Friday, November 24, 2006

2003: WALK THE TALK: ± 1800 kms With the Breaking-Free Team

Durban to Cape Town
± 1 800kms

The idea for the walk came from a local abused woman who told about being beaten, kicked and raped by her husband over a period of 16 years. For many years after leaving him she had a recurring dream that she was walking from Durban to Cape Town, meeting victims along the way, empowering them with her story and with literature about abuse, violence and their rights.
One day she told her sister about the dream and told her that she wanted to make one of her dreams come true. She asked if she would second her along the way if she walked to Cape Town. Her sister said: (and I quote), “Bugger that! If you walk I’m walking with you! We will find someone else to second us!” So, they asked her daughter if she would like to second them on their walk from Durban to Cape Town. The daughter(who takes after her mother) said, “Bugger that! If you two are walking to Cape Town, I’m also walking to Cape Town. We can find someone else to second us!” And so the idea of the “Walk the Talk Challenge” came about. The sisters formed a group called “Breakingfree” and asked for volunteers to be part of a team that would walk to Cape Town. The Walk would take 14½ days and would cover almost 1800km. To achieve this, there would be four teams of four walkers each. Each team would walk 30km per day in 15km relays day and night. Each walker would cover about 450km. The walk would start on the Durban city hall steps on Friday 7th March and end at the Waterfront in Cape Town on Friday 21st March – Human Rights Day.
For 9 months the volunteers met religiously once a week in someone’s home to plan the walk, write to sponsors for products and beg for money. They also trained together every weekend in rain or shine. They attended lectures at the Open Door Crisis Centre on Rape, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Suicide and Drug and Alcohol Abuse. We had two 5 bed campervans sponsored, petrol vouchers, food vouchers, walking shoes from Asics, shorts and vests, socks, toiletries as well as a variety of other items.
In the early hours of the morning of the 7th March family and friends, supporters, sponsors and interested bystanders joined the Breaking Free team on the steps of the Durban City Hall. Mavis Hutchison, Monique Buitendag and Bruce Fordyce walked the first 15km with us to the Durban Airport.

The 15 day walk was gruelling!! Nothing I'd done before prepared me for the 3 hours walking, 6 hours seconding, 3 hours driving, 6 hours sleeping, 3 hours walking, 3 hours driving routine. The roster meant that there was a team on the road 24/7.
Although we only walked 30kms each per day - split up into 3 hours during the day and 3 hours at night - it was the lack of sleep that got most of us. The 6 hours allowed for sleeping never worked out that way and if we got 3 or 4 hours a night it was a lot. It took some getting used to walking at night. Even with torches and the lights of the campervan behind you, every shadow looks like a pothole or ditch. Eventually, we got more confident walking at night and looked forward to it – especially after the searing heat of the day. The night skies and the stars were amazing! The sunrises were glorious and we saw more typical African sunsets and sunrises than most people see in a lifetime. There was also less traffic and it was easier to nip off into the bush if you needed the loo!
We distributed thousands of leaflets and brochures along the way and had wonderful interaction with the people we met - especially at the schools. We were met by Mayors, led into little towns with police-car escorts, sirens wailing, fed in the middle of the night by SPAR shops, fed during the day by Nandos and at no time did we feel threatened on the road - even walking through the dreaded Transkei!
We had a hiccough when we got to the Western Cape. The local SAPS didn’t have copies of our permits and we were pulled off the road in Swellendam for 3 hours until it was sorted out. We managed to get back on track by dropping off walkers 15km and 30km ahead so that 3 teams could walk at one time and we would cover 45km in 3 hours instead of in relays.

There were so many highlights - here are a few:
· The people who came out to walk with us, including our celebrities, members of our athletic club, the South Coast Striders who said a prayer for us when we parted, the Sedgefield Harriers who gave us all an ice cold drink at a local tavern, the Outeniqua Striders who walked with us to George, Captain Crime Stop who walked with us for nearly 24 hours in his Super-hero outfit and the Spartan striders who walked the last 14km with us to the Waterfront.
· The friends and relatives of walkers who walked with us – one couple gave everyone a hot stew meal on the side of the N3 outside Port Elizabeth. The many SPAR meals, trays of sandwiches and goodie bags. The Mayoral breakfast in PE and the Mayoral dinner in Somerset West.
· A group of about 36 school children from Lurhansini Junior Secondary School somewhere on the way to Umtata appeared to join the walkers in their school uniforms and walked about 4km with one of the walking teams – they then had to walk all the way back.
· One of the teams visited a Clinic and counted 60 women in the waiting room - each was given literature of course! This was repeated at taxi ranks, markets and villages all through the Transkei.
· Being joined on the outskirts of Butterworth (the 500km mark) at 3pm in the afternoon by staff members from the Spar, various NGO’s and Charity organisations. The entourage walked 10kilometers together and had an unexpected and emotional welcome into the Butterworth community. Hundreds gathered to meet the team and to hear about the walk and to be educated against women and child abuse.
· Dancing in the street to the beat of the Port Alfred Community steel band. Being met in Port Alfred by young ladies from InterAct and from the Nomzamo Secondary School. Being led into town with sirens and lights flashing.
· Having a hot shower at the Willows Caraven Park and best of all - a hot bath at the Plettenberg Bay Caraven Park.
· Watching the new moon become a full moon and then start to change again.
· The incredible views at Knysna, up Dolphin Point and up Sir Lowries Pass.
· Walking into Cape Town on a bright, sunny day with the mountain so clear you could almost reach out and touch it.Being cheered into the arena at the Waterfront
By the time we got to Cape Town we had each walked about 450kms in two weeks.

There were also some emotional moments:
· We stopped to talk to a group of women on the side of the road in the Transkei and gave them all a brochure on domestic violence. One young woman presented us with a pumpkin. It was all she had and she was very proud to give it to us.
· In Port Elizabeth at our Mayoral breakfast, Clr. Roxanne Jacobs, emotionally handed the team a letter to take with them to Cape Town, as well as a Metro Flag and a municipal plaque. She made reference to President Mbheki's plea for volunteers to assist in helping make our country a better place, and praised the team for their noble efforts.
· But the most memorable moment for me happened one morning when we were driving near a school in Qumbu in the Transkei. We followed the children into their school grounds and the Principal invited us to give a talk to the pupils at their assembly. Lydia speaks fluent Xhosa so she spoke first about abuse of women and children, of rape and of domestic violence. Then Vusi spoke about his daughter who was raped when she was 12 years old. She was too afraid to tell her parents what had happened and by the time they found out and got her to a hospital she was already HIV positive. She is now 14 and is living with HIV. This really hit home to the pupils, especially when Vusi stressed that if it happened to any of them, they must get to a hospital or tell their parents. The school then sang a song to wish our team good luck on our way. I decided then that if I didn’t see one more person after that it wouldn’t matter. We had touched a whole community.

There were hardships as well as highlights but, who knows, maybe one day we will see some of our hardships as highlights instead.
· lack of sleep
· driving for 3 hours in 1st gear at night
· lack of privacy – day and night
· going to the loo in the bush (there is nothing 'fyn' about fynbos!)
· cold bucket baths or cold showers
· walking for 3 hours in the rain
· watching your friend hobble with dreadful blisters and bleeding toes
· not eating properly
· wearing orange, morning, noon and night for 2 weeks!
Did we achieve our goals?
Although we didn’t raise anywhere close to the funds we had hoped to raise, I think we achieved most of our goals. My goal was to “walk for a purpose” and that involved walking to make Susan’s dream come true. My goal was also to reach out to victims of abuse and violence and I believe we all achieved this.
On a personal level, our team had made a pact that we would do what was asked of us without grumbling and without complaint. The walk became a test of endurance and every single person in the team scored top marks for endurance. The walk was also one of self discovery and was a test of character for each of us. No one could say that they didn’t learn things about themselves and how they handle situations in times of stress.

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