Ray Chaplin solo walk from Cape Town to Beit Bridge MzansiBride_1

Winona Griggs

Ray Chaplin’s Epic Journey: Walking Solo from Cape Town to Beit Bridge

Last night, I was attacked by a swarm of mosquitos, leaving me covered in itchy bites. Desperate to escape their relentless assault, I rushed out this morning without even having breakfast. Oops! Thankfully, I had some Mule Bars with me, which provided a quick and convenient on-the-go meal. With a renewed determination, I set off on my journey, making good progress – until the rain started pouring down.

Trying to shield my beloved map book from the rain, I relied on my instincts to choose the right road. However, with the thick clouds obscuring any recognizable landmarks, I could have been heading to Tokyo for all I knew! It wasn’t until I reached an intersection that I realized my mistake – Wellington was nowhere to be seen on the sign. Instead, my options were Robertson and Paarl, both of which would have taken me on major detours from my current location.

As I sat there, mulling over my next move, two cars rolled up and five people stepped out. It turns out they’re all a family, bidding each other farewell after their vacation. It was their final goodbyes. Then the father/husband approached me to have a chat about Tootsie. Can you believe it? They’re actually from Namibia! They even invited me to visit them whenever I’m in the area. How amazing is that? I couldn’t resist; I promised them I’d take them up on their offer.

They said their goodbyes and drove off, and I made up my mind to continue straight ahead. There was no sign indicating the destination, but the road passed by a “wind farm” with three turbines. Only one was spinning, but it reassured me that I was on the right track.

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As I headed down the road, it turned into a bumpy gravel path, with lots of bumps and loose sand to make things interesting. It was tough going, but I kept a steady pace, even though it seemed like the police used that road more than anyone else. They seemed to get a kick out of seeing me struggle.

I decided to take a break at a soil company and sought shelter from the rain. Just my luck, the sky opened up and flooded the place. I was worried about how much longer I had to go on this road, as it was starting to slow me down and affect my progress to Wellington.

A police van pulled over and the officer offered me a lift. However, I noticed that he already had someone in the back, so I politely declined and said, “Thanks, but I think I’ll keep walking.”

As I continued cycling, I found myself riding on the tarred road again and picking up speed. It was quite interesting because the police would often drive by me, going in both directions. I had the opportunity to chat with them on multiple occasions. Then, something unexpected happened – the Paarl Police Commissioner stopped to talk to me. He asked me all sorts of questions and we had a great conversation. The best part was that he actually provided me with some helpful information, like accurate distances. I want to give a big shout-out to Johan Marais for his assistance!

The roads I was riding on felt like a rollercoaster. The constant ups and downs were starting to take a toll on my legs. I decided to take a break and have a drink at Boland Landbou school. Just as I was about to conserve my phone’s battery and turn it off again, I received a call from Wouter. He wanted to know my location and told me he was coming with cold drinks. I was absolutely thrilled!

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True to his word, Wouter and his family arrived within a few minutes. They brought along some much-needed cold drinks. We had a wonderful chat while enjoying the refreshments. It was the perfect pick-me-up for a solo cyclist like me!

Feeling rejuvenated, I quickened my pace and turned left towards Wellington to reach my destination. I hadn’t realized how far away the intersection was from the town, but that didn’t bother me because I was determined to get there. I wanted to visit the tourism office to inquire about the campsites that Police Commissioner Johan had mentioned, but I arrived too late.

Undeterred, I decided to follow the signs for Bains Kloof Pass and Ceres. Along the way, I stopped at a garage to refuel and satisfy my craving for chocolate. I struck up a conversation with the staff to gather information about the distances to the pass. However, it seemed that the accuracy of their answers ranged from 10-20 kilometers to the start of the pass, without considering the total distance.

Well, I had to get past it, so I put my head down and went for it – making pretty good time considering I had already walked over 40km for the day. Many people stared, some pointed, and others shouted remarks…but they all had one thing in common! They were all wondering who would be crazy enough to walk up the pass…nevermind towing a trailer too.

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