After spending many days alone on the road and in the woods I started to feel like a true nomad, my home was wherever I laid my tent or hung my hammock. I would walk until it became night, just before dawn was the safest time to set camp. I’ve managed to pitch my tent in 5 to 7 minutes now depending on weather conditions and wind. Distance and time no longer mattered, I was only concerned with landmarks like rivers and lakes, that’s where I would settle and shower.
My first sign of civilization was a small town called Humansdorp. It seemed like a well developed town mostly populated with blacks, Indians and coloured people. It was a slightly rough city however it was my midpoint and thus I needed to stock up and rest. The people were kind in the shops, there was a point where I forgot Rafiki (my stick) in a grocery store for about an hour. When I came back for it they have kept it safe for me, that was a great feeling. It seemed everyone in the store knew it was my stick. I ate outside of the police station as that seemed like the only available spot with a path of green grass. After gauging down over a thousand calories I began the second leg of my walk to JB (Jeffrey’s Bay).
The second leg of my walk was roughly 3 hours, short compared to my previous walk that day. I was getting excited though. I heard a lot of good news about JB but I had originally planned to skip it and go straight to PE (Port Elizabeth) and sleep along the national highway. Am I glad I didn’t choose the first option.
Walking into Jeffrey’s Bay was a stark contrast to what Humansdorp was like. Populated mainly by white Afrikaans and nearly all the homes were beautiful mansions, at least along my route to a backpackers in JB called African Ubuntu Backpackers, the name alone intrigued me enough to visit. I arranged reservations last minute, I phoned them 45 minutes before I arrived. Sophia from the front desk gave me a quick tour and showed me my camping site where I would pitch my tent for the next 2 days. Everyone seemed really laid back and fun, the first I wanted was a beer to make up the calorie deficit although I’m growing less and less attached for the need to have a beer or alcohol beverage. It was a self signing system because there were no bartenders so you had to write down how many beverages you’ve gotten from the fridge and pay out on checkout. A very trusting system.
There were a lot of great characters at the backpackers. In particular I met a girl who at just a young age has already travelled most continents of the world. She explained how in South America she hopped the border to travel and found dead bodies along the streets. A reminder that the people of this world can be savage. Another group of friends, A Morrocon, Cayman Islands and German mixed girls explained to me that they’re dream is to travel through Africa together and end racism by reversing the stereotype. By doing that they told me they’d like to work as maids for underprivileged black families for free. Brave souls.
Jeffrey’s Bay is a surfer’s and beach bum paradise lounge. Everyone was a surfer or learning to surf. In fact there’s a Billy Bomg outlet store where surfing gear is sold at discounted rates. You felt that vibe immideatly, people talked about and the television was showing reruns of the major surfs. It definitely inticed me to try it out but the weather wasn’t ripe for it. Instead I ended up on the windy beach with my two German friends, Nora and Brittani where we decided to make a solid picnic.
JB would have been a great place to stay for a while but I had to keep it moving for my main destination Port Elizabeth. I had a few contacts there and they were waiting on me. I said my long goodbyes and was on the road again.
Before I travelled even 800 meters I felt I needed a proper meal before beginning my walk so I walked up to the patio to a restaurant called Nina’s right along the road. I was told by a guy sitting near me with his wife (Chris and Tony) that I should try the tuna steak, this advice warranted of course after some curiousity behind my backpack and expedition gear. I told them what I do and they became intrigued, as they were travelers themselves. From Traveller to Traveller you can always tell who has been around, they’re eyes are always full of curiousity and wonder. As I’m ready to pay the bill, the waitress tells me that the bill has already been paid by the couple. It was a really kind of them to do that. That meal helped me through a steady 7hour walk.
Billy the teacher
I started my walk from JB exceptionally late. I was lazy that day. Because of this delayed time the night came too quick and I prepared for a night walk to Thornhill and next morning I would continue off to Port Elizabeth. It was a difficult walk, mountains and rolling hills took over the landscapes. I began looking around for places to sleep I even called a guest lodge I found along the road but it was too soon not near enough to Thornhill. I got into zombie mode and just decided to walk until I collapse, where ever I collapse is where I will camp out. There were lots of forest trees around.
Just before dawn a white car pulls up beside me and a man inquires about my walk. He was a white South African man by the name of Billy. A school teacher in Thornhill. He asked “where I’m going” so I told him and then he asks “where will you sleep?” I didn’t have an answer for the second question, so I told him wherever I land tonight. He was concerned for my safety so he invited me to sleep at his home with his family. Taking lifts is against my rules so I took down his number and meet him there at his place. Just as Billy leaves I realized that I haven’t saved his number and could not phone him anymore. I figured that’s the end of that, it was a good try faith. I then prepared my mind for the very long walk to as far as I could during the night. However 30 minutes later I see his car coming toward me with his son in the passenger seat. Billy suggested that I come with them because by the time I would have made it to Thornhill it would have been midnight. They promised that they would drop me off tomorrow morning at the same location they’ve picked me up.
Billy’s family, his son, daughter and wife were incredibly friendly and welcoming. To have a complete stranger walk into their house from the night road must have been a forward step to courage and trusting in humanity. I was overwhelmed with the kindness of these people. I hope that others follow in their footsteps especially in a country that is just coming over years of segregation that’s just ended 20 years ago. They’ve made a fantastic dinner and dessert and we shared some great stories, lots of laughter and of course they were really curious about my travels. Billy and his wife were big time travellers themselves so they shared many of their adventures as well, fascinating stories. The next morning we woke up to monkeys playing in the backyard and peeking through the kitchen windows for a chance to snag some free food. Incredibly cute little species of monkeys. It was the perfect way to start the day. Billy’s son drove me through the school compound, unfortunately I didn’t have the time to check out Billy’s classes to interact with his students. I was dropped off at my last checkpoint and began my long walk to Port Elizabeth.
A modern explorer recently finished a voyage of walking across Africa entirely by foot and kayak.