The first question people ask me is; why did you chose to do the Tankwa Camino? I did not. I say.
It chose me.
I saw it on Facebook, sent an e-mail and they said the first space available was for 2017… And well out the window that went. Who wants to wait so long? So I forgot about it until a few weeks later I saw a post on my news feed that there had been a group cancellation of six. I phoned Samantha and said book…
She did, paid the deposit and we were in!
A few days later the confirmation came that payment was received, we were in and it was four months away. Plenty of time to train, right?
I have never been the most active person, sometimes it was because I was just too fat, other times I got bored, but mostly it took a lot of effort and I was lazy.
Now, LOL, there was no getting out of this, we were in! All I heard from people around me was “are you crazy!” “You need to train!” “You need to walk!” “You need to lunge and squat!” Pfft! I said, it's just walking…
So I walked more, Samantha and I took Henry, The Rottie, out on his leash, can't go too far because he is still very young. I walked to town to do my business. We did a few Parkrun’s - I'm chuffed to say I can walk one kilometer in just under 11 minutes. Not to slow, not the fast. J
Now, after completing the Tankwa Camino, I can now say I did not train enough, or on the right surface.
In the week leading up to us leaving I was excited and sad to leave home but excited about the challenge. Petrified I might not make it… Did I mention excited??
Day 1; was a breeze. For the first eight kilometers. Then you realize 22 kilometers is FAR. Your toes hurt a little, you were not quite sure what to expect. The support vehicle passes every now and again, I mean I thought he was going to stop and ‘picnic’. No such thing. He is there to make sure we are safe and carries water if we need a top up.
So at about 18 kilometers I said to Sam, “my feet are killing me, I'm not sure I can carry on”! Her words were come on Mom it's not far now! You can rest soon! Camp is just over that hill! If you stop now you won’t get up again! Her encouragement got me to camp that night. But it didn’t stop there.
You now need to find your things that have been taken off the truck in no particular order, put your tent up, roll out your bed and get things ready for the evening and dinner. After dinner you get ready for tomorrow, fill hydration bags, flasks, water bottles, look after your feet - then exhaustion takes over and you sleep the best sleep.
Tomorrow you repeat what will become our routine for the next nine days; wake at 5, get dressed, pack up the inside of your tent, pack up your tent, carry your stuff in perfect order to the back of the truck to be loaded again and then breakfast.
I packed in salted meats, made kaiings, butter, coconut oil, chicken in salt water, oysters in spring water, pilchards in olive oil, nuts, Babybell cheese and eggs which Ouma would boil for us every morning.
So armed with four eggs about 150g of cold meat and a bullet proof tea between us we skipped out of camp, okay well, maybe we slowly made our way out onto the road.
Day 2; was going to be an easy 25.3 kilometers. You quickly learn that it's far and the only pace you follow is your own. Sometimes you see the people in front of you other times you see no one. You rest when needed, eat when needed. I found the eating part a little challenging, I had very little appetite.
By day 4 you have a rhythm. You are an expert at putting the tent up and down, your daughter has told you “as much as this a test of my patients it's also a test of yours” - so we found who does what best and just fell in. But you are also hurting. Your feet are sore, your muscles ache, the sun is hot on some days others the wind is hotter than the sun. It rains and cold fronts move in at 2 am. BUT, you rise at 5 am and do it again.
Sometimes you stand and think, “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?”
This is when it's dangerous. Your mind has to be stronger than your body because at this point your mind is going to carry you if it's strong enough.
On day 5, Samantha had gotten hurt and around kilometer 16 and I made the decision that she will go in with the truck to the next camp and I would continue to walk. I had about 12 kilometers left to cover. That was my lowest day. My daughter was in pain and my husband was celebrating his 50th birthday, we had no signal, no contact and I walked away from the truck that day broken and crying leaving my child with Dannie and just walked.
You always have a choice.
It's always yours to make.
But, you have to live with that choice.
I got into camp that night and Samantha had put up our tent rolled out our beds and chairs were ready to take the weight of my very tired body.
I don't know when it changed but between leaving my child crying and seeing the satisfaction on her face that she had put up the tent. I knew I wasn’t finished, I knew I wanted to walk every centimeter.
I kept going, day 6, 7, 8… On day 8 we had the opportunity to sleep in a house at a small fee. I, LOL, was happy to pay as it meant we could get an early start by not having to pack up the tent – a wet tent, as rain was expected that night.
Day 9, was the day we claimed the pass. It would be on a tar road so there was lots of excitement as last eight days had been sand and dirt roads through the Tankwa Camino Karoo. The most beautiful place.
Day 9 was another beautiful day, the sunrise between the mountains was magical but so was every other sun rise. We set off, 31.4 km here we come! We broke the pass up one bend at a time as it was so daunting to look at but knowing you are so close was an amazing feeling. At the top, I said to Sam, “I can't believe we have walked so far”! 200 odd kilometers behind us! Ceres was in sight!
Day 9 was spoilt a little by a truck overtaking from behind thinking he might make it back before passing us, or not thinking at all. And well he did not and I got clipped just as the last set of double wheels passed. But for God's grace I was not badly hurt, bruised and grazed, my calf muscles was badly hurt, elbow also took a good wack. After having good people help me we quickly found nothing broken and I decided to hobble on. There were 17 kilometers left to cover for the day... I walked. Like a penguin with a swing but I walked. Stalked by our now much loved support driver Dannie who wanted me to drive in.Walking into Ceres the next day was an elation I will never be able to express.
It was not about coming first, it became about who I am. I saw Zurita on the road just outside Ceres, with a limp running across the road and crying in her arms, I realised there is nothing I can't reach for. Nothing I can't set out to do and not complete. Walking into town to see my sister and the only thing I wanted was a King Cone.
For me this is a story of love. From my daughter who carried me emotionally every now and again, love from the people who walked with me when Sam could not, the people who looked after her and us. It's about the love I feel for me and the discovery that I am way stronger than my self-doubt will ever dare mention again.
I found something deep in me that just needed to be dug deeper for. What is it - we'll its a few things but the biggest one;
I WANT TO WALK!