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May 20, 2013

Cape Town dominates Nightjar Adventurer 2013

Cape Town's Richard Kohler has been named as the Nightjar Adventurer 2013. Photos courtesy of Nightjar Travel

The inaugural Nightjar Adventurer 2013 Awards recently took place at the Cape Union Mart Adventure Centre at Canal Walk Shopping Centre in the Northern Suburbs, and two of the Mother City's most adventurous sons walked away with top honours.

More than 100 adventure enthusiasts packed out the venue, having read the adventurers’ stories over the past weeks but having no idea what to expect next. Well, even their best guesses would have missed the mark: the evening turned into a comedy hour, with the speakers and winners brilliantly recounting some of their more amusing adventuring mishaps.

As much as I laughed, however, I was also seriously awed by what the nominees had achieved. From swimming in water that would scare a polar bear, to walking over 1 000km through the Empty Quarter desert without a support crew, with mountains, oceans, and you-name-its conquered in between, the nine expeditions in contention this year were amazing.

The winner of the title of Nightjar Adventurer 2013 turned out to be Richard Kohler, a Milnerton resident, for a first solo continuous paddle around the coastline of South Africa, appropriately named Paddling for Smiles. Richard’s expedition, which included paddling with killer whales on the False Bay crossing, was literally life-changing for him; he had the insight, while listening to a local politics talk show on his little waterproof radio, that life is too short to hang around bored and frustrated, and it was time to follow his passion. Consequently, he quit his job as a factory manager and is now running a paddling academy on the canals at Century City.

Capetonian teenager Kai Fitchen was awarded the Readers’ Choice Award at the Nightjar Adventurer 2013 Awards

The Readers’ Choice Award went to 19-year-old Kai Fitchen, the youngest adventurer present ... and once he picked up the microphone, it was obvious why. He spoke with such enthusiasm that I wanted to grab a pair of boots right off the Cape Union Mart's wall.

Kai took a carbon-neutral journey from Cape Town to climb Mt Kenya, doing talks on sustainability to school students along the way. This meant a lot of public transport, and carrying backpacks of over 40kg all day long for months. Kai recounted that early on in the expedition, they made a (failed) attempt to summit Spitzkop in Namibia as a warm-up.

With a straight face, he talked about hours on their feet, carrying their gruelling loads, with the local fauna trying to eat them and even a stray rock nearly taking off his head. Finally, he said, it was time to accept that they were never going to find the start of the trail!

As the title of this piece might have hinted, both the winners were Capetonian adventurers, and on top of that two of the judges were Matthew Holt, a Cape Town-based Briton known for having climbed the intimidating Mount Everest, and famous rock climber Jeremy Samson.

Check out the full stories of all the expeditions on www.nightjartravel.com/adventurer-2013.

After a brief stint as a science student, Erik Brits decided to focus passionately on bits of the world that he could actually understand, and now he travels all over the country sourcing interesting stories for Nightjar Travel. However far and wide he travels, though, Cape Town will always be home.

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