Solo fundraiser ends gruelling 300km trek for landmine victims (Angola)


Anette Grobler, who arrived home last week after completing her walk that raised R45 000 for Angolan landmine victims, said yesterday: "On day six I felt so, so alone. I just wanted someone to talk to, but there was no one.


(04.11.2005)

Anette Grobler of Cape Town was well prepared physically for her 300km solo slog along a remote stretch of the Angolan desert coast, but nothing could have prepared her for overwhelming sense of loneliness and isolation.

Grobler, who arrived home last week after completing her walk that raised R45 000 for Angolan landmine victims, said yesterday: "On day six I felt so, so alone. I just wanted someone to talk to, but there was no one.

"In a desert you really realise just how small you are, and how replaceable. "I felt very unsure of myself."

Grobler, 41, who is a student development practitioner at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, decided to do the fund-raising walk after having been appalled by the number of landmine victims she saw on a trip to Angola.

Pulling a cart with her gear, Grobler took 14 days to walk the 300km in punishing terrain and howling winds which developed into sandstorms for most of the trip.

She started at the Kunene River and finished at the small coastal town of Namibe, where the R45 000 cheque was handed to Angola's Rotary Club to buy wheelchairs and crutches for landmine victims.

The money is still rolling in. Some Rotary clubs in the US have pledged $1 000 each.

"Just before I left I went to a place where the Angolan government gives landmine victims one meal a day.

"I saw a woman there who had had both legs blown off by a mine and she was pregnant and had a tiny kid.

"She was being pushed in a wheelbarrow," Grobler said.

It was an image that she was to call to mind several times to get her through some of the more gruelling times on the trek. "I have never experienced winds like that.

"There were times I could not use my water desalinator because it just got filled with sand. "I lay awake at night because of the noise."

Pitching her tent was possible only if she unzipped it first and stuffed her gear inside to weigh it down.


When the moon rose she could see the silhouettes of brown hyenas snuffling around her tent, but it was the giant crabs that disturbed her most.

"They were as big as my hand and the moment it was dark I could hear them start to climb all over the tent. "They even tried to eat through the guy ropes I lay there and wondered what I would do if they manage to bite through the tent."

Because the airline would not allow her to take her stove on board, she bought a little diesel and petrol before she started walking, mixed it, poured it into the sand and lit it. It gave her time to boil water to add to her instant dehydrated meals.

But because of the wind, she had a hot meal only twice, and for the rest ate nuts, raisins, biltong and jelly babies.

Her only back-up was a man who ran a lodge and knew the desert - he was four hours' drive away.

She could call him on her satellite phone, but he could reach her only if the tide was out. That increased her sense of isolation and vulnerability.

"I allowed myself three treats a day. I could listen to five songs on the MP3 player, phone one person per night and have one cigarette in the evenings."

Desalinating seawater with a hand-pump was hard work and it took her almost 15 minutes to make just 250ml.

Grobler had one experience she will not forget. On her third day, when the windstorms and the ruggedness of the terrain made her question if her trip was really possible, she saw a dolphin in the bay only a few metres from her.

"The moment I saw it I started crying. It turned around and came back and stayed close to me for the three hours I was in that bay. It felt like a sign that everything was going to be okay."

Donations can be sent to Landmine Victim Sponsorship Absa 635005 Cheque Account 406 1414 331.

Von: 2 November 2005, http://www.capetimes.co.za by Melanie Gosling

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