Sydney Alexander received mountaineering training, which entails skills like night navigation, how to work with the ropes in case of emergency and emergency management training in case someone gets lost on the mountain. That entails knowing what you need to do, what equipment you need you need to have and general mountain safety.
SYDNEY ALEXANDER is one of the 14 guides who have been trained by the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) to guide on the Hoerikwaggo Trail. TMNP is now subsidizing half the cost of hiring guides for day hikes, meaning that visitors will pay R150 a day plus R35 a person, up to the maximum of six people. To book a guide call 021-683-7226 between 8am and 5pm on weekdays or email.
How long have you been guiding? For three years
How did you get involved with guiding? I got involved through the Chrysalis Academy. Table Mountain National Parks sent an advert to them that they are keen on giving a learner-ship, programme to kids that were disadvantages.
How old are you? I’m 23.
What training have you received? I received my mountaineering training, which entails basic mountaineering skills like night navigation and how to work with ropes in case of emergency, and I have emergency management training in case someone gets lost on the mountain. That entails knowing what you need to do, what equipment you need to have and, of course, general mountain safety. You need to be with your guests and to inform them about what type of gear and equipment they will need to have on a tour for; let’s say, tow or three days. All these things fall under mountaineering. And with that comes First Aid. You need to First Aid in order to get your guiding licence. That’s the most important one.
Would you like to do more training? I think from her I will go into People and Conservation, a division of SANParks which educates communities about the environment. The reason I want to go into that field is that once you are a guide, your communications skills develop and you know how to approach people. You know how to handle situations you come across. If you are under pressure or have a difficult client, then you know how to handle everything that comes your way. And of course you work with people from all over the world and from all over South Africa.
And in ten years time? I think everyone wants to be a manager: everyone want to be a park manager. Hopefully in ten years’ time I’ll still be in the park, but also have my own little business running.
What did you want to do before becoming a guide? I worked for a roofing company and later I worked for a data company. I used to pull in data and network cables. So, if I look back three or four years, I don’t think it was my initial plan to end up where I am today. You can never tell where you will end up. People sometimes think if you start off by working at MacDonald’s that’s where your life is going to end. But I think it’s all about taking opportunities when they come along.
Where do you live? Strandfontein.
That’s quite a distance to travel to work. Ja, it is. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult because you’re not constantly at the office. You’re always on tours, meaning sometimes it’s in Orange Kloof, sometimes in Silvermine, sometimes in Slangkop. So you travel back and forth. Sometimes you won’t go home for a week or two, but it’s all about sacrifices.
Do you enjoy that part of the job? Yes, I love it.
How many times have you done the Hoerikwaggo trail? Probably more then a 100 times.
Which is your favourite section of the trail? I think Orange Kloof. That’s just magic. There’s always magic in the forest. I think once you get into the forest area that’s very quiet and peaceful and the birds are whistling and the stream is running, that is the most peaceful place on earth. That’s why I love it.
Have you had any bad experiences on the mountain? None.None. That’s good. You can have bad experiences with clients. Sometimes they can be a bit difficult, making your job difficult. Especially when you are a youngster like me – you’re telling them what to do or explaining something to them and they know it. They can sometimes intimidate you. It’s all part of the job – learning. And every day I learn something. I always tell my colleagues that as a tour guide you never stop leaning.
What do you most enjoy about guiding? You need passion. This is a job that requires passion. You can’t come here and put up a face. People can see if you don’t have a passion for what you do. What I love about this job is the people. The staff I work with are fantastic. And to add a cherry on top, the clients we get on every tour are fantastic. Their approach to the trip will determine how the tour goes. How you approach people and how you start a tour is important. If they see you are energetic and full of life, that you love what you are doing, the respect will follow. I think that’s what is most important about it.
What is the funniest question you have ever been asked while guiding? This one lady from Holland asked me if there are any elephants on Table Mountain.
Interview by Lesley Byram.
Source: Cape Times – 21 November: Sydney Alexander