I met two full-time pedestrians in two consecutive days on the road. The first one I encountered outside Barrydale as my host was driving me from his farm into town. We saw him walking towards the town, walking slowly under a bulging backpack. On the return journey we spotted him lying under a tree, and pulled the bakkie off the side of the road to give him a coke. He sprang up and walked to the window. He said his name was Freddie. “I’m a walker,” he said. “I’ve walked this country for 15 years.”
Those 15 years, apparently, hadn’t been enough time for Freddie to get rid of some of his stuff he carried in his backpack. The backpack itself wasn’t huge but whatever was inside must have been tremendously heavy. I asked to take a photo of him, and he insisted on wearing his backpack. To get it on, he had to sit on the ground, put the straps around his shoulders and then heave and wheeze his way up on his feet, refusing assistance on the way.
He said he was heading to Montagu. He’d stay around there for two months, he said. I asked Freddie where he would go afterwards. He said he didn’t know.
He said he once stopped walking for a while, but then he got tired of people so he carried on walking again.
I left the farm the next day, and as I drove towards Barrydale I saw Freddie on the side of the rode. He’d moved about a kilometre since the day before.
The following day I met another walker, 27-year-old Grant Christie, who’d quit his job as a civil engineer to walk the entire coastline of South Africa as part of his Six Million Steps campaign to raise awareness for causes of the Wilderness Foundation. I met him on the banks of the Breede River, after having just crossed from Cape Infanta to Witsand.
He’d taken over two million steps by then. “I don’t see the next three months; I see the next three days,” he told me. “You can’t allow yourself to be daunted by the task ahead. You’ve got to break it up into manageable chunks.”
“Further up the coast is Future Grant’s problem,” he says.
At last contact, Grant had walked past the halfway mark of 1600 kilometres. Freddie is on his way to Montagu, and probably will be for some time.
Follow Grant’s journey at Six Million Steps and @6millionsteps on Twitter.