By Dave Charles
When the riots hit us last year and disrupted the supply chain, I suddenly wished that I had taken more notice of those urban prepping shows on TV. They are still available online according to a cursory flip through Google. Who could possibly resist a catchy title like Prepping for Doomsday with Pastor Joe - Should You Be Afraid? Or Prepping 101 For Beginners.
The biggest concern I had back then was what to do if the food ran out and, judging from the punch ups in car parks outside several retail outlets, I wasn’t alone in my trepidation. Luckily that drama was relatively short-lived, but it has left a lingering concern prompting many people to keep an emergency stash of non-perishable food on hand “just in case…”
My Mormon friend has been following a sort of Mormon prepper’s doctrine for years. They have always been encouraged to keep a year’s supply of food on hand to withstand this sort of crisis, but his interpretation of the rules was extended to include a year’s supply of essentials like imported canned artichoke hearts, Cote d’Or chocolates and other treats without which he could not possibly survive. As tempting as this might sound, I defy anyone to keep a stash of chocolate untouched for a whole year.
Sue and I did keep a little stash of survival rations for a while, but I must confess to having raided it from time to time and now the larder is bare. So, when I came across an advert offering a beginner’s course in foraging for edible plants, I was intrigued. This could make Pastor Joe irrelevant in the bigger picture!
As it happened, the foraging course was due to take place at The Tugela River Lodge in a lovely setting on a cattle farm opposite the battlefield of Spionkop near the Drakensberg town of Winterton. The lodge is a charming, rather rustic hideaway overlooking a majestic sweep of wild Tugela River.
As the course was planned for a Saturday, we decided to take the Friday off to make a weekend of it. So, with our hardly ever used mountain bikes packed and ready to tackle the trails through natural bush and game reserve, we hit the highway
The three-hour trip from Ballito was an absolute joy for truck spotters. You would be amazed at how many species of truck you can spot on the N3 these days. And most of them are travelling slowly enough to allow you to count the wheel nuts. But I digress…
We arrived in the heat of the afternoon with the promise of a spectacular thunderstorm brewing over the distant Dragon Mountains. As the river was in flood, the long trails through the neighbouring game reserve were not accessible so we settled for the EASY 5km amble up a little hillside and then off into terra incognita following the almost invisible yellow painted stone markers hidden in the long grass.
I clearly had overestimated my level of fitness, and the uphill ride over rocks on the very narrow cattle track quickly saw me completely run out of steam. According to my talking watch, this was just 1.4km into the EASY 5km amble. With the howling wind of an approaching storm
conjuring shrieking ghosts from graves on Spoinkop for company, I trudged towards my
distant rest, on foot, trying desperately to catch up to Sue who was loving every minute of it.
Eventually, about a year later…or so it seemed, we made it back to the lodge and, with a little more therapy, I will be fine in a week or two…but again, I digress.
Next morning, we assembled with other enthusiastic foragers to begin a journey of discovery, ably guided by edible plant expert, Nikki Brighton.
I can honestly say that this was an experience that has completely changed my understanding of the natural world around us.
Modern living has left us clueless as to the natural bounty of goodness and flavour that is freely available to us in nature. Indigenous knowledge is a precious resource that rural people have handed down through the ages and Nikki and her team have been gathering this knowledge, much of which is now being passed on through courses like this.
We were introduced to a smorgasbord of edible weeds growing wild in the field, as well as a few cultivated plants which, over the course of a couple of hours, were transformed into a cornucopia of superfoods, supplements and ingredients for a life of health, vigour and vitality.
I will be listing and describing the best of these in our weekly digital newsletter,
The Weekender, that I encourage you subscribe to right now on www.theweekender.co.za
You will be so glad that you did.
See you in The Weekender soon.
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