This blog has been written in thanks to BAM Bamboo Clothing for their support for our recent trip to South Africa
Little did I know when I asked for sponsorship just how grateful I would eventually be for it …..
I have been a huge fan of BAM clothing for quite some time. I was first introduced to them when I found their socks for sale in one of those little ‘come day, go day’ shops that seem to appear on every high street. It wasn’t long before all my socks had been converted to the super soft BAM-boo variety, my underwear and base layers also soon got switched. As the brand introduced, ever increasingly, good-looking clothing they got added to my wardrobe. Being a gardener/botanist i found them hard wearing and yet unbelievably comfortable and I could wear a BAM base layer for two or three days in a row without it becoming too smelly.
It wasn’t, however, until Ben and I’s 2014 trip to Israel that we discovered just how well they performed in hot climates. With our 2015 trip to South Africa on the cards, I, cheekily, dropped BAM a line and asked if they could help with clothing for our expedition. They said yes.
Now organising a trip like that takes some doing and in the thick of organising permits, new rucksacks, booking accommodation and dealing with reserve wardens (who were in turn dealing with fires, illegal settlements and a constant flow of other things) the clothing from BAM got forgotten about.
Then, at the beginning of the summer of 2017, a huge package of clothes arrived at the house.
Having stopped active sponsorship but remembering their promise of 2015 BAM were prepared to help with our 2017 return to South Africa. In some ways now, I am pleased that we waited. Training through the summer was, at times, intense. Climbing one of Wales’ 1000m peaks once or twice a week and walking everywhere with 15 kg in your rucksack got a little sweaty – but it was never uncomfortable. New boots – BAM socks stopped the rubbing, Rucksack waist straps – BAM undies reduced the chafing and sweaty rucksack back – the BAM tops wicked the sweat away. But how would they fare with midsummer in South Africa?
Now, fast forward to the 7th December 2017, its 39°C and we were hiking up the 1200m Ten O’Clock peak in the Marloth Nature Reserve with three days’ worth of kit on our backs. The trail hadn’t been extensively walked and at times we were having to bash vegetation to get through. The sun was blaring down on us and the going was rather slow. We started the day at 7am and were only nearing the summit when noon arrived. It was at this point that I first, mentally, thanked BAM. The high UV protection of the white, long sleeved top I was wearing was doing its job and whilst I was dripping in sweat I certainly was not uncomfortable for it.
We arrived at the hut, a corrugated (oven) tin box with a long drop toilet, at 4pm after 9 hours of walking. The stream at the side of the hut had ceased to flow but just a short walk away was a flowing stream and the most exquisite pools surrounded by Yellow orchids (Disa aurata) and populated with hundreds of large fat tadpoles. We literally sat down in the water fully clothed.
It was at that point that there was the hint of the trouble to come. The change in temperature from roasting hot to cool caused my nose to bleed and within moments we were joined in the water by any number of leaches. Quickly retreating we went back to the hut and it wasn’t long before our wet clothes were hung out to dry (bamboo dries quite quickly especially when hung out in a hot tin box).
Having eaten a pack of the 1000 calorie macaroni cheese (I don’t think I will ever be able to eat Mac and Cheese again) expedition food we settled down for the night although not before we removed two very large (the size of the palm of my hand) rain spiders that had decided to join us.
About an hour in to the night I woke up feeling rather ill and it wasn’t very long before I was unable to hold down any of the 1000 Kc that I had eaten earlier. For the next 6 hours the stomach bug that besieged me did not give up its onslaught. What was worse was that not long afterwards Ben was overwhelmed with the same sickness bug. What started out as the most idyllic of nights very quickly deteriorated into a nightmare. Eventually, clothed in a comfortable, and more importantly, clean pair of BAM shorts and a tee shirt, I got back to something resembling sleep for a couple of hours before dawn.
On waking, and feeling absolutely rotten, we made the decision to cut the trip into Marloth Nature reserve short. Our foray up onto the very little visited Misty Point would have to wait for another time. With just a little water in our stomachs we started heading towards the spot where we last had mobile phone service in order to call for help. Once we sounded the alarm we carried on in the direction of the reserve offices. It was on this very slow, uncomfortable and even painful walk out that I thanked BAM the most. The thermal control and soft fabric of the yellow and grey zip neck baselayer not only helped me deal with the intermittent bouts of shivering but also the 42°C heat that the day had decided to throw at us when we were at our lowest.
Stopping at every small kloof of running water it took us four and a half hours before we saw the welcome sight of the six members of the reserve team that had been sent to extract us. Whipping our heavy rucksacks away from us and handing us drinks of electrolytes they encouraged us to continue the further 4 hours to the emergency exit down a steep slope to a jeep track below. There were moments when that walk out looked like it may never end and there was one or two moments when I thought it may end rather too abruptly. We were eventually met by a Bakkie (south African for a pick-up truck or ute) and driven out to the reserve offices where they were on standby to whisk us to hospital. Knowing, however, that we were not suffering from hyperthermia we decided to accept the more comfortable option of a guest house for the night to recover where the team could keep half an eye on us.
We eventually left Marloth after a further 12 hours of shivering and sweating and I cannot thank Henry Van Tonder and his CapeNature team enough for all their help. We headed east towards George where we would stay in the comfort of a friend’s home and take it easy for a day or so before the next mountain and the next adventure.
Whilst our illness in Marloth was the most notable time that I mentally thanked BAM along the length of our month in the mountains of South Africa it was certainly not the last. There were times then the sun was so strong that we had to cover every little bit of skin to stop ourselves from burning, there were times when we were unable to wash properly for multiple days at a time and there were days when we got back to civilization and all we wanted to do was be in the most comfortable clothes we had. Each of these times I said