Epic solo conservation journey, Six Million Steps, ends in triumph

It took 250 days to cover 3,514 km, and just over five million steps. Adventurer, conservationist and traveller Grant Christie has completed his epic solo journey along the South African coastline.

Christie, 28, from Pietermaritzburg left the comforts of a secure job, home and family behind on 17 October, 2013 and headed off from Alexander Bay on the west coast towards his final destination of Kosi Bay on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast. He triumphantly reached the finish line on 23 June 2014.

Grant Christie celebrates the end of his epic walk along the SA coastline - Kosi Border Post. Image supplied

Grant Christie celebrates the end of his epic walk along the SA coastline – Kosi Border Post. Image supplied

Incredible diversity of South Africa showcased

From a mechanic with plans to build a space ship to a spaced out backpacker manager and stargazing Americans, Christie encountered both the natural and human diversity South Africa has to offer.

“I gained a lot of perspective on this trip,” says Christie. “About life, about South Africa and its people. It revealed to me that there are still so many fears and misconceptions out there. But what my journey proved is that most of these are unfounded. Yes, crime is a reality, I was never threatened in any way.  We live in a beautiful and diverse country. And we really don’t have it as bad as a lot of people think. In fact, we have it great.”

Christie acknowledges that we still have a “long way to go” in terms of conservation, however. “People need to realise the consequences of their actions and learn to take responsibility for them.”

Teaching the people of SA to make a positive environmental impact

According to Christie, there are a few simple things that everyone can do to help make a positive environmental impact. “Recycle, don’t litter, conserve water and energy. These things are not difficult to do, but collectively the impact will be great,” he says. These are the simple truths he shared with the hundreds of school pupils he spoke to in various towns along the way.

Ups and downs

There were many ‘ups and downs’ throughout the journey, but according to Christie, it was a mostly positive experience. At times during the journey Christie slept on the beach, at others, he found himself in five-star-luxury after meeting up with hospitable strangers. Despite encountering some devastating environmental disasters, Christie says his “faith in humanity” has been restored.

“Often when I felt at my lowest, at the end of my tether, someone would pop up and offer some help. The people I encountered along the way, whether it was just a brief discussion on the beach or staying with them for a few nights, these people are what made the journey so incredible. They helped me more than they know and I appreciate this more than I could ever express.”

Adventurer Grant Christie crossing the Kleinrivier crossing - Photo by Erlo Brown

Adventurer Grant Christie crossing the Kleinrivier crossing – Photo by Erlo Brown

Inspired by a hike along the Otter Trail

Inspired by a childhood love of nature and driven by a distinct dissatisfaction with ordinary living, Christie came up with the Six Million Steps journey after hiking the Otter Trail and experiencing the incredible diversity of the Tsitsikamma forest and the beaches which stretch along the Eastern Cape coastline. He realised he could help protect one of the country’s most precious resources by raising awareness and funds for organisations working to protect and rehabilitate the coastline.

Raising awareness through social media

Throughout the journey, Christie blogged, photographed, Facebooked and tweeted both the good and bad along his journey. He hopes that his journey encouraged the public to fall in love with their natural coastal heritage, and are inspired to protect it. He also hopes that his journey will highlight some of the ways that government, NGOs, corporates and other organisations can work together to ensure both the protection of the coastline and the sustainability of the resources it provides.

Knysna to Plettenberg Bay was the toughest section

According to Christie, the toughest part of the trek was the journey through the Garden Route from Herolds Bay to Oyster Bay, and in particular the stretch from Knysna to Plettenberg Bay.

“The jagged rocks and cliffs flanked by impenetrable forest and fynbos made this section extremely difficult and scary at times,” says Christie.

Three medical emergencies

Throughout the Six Million Steps journey, Christie faced three medical ‘emergency’ situations. The first was just a week into the walk when he spent a few days in hospital after it was feared that he had picked up an infection. Fortunately the heavy swelling and inflammation in his lower leg was “just” a case of sever tendinitis, and not the suspected infection. “I realized my pack was too heavy and decided to cut down on provisions,” he says.

The second was midway through the expedition where Christie fell three to four metres whilst attempting to climb down a rocky section near Herolds Bay. “Fortunately, I limped away with just a few flesh wounds and a damaged toe,” he recalls.

The third was towards the end of the journey when his feet started to ache terribly. After ruling out the possibility of stress fractures, and with a few days of rest, Christie had his feet strapped and was ready to tackle the final leg of the environmental awareness campaign.

Grant Christie reaches the end of his epic walk at the Mozambique-SA border. Image supplied

Grant Christie reaches the end of his epic walk at the Mozambique-SA border. Image supplied

The future?

“For those who followed the journey, I hope that in some way you have been inspired to follow your passions, to pursue your dreams,” says Christie. “It takes hard work and sacrifice, but it is definitely worth it. Would I do it again? Probably not, I would rather take on something different. There are parts that I will definitely do again though. And I would definitely recommend it to anyone that wants to.”

Media Release for Six Million Steps

Erlo Brown is another young man who walked the entire coastline of South Africa, in the opposite direction to Grant. For his story see

http://scenicsouth.co.za/2010/11/coasting-it-one-young-man-and-his-dog/

http://scenicsouth.co.za/2011/03/erlo-browns-epic-coastal-hike-his-reflections-after/

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