Trekking for Trash

First published on Africa Geographic’s Blog

Did you know that it takes three million steps to cover a distance of 3 000 kilometres?

Foot-tripping South Africa. Last October, Michael and Camilla started their 3 000-kilometre trek in Alexander Bay on the Namibian border. © Robert Oettle/Trekking for Trash

Foot-tripping South Africa. Last October, Michael and Camilla started their 3,000-kilometre trek in Alexander Bay on the Namibian border.
© Robert Oettle/Trekking for Trash

Social change adventurers Michael Baretta and Camilla Howard know all about it, with every last step their bruised and shin-splinted legs have taken over the past seven months. After 3 000 kilometres, they finally kicked off their shoes on 29 April in Kosi Bay, on the border with Mozambique. I interviewed the two trekkers about their epic Litter Awareness Campaign for promoting a cleaner South Africa.

Q: You’ve been walking between 20 and 30 kilometres for six days a week. When did you decide to tackle this incredible adventure?

Michael: The route was inspired by David Grier who ran a daily marathon along South Africa’s coast [first continuous run of 3 300 kilometres in 80 days from Oranjemund to Mozambique]. I always wanted to combine something that I dreamed of doing with something that I wanted to change about the world. At the time, I also needed a drastic change in my own life and I thought that by doing something bold, we could draw attention to our litter problem.

Camilla: I jumped at the idea when Mike told me about it in August 2011. After my last adventure, the Old Mutual Barefoot Kilimanjaro, I was looking for something bigger. I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone, challenge myself physically and mentally, and come out a stronger woman. I also wanted to achieve something significant with my life and Trekking for Trash gave me the opportunity to drive social change in the country I love.

© Trekking for Trash

© Trekking for Trash

Q: Michael, what will and won’t you miss about your trip?

A: I’m really going to miss being outdoors every day and walking. After completing our trek, my body and mind felt quite twitchy as if I needed to get outside and go for a run. I wasn’t the biggest fan of living out of a bag. I will miss falling asleep to the sound of the sea and having so much time to think.

Q: What did you miss during your trip?

Camilla: Having Cam-time. We had one day’s rest per week but there was seldom time to just be alone. I thought I would really battle being far away from my boyfriend, good friends and family for so long. And I also thought sleeping in a different bed every night would break me. But honestly, I didn’t find either an issue on the trip.

© Trekking for Trash

© Trekking for Trash

© Trekking for Trash

© Trekking for Trash

Q: Did you ever reach a moment when you thought of giving up?

Michael: Never!

Q: Camilla, what did you discover about Michael?

A: Mike and I had taken part in a Tuk-Tuk race in Sri Lanka and a walk through the Transkei before Trekking for Trash, but I think I’d only seen his fun side. Through this trip I got to know the more serious, corporate Mike. In essence we became colleagues in this journey as well as friends. I also knew Mike was a tough cookie but it still surprised me how he managed to dig deep when he was in a lot of pain with his foot. And how he carried the heavy bin on his back every day without ever complaining.

© Trekking for Trash

© Trekking for Trash

Q: What is the most interesting person you met along the way and what was your most memorable moment?

Michael: Meeting Kingsley Holgate and Kim and Peter van Kets.

Camilla: Answering my phone and it was Kingsley Holgate inviting us to the farewell party of his latest expedition! We were staying along the same road in Zinwazi [coastal town north of Durban] and had dropped him a note. It was so special to meet him and be in the presence of such inspiring, like-minded people.

© Trekking for Trash

© Trekking for Trash

Mike and Cam have come a long way, literally. They have picked up litter, educated local communities about the importance of looking after our environment and conducted numerous beach clean-ups with local South Africans. As a welcoming sign read on the day they completed their trip in Kosi Bay: ‘You’ve shown us all, you can.”

For more information about the trip and a detailed account of Mike and Cam’s adventures, visit the Trekking for Trash Blog

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