Meet Galeo Saintz, founder of the Hi-Tec Garden Route Walking Festival, South Africa’s first and only walking festival. As a trail blazer he co-founded both the Rim of Africa Mountain Traverse and the Eden to Addo Corridor Hike, two of SA’s longest hiking experiences. Galeo is founding Chair of the World Trails Network which is based in Switzerland, and a champion for Green Flag Trails International. If you don’t bump into him either hiking or running on one of Table Mountain’s trails or on some of the great walks in the Garden Route, you will find him contributing to the global conversation on nature and peace through his conservation work as Co-Chair of the IUCN’s Theme on Environment and Peace.
Hiking South Africa caught up with Galeo to find out more about this dynamic mountain man.
HSA: Name, city / town where you live?
GS: Between Cape Town and Plettenberg Bay.
HSA: Where and when did you start hiking?
GS: As a youngster, I did many trails with my family – completing the Otter Trail, Tsitsikamma and others before my 14th birthday. This is when my love for being outside in nature, and specifically, the Garden Route area, was first ignited!
HSA: Who introduced you to hiking?
GS: I was lucky that both my mom and dad, and my grandfather were all super keen walkers and bred a love for the great outdoors from an early age.
HSA: Your favourite hike / hiking area(s)?
GS: As Chair of the World Trails Network, I have had the immense opportunity to hike in some of the world’s amazing places, but at the end of the day my favourite hikes are still on the Garden Route with its awesome forests, mountains and rocky coastline. It is my love and appreciation for this magnificent part of our country that inspired me to join with Hi-Tec South Africa and create the Garden Route Walking Festival – an annual festival held over Easter that offers 52 unique trails in the Garden Route area. The walks range from an underwater trail (i.e. a snorkelling trip!) to a guided midnight meander along a pristine beach, from experiencing some of the amazing community-driven initiatives in the area to climbing some of the highest peaks in the region. The trails range from educational to inspirational and the hope is that each experience will allow a deeper connection to our natural world!
HSA: What does hiking mean to you?
GS: It means freedom and connection, exhilaration and peace.
HSA: Describe your best hiking achievement / most memorable hike.
GS: Oh there are many, but my most memorable is completing the original recce of the Eden to Addo hike over 21 days – most of which I did solo. It involved walking through buffalo territory, encountering snakes, and running out of water. Incredible.
HSA: Who is your favourite hiking buddy and why?
GS: All of them, people who love the outdoors are always awesome. They appreciate the small things, are up for adventure and one soon makes lasting friendships.
HSA: Your favourite piece of hiking clothing?
GS: Kikoi and vest.
HSA: Your favourite piece of hiking gear?
GS: Hammock and hat.
HSA: Your favourite hiking / inspirational quote?
GS: “Solvitur ambulando” – it is solved by walking.
HSA: What is your dream hike / adventure?
GS: A super long distance trail around the world, linking all the world’s great trails.
HSA: What is the funniest thing that’s happened to you while hiking?
GS: Getting lost temporarily with a group from the UCT hiking club on Table Mountain – it was evident to me we were seriously walking circles around Grootkop in the mist, after the same junction came up a second time.
HSA: What is the trickiest position you’ve been in while hiking (and what did you do)?
GS: Hypothermia while hiking on Reunion Island and being unexpectedly benighted without food or shelter. Made a fire and managed to heat some water and so got through the night. Helicopters were searching for us the next day.
HSA: What is the best tip you can give to newbie hikers?
GS: Just get out there – plan that first hike, take friends and go do it. Don’t wait.
HSA: What’s the worst/best thing you’ve seen on a trail?
GS: Sadly all too often very poor trail maintenance and trail upkeep. The best thing on every trail is a well designed and managed trail. Oh, and the sound of the early morning birds and a great spot to hang your hammock – that is always a win!