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Home Forums Trip Reports The Mother Continent: Gondwanaland Part 1

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    This is a multifaceted holistic-minded epic, so sit tight and settle in (If you are only interested in snow photos then just scroll through and you’ll find them).

    Welcome to the Spirit World – Land of the Ancestors

    The journey begins under the setting sun on a hillside where 1.7 million years ago man controlled fire.

    Yes. 1.7 million years ago a band of upright walking large brained primates had a campfire here. I spend an hour in quiet contemplation of the place. Most will say that we have come a long way forward since then. I’m not quite so sure. What type of future fires do we have control over now?

    I am here primarily to soak in the spirit and the lessons of the Mother Continent. But there is also a chance for snow and some turns inside the last stronghold of the ancient mountain dwelling San.


    According my contact’s smartphone forecast, in a few days snow enough for African backcountry skiing might fall from the sky.

    Ski trips are always gambles and I often gamble with them. This time I am gambling big. Several years back some photos of snow covered peaks in southern Africa had caught my eye and an idea grew in me that one day I would try to ride those mountains.

    With all my cards on the table, I stuff my splitboard into a packed sedan and head into the countryside, praying for snow.


    Enter land of the baobab.

    And into the veld for a few days of walking amongst the Mopani

    (tough to get a lion picture, couldn’t get close)

    (this is a leopard running from us. I just barely was able to snap a picture)


    Safari with a splitboard stuffed in a car, baking away in the sun. The mountain Zebras are calling. Let’s go see about that storm.


    As the sun drops clouds begin to amass over the high peaks and the cold moisture of a storm is in the air.

    In the morning it’s raining down low and the highlands are enveloped in clouds, darkness covers the African sky. We decide to go in further and have a look.

    Fully soaked by cold rain, we find accommodation in an ancient Paleolithic rock shelter.

    Awake to blue skies. A jaunt out of the canyon for a view of the results reveals lost hopes for powder in Africa.

    A dusting was all she wrote.

    In the distance, I take notice of a mountain which received more substantial snow and I contemplate heading that way.

    Yet reality triumphs. At most there is 6” over there, I’d guess.

    I’ve been around mountains and snow my whole life and I could pretty much tell during the storm that the precip wasn’t heavy enough to amount to much.

    That’s how it goes. You can’t win em’ all. I am in an amazingly beautiful and spiritual place regardless and enjoy the retreat down and across this primeval high elevation grasslands.

    The locals tell me there is still hope, that a big storm might still be on its way, to hold out for a few days more. I hauled my gear all this way and I’m not giving up yet, but the possibilities seem unlikely.


    Time to implement plan B.

    With my gear all packed up, I hitched to a place where I knew there was in fact enough snow for turns in Africa. The Suthu welcomed me enthusiastically with open arms. They, of course, had never seen a splitboard. The first hitchhiking splitboarder they had even seen, I was given red carpet status and put straight onto the slopes, for my first (and likely only) turns in Africa.

    There it is, Savage shredding the motherland, on a single lane of futuristic machine made snow. I made 10 laps and as the day went on conditions turned to soft slush. It was a blast.

    The resort owner gave me a free lift pass for the day, providing that I skin to the top of the slope at least once so that the locals could see how a splitboard worked.

    I came all the way to Africa and of course I am going to slap the skins on for at least one lap! Plus, my guess is that this makes me the first person to ever splitboard in Africa? Just to make it more interesting, I even went “off-piste”. You can barely make out my skin track along the grass here.

    The local Suthu tribesman are descended from sheepherders that have roamed these mountains for at least a couple thousand years. Today the majority of Suthu maintain a subsistence farming and herding lifeway. When the ski lift became operational several of them were given jobs and then learned how to ski and snowboard. It was just awesome watching these guys make lap after lap on their snowboards, and do it well to boot.


    Shred mission accomplished, but an important quest still remained. I needed to head back into the mountain canyons to spend some quality time with the spirits of the ancient hunters.

    To get there it was necessary to pass through Zulu homelands.

    After a certain point all signs of crop and animals domestication were gone and the trail gave way to a primordial landscape of mountains, canyons, and wonderful golden grass (and the occasional band of primates). High pressure had set in and almost every trace of snow from the previous storm was gone.

    As the journey into the canyons continues, messages left by the ancient ones abound.

    Stories of hunts…

    …and of being hunted.


    A rockshelter used by human hunters for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, was utilized for an overnight stay. You can see the entrance to the shelter in the middle-left of this photo.

    Most of the animals painted by the hunters were Elands, which continue to graze today in the surrounding grasslands. Elands abound, yet the hunters are gone, nothing left of them but the occasional lithic scatter and fading paint on the walls.


    This particular rockshelter was likely used by humans for a million years or more. Australopithecus, Habilis, Ergaster, Heidelbergensis, and Sapien all possibly took shelter here.

    And now I, the snowboarder, have the honor of building a fire and laying my head down here. I can only do so with deep thoughts and a heavy heart.

    These valleys, mountains, and canyons are said to be the original homelands of the San Bushman. It is quite possible that San peoples lived here and hunted here sustainably for upwards of forty thousand years. Beginning around three or four thousand years ago the Zulus arrived from the north, with their cattle, their desire to expand, to conquer and control land.

    As is expected when agriculturalists and domesticators expand into the wild territories of hunter gatherers, the San were forced from the lowlands into the safety of these canyons. From that point on their lives would never be the same.

    Later, when the Dutch settlers arrived (my direct ancestors) they soon were at war with the Zulus in a battle for the same lands. The Dutch became the Afrikaners, colonial farmers with a duty to subdue all things wild and free. The Afrikaners made sport out “Bushman hunting” with their rifles in these canyons. Those San who were not killed escaped north to inhabit the Kalahari Desert, where a few scattered bands still survive as free hunters today.

    The Elands and the Grey Rheboks still roam free in these hills, but the hunters who painted the pictures are gone, forever.


    Homo Habilis arose in Africa 2.4 million years ago.

    The time period since Domestication and cereal Agriculture, the base foundation for our world-system and experiential reality today, represents less than one half of one percent of human history.

    Oil as energy, now the only thing actually propping us up today, our TRUE modern life-support system, has only a 150 year history. The digital age is only about 30 years old and the oh-so-glorious smartphone age about 8. Stand back and look deep at what we as a species have accomplished with oil, digital-tech, and now the little toy phones we can’t seem to live a day without. Think of the hunters who survived for a few hundred thousand years with only what the land provided them.

    It is the twenty first century and things aren’t lookin so good for the planet or for our species. Among a plethora of other things, those African Rhinos above are likely to soon go extinct because of the Chinese mafia poaching ring. What you gonna do?

    With heavy thoughts on my mind, but highly stoked on the overall extraordinary, highly educational, life affirming trip to the Mother Continent, I departed Africa……

    Continued in Part 2

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