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The soul of a hiker

Nina du Plessis is a financial administrator but she was born with hiking in her soul

BY PATRICIA McCRACKEN

The soul of a hiker

Nina du Plessis is a financial administrator but she was born with hiking in her soul

BY PATRICIA McCRACKEN
“Hiking is a space to reflect, rejuvenate and rediscover inner balance,” says Nina du Plessis, seen here at Hangklip Peak, Pringle Bay. Her enthusiasm for hiking has spurred her to write a guidebook to Western Cape trails.

 

Nina du Plessis, lead author of the newly published Hiking Beyond Cape Town (Struik Nature, R290), practises what she preaches. Just before we chatted, she had completed a two-day, 30-kilometre hike on the Boesmanskloof trail from Greyton to McGregor. Soon afterwards, having launched the book at a branch event of BotSoc Kogelberg held at Harold Porter National Botanical Garden, she hiked the Fish River Canyon.

Nina was clearly born and bred to hike.

HIKING BABE

“My first hike was when I was still in my mother’s belly,” she says. “When I was only six months old, my parents did a six-day hike in the Mdedelelo wilderness in the central Drakensberg and I got to tag along.”

“My mom once organised a hiking birthday party for my younger brother Christiaan when he turned six and whenever we visited my dad in Namibia, he would take us wild camping, which always involved hiking.”

HIKING DIFFERENCES

The hiking gene is not always dominant, however.

“My elder son is now twenty and not much of an outdoorsy person. My younger son is thirteen and definitely enjoys hiking. He completed the Otter trail with us, carrying his own pack, when he was eleven. He has also hiked the Tugela Falls, the Cederberg and most of the hikes included in the book.

“Through my own teenage years, I did not hike much and I didn’t really get back into hiking until my kids were old enough. But my deep love for nature remained.”

“Getting deep into the mountains usually involves some strenuous climbing but you are rewarded with the most magnificent views and scenery,” says Nina du Plessis, seen here on the Rock Hopper Trail at Limietberg.

MAKING A BOOK

Sometimes it takes a family to make a book . . .

“Both parents instilled an enormous love and respect for nature in me,” Nina recalls. “It is because of the way they raised me that I was able to write this book.”

Before Covid, she often felt frustrated by the sketchy and sometimes inaccurate information online about local hikes. It was while hiking the Otter trail that the idea of doing a book came to her. That was the beginning of a two-year learning curve.

LEARNING CURVE

Nina’s dad is Willie Olivier, himself a renowned author of hiking and adventure guides. This book is Nina’s first and as co-author, Willie gave valuable mentoring assistance.

“There was the painstaking process of physically doing each hike, collecting all necessary data, researching the data and doing the write-ups,” Nina recalls. “It was an interesting experience to complete the hike and then put it on paper because you get to relive the hike in detail.

“I have learned the true meaning of ‘burning the midnight oil’, ‘the heat is on’ and ‘the devil is in the detail’, three phrases that my dad frequently uses during the writing process.

“Working alongside Willie has been a huge honour and privilege. His knowledge of hiking, maps, fauna, flora and cultural history was a big inspiration and help, which made the book possible.”

“Hiking offers space to reflect, rejuvenate and rediscover inner balance,” says Nina du Plessis, seen here at Die Hel in the Groot Winterhoek.

RESPITE & RECHARGE

Nina works as a financial administrator for the Shell group. For her, hiking is not only a hobby – she finds that its holistic health benefits encompass physical, mental, and emotional well-being. These have significantly affected her dedication to hiking.

“Amidst the tranquil beauty of nature, you find respite from the stresses of everyday life,” she explains. “Hiking allows people to unplug from the digital world, immerse themselves in the present moment and revel in the serenity of natural surroundings.

“The rhythmic footsteps, the sound of rustling leaves, and the grandeur of panoramic vistas all contribute to a heightened sense of mindfulness and clarity. I have found that hiking provides a much-needed escape, a space to reflect, rejuvenate and rediscover inner balance.”

WISE HIKING

Nina is fortunate to have a group of friends who are keen and experienced hikers so they usually hike together in a large group. If you prefer a smaller crowd, she advises a group of three or more.

Spring and autumn are definitely the best time of year to hike, she believes, because weather conditions are not as extreme as during summer and winter – “also in spring you get to hike among the flowers!” she adds.

Watch the weather report closely before an upcoming hike, she advises. Frustrating as it is, like most hikers she has had to cancel big hikes due to bad weather. On the other hand, she has a scale of bad weather.

“I personally would rather hike in the rain than in the heat of mid-summer – we always joke that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear!” she says. “My preferred weather conditions would be a cool day with some cloud cover.”

All in all, the chances are that the “Gone hiking” sign will be up at Nina’s home for several more spring weekends to come.

“I subscribe to the belief that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear!” laughs Nina du Plessis.

Nina’s favourite local hikes

  • Panorama Trail in Jonkershoek
  • Die Hel in Grootwinterhoek
  • Duiwelskloof in the Banhoek Conservancy

Overall, the Cederberg is definitely my favourite place to hike – I love the vastness of the landscape, the scenery that constantly changes and the magnificent rock formations.

“I enjoy longer, more strenuous hikes as they are more of a challenge,” says Nina du Plessis, seen here in her favourite hiking place, the Cederberg.

Branching out

. . . 9 insider tips to organise a book launch

Hiking Beyond Cape Town was a slamdunk choice for Kogelberg branch to co-host a book launch with publisher Penguin Random House. The subject had great appeal and lead author Nina du Plessis lives in nearby Gordon’s Bay.

If a book is due to appear that is likely to have strong appeal for members of your BotSoc branch, here are nine book-industry insider tips on to help you set up a book launch.

  • Make contact: Get in touch with the company publishing the book. Start the conversation with the marketing and publicity manager responsible for that specific title.
  • Establish an outline: The publisher will need to know how many people you realistically think will attend, whether you are thinking of a day or evening event and what date and venue you have in mind. For yourselves, enquire what support the publisher can offer in terms of catering, for example, and also ask what arrangements they will make for stocks of the book to be available. Find out what costs you might have to meet and what your total budget should be.
  • Making a date: Flag the date which you think works best, then check this with the publisher and author(s). Make sure that the authors are willing to travel if they are not living in your town. Finally, check the proposed date locally to ensure that you will have guests and that you will be able to mobilise members to help you run the event – start signing them up now and keep them updated regularly.
  • Inviting venue: For the event, try to choose somewhere that encourages people to attend – preferably it will be inviting and comfortable with good, secure and convenient parking. Check how many people it can accommodate (make sure that it won’t be too big or too small), plus space for chairs and tables, and whether your budget can cover any charge for the venue. Discuss whether you can borrow chairs and tables from other venues or need to hire them.
  • Time for snacks: When you have decided approximately how many you expect to attend and when and where the event will take place, get specific about what catering you can afford. If you have skilled cooks who are generous with their time at your branch, this can help keep costs down, of course. You will finalise numbers when the RSVPs are in.
  • Platform people: Organise someone who will facilitate the conversation with the author(s) at the event and someone else to welcome guests, introduce the facilitator and authors and thank those concerned. Remember to share this proposed format with the authors and publisher.
  • Inviting the guests: Most publishers create an invitation for the launch that you can email to your database and post on social-media platforms. Send this out two to three weeks ahead of the launch. Appoint someone to keep the RSVP list.
  • Coverage: Contact your local newspapers and community radio stations at least three weeks ahead of the event to generate publicity and people attending. If the author(s) live locally, ask them if they are happy to be interviewed and pass on this information to the media.
  • Ready, steady, go! Often you do not have more than a couple of hours to get a venue ready for a launch, so be prepared with a detailed list of everything that needs to be done and who is going to do it. Always remember that there should be a dedicated space for book signings after the launch.

Share some of the buzz of Nina and Willie’s book launch.

PHOTOS BY LIZ BUCKHER

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