When I began working for The Village NEWS and first heard about the Lighthouse 2 Lighthouse Ladies Walk, I was in awe of their incredible efforts to raise funds for local charities. This year I was thrilled to be able to join the courageous and determined L2L ladies on their four-day, 100 km coastal hike in aid of this year’s beneficiary, Camphill School Hermanus.

The journey was mentally and physically challenging but also enriching in ways I could never have imagined.

Day 1: On Thursday, 7 March I was off to Gateway Centre at 05:00 with my luggage. Freshly-brewed coffee awaited us at Spar, which had opened its doors early so that we could do any last-minute shopping. At 05:45, the L2L patron, Nicolette Johnson, wished us farewell and good luck and by 06:15 we were on the bus to the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, where our 100 km walk would begin.

Members of Spar Western Cape, Camphill School Hermanus and SANParks were waiting for us on the field below the lighthouse when we arrived. We were all full of excitement and for those of us walking for the first time, also slightly nervous as we wondered if we would be up to the task.

We set off from the lighthouse into Agulhas National Park just as a light drizzle started to fall. The scenery was breath-taking and the terrain consisted of gravel roads, beach (sandy and stony) and a coastal footpath. Police kept an eye on our progress for the first two days as certain areas along the coast were well-known hotspots for poachers. Elaine Bayer from The Beanery set the pace which was brisk, but we were all able to keep up and were blessed to have a dry lunch break. Shortly after that, however, the rain and wind really picked up and we were battered for the rest of the walk. We were all soaked to the bone by the time we reached the Spar flags marking the end of day one’s walk at Brandfontein Farmstead.

Our wonderful bus drivers were waiting at Brandfontein to take us to Die Dam Resort, our accommodation for the duration of the walk. We were relieved to get back to camp where hot coffee from The Beanery and banana bread from Food Lover’s Market awaited us. It was bitterly cold and I couldn’t wait to get my luggage, have a hot shower and change into dry clothes. Dinner consisted of a delicious lasagne made by The Eatery, followed by koeksisters and more coffee.

It was a sociable evening where we had the chance to mingle and get to know our fellow walkers. Back in my chalet I found myself falling asleep very quickly on what felt like the most comfortable bed in the world – which I supposed any bed would be after an 18 km hike in the rain!

Day 2: On Friday morning we met at 06:00 for breakfast and by 06:45 we were on the busses once more, heading back to Brandfontein to start the second day’s walk – 19 km along the beach, coastal footpaths and jeep tracks. Although the day was overcast, we were blessed to have a light drizzle only here and there. We were left to finish the walk at our own pace for the last 5 km as it ended at the camp. I took advantage of this and slowed down to enjoy the scenery and take some photographs which I hadn’t been able to do on day one because of the rain.

For many of the ladies it was a chance for introspection and meditation. For those struggling – both with the physical demands of the walk and emotional stresses they may be dealing with back home – veteran Lighthouse walker, Les Clarke, wrote a message in the sand a few kilometres before camp that read: The tide washes away my pain – my feet carry me forward in faith and hope. She was a role model to many women on the walk, with her constant positivity, care and support.

After dinner that evening – a delicious hot potjie made by The Eatery and roosterkoek made by two ladies from Buffeljagsrivier – there were also prizes for the best blisters (eight was the record), best fall (we later found out she had hurt her ribs) and for perseverance. By now the ladies had bonded and there were many laughs to be heard around camp and many stories told by the fireside.

Day 3: Saturday 9 March entailed a 29 km walk to Pearly Beach and was by far the hardest day for me, both physically and mentally. The terrain was extremely challenging with rocks, soft sand, jeep tracks and coastal footpaths to overcome and we had to have a few breaks along the way. One of our longer breaks was at Quoin Point where another lighthouse could be seen next to Jessie’s Bay. The ladies who already had blisters were struggling and I could feel one of my own beginning to develop as well.

At more or less the halfway point, we reached the old fishermen’s community of Buffeljagsrivier where we visited the town’s Seesterretjies Crèche. After saying goodbye to the children, we left for the second half of our journey to Pearly Beach and that is where I found myself starting to struggle physically. I could feel that I had definitely developed at least one blister on my toe and my right ankle was starting to hurt due to the slight incline of the beach and the rocky terrain – and I wasn’t the only one. This is where the true spirit of L2L came to the fore, as the ladies all encouraged and supported one another to keep going.

I had ladies checking to see if I was all right, whilst others offered me pain medication or words of support. When we stopped again for a brief break, I was given deep heat from one lady and a bandage from another for my ankle, which was strapped by yet another lady (a physio from Cape Town, who also strapped it for me the following morning). I was simply blown away by all these caring women.

The toughest part of the four-day walk for me was undoubtedly the last 10 km to Pearly Beach. I am truly grateful for all those who encouraged me to push myself on that last stretch. I am especially grateful to L2L committee member, Simone Heunis, who was there for me every step of the way. I had never been so happy to see those red Spar flags marking the end of the day’s walk as I was that day when we reached Pearly Beach. The ladies who had already arrived, clapped hands as each of the walkers made it to the end of this gruelling day’s walk.  

After dinner – a tasty chicken pie made by Spar with chicken from Elgin Free Range Chickens followed by brownies for dessert – those of us with blisters had them injected with methylate (which burns like you will not believe) and wrapped in medical tape for the next day’s walk. We all went to bed early that night as many of us could barely keep our eyes open after the long day.

Day 4: By Sunday 10 March I felt like I was walking with family. We had all grown so close over the past few days, especially with those with whom we had shared our chalets. We had 27 km to cover, but the terrain was easier and we were all excited to be going home that afternoon. We made a number of stops along the way and also crossed a lagoon by Uilenkraalsmond.

From Kleinbaai to Danger Point Lighthouse we walked with a view of the lighthouse in sight, which kept us going, even when it didn’t seem to be coming any closer! Upon arrival (finally!) we were greeted by staff members and a group of children from Camphill School, as well as representatives from Spar and the Overstrand Municipality. L2L patron, Nicolette Johnson congratulated us and hung a medal around each walker’s neck with the help of Camphill School staff member Genevieve Linney. We posed for the traditional group photo in front of the lighthouse before being transported to Grotto Beach where friends, family and members of the Hermanus community were waiting to welcome us back.  

We walked the last stretch from the Klein Rivier Lagoon at Grotto Beach to Dutchies as one group before family members of the ladies ran up to greet their loved ones. It was an extremely emotional time for all the ladies as they said goodbye to their fellow walkers and returned to their “normal” lives with their families. I, too, was overcome with a mixture of relief and pride – and above all, gratitude for the opportunity to have been part of this inspiring journey.  

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