AKU vs. the “Grabby Stabbies” in the South African Bush
By Cody Sowa
Since I’m a photographer that specializes in outdoor and adventure photography, one of my main clients (and now friend) asked me to accompany her and her friend on a South African Safari. How do you turn down jobs like this? Answer: you don’t!
Right before leaving, I got a text from the guiding company and they warned us that our safari would be plagued by weeds, bushes and trees with long sharp needles (see photo). Essentially, there are small, medium and large plants that will stab and cut you. The Australian visitors in the area cleverly and accurately named them, “Grabby-Stabbies” for good reason. While there’s no hook or barb on this plant’s needle, it will grab on to your clothing and give a good tug before letting go. The worst part, they will also penetrate your shoes/boots if you’re not adequately prepared in that department.
The advice was, “bring a solid pair of boots with a thick sole to prevent foot punctures.” Great advice and something I was keen on avoiding on the trip. As with any adventure, you’re pretty much useless if you incur a foot injury, so always protect your feet!
With all of this in mind, I decided to grab my go-to “unfamiliar terrain” boots, the AKU Superlap GTX. You may be thinking, just like I was, why would I choose such a heavy duty boot when I’m going to a 90 degree flat dusty desert? Won’t my feet sweat and fall right off my body? Nope! While they were a bit overkill by many standards, even the guides teased me a little, they breathe surprisingly well and I didn’t once feel overheated. And, I never had to think about the infamous “Grabby-Stabbies” while my friends did. The higher ankle boot in this situation was also better than anticipated as my crew ended up getting cuts and scratches on their ankles. I’ve now worn them in the winter in Colorado and the summer in Africa, and zero complaints. They breathe well and do a great job and regulating temps.
Like I said earlier, the guides teased me a bit as they assumed that the larger than normal boots would be clunky and noisy as we walked through the bush. At first, I was worried as well. I hadn’t thought of that when picking out the boots and now I was 100+ miles from any shoe store and a couple thousand miles from my boot and shoe collection back home in Colorado. The first day put me and the guides at ease as I was surprisingly stealthy. Zero noise is impossible as even the guides stepped on sticks from time to time and there were plenty of obstacles no matter the route we chose. Happy to report that I was no noisier than my friends (although one was an AK amputee and a bit noisier) or the guides.
I spent nearly two weeks riding on the back of a safari truck, jumping in and out 10+ times a day and then walking a mile or two on most of those small bush hikes. I carried a camera backpack with a 2nd camera body and 2 spare lenses as well as my main camera body attached to a giant lens (150-600mm) that sat perched on top of a tripod. So needless to say, I carried some cargo all day long. The best part, only my shoulders were tired at the end of the day. My feet never bothered me and I didn’t even realize that fact until I sat down to write this blog post.
I’ll say it one last time; Your feet are the make it or break it body part on any adventure no matter the size or conditions (minus parasailing or surfing maybe). So take care of them and protect them for maximum outdoor enjoyment!