IT was a challenging journey beset with injuries, but four weeks and 500km later, Port Alfred dad Ralph Kirsten and his friend Jakes Oosthuizen finished the last leg of a walk for autism last Saturday.
Thanks to the support of family, friends and others who became aware of the cause, they raised R50 000, primarily for treatment of Kirsten’s son Noah, who has autism, but also in the hope of starting a local school or centre for children with learning disabilities.
Kirsten began the trek with another friend, Hardy Hofmeister, starting out from Port Edward on July 1. They were already suffering various injuries by the end of the first week, with Kirsten piercing his finger with a hook poking out of his fishing tackle box, and needing to see a doctor in Port St Johns.
Then Hofmeister suffered pain in both ankles and infections in his feet and after initially getting transport while Kirsten continued walking, decided it was best to withdraw and return home to Namibia and see a doctor.
Kirsten soldiered on alone until he started having back pains and passed the baton to Oosthuizen at Seagulls Hotel near East London while he rested and recuperated with a plan to join Oosthuizen for the final 32km from Fish River.
“It was tough, but I enjoyed it,” Oosthuizen said. “There were some days it was long and lonely. Most days I was on my own.
He was buoyed by being accompanied by a group of people who walked with him from Seagulls/Trennerys to Double Mouth, crossing the Kei River, going through Morgan Bay and over the headlands.
“Then two elderly gents walked with me from Gonubie to the waterfront in East London. I was thankful for them because that section is not safe,” Oosthuizen said.
“I bypassed East London and started again at Winterstrand, where the local clubhouse was kind enough to give me a camping spot. Then I was on my own until Fish River.”
It’s also started people talking about autism, which is good
Kirsten said despite the injuries he had experienced he had no regrets and would do it again.
“The whole trip everyone was friendly, we got lots of questions,” he said.
When he and Hofmeister set out they carried their own water, a purifier and medical kit, and camped in small tents they carried in their backpacks.
“We did stop at the odd backpackers to have a shower, rest up and recharge our batteries,” he said.
Kirsten said the plan was to make it an annual event, and be better prepared next time, with a support vehicle and lighter backpacks.
“It’s a lot easier to walk 30km a day with 10kg than with 25kg on your back.
“We’ve got confidence to it next time,” Kirsten said.
He was especially grateful to his uncle Keith Kirsten for his generous contribution, and to everyone who donated, from friends to strangers.
“It’s also started people talking about autism, which is good,” he said.
Oosthuizen added: “I give credit to the Creator who gives us the wonderful opportunity to do things.”