'Naked hike' about stripping down emotional scars and baggage, not just clothing
The founder of the “naked hike” on Monday said the trek was about much more than stripping naked. Instead, it was also about stripping down the emotional scars and baggage that many carried.
Speaking to TimesLIVE on Monday, life coach Fanafikile Lephaku said the upcoming female-only naked hike was meant to encourage women participants to heal and accept themselves in their bare form.
“You have two kinds of people – those who are not comfortable and confident in their bodies and those who have complete confidence in their bodies, like your Zodwa Wabantu,” he said, referring to the entertainer who has made a name for herself for dancing and making appearances in minimalist clothing – usually without any underwear.
“So this naked hike is to make people realise that there is a power in accepting yourself the way you are. We are trying to empower women on just that.
“We want to strip it down to say yes, you feel confident in your beautiful clothes and make-up but do you hold the same confidence in your bareness. The hike is basically about helping someone accept themselves naturally,” said Lephaku.
About 10 women from their mid-20s to their 40s have registered for the hike, which will take place on November 20 in an undisclosed location in the Free State.
Lephaku said many more women had expressed interest in taking part, citing just the distance as the obstacle to taking part.
But exactly how will the naked hike work? Is it a group of strangers who simply meet at the entrance of the hiking spot, strip bare and head on their trek?
Not at all, said Lephaku, who explains that they want to form a bit of camaraderie among the participants.
They will all meet and travel together to a secluded spot on the evening before the hike.
“Myself and the female life coach will work with them to prepare them mentally for what is to happen. The next day we will head to the hiking trail and all hike fully clothed for a certain distance and, once we get to a certain spot, the ladies will separate from the guys who will be helping the team along,” Lephaku said.
It was probably for the first one minute where we were checking each other out and thinking whose got what sizeFanafikile Lephaku, life coach
“They will then start the naked hike at that point where the men can no longer see them. The female coach will then take over in the mindset coaching, because the first challenge will be that people who are maybe uncomfortable will have to now undress.
“This tends to be an uphill battle where the mindset kicks in, where someone may say, ‘this is crazy, why am I doing this and why am I here?” said Lephaku.
“The coach will assist with the ‘letting go’ process,” he said.
Lephaku said once they have got over the fear of stripping naked, participants will need to navigate the trail, which he said is pretty steep, in their bareness.
“During this moment, we will be dealing with the health aspect as well. The life coach will need to provide motivation to them and once they get to the finish line, the coach will close it off as a victory for them,” he added.
Participants who may at the 11th hour decide that they no longer want to take part in the hike would not be forced to, but would need to separate from the group and join the team of male assistants who will be waiting for the females to complete their walk.
Lephaku chuckled when asked, does bare hiking mean literally butt naked and what about comfort? Navigating through the rocks, plants and all sorts of insects cannot be comfortable at all.
Socks, shoes and a cap are the only clothing participants can have on them as they embark on the hike he said.
Participants can also carry backpacks to keep their clothes for the end of the hike. Getting cuts and nicks is all part of the process, he said.
“Obviously it will be uncomfortable but all these things are not limitations... these are challenges, where we test ourselves to see if we can overcome,” he added.
Lephaku took part in the first men’s hike in June, when it was extremely cold in the Free State. Asked whether any of the participants backed out when it came to the moment of truth, he said not at all.
“Everybody was too excited! We had about 10 guys, with one of them being from the LGBTIQI+ community.
So already that was a challenge for him being a gay guy among all these straight men. But as soon as we all got undressed, it was probably for the first one minute where we were checking each other out and thinking whose got what size,” he said.
“But as soon as we started moving, everybody forgot about that and it became this brotherhood where we were in the same spirit – laughing and taking pictures,” he said.
“The women will experience the same. As soon as they start moving, the energy of the hike will change,” Lephaku added.
He pointed out that this was an important exercise for men.
Men have body issues too. It’s just that unlike women, men don’t talk about these issuesFanafikile Lephaku
“Men have body issues too. It’s just that unlike women, men don’t talk about these issues,” said Lephaku.
He stressed that the hike was safe, with the trail being closed off to other hikers for that 90 minutes when the naked hikers would be on the move.
Lephaku hoped that more people – both men and women – would take part when he takes the experience to Johannesburg and Cape Town hiking trails.
He had seen the successes of this from the first male hike.
“You cannot say anything to those guys that will break their spirits ... Our video of that hike was trending on social media and for people who confronted them, these men had answers that ‘yes, you saw my butt, so what?’”
Lephaku said that video had been taken by himself and a media organisation he had invited to cover the event, but there would be no videos taken during the female hike.