Feet in the icy Atlantic water; Six Million Steps flag in one hand, South African flag in the other; action camera perched precariously on a giant discarded truck tyre; Step One had finally arrived. All the admin and anticipation behind, and the excitement and adventure ahead; man did it feel good!
Getting to the Orange River Mouth was quite a mission in itself. About 15 km of walking on dirt roads, along the riverbank, past mine warning signs and through the w(ast)etland rehabilition zone. My first glimpse of the confluence was quickly followed by a thought, “But how do I get there?” The tide was in, and it was getting higher by the minute. With the cold wind gusting about I really didn’t feel like a swim. So I trudged along the estuary until I found a spot shallow(ish) enough to walk (read tiptoe clumsily) across. It must have been quite a site for the giant white pelicans and hundreds of pink flamingos feeding in the murky waters.
Declared a RAMSAR Site (The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance), the Orange River Mouth and surrounding wetland plays host to over 75 bird species. I’m not so sure that the truck tyres and giant hunks of metal trash in the confluence and the disused concrete pipes lying in the dunes form part of this international importance business though. The rows of green mesh (now mostly collapsed) are meant to stop the exposed sand from blowing away and thus allow the vegetation to regrow, but eish.
Back in town two kids come cycling towards me, one braking with his bare foot on the gravel road. “Is jy die een wat so stap?” the other asks. Before I could really answer he’s off again. It seems news spreads fast in small towns.
A little further down the road a young boy, Eljiro, points at the rolled up flags in my hand, “Wat is dit?” he asks. “Ek hou van Suid-Afrika” he smiles as I unravel the SA flag. What a little champ.
Around the corner a man in his yard asks me the same thing. 20 minutes later I’m still standing there chatting to Glen, Vissie and Boude.
“Pasop vir die strandwolve” warns Vissie.
“Hoe’s ‘n bietjie bier-geld?” asks Glen.
“Hy’t g’n geld nie! Die man moet stap!” reprimands Boude.
These guys crack me up!
As I approached the school (my destination for the day’s official walk) I came across some kids playing in a park. Without playstations, smartphones, television and the like these kids have come up with their own form of entertainment. A sand pit, a runway, two concrete blocks and some acrobatics. They rest the one concrete block at an angle on the other, charge as fast as they can, plant their feet on it and somersault into the sand pit. “Daai een met die groen hemp is gevaarlik Oom. Hy sal oor jou spring!” My faith wasn’t strong enough to stand in his path, so three of them lined up behind the concrete “springboard” and, sure-as-nuts, he catapaulted himself right over all of them. Madness. Excitedly they crowded around me as I played back the video.
After eventually reaching the school in the late afternoon (I thought this excursion would have been just a morning affair), I returned to the guesthouse to put my feet up. Tomorrow is the first real test as I carry the full pack out of Alexander Bay and on towards Port Nolloth. Heavy days!
Day 1 statistics:
Steps: 14 838