us. Something I could never have predicted.

Although I’m not a practicing Buddhist – I resonate with their desire for peace and love to permeate this planet – the reason they’re here, creating colourful sand mandalas.

Experiencing another belief and cultures ritual and respect for nature and our mountain was beautiful. Seeing them in their robes and prayer flags flapping in the wind was soothing and even though I had no idea what they were saying in prayer – felt at peace.

Being the end of the month too I chose rock number nine: a physical representation of another month completed.

I was originally keeping these but before meeting the monks, had the idea to rather take them all back at the end of the year and create a memorial pile on the Platteklip Gorge hiking trail. Hearing him speak about releasing attachment reinforces the idea.

Geshe wished to hold it and shared some beautiful words with me about what I’m doing. Though our time was brief together, it was reminded of quality over quantity.

What Can You Take Away from This?

As I said extreme challenges bring extreme learning and realisations after this week some are becoming ingrained in me:

  1. Focus on today. Even the toughest week came to end and the same is true for great weeks. Simply focusing on today’s climb means I give it every opportunity to become one of the most memorable ones.
  2. Lose attachment. Weather, health, mementos, even people. Things can change so quickly and holding on to something keeps you rooted in the past. A perfect follow on to point #1 because this keeps you grounded in today and what you can
  3. Find the flow. This has been one of the unexpected challenges of the year. I had grand designs of what needed to happen and what I needed to organise; yet the best experiences have all come from allowing the climbs to happen with whomever is supposed to join. Set your intention of what river you want to use, and let it take you where it needs to. Stop trying to control everything. This becomes the difference in creating meaningful experiences as opposed to a bucket list tick box exercise.
  4. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Everyone’s in a rush: to find a partner; to be successful, to be first, to get up the mountain. All this means is you miss the opportunities along the way to see the beauty in each step, in life. Why do people burn out? Feel disconnected? We’re rushing to this appointment while making the next. Slow down. If I’d come out the gates trying to do every climb as fast as possible my body would’ve shut down months ago. My legs may be fatigued – but my heart and soul are energised.
  5. Gratitude is not important; its essential. Every climb starts with gratitude for my health, my legs that work and are strong enough to do this every day; my eyes to see the beauty around me and my mind that is actively learning every day from this experience. Gratitude for the mountain being so close to where I live and providing me a spiritual path to walk every day and always teaching me. It takes less than five minutes to show gratitude and once you start? You realise all the ways you’re blessed. Family, partners, friends, their support, and it helps spot the greatest beauty in the tiniest moment. Beauty is not one big thing – it’s an endless string of moments.

 

See you on the mountain

Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town every day in 2018 helping raise money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity (housing) One Heart (teaching children to read) and The Sunflower Fund (increasing the donor database for blood diseases like Leukaemia) To donate visit http://www.365climbs.com

A Week to Remember

365 Ubuntu Climbs Halfway view
After several days in rain and poor visibility – this greeted me on my halfway hike

Week 27 sees me starting on a memorable day – exactly halfway.

182 days behind me.365 Ubuntu Climbs halfway mark

182 days ahead of me. 365 Ubuntu CLimbs halfway mark up

Half way rock’s where my moment takes place (albeit that I must hike back down due to strong icy winds.) It snowed up top this morning but due to constant waves of rain predicted I chose the drier afternoon. After three days in the wet, I can safely say I loved being dry and having a view up top as well. Hard to believe I’ve climbed the equivalent vertical kilometers of 37 Mt Everest’s and raised R226 000. I’m very proud of what has been achieved with the help of all of you.

Interesting thought is that in life, we have no idea of when halfway will be. At any moment we could have less days ahead of us than we’ve got behind us.

I celebrate with two of my favourite ladies – Lisa and Jessie – at Mykonos in Sea Point. My brain still doesn’t compute that I’ve done 183 days (at that point) which is the equivalent of thirty-seven Mt Everest’s. How appropriate too then, that they’ve both done the most number of hikes; Lisa 19 Jessie 13 (at the end of her week here from San Francisco)

There isn’t enough paper in the world to talk about how special these two are and how they define support. Perhaps a chapter dedicated to each in my book is needed.

Wednesday Bonus

Joined by Carrey and her son, the four of us including Jessie on her second consecutive day, end up chatting to a tourist wondering if he’s on the right track.  William is from Holland and three days into his month-long visit.

We welcome him to join us instead of hiking alone. I’m rewarded with his tales of why he chose South Africa and that he spent a month in Nepal the previous year. I might not be able to travel this year, but with all the tourists that have joined me thus far? I feel I’ve been to many distant lands.

At 24 this man already is far wiser than his years.

Sharing his experience of acclimatizing to Nepal’s food, culture, altitude and being alone reminded me of my trip to Iceland and the value of traveling alone. His plan is to get tattoos from each place that speaks to what he learned while there.

His Nepal tattoo is incredible.  Just the story on the tiny village it was done in would be enough. Written in Nepalese, its one of their beliefs: Everyone you meet is superior to you in some way.

Gold nugget: In writing this I’m making notes to do my best to listen (not hear) more to understand what people share instead of just trying to respond with what I already know.

We head to Mojo market for a drink to chat more. San Francisco, Cape Town and Leiden only needing one beautiful thing to connect: our travels.

William enjoying the view on 365 Ubuntu Climbs Hike 185

Non-Profits versus For Profit companies

Jessie, who’s also involved in empowering others around the world by building schools with an organisation called Pencils of Promise, and I head to my dear friends 40th. I pick empty seats next to gents that own a gift store in Cape Quarter called Baraka. Incredibly, this happens to be the store where Jessie bought me gifts last year before she left.

Conversation was great all night and later that evening, one’s whole demeanour changes at the mention of my project and raising money, due to one question: ‘how do I know where the money’s going?’

Excellent question!

Simple answer: always ask – reputable non-profits won’t have any issue sharing all their info.

It’s something I’m trying to instill with people this year; to do their homework. Habitat for Humanity, The Sunflower Fund and One heart are all registered Non-Profits as well as certified with SARS (South African Revenue Service) to provide donors with Section 18A’s – a document that allows you to claim your donation back from the tax you owe.

What’s more interesting though, is where the discussion went after we answered his question. He wasn’t satisfied that not 100% of funds raised always goes to said causes. This baffles me. If 80% of funds raised goes to the cause and 20% to administration costs which allows the organisation to help people, isn’t that great? (Disclaimer here – check with each individual organisation what their percentages are – some guarantee 100% of donations go to their cause)

Why is it we so quick to judge where and what the money’s being used for with non-profits; and yet have no problem with business practices of For Profit companies?

There’ve been some serious abuses of money management in Non-profits, but there’s been just as many cases of fraud and unethical business practices in for profits.

Whether you donate money or buy from a company – is it not fair to say we know both have running costs?

Jessie put it beautifully when she said, ‘we vote with every dollar we spend’.

My wish is we’d hold more companies accountable for their business practices. We forget we have the power. If a company still tests on animals – everyone choosing not to buy their products because of that means they’re out of business.

When faced with deciding whom to donate to, here are some tools to help you separate the cheaters from the world beaters:

  1. Ask for Financials. Reputable companies will have these available for you.
  2. They are vague. Perhaps their websites don’t give too much information about what they do, how they do it, when they started, who the Directors are etc – but that could mean they inexperienced and simply use it as a funnel supplying emails and contact details instead. However, if making contact via these channels is difficult and vague, trust your gut as it will certainly alert you.
  3. Any organisation should be able to supply you with references for what they do. If a charity builds homes; ask for details of where and who received it. Again, if people get uppity with you on the phone to supply this and your gut sounds alarm bells – You have the right to say no. It shouldn’t be difficult to get info like this.

 

I said it twice already but its worth telling you again. Trust your gut.

The reality is we live in a society where scams are something to watch for, but just because one woman cheats on you doesn’t mean the rest will.  If you hear about a non-profit being ‘dodgy’ don’t paint all of them that way.

Be vigilant.

Ask questions.

Vote for a better world with how you spend your money.

See you on the mountain.

If you’d like to invest in 365 Ubuntu’s Project, please click on http://www.365climbs.com and you’ll be kept up to date with who we empower. Stay tuned for our delivery of books to help teach children to read coming up this month at two schools.

Renaissance Guy Andrew Patterson

It’s not All Proteas (Roses)

Andrew Patterson drenched but not defeated

Week 26

My week starts off with an incredible sunset hike where I do my second fastest summit. Thankfully, because I run into hikers expecting the cable car to work (its closed) and having come from Skeleton Gorge (Kirsetnbosch Gardens which is a 3 hour hike) I safely bring them down Platteklip. We barely make it down before dark sets in but thankfully no injuries. Incredible to think my snap decision to do a sweep round the extremity up top meant I ran into them.

Sunset on platteklip gorge day 176 365 ubuntu Climbs
Always a treat to see sunsets from the mountain

No rest for the wicked, I’m up at 06:00 to start hiking in the dark to FINALLY test a theory of mine that the sun rises between the cliffs of Platteklip Gorge. About 20% left of the way I worry I started too late and I won’t be up top in time. I try push harder but its like those dreams where you need to run fast and just can’t. Thankfully, I made it with time to spare (albeit 5 days after the solstice) but my gut is right and I’m rewarded with the most spectacular start to a day one could hope for. Hike 177.

Cape Town from platteklip gorge 365 Ubuntu Climbs
Cape Town from the contour path

 

SUnrise between the cliffs at the top of Platteklip Gorge day 177 365 Ubuntu Climbs
Sun rises beautifully between the cliffs

Sunrise at the Top of Table Mountain 365 Ubuntu Climbs
Breath taking beauty

Calm before the storm

We all hear the saying. We’ve probably all said it; but this week I get to truly understand that. I also realise that the northern hemisphere’s saying of ‘Red morning Shepard warning red night Shepard’s delight’ is in reverse here in Cape Town. We have the most EPIC sunset Thursday before 4 days of inclement weather descend on us. So, what should our rhyme be?

Red morning Shepard’s yawning, red night shepherds fright?

Anyway, week 26 sees me have 3 days of exquisite opportunities for photos culminating with the most perfect lighting for your eyes Thursday before the storm. And oh yes…. The storm.

Sense of Humour Failure

Warnings of four days of foul weather mean I’m even more alert than usual, like a cat whose tail’s been stood on eight times already.

Friday looks like the mildest of the forecasts, but I still go when the least amount of wind and rain is predicted.

Not only did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but I think there was no bed, no side, and no waking. My drive up is fine until I reach the Roundhouse and it starts raining. Then? I reach Kloofnek and its misty. From there you only drive up and up.

Great. Probably no Cable car (its boarded up as I drive past) AND I’m getting wet.

I’m not happy.

Storm hits 365 Ubuntu Climbs

I’ve always said its fine to get rained on. Just not to start in the rain.

I sit in my car before hoping I can climb at least halfway without jackets (I always have two – one standard for warmth and another for rain to stay dry). If it rains – I have to wear both. No use carrying a wet jacket in my bag.

Its not raining. Its like someone’s sneezing constantly. Constant fine mist that’s not enough to be cold or wet instantly, but after ten minutes enough to soak you.

I must wear my jackets. Which – is INSANELY hot doing so. I’m a sweater. I sweat profusely. After 7 minutes I’m almost at the contour path and I’m not sure if sweat or water is pouring off my forehead.

I’ll be fine if I take off the jackets – so I think.

I walk up one flight of stairs from under the tree canopy and BOOM! The mist/annoyingly fine rain returns.

To make matters worse my rain pants I’m wearing keep sliding down so literally every 5 stairs I have to pull them back up. Interestingly, this – doesn’t happen the next day. Being in an ‘off’ mood and have all this happen starts shredding my sense of humour like FBI agents at Watergate. Or Jacob Zuma lawyers at Nkandla.

I’m not happy.

Today will be only the second hike in 182 that I see not a single other person on the mountain.

That means my first of 3 outlandish cries in frustration go unbeknown to anyone but myself, the mountain, and now you.

Small Miracles

All I can think about is how more annoyed I’m going to be, hiking back down pulling my pants up every two seconds. After placing rock 180 and knowing I only have 13% of the way and roughly seven minutes at a good pace left – I start ‘praying’ for a small miracle that the cable car is working

(At this juncture I should share the wind forecast showed it should be closed all day.)

I. Have. Never. Been. Happier. To. See…. A stock take being done.

EVER!!!

In probably my foulest mood ever I went from the Grinch to Santa in 0.56 seconds.

Gratitude

The cable way was closed but the staff were doing stock take at the shop in the station. With the eyes of a puppy wishing to be adopted I asked if they’d take me down.

“Ask the drivers”

Thankfully, one of my favourite drivers – Bululani – is operating the car opens the doors for me. The sweetest sound to my ear maybe in my life. He has one of the best smiles and radios below to bring us down.

Honestly, a split second changed the tone of what my daily video was going to be versus what it was.

Bululani was my daily miracle. I told him that too. And thanked him.

Andrew Patterson and Bululani
Cable Car ‘Uber’ driver for the day

I saw him again Saturday and we ‘laughed’ but man alive after the weather reports and expecting four hikes down in a row? Two rides down in two days was GOLD!!!!

My brain may not comprehend 180 climbs in a row but damn skippy my legs sure do.

 

Show Respect

Storm water 365 Ubuntu Climbs
I’ve never seen water flowing over the boulder to the right. Ever.

I’m reminded of how many people care as they send wishes on days like today – Sunday, where insane water flowed off the mountain.

Truthfully – a lesson I realised early on in this challenge, is no matter what the weather, the mountain must be respected.

And its on these days where the weather is so adverse and changes so quickly, that I look forward to; because it reminds me how important respect is. Not fear. Respect.

Always remember where you are and never get too big for your boots.

The water on the mountain on day 182 is majestic and made that much more interesting because of gale winds on the middle 1/3 only. Lower down and up top: nothing but WHOA on that middle band, waterfalls flowed back up the mountain.

I earned my stripes this weekend.

And once again I’ve seen the duality of perfect days (in our eyes) compared with not so perfect days (all lies).

There is no such thing as bad weather – just bad preparation.

See you on the mountain

Red Repen Protea Renaissance guy
Reward at the end of hike 182 and week 26

 

Hiking and Life’s Connection

Highs and Lows of Life and hiking
Even reaching the top of a hike doesn’t guarantee a view

Week 25 – The parallels of life and hiking

First up – special thanks to Wings Herbal Synergy for sponsoring me with supplements to keep my legs and body in the best health possible. Amazing because they didn’t want a big announcement about it, they are doing it simply because they believe in what I’m doing and want to help. Huge respect to them for that.

Whether hiking or living; you’ll experience highs and lows. The only difference between the two: hiking generally starts at the bottom for you to climb up.

Some days though, you can start extremely high. Recently though, my day started as close to the bottom as you can get with the news of my dear friend Joshua’s death.

Week begins with high and low

Monday the 18th is my grans 94th birthday and Joshua’s funeral in Melbourne. It’s one of those crazy days where you feel two opposite emotions simultaneously.

My gran and family still live in Johannesburg and this is now the longest I’ve gone without seeing her. She’s unable to travel so I’ll only see her again when I’m finished with climbing Table Mountain 365 times this year. I miss her.

Speaking to her before my hike, I can hear the sparkle in her voice as she sat comfortably in her new chair that had arrived earlier. A comfy lazy boy with massage function. Its great to hear her voice and it always leaves me incredibly grateful that at age 38, I have the privilege to speak to her still. Especially on a hard day like this.

Memorial hike

I promised Joshua’s mom and brother I’d hike at the same time his funeral and wake took place so in some small way, I could be ‘present’ from across the oceans. Fittingly, the weather is glum and overcast, almost as if the weather was mourning with us. I took a candle with me to light and sit with his rock. I picked up one on the day of his death to honour him. High winds meant the cable car wasn’t working and I hiked back down.

I chose to sit quietly on Ubuntu rock with the candle fluttering next to ‘Josh’. Amazingly – Ubuntu rock had not a breath of wind for the candle to burn uninterrupted. There we sat. As if inside a cloud, on one of the most recognised mountains in the world. Honouring a beautiful soul that now lives inside all of us that knew him.

He had endured such tragedy this year and I will forever be grateful for his incredible support for my project. I take solace knowing that he found some peace.

With the last quarter of the hike left, the biggest rain drops I can remember since running around in our garden as a child, descended on me. I tried to capture it in a photo to no avail. Felt like the last perfect send off to Josh. Lifting my face up, I felt rain against my face for the first time. Usually the peak of my cap and hood of my jacket serve to shield my face. It was the type of experience I would have jumped on to Whatsapp to tell him about because I knew he’d appreciate that.

Fittingly, the 365 Ubuntu Climbs shirt he wore with such pride went with him.

We all miss you my friend.

My friend Joshua crook supporting 365 Ubuntu Climbs

A break in the weather

In 34 days I’ve only had a view from the top 13 times. In the past 11 days, once. One of the greatest lessons to date is understanding that there’s no bad weather; just bad preparation. Thanks to Cape Union Mart and their brand K-Way – I’m prepared, and I’m kept warm and dry which translates into safe.

The rain pants in particular, are amazing. The day Josh passed I made the mistake of not wearing them and a serious downpour happened in the first twenty minutes. Now they’re on even  if there’s a remote chance of rain.

Rain is glorious news and I get excited every time for it. We’re in the grips of one of the worst droughts Cape Towns had in a century. Our dams collectively, have just squeaked past the 40% full mark. This is why I said at the beginning of the year I hope to hike in rain for 200 days.

You’re probably thinking “Whaaaaaaaaat?!?! Hiking in the rain is dangerous surely??” I think the mountain is more dangerous on clear warm days than on windy rainy days; because people think it’s a playground and don’t pay enough attention and respect to the mountain. Many rocks are slippery even without being rained on. Being in nature requires presence, in every moment and step. I believe injuries come from two things: fatigue and lack of respect.

Even today as I start my 176th hike this year, I pretend it’s my very first one. Every step is closely monitored, and I even check to see what rocks have changed position, look loose and are cracking open/off.

It’s a gift being on the mountain around the time of these storms passing through. To see the mountainside alive and water flowing in the most unexpected places is phenomenal. Summer hikers would walk past without ever thinking twice about a waterfall. What a privilege to get to experience it in every way.

My latest understanding

I was given an opportunity to speak to the South African Property Investors Network (SAPIN) again on day 171 having spoke on day 73. This gave me a unique opportunity to gauge who’d heard me speak then and whether they thought I’d be back having not missed a day on my quest to complete 365.

I admire their honesty, pretty much all of them said no.

I always knew most people would think that way and the only way to build trust is to keep doing what I’m doing. People watch your actions more closely than your words – and rightly so.

I’ve come across many talkers proclaiming to support, and they disappear into the distance like a tumbleweed blown across the desert floor.

These talks give me a great opportunity to share the purpose of climbing a mountain daily: to show the power we have as individuals and collectively when we stand together.

Why donate money at all? Well – having been involved in various projects since my high school days with King Edwards and their KESFAM drives, I can tell you there’s nothing like seeing the gratitude in the eyes of those you empower.

Just because we’re not responsible for others suffering, doesn’t mean we can’t be part of the solution to help them.

I don’t believe in charity – that involves keeping people out of their own power. Working with Habitat for Humanity; One Heart and The Sunflower Fund means we collectively empower those we help to take ownership of their lives.

Empowering those without the means to empower themselves now.

Speaking on Wednesday I realised that most people look at themselves as a Mt Everest of donating. In other words, it must be large sums of money to be meaningful. What they don’t realise is that even Mt Everest isn’t just one mountain: its made up of thousands of individual stairs from base to summit; each stair as important as the next.

Think of yourself as a stair to someone else’s Everest.

If every South African gave me R1 – we’d raise R56 million.

If 50 000 Capetonians donated R30 a month (not even 2 coffees) we’d raise R1.5 million a month

Ask the 2.5 million people in the UK that didn’t bother voting on the Brexit issue if they still feel their vote wasn’t important.

Our power lies in our collective efforts. Don’t ever say “I can only give….” Because your act of giving has the potential to change another human beings’ life.

Just ask each of 365 Ubuntu Climbs donors whether they thought they’d:

  • Add 20 people to the donor registry and potentially save 20 fathers, 20 mothers, 20 friends lives impacting all their families, friends and colleagues;
  • Help two of the largest primary schools in the country teach thousands of children to read and track the children’s progress
  • Help 10 families improve their living conditions to feel safer, warmer and drier.

And we not even half way yet.

Final thought for the week

My 300th climber to join me was Iona this past Saturday and her takeaway was Ubuntu rock and the accumulation of love that makes the walk into a prayer of love, hope and connection.

It was the first time I’ve asked for feedback like that and what an incredible answer to get first up.

Why? Because its what this is all about summed up perfectly. Life’s shorter than you imagine, don’t waste it living in fear. I promise you – I’ve never been more inspired by how much good there is in this world with all the people I’ve met thus far and through all the donations received.

I’m grateful to each and every one of you. Creating a better world requires active citizenry. As Gandi said – be the change you wish to see in the world.

Try it – I’ve never been more fulfilled in my life.

See you on the mountain

Andrew Patterson is hiking Table Mountain every day in 2018 (175/365 completed thus far) to build homes; teach children to read and build a database for Leukaemia. To become part of the Ubuntu Family (ubuntu is the spirit of humanity and compassion towards one another) head over to http://www.365climbs.com share your contribution.

It Comes in Three’s

 

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Devils Peak (left) Table Mountain (center) Lions Head (right)

Even the most Iconic mountain in the world is part of a trio.

The culmination of April see’s us complete a third of the year.

As I write this, I’ve completed 122 consecutive days hiking up Table Mountain. This gives me a unique opportunity to explore the 3’s that have followed me through the experience to date.

3 MONTHS WITH 3 FULL DAYS HIKING

When I was training last year, my thoughts wandered to “but what happens when people who join aren’t as fit and take an extra 1-2 hours longer?”

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I had plans to have cut off points and politely excuse myself as I continued without them.

Thankfully, sense prevailed.

I quickly realised on the mountain the value of the conversations and an old army saying (even though I never went) rang true: leave no one behind.

The important thing to realise here, is when I was on my own that’s exactly what it was about: me.

When 365 Ubuntu Climbs started, the focus was no longer on me; it was about the people we can empower. Building homes; building a database for Leukemia; building childrens minds by teaching them to read.

The irony is that even with the slower hikes, the longer months (January March and April) have still only yielded a full 3 days of hiking (and some change).

This means everyone who joins has invested in our idea with both time and money.

That deserves every ounce of respect. These are perfect examples.

Craig, having traveled with work almost two weeks away from home, was delayed for three hours on his flight back the night before our planned hike from Durban (2 hour flight): and still joined at 06:30 on a Sunday morning. No excuses.

Jessie, flew half way around the world from San Francisco to support me and hike up seven times in eight days; including the very next day after landing. No excuses.

Lisa, has hiked up with me 13 times; early mornings, cold, and on the second windiest day of the year to date. No excuses.

My sister Caroline, has adrenal fatigue and an under active thyroid. Truth be told, probably should never have climbed with me. Her commitment, willpower and sheer determination to support me pushed her up that mountain. She made it up on day 62. No excuses.

Each of my family members that hike up with me get to choose a rock to represent them. This I keep on Ubuntu rock (13% of the way left to go) and with about 50 stairs left till Ubuntu rock and utterly exhausted – she chose what is now lovingly referred to as ‘MF Rock’. Yup – that’s exactly what MF stands for.

It’s this type of commitment you can’t foresee when you have ideas and why it’s so important to follow your gut when an idea sits well. It’s why doing what you love can only bring you rewards you never dream of. Seeing others put themselves outside their own comfort levels in aid of others? Priceless.

3 TIMES WATCHING THE FULL MOON RISE ON TABLE MOUNTAIN

A blue moon is when we have two full moons in a calendar month.

I watched on the 31st January (second full moon in Jan and first Blue moon month of 2018); the 31st March (second blue moon month in one year – hasn’t happened since 1999 and won’t happen again until 2037) and on the last day of April: the end of my first third of hiking up Table Mountain 365 times (which is why this is even more appropriate)

I’ve wanted to watch the full moon rise at the top of Table Mountain since day one, but my first time relentless wind meant the cable car wasn’t working and I had to hike back down, so watched on my own half way down Platteklip Gorge to avoid hiking in the dark –  where I found my January rock.

       January’s second full moon     April Rock, March, February and January Rock               

March fell over Easter Weekend and I was joined by two special people, Jaclyn and Avril. What I love most about being accompanied up is the fascinating conversations shared about each others experiences in life.

Up top was insanely busy. Intent on not waiting in a mammoth queue, Jaclyn and I hiked back down to my previous spot where, in the ever increasing icy wind, we sat mesmerized by the full moon rising into the dark sky. Our journey to Winter responsible for the darker moon rise.

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The moon peaking its head behind the corner of Table Mountain as we sat huddled about 2/3 up

The 3rd one, Monday the 30th April, was finally at the top. With perfect weather conditions to catch the cable car down, Imogen and I (having lost 3 of our companions) settled up top to enjoy this natural wonder. With the sun setting even earlier, unaware people left around sunset (18:05) and missed the spectacle of seeing the beautiful full moon rising like the sun, while darkness shrouded us above the twinkling city.

April full moon
I truly wish you get to experience this in your lifetime

3 RAINY DAYS IN ONE WEEK

I always knew this was coming.

Like mid year exams looming in the distant future.

I’m exceptionally happy about the rain. We desperately need it – our dams are collectively sitting at 20% full. I’d be happy to hike in 200 days of rain – its all about mindset and dressing correctly plays a massive role in this.

I’ve been blessed to have Cape Union Mart (a South African outdoor, hiking, camping – gear and equipment store) come on board as a sponsor. This means they’ll help me stay dry, warm and safe. It was serendipitous that our meeting happened the day before I hiked up in complete mist (which is as good as being in fine rain) and the week before it rained three times.

The rain means the mountain transforms into a winter wonderland of sound and sight as waterfalls appear in places summer hikers would never conceive of. I consider it a great honour to bear witness to these changes that happen hourly as water collects higher up and rushes towards the ocean, as if in its own ‘rush hour traffic’.

This was highlighted on my second rainy day hike when, after a thunderstorm hit us between 3 and 5am, I expected a bigger rush of water at the start of the hike. Strong winds up top meant the cable car wasn’t operational and so I hiked back down; frozen hands dreaming about the gloves I’ll get from Cape Union Mart for just such future days.

wintery pic
Yep – the exit is down… down Platteklip Gorge!

Thankfully, my parents sponsored me a proper K-Way rain jacket last year already. When it started raining on the way down I was even more grateful. Well, I say rain, but I didn’t see any water falling to earth. It was more like precipitation seated in Airline Cloud traveling up Platteklip gorge. It was blowing directly into my face. Already warm from ascending 760 vertical meters and on my way back down I felt life flowing through me as life happened all around me.

Every step was as careful as though stepping onto thin cut glass. My Barefoot hikes perfect training for this as I become completely mindful in every step, and lost to anything else happening.

I’m alone on the mountain and I feel absolute peace. Bliss. Gratitude.

Some tourists have started hiking up (with appropriate gear, which is a first) and have just made it to half way as the rain and wind picks up. They turn back wisely, and I see them up top the mountain on day three – ironically also a misty and cold day with rain.

Day three the cable car, however, is working and cold soaked hikers fill the wifi lounge huddled around coffee cups.

Mervi, all the way from Holland with her husband, had heard about me through a friend and pushed on through the rainy bit to experience Table Mountain in a way most people avoid. Her smile at the end echoed her understanding of what she had just achieved.

Once again, the weather had been incorrectly ‘predicted’ and rain slammed into our faces  at the top. Having hiked back down the previous day my heart sat heavy at the prospect of the cable car being closed. This wasn’t in the script for Mervi’s hike up and, conscious of time, hoped it worked for them to do more exploring in Cape Town. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem and we were able to enjoy a fantastic lunch at The Roundhouse where they spoiled me.

Here’s to the next 122 days

For the first time in my life, I’m creating my own adversity instead of waiting for it to happen to me. Reading this and my previous blogs this year gives you a snippet into the support I receive to make this possible.

I’m not doing this alone.

This happens because of my family, close friends, new friends and even strangers messages on social media’s support. Together we understand that this is about a greater purpose: empowering those without the means to empower themselves (yet)  – this is how I’ve climbed over 366 000 stairs.

Never underestimate the power your positive words of encouragement has on the recipient.

Ever.

This post is dedicated to all the people that have donated and the 215 people that have hiked up with me to date. Together we are making Madiba proud.

Inspiring-Nelson-Mandela-quotes-A-winner-is-a-dreamer-who-never-gives-up

Andrew Patterson has embarked on an ambitious project in 2018 to climb Table Mountain 365 times. This is all in aid of raising money and awareness for three organizations:
  • The Sunflower Fund – building a database for Leukemia
  • Habitat for Humanity – building homes for those living in poverty
  • One Heart – helping under resourced schools teach children to read.
To pledge your support and invest in this project visit: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/365-ubuntuclimbs