Ray Chaplin solo walk to Beit Bridge from Cape Town

Posted on 22 November 2009

Sorry I’ve hardly been updating this weekend – it’s been a crazy time all round. But I’m back and everything will be running according to plan from here on in.

Saturday morning started nice and early and I was on the train platform by 6:30am to ensure I was ready when the train to Cape Town arrived. I appeared to be the early person awake in Matjiesfontein at that time, despite the sun having been up for quite some time… and then the first person approached me. The community on the other side of the railway line produces some colourful characters and this guy was no exception!

If he wasn’t drunk and smelling like he’d been sleeping in a gutter for the last year, he may well make a good public relations or customer service representative. He kept asking about my stay & if I was happy with everything, and checked to make sure I’d seen everything there was to see in town. Once he moved on, another chap came to chat… or should I say beg?

After a brief chat and some complaints from his side, he started asking for smokes… then money… then a jacket… then my sunglasses… then anything that could help him in life. He said he was on his way to Touwsrivier to a court appearance for stabbing someone the other day – something which clearly made me uneasy.

He was pushing me to head to the N1 instead & hitch a ride with him, because there were no trains coming – despite having asked me earlier what time the trains were coming. Weird indeed, but eventually we moved to hotel reception at 7am when it opened as it looked like the train was running late, for a little safety on my side. Security booted him and the receptionist called for an update on the train, which was running about 40min late apparently.

I heard the horn and ran for the train. Sadly, I didn’t have a formal reservation and that specific train required that I have one. Fortunately, the conductor understood my situation of having to get back in a hurry and he made a plan for me. He found an open cabin and said he’d come chat with me later while we’re on the way. Happy days… I was on a train heading home!!!

With cabin to myself, I stretched out and made myself comfortable… did some work and fielded a number of calls. We pulled in at Worcester and my drunken stabber was being escorted off the train by the police – I wonder how he got onboard?

A little later [in the final stretch into Cape Town] the conductor pulled in and chated about costs, etc. R90 was the normal fee from Meitjiesfontein to Cape Town, but if I slipped him R60 we’d be ok. So I did, and he produced a ticket a while later in the name of Mr Botha (from Klerksdorp to Cape Town).

I gather the ticket was from the chap I’d chatted to earlier in the day who was on his way from Klerksdorp to Paarl, having visited his dad upcountry. He’d chosen the train due to costs – paying a little over R500 for a return journey, while driving would’ve obviously cost way more… and flying to JHB then renting a car even more. Good plan!

My mate Mark [who dropped me off at the start] was collecting me from the station… which I must say it taking shape on the inside. While still a full blown construction site, one can see some of the progress being made and it looks pretty impressive!! Keep it up guys, I’m keen to see the end result – hopefully on my next return to CT in Feb?

We headed home and it turns out mom wasn’t home, so off to Mark’s for a good long Wii session. First time I’ve played and I now wish I could take a Wii for the evenings on the trail… it’s addictive!

Mom collected me in her hired car and we headed home. She’s physically fine by the sound of things, but she’s clearly shaken from the accident and not herself. I’m glad I came home, even if just to provide some comfort and ‘normality’ around her.

An early night in bed was followed by a little late sleeping this morning – something one doesn’t really get to do out on the trail. Light, heat & safety are not on ones side for late sleeping really – so I’m generally up earlier than I would be at home.

After a massive breakfast [including loads of milk – something I don’t have on the trail] I got unpacking & packing – ditching kit and replacing it with stuff for the next phase of the journey. Water treatment and storage were priority, as there are going to be stretches of up to five days now with nothing… so need to look at as much as 20L of water!! OUCH!! I then realised I could be carrying as much at 40kg with gear, food & water. Ouch!

After a good lunch out with mom, it was back home for a chilled arvie and some rest… and tomorrow will be spent sorting & organising everything for a Tuesday departure to re-commence the journey.

Thanks everyone for the support and messages.. they are greatly appreciated!

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