Day 115: 745km to Steytlerville

From sharing a night with the mozzies and bats in the cave to spending a night on a farm near Boesmansgat, the road took me to Jim and Barenda Bredenkamp in Postmasburg. From their sanctuary I was picked up by amazed Witsand Nature Reserve staff members, as I hitched on the outskirts of Griekwastad. I spent a night in the research accommodation on the reserve and went for a long walk in the famous singing, or as they are also known, the ‘roaring’ dunes.

Seven hundred and forty-five kilometres in one day? Madness!

I’ve been invited to spend a week on a farm in the Karoo and the challenge of getting there in one day from deep in the Northern Cape is exhilarating. I am just outside Hutchinson, which is across the Visgat River, on the other side of Victoria West. It is hot and fishing is the last thing on my mind, unless there is water in that mirage puddle up ahead. This is the longest I have stood by the side of the road. It is dry here. No water. Also dry in vehicles passing by. It’s been over an hour. And I’m at a crossing. I would love to walk further, but there are more opportunities at a crossing. Or so I tell myself.

A group approaches. Company. They are locals from Hutchinson. They come over to see if I’m OK. One of them is a teacher. ‘Just come knocking on our door if you don’t come right. You are welcome to spend the night with us,’ and they point out which houses are theirs.

I smile. Such a small settlement? With such easy landmarks – a tree here, a little spaza shop there, a hall that is used for all occasions. They wait with me for a while – time is temporarily suspended – and then they are on their way again. Their bodies move away. Every time I blink, they shrink a little. Eventually I turn my eyes back to the mirage on the road.

Time to walk. It’s been a while of nothingness. There are mountains up ahead. My map says that Remhoogte awaits. And then I hear the sound of a vehicle behind me. A small vehicle. I turn around and continue walking backwards with my thumb out. A little Nissan 1400 pulls over. André is on his way to the mine where he works, but he’ll take me to where the R63 meets the N1.

When we get there it is past four in the afternoon. It is uncommon for me to be travelling this late. A farmer pulls over. ‘Is jy OK? Wat maak jy?’

When I explain that I’m on my way to a farm near Steytlerville he promises to return after he’s run an errand. ‘I’ll be here, unless another vehicle comes.’

It is almost five when another car stops. It is more than 300km to Steytlerville, 267km still to the turn-off. The driver of the sedan is a serious-looking man. He asks me where I am going, his voice almost monotone. He is on his way to Port Elizabeth via the R75 and can give me a lift to Wolwefontein, which is where my next hosts can come and collect me.

‘I must just warn you that I have no money to contribute.’

This usually raises a few eyebrows, but not for this man. He says it is fine, which raises mine.

Conversation with Xolani does not come easy in the first hour. But then, with the last rays of the day, he offers me some sandwiches he made for the road. And cooldrink. As I share his meal he begins to talk. Xolani is heavy with family concerns. The reason for his sombre mood becomes clear. He is driving to Port Elizabeth for a court case. He bought a car. For his brother. Who hasn’t stuck to the repayments. And now Xolani is in trouble because the car is in his name.

We’ve been driving for over an hour when I spot a packet of cigarettes in the console. ‘Xolani, do you smoke?’


‘Obviously not a lot. You’ve not smoked since you picked me up.’

Silence. Eyes on the road ahead. Then he says quietly, ‘I have a passenger.’

He is not smoking in his own car out of consideration for me. Stunned, I reach for the packet, find a lighter and light a cigarette, choking. I don’t smoke, but I hand it to Xolani. He half grins. Is it because of the nicotine or the gesture, or both? I’m not sure.

The road carries us closer to our destinations. We spend the time in companionable silence. When we reach the Wolwefontein turn-off, we see the headlights of a waiting car. This is where our journey ends. Hamba kahle, Xolani.