Ray Chaplin’s solo walk from Cape Town to Beit Bridge

Posted by Ray Chaplin on 13 January 2010 Tags:,

Departing Matjiesfontein was a little more difficult than anticipated, with several groups inviting me to sit with them and talk aboutmy journey and the experience thus far. Sadly, I didn’t have my notebook and pen handy – as I would’ve loved to get a few numbers, one in particular. Alas!

But out of town I headed, stopping on the train platform to takes some snaps and see the Rovos Rail Price of Africa up close. Only thing missing is the steam engine.. but it’s still an impressive train from the outside – would love to travel on it (one day).

The day started with a climb, and it proved to be a day of ups and downs… climbing then descending, only to climb and descend again. I passed only a handful of cars, a lovely change compared to previous days on busy tar roads. Going was good, although my legs hurt on the hills.

A highlight was passing a sign which said “Aanstoot” – brilliant! Definitely lifted my spirits and kept me going for more climbs. The views were spectacular and, while hurting, I enjoyed looking back and thinking “I’ve walked that with my own two legs”.

I topped out at just under 1600m above sea level and found a great spot on the intersection of the tar road with a dirt road, and hoped it would be ok – as it looked like the road to a farm. And then, as luck would have it, a young guy turned in. I stopped him, Pieter, and chatted about the journey and asked if I could camp there. No problem he said, having just returned from his holiday in Namibia.

As the sun set, several farmers came passed and each of them chatted… saying it was fine to camp there for the night. One farmer invited me to stay with the, but at 25km away it was a little too far.

Day 13 got under way with me deciding to take the dirt road to Sutherland – an extra 10km but safer and more farms. The first farm I passed meant I was now in the Northern Cape… and I enjoyed seeing Pieter looking a little unhappy with his tractor in the field. I could see the frustration from 100m away!

The dirt road was not, however, a flat one and I cursed each and every step… taking more and more strain as I slowly climbed. I maintained an average of over 5 km/h, but I’m still trying to figure out how! It was tough going, and being stopped by a group of six didn’t help – as they all had their own questions and stories, so I just nodded and said Yes from time to time until they were all finished then pushed off. WOW! Wasn’t used to that much excitement and noise – was kinda like Cape Town train station on the day of the World Cup draw! Robyn, you’ll remember the chaos.

I finally made it to the top of a climb and saw the entrance to De Plaat … the farm I’d been invited to stay on. YAY! The end was in sight! It had been one enormous day and I was glad to see the back of it. I turned right and had 2 km to the house – which felt as though it flew passed.

Eldri van Zyl, owner of the farm, met me out front and welcomed me in… and gave me a much needed glass of cold water. Hmmmm…. bliss!! His wife Judith and daughter Elsje followed a little later and we chatted for ages, and Judith even offered to do my laundry. What a blessing that was, as EVERY had salt stains from perspiration and was pretty horrible.

I had a shower and got comfy, before sitting down with the family to a great meal, and then heading for bed. I don’t think I’ve slept that well this trip – I may as well have been a rock.

Morning came way too soon, and it was time to take on the mammoth Komsberg Pass – which everyone has been talking about and kept warning me about. After a few short’ish climbs and stunning views, I saw what looked like the pass. As the road swept left I knew it wasn’t… but then saw the actual pass and wished it was! OUCH! HECTIC!

Considering I seldom slow to below 5km/h when walking, it was torture to be moving at under 2km/h… sometimes barely managing 1km/h! And, to make things worse, I kept stopping to catch my breath and / or rest my legs, which were on fire!

I really don’t know who was crazy enough to design that pass – it’s absolute madness! I’d hate to drive it even…

But the top eventually came and I stood next to the sign and cracked a Red Bull and took some pics! I’d made it! I then strung up a tarp and created some shade and rested for a short while… after which I set off again to make some mileage. Mileage came quickly and I enjoyed the afternoon walk…

Stopping at farms along the way to say hi and seek some shelter, I pushed until legs could move no more… just over 42 km for the day (including a stiff pass!). Not too bad, and I even managed to average over 5km/h walking speed.

Camp was setup about 2km from the tar road leading to Sutherland, which meant I had about 17km to town. An awesome lightning show on the horizon ended my day, as I slowly drifted off and let me body recover…

This morning I woke early but then snoozed, finally setting off at 7:30am. I was flying this morning – a combination of a good dinner and the prospect of town I guess.

Averaging over 6km/h I shifted and made town without too much hassle, although as I look now I also flew through fluids.

I’ve taken a brief tour around town and am now awaiting feedback on whether or not the night tour at the Observatory will take place – as the thunder clouds have, again, started rolling in. I’ll know shortly after 2pm, which is cutting it fine for me to finish my shopping and still walk the 18km (including another big climb) to the Observatory.

If the tour is not going again, I’ll camp outside town tonight and head to the Observatory in the morning to take in the afternoon tour tomorrow..