(Note from author: The Shoreline of the San is a hike of not more than 17 km per day at a relaxed pace. By no means the marathon time in which I attempted to complete it. It is well organised and Silent Steps went out of their way to make it a most enjoyable experience.)

1981, 1h00 in the morning… from Kuil’s River to Stellenbosch. Me, in long evening dress, high heels, very cheerful. Hiking!!! Needless to say…. it had nothing to do with any road from Hell to Health!!! With no cell phone, Uber, 911…HAWKS to rescue! My last hike.

Now, a millennium later, my 2nd attempt…. 70 kilometers… Eland’s Bay to Strandfontein… The Shoreline of the San. It was mentioned by a friend… kept haunting me. This is what you need….meditating, clearing your mind, your thoughts… re-organizing life, finding your senses…. Mainly… a battle with yourself!!!

So here I am. A genuine hike with genuine gear. Slack-pack. Clothes for 5 days, hiking shoes, water bottles (should have added water tank for the unfit) energy bars, chocolates for more energy, a kierie – no idea what for – warm clothes for the unexpected cold – summer clothes for the unexpected heat wave… in-between clothes for … whatever. Unrestricted … lorry to transport luggage … Luxury hike… luxury accommodation… luxury menus… Only requirement: walk the 20 kilos per day!!! With your own two feet!!!

I exchanged my too-big-to-carry-or-push-or-drag-over-sized suitcase at Eland’s Bay Chinese shop for duffel bag. My room-mate a lively – lovely yoga instructor…. much needed on my beach Camino… given my purpose of getting-rid-of-unwanted-ghosts-healing-hike…

Nice group of women joining… all with their own purpose… mostly demons haunting them… chasing them down the beach for the next few days… we all filled with one wish… out-walking them en route to Strandfontein…

Early to rise… Backpack loaded…My over-optimism clear after the first 5 kilos … sinking to the knees into heavy sand… short of breath… resting every now and then…muscles cramping. Make a plan, make a plan… still a long way to go!!! Considering…. weighing options…. pro’s and con’s… Then… getting rid of half of the food. Wise decision… helped a lot. But only for a little while before again….stumbling along…. sinking deep… breathing hard…

Next step. Taking off my shoes, walking barefoot…. Much better… like walking on air.. flying over the sand… leaving the others far-far behind, hardly visible…. After 8 kilo’s….walking zigzag… sometimes sommer in circles…. stumbling under the weight on my back… sitting down to rest… smoking a cigarette… who cares!!! Only the seagulls to witness my sin. Best to get rid of the rest of the food too… It’s not as if you can eat if you’re dead!!! Throwing bread and Vienna’s at seagulls… watching in awe how accurate they aim … scooping…disappearing into the mist…fascinating. While at it… pouring out most of the water too. And ready to go!!! No weight, barefoot, nicotine levels up, positive mind!!! First 3 kilos easy…then, suddenly!!! Crushed shells… hiking shoes on…. sinking deep into the sand… slowly moving forward… bent knees, bent body, bent head…bent mind… The battle has begun…

First the anger. For being here… could’ve been … at office… at home… on the beach… with children… anywhere … in my comfort zone… familiar places… not having to deal with… not having to think about… not having to face…. to make decisions about!!! Why did I ever come here!!!

Second phase – Use the time. Think about your shit. Deal with your kak. For once and for all!!! You’re here now. But which ones??? There are so many… Mind in confusion… thoughts chaotic. No order… no chronology… flashing… jumping… from topic to topic…unable to focus…to pin down… staggering… falling down… slowly getting up… continue on my journey… automatically… unintentionally…

And then….suddenly!!! It all came together. Fell into place. Chronologically. From the beginning to the end. Chrystal clear. Each problem separate from the other. Ready to deal with. To take apart. To analyze… to resolve… to fix to a time… to dismantle… to absorb.

I tripped… I fell… staring in disbelief… It was the 20 kilo flag post!!! I’ve made the last 10 kilos without even noticing…. realizing!!! And tomorrow… I know exactly where I need to start… on this healing road… San Camino…

We were treated at the Muisbosskerm. Fresh calamari, prawns, snoek, crayfish, oven bread, jams, deserts…. eating until we couldn’t breathe… walk… sit. We laughed, cried, consoled….until the early morning hours… listened to stories of strength and braveness… and rough roads traveled… and being thankful for our own “little sorrows”. We slept in luxury comfort… spoiled to the tee… dreaming about thick sand, waves breaking… and the calling of the seagulls…

Tomorrow… another day… to conquer our demons…to fight the battle. But for now… we rejoice in victory. 20 Kilos completed!!!

And just before I fell asleep… was it my Mum I saw smiling down at me?

(to be continued)

HV.