Day 7 – Rosendal to Paul Roux (26km if the guide was to be believed. 28km if modern science was your ally – GPS: the polygraph of route distances)
Woke up in the dark to help make breakfast. A mountain of bacon, cheese, sausages and eggs to keep us going. These were transplanted into sandwiches and after rigorous application of sunscreen Dad and I started the final day.
It did not take long before Dad realized the soles of his new shoes were very thin. They were perfectly adequate shoes, just not what would be the first choice for someone hiking on dirt roads. A system of resting and Myprodol every hour was devised that we could make it through the day. He was sore and it showed. To mentally break through the glacier of the day Dad devised a system whereby each hour was allocated a day of the week. For example, the first hours walking was called Monday, the second Tuesday and so on. The idea would be that the day would come to a close on “Saturday” (appropriately).
About ten km’s outside of Rosendal at the top of the highest hill we wondered into mist. The eldritch scene played out complete with cold wind and an aimless cow staring at us as from the haze. Dad was doing better at this point. I did not want to make a point of reminding him of his pain by asking. If he was not okay, he would tell me.
As we descended out of the cloud we were met by Renee Wolfhardt (the organizer) and a group of other coordinators for the walk. They pulled up alongside us in a bakkie and shook hands. We commended her on the job her group had been doing and pointed out our few quibbles. This was mainly limited to the route distances being incorrect. At this point Dad and I realized that none of the organizers had actually done the route completely themselves. It is fine. They took our feedback in their stride and hopefully if we ever do the pilgrimage again the minor tweeks will be present. That having been said, Dad and I were very honest (and flattering) about the route, emphasizing our delight in having participated.
The day wore on. I do not know if it was because there would be no more days beyond it or if it was just that we were so very tired but the conversation dried up around the 20km mark. We were hot, sore and filthy and the end just would not come. Eventually we reached the T Junction for Paul Roux and the promise of a cold drink. We followed the tar into town. Dad just plodded having been reduced to grunts and a kind of aloofness which I didn’t know whether to blame on his pain or the fact that he had taken A LOT of Myprodol.
Around the little corner of Market Street, Dunlin B&B came into view. The Lourens were under the tree on the street to greet us. I cannot imagine how they were feeling considering how buggered we were. Cards were exchanged and the last little bills were tallied for Cokes and water. As quickly as it had begun it all ended. We were in the car headed for Harrismith and a Spur dinner.
After checking in to Mountainview I don’t think I have had a longer shower in my life. I had to scrub a weeks’ worth of dirt from out of every orifice. You could have panned for gold in my runoff. Dad had been talking for two days about how wanting a big steak, chips and onion rings. Well tonight was the night the fellows at Spur were going to make his dreams come true. I just wanted a fucking bed.
We met at Spur early in the evening. Dad looked how I felt and vice versa. We made it through starters before realizing that perhaps modest burgers would be better as mains. The effort of the meal was rivaled only by the long, slow walk back up to our rooms. There we were, each shuffling our feet, hoping one of us would figure out how to roll uphill while dragging the other.
I peeled back the lumpy duvet and closed my eyes. A whole week had collapsed into the black hole of a lifetime. I loved it all. Each swatted fly, each exhaustive breath. I loved the glare of the sun off the road forcing you to look up and breathe. I loved the thin clouds bowing out of politeness to the blue sky. I loved the beige hills clothed in tattered green. I loved my feet and shit knee. How could I not lie in bed in serenity? In the darkness of my mind’s eye my boots came into view. I was walking on a dirt road. Ahead of me, only an expanse.