Deb Shucka's Cape Camino Journal
Deb Schuka, USA
Deb walked the full 40 days of Winelands, Farmlands, Community, Sandveld and Strand, West Coast and Peninsula sections.
She started in August and ended in October of 2022 and was joined by small groups of pilgrims along the way.
DAY 33 : By Car
Langebaan to Cape Town
I’m sitting in a beautiful guest house in the center of Cape Town with Table Mountain hovering behind us. I’m alone for the first time in weeks. For the first time since I arrived in South Africa I feel like I’m in a foreign country. I started the day on familiar turf. Hanli’s sweet place. Coffee. A generous and gorgeous breakfast eaten in good company.
She invited me to come to the beach while she did her daily swim with the Floating Ducks, a group of women who swim for health, fun, and this month, breast cancer awareness. It felt glorious to walk in sand barefoot with my destination within easy sight. I had a wonderful conversation with their photographer who walked the beach with me while the others swam.
On our way back to the car I saw Ina!!!! I was ridiculously happy to see her and to gather more hugs and to get Frikkie’s wave from the restaurant.
Hanli and I returned to Pumpkin House to wait for my ride. Jeff and his wife Melanie took me away into the next leg of my adventure. On our way we stopped to get gas and coffee, and that’s when I knew for sure I’d crossed from one world to another. There was an actual Starbucks style coffee stand in the service station. From which I ordered rooibos.
My first view of Table Mountain up close gave me shivers. There’s definitely some power there.
After some confusion involving turns, we arrived at Casa Del Sonder where Michelle and Chase met me on the step. They were welcoming and showed me this incredible three story place with a rooftop space looking right into Table Mountain. My room is spacious and light.
I went out for a walk and to find food earlier. Everything feels unfamiliar and overwhelming. Simply crossing the street required some observation and copying. The lights don’t seem to have any relation to when you can walk. The bustle and noise after weeks of country then beach were painful and distressing.
I was the only white person I saw the whole time I was out. No one bothered me and I was treated politely in the shops I went into. But neither did anyone smile at or greet me. I was painfully aware of my whiteness and my aloneness.
When I got back to the guest house I went up to the roof with what turned out to be a delicious lamb curry and roti. I enjoyed my food and the view as best I could in my own company. I’m back in my room now feeling distinctly out of sorts and out of my element. Give me kilometers of beach walking and sore feet and a cold water shower and I’m hardly phased. Stick me in a city alone where I don’t fit in at all, and I’m thrown for a loop.
I will be joined tomorrow by Caroline whose messages have helped me allow this transition its own space. I usually enjoy my own company a lot, but alone today is a challenge. I’m grateful for her reaching out.
I am a pilgrim. I can do hard things. There is gift here, even if I can’t quite see it right now.
DAY 34 : 17km
Table Mountain to Newlands
It took me all day to figure out why yesterday was such a struggle. The night was strange. There was a birthday party upstairs until midnight. The police station across the street did shift change loudly in the parking lot. The mosque behind us did call to prayer, which I loved but which always stopped sooner than I was ready for.
The morning started a little wonkie, too, but I was ready for it. If the Camino was going to be throwing advanced level challenges at me, I was going to face them with all the courage and grace I could muster. I was determined to accept it all, and to not try to bend circumstances to my preferences and comfort level. So when Hanief, my chaperone for the day, decided to cut off the first part of the walk and we would take a car to the start, I didn’t say a word.
We arrived at Table Mountain and waited for Caroline, my new pilgrim family, to arrive. Her presence opened the day wide. We met at the tram station, the mountain looming above, with blue blue skies above that. Cape Town spread below us like an ornate tapestry.
While we walked, both Hanief and Carolyn pointed out interesting landmarks and shared historical stories. They had walked together before and their easy rapport made the walk lighter and more fun. Twice people stopped to ask about our Cape Camino shirts. Once it was women who had walked other pilgrimages. The second time I had the best conversation with a guy holding a posey of edible flowers who teaches people about sustainable urban gardening.
Since we had driven up the mountain and our destination was at the bottom and we were walking straight, I wondered about going down. After a long straight and beautiful time, we headed down a trail that went pretty much straight down. Fortunately my poles did their job, and my knees stayed quiet, so it was a fun descent.
We stopped at the Rhodes memorial. It’s an enormous granite structure overlooking Cape Town flanked by lions and led by a mythical being. It’s really impressive or seriously overblown, depending on your inclination. We sat below the lions and chatted a bit about his impact and colonialism and what’s reasonable restitution.
From there the walk to Westfield Guest House in Newland was pretty short. We were greeted by Janette and three boisterous and adorable golden retrievers. The house is a heritage house, very lovingly cared for. My room is a dream. The back yard an oasis.
As Janette and I sat outside chatting, while I sipped the rooibos she’d prepared and petted the great head of her oldest goldie, an awareness that had been forming all day became whole. The one constant comfort for me on this pilgrimage has been connection and relationship. The honor of being allowed into people’s homes and lives and hearts. The time outside in sun and wind and sand surrounded by fynbos and flowers and farmland. The sky calling my wings. The earth holding me close. My fellow pilgrims.
Thinking back on the last month, all of the physical challenges have been made easier to accept because of those relationships. A smile and a rooibos at the end of a hard walking day. Problem solving and laughing at the problems with my Camino family. Loving answers to hard questions forming as I’ve walked alone, but connected.
"You might call that God. Or love."
Jane called me last night as I lay on my bed trying to find solid ground again. That wonderful conversation full of stories and laughter began the process of grounding for me. Then I got a message of love and encouragement from my oldest friend at home. By the time I fell asleep I had turned the day over.
I still have some processing to do around why I felt such disconnection. It was part circumstance, but it’s my own reaction to the circumstance that I wonder about. Why was I not able to find connection, and why did I feel so alone?
I emerged from my shower to hear Janette and Caroline talking in the yard. Caroline had come back to make sure I was doing okay. My two new friends had decided I should spend the afternoon at Kirstenbosch Gardens. Caroline would take me. Janette would fetch me. We also formed a plan for a late start tomorrow to hopefully avoid the predicted rain.
Caroline took me not just to the gardens, but came in and wandered with me a bit. When she left I found food at the restaurant there - fish and chips eaten in the company of a francolin hen and her chicks. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon sauntering the grounds. Kirstenbosch has only native plants so in a way it was a condensation of my walk on Cape Camino. Families picnicked on the grass, creating an idyllic Sunday afternoon scene. I found the Boomslang, an curving elevated walkway that was a highlight. I stayed until the sun began to set.
The day ended in Janette’s company with tea and stories. Dogs scattered at our feet. The light of an African evening softening it all. Connection fully restored. Love bubbling. Fear once more faced and denied power.
DAY 35 : 14km
Newlands to Constantia
The ease of today was both restful and restorative. We had decided to start late in hopes of missing the predicted morning rain. I had my coffee and rusks in bed, listening to pouring rain. Then took a shower just because I could and the line dried towel was too wonderful to not enjoy.
When I smelled bacon, I made my way to the kitchen where I found Janette and her crew hard at work making my breakfast. What a pleasure to sit at a table and start my day with such a lovingly prepared feast. The company was just as pleasurable, and suddenly I was the dogs’ favorite person.
When Faizel and Caroline arrived, the rain had stopped and we set out into a fresh morning. Most of the day was up and down forest walking with Kirstenbosch Gardens in the middle. Even though I had just been there, I was so happy to visit again. Doing the Boomslang was even more fun with Faizel making the snake slither. We saw parts I hadn’t seen last night. My favorite was the Protea garden followed closely by the Silver tree forest.
We hiked down a trail following a stream that held all the magic of a fairy land. We went through a cork forest - my very first chance to touch cork at its source. We ate our snack on a domed roof. The conversation, much like yesterday’s, was light and informative. The company was easy.
I’m in a clean and comfortable motel style guest house for the night. My host, Graeme, got me settled and made sure I knew where to find dinner.
But I discovered when I checked my phone for the first time all day that Peggy (the daughter half of Cape Camino) will be joining me for dinner. I’m so looking forward to meeting the person who had such a hand in my walking this pilgrimage. I’m so grateful for the ease of this day.
DAY 36 : 24+km
Constantia to Muizenberg
Today was an entire pilgrimage in itself - worth everything that preceded it, and enough if nothing were to follow. The name of this leg is wine to water. We walk through a vineyard and end up at the beach. However, my head has always turned it into water to wine. The miracle of today feels on that scale. The morning started almost whimsically. After a wonderful full breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs and mushrooms, and while I was waiting for everyone, my host Graeme stood outside chatting with me. The conversation centered first around the breeding habits of his Cocky Campbell (no joke) ducks. And then he mentioned he had rabbits and I got a tutorial in their breeding habits. The whole thing was weirdly delightful.
All of today’s pilgrims gathered at once. Faizel our chaperone. Peggy, the daughter half of Cape Camino. Caroline and her sister Andrea. The energy was high and the morning bright as we set out.
"We wound our way through beautiful and at times magical urban paths."
We met a pair of women who wanted to know about Cape Camino and visited for a long time. I finally got a picture of a hadida, the screeching ibis I’ve been listening to for the last month. We walked through masses of nasturtiums that filled the air with their distinctive peppery smell.
The first major stop of the day was Schoenstatt Shrine, one of 207 around the world. They were built to be places of refuge and renewal. This one is next to a convent and a huge construction site where land sold by the church is being turned into a high end retirement village. The shrine itself radiates peace and calm and is truly a sacred space.
Shortly after, we found ourselves at a Kramat, one of several Muslim burial sites that circle Cape Town in a shrine that is said to protect the city. We were invited in warmly by the caretaker, asked only to remove our shoes. A huge casket in the center of a small room with prayer rugs stacked and Korans in a cupboard gave the space an air of holiness. But the real holiness to me was feeling welcomed into a place my culture has taught me to fear.
Our picnic break was in the middle of a fynbos circle, where a sign told us we could walk the spokes of the fynbos and leave our troubles at the center. It was a beautiful and peaceful place. Right after we left, a woman and her dog entered the circle where we saw her energetically waving her arms in an apparent attempt to clear out our energy.
Our route then took us past the huge prison where Nelson Mandela was held for a while. The sidewalk followed the prison wall for a long stretch. Across the street was a huge very fancy golf course protected behind a similar wall. The American Embassy was just up the street.
We stopped for coffee at a small mall area, a real treat on a pilgrimage where shops are rare. There Faizel talked to us about the care we would need to take walking through Westlake, the township that was next on our route. We were to remove jewelry and put our phones out of sight. No pictures were to be taken. We had to stay close to Faizel.
Our entrance was a long slatted wood bridge with huge gaps and odd patches. Garbage lay strewn outside the community. We found ourselves on a street that ran between homes of varying degrees of sturdiness, cleanliness and imaginative construction. The poverty was evident, but the place felt like any neighborhood on a sunny afternoon. People going about their business, shops tucked between houses - a barber shop, a beauty shop, a tuck shop. Greetings were exchanged, smiles occasionally. At one point a group of ladies abundant and dressed to the nines came toward us. Their presence and energy made me smile. As we left the area, Faizel greeted someone he knew. Faizel seems to know and be respected by everyone we meet.
Meshak invited us into his bike repair shop where he explained how he rescues and restores old bikes, how he takes kids for bike tours, and how he offers bike tours of Westlake. It’s his way of helping his community, and to begin the process of bringing the cultures together. Someone noticed the kudu skull with a protea blossom tucked in he had sitting on a chair just inside the door. He explained it was his spirit animal and then went in to tell the story of how the kudu became sacred to his people.
By the time we walked away, I was - I’m not really sure how to describe how I was feeling. I had just visited four holy sites: the shrine, the Kramat, the fynbos circle, and finally the kudu. I had walked next to and among both incredible poverty where all the people were of color, and incredible wealth where all the people except the workers were white. I walked in the company of people who care deeply and want to make the world more equitable, more peaceful, more just. Somehow it all means something important to me, to my heart, to what this pilgrimage means.
When we arrived at Muizenberg and my guest house, I checked in and and then followed everyone to the town and the beach. We said goodbye to Faizel and then Peggy. Caroline, Andrea, and I went on to the beach. Andrea swam. Caroline and I sat and processed the day a bit, while we people watched.
I realized that for the second time since I arrived here I was seeing people of all cultures in one spot enjoying themselves. The atmosphere was holiday and happy. Smiles were shared easily. Caroline mentioned that during apartheid Muizenberg was a white beach only. Although there is clearly so far to go yet toward healing, the beach felt a little like hope. And ending my walk there today felt like hope, too.
DAY 37 : 18km
Muizenberg to Simon's Town
All day today I found myself thinking I am so happy, this is so beautiful. From the oil painting sunrise to the Kramat to the Mediterranean like beaches to the company, there was one gift after another the whole day long.
We hugged the coastline all day. Unlike previous beach walks, this one held a huge variety of both terrain and landscape. We were in sight of people and villages the entire walk. Caroline had shared that we were on a sacred path - the Khoisan people who were the first to be here fished along this trail, using natural tidal pools that have since become man assisted for safe swimming. We stopped in Kalk Bay to wander shops. Our first stop was a little shop that sells excellent coffee and even better Portuguese Pastéis de Nata. On our way through a restaurant to an antique store, Caroline saw a couple she knows, the husband of which in turn knows Faizel. It was a lovely little synchronistic moment.
I shopped and bought Turkish towels that came in very handy later. We wandered an amazing china shop that made me think of my brother Mark, gone for years now, who loved those particular antiques. We checked out fabric and clothes and art. It was easy and fun and eventually we were all headed out of town without talking about it.
There was a stroll on a fishing wharf we shared with seals. There was a stop in a traditional Khoisan hut that Faizel had a hand in creating and furnishing with artifacts. We stopped often to take pictures both scenic and silly.
"The sun was kind, the clouds playful, the wind gentle."
Caroline had been planning all day to swim in a tidal pool close to our destination. The water is very cold here. Somewhere along the way, I decided I would join her. When we arrived at her chosen pool, and got water appropriate, I followed her in. The water is very cold here! But after a few minutes I didn’t really feel the temperature and simply enjoyed paddling and floating in the briny sea. Waves splashed gently over the wall in what felt like encouragement or welcome. When we finally got out I was so grateful for my new towel.
Caroline and Faizel left Stella and me at our guest house in Simon’s Town. There we discovered our luggage hadn’t arrived, and the young man trying to help us barely spoke English so there was an abundance of confusion about a lot of things. With Peggy’s help we sorted it out, but went to town in our walking gear, mine slightly damp and salty, because it was the easiest way to wait. We took it in our stride, both tired and relaxed from the day.
Stella and I had a pleasant wander, and a delicious fish and chips dinner. We returned to luggage and showers and individual rooms for an evening of rest and basking in the glow of this glorious day.
DAY 38 : 25km
Simon's Town to Scarborough
The day started with penguins. Little African penguins that we walked in the midst of and listened to the donkey bray of their calls and smelled the pungent scent of many in one place. We saw them mate, saw babies, saw what looked to be courtship behaviors. They waddled and scurried on land, and flew through the water. I could have spent the day watching them.
It seems so ordinary to see this in words. The absolute magic of being in the presence of these unlikely birds will light my heart for a long time to come. Just before the penguins, we met a South African man who had lived in Montana for years. I’ve come to not be surprised by these encounters, but I enjoy them every single time. People‘s curiosity about Cape Camino and the pilgrims who walk it is very satisfying. It’s like finding friends on every walk.
Most of our walk along the wild coast before Scarborough was on pavement/tar. There were long stretches of nothing but the wind which has rejoined my walk with flair, and my own thoughts. The three of us walking today were pretty quiet much of the time, and it was perfect.
It was along one of those stretches that I heard Stella say baboon. When I looked up, there it was, on the side of the road we were walking. We turned a corner and then there was the rest of the troop. They were on both sides of the road, and scurrying back and forth. One young one reached out for me as I walked by. After all the horror stories I’ve heard about baboon behavior, it was an incredible gift to walk among them with ease.
"To see penguins and baboons in the wild in one day - there is a little girl inside of me jumping up and down for joy."
The weather was a major player today. It started cloudy, then cleared, then got cloudy again. We layered then unlayered then layered again. When we stopped at the Scone Shack for our morning break, it turned cold and it was raining as we left.
Our time at Scone Shack was a highlight. It’s a kitschy succulents nursery and sweet shop in the middle of nowhere. We were cold and hungry when we arrived so the coffee and scones (real English scones with butter, lavender jam, and clotted cream) couldn’t have been more appreciated. We were entertained by the many animals wandering the grounds. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been warned about the possibility of baboons disturbing our meal, or been given a fly swatter to shoo the pesky ducks away. The pot bellied pigs we met on the way out were frosting on the cake.
The final surprise of the walk came close to the end. There was a huge place full of polished stone statuary that Stella and I wandered, marveling at the beauty of the distinctly African art, running our hands over the smooth cool surfaces.
Scarborough is a sleepy town with a lot of beautiful beach homes and two restaurants. Our second story guest house looks out over the sun setting into the sea. The sky is golden. Bed calls. Penguins and baboons will fill my dreams.
DAY 39 : 18km
Scarborough to Noordhoek
I wonder if all paths might be sacred. As we were walking from Scarborough this morning along the wild coastline, Faizel mentioned the path had been used by the Khoisan people. And it made me wonder. If a path holds the energy of ancient footsteps, there is power there. If a path, no matter how old, takes you from where you are to a new place, is that not holy? A path is an invitation to move into a new present. With intention and attention, a person can connect with a path and be transformed. Pilgrimage.
Today’s walk was full of the ancient power of the sea and the ancestral power of the first people here. In the beginning concentration was absolutely necessary as we scrambled over rocks and trudged through deep fine sand. We would stop every little bit and look around, soaking up sights, breathing in the air, absorbing the magic. There was a bittersweet quality to the time. This was one of three remaining days for me on this Camino.
We were kept company by oystercatchers and sacred ibises, the occasional heron and cormorant. Gulls sat like scattered pillows on the rocks. At the very end I spotted a large flock of flamingos in the distance, their telltale pink shimmering slightly on the edge of the water.
We watched crayfish fishermen trying to launch a boat, and then bringing it back because an engine was broken - a day’s work ruined. A stunning white lighthouse showed the way for a while. At one point the three women walking, without discussion, sat on a bench under its watchful eye and enjoyed the warm air and waves.
There were wildflowers and brilliant lichens. Rocks that patiently bore our footsteps as they had borne those of the Khoisan. Waves grew in intensity as we traveled the path. Just before we reached Noordhoek, we watched world class surfers, and the people filming them, for a while, cheering as though they could hear us.
The beach was littered with Blue Bottles, also known as Portuguese Man o’ War, beautiful and apparently nasty jellyfish. We turned a corner at one point and Caroline stopped. She pointed straight ahead. Table Mountain. Our peninsula journey had brought us around to the back and will finish on the other side in two days. Regaining sight of that magnificent rock gave me goose bumps and brought tears close to the surface. Even from this far away, the power is palpable.
At Kommetjie (pronounced “coma-key”, a good example of the Dutch influence here) we stopped at a coffee shop for a break. Sitting at a table with my current Camino family was deeply satisfying, especially since this was the last day for our particular family configuration.
When we arrived at Oceangolf Guest House in very early afternoon, I was the only one to stay. I’ll walk with Stella for the last time tomorrow, along with a new chaperone, Brent. Caroline and Faizel will join me again on my last day, Sunday. I have been so grateful for the company of my fellow pilgrims and the chaperones on this walk. I’m always sad when people leave and happy when they stay. Every moment with them a gift, a miracle, a revelation.
I found I didn’t mind being alone this afternoon though. I haven’t been sleeping well, and I’ve needed some quiet time to start to sort out details for my last bit of time here. I did my usual end of walk organizing, then went deeper and went through everything in my suitcase. I sent messages and made decisions and drank rooibos.
I was sitting in my generous and gorgeous room with the sliding door wide open, listening to a YouTube video when Simba, my host here, called my name. He said there was a lady here to see me. I had no idea who it might be, but went down the stairs to meet her. Someone I’d never seen before approached and asked who I was. I told her and asked who she was. Lindl. She wanted to know if I was one of the Cape Camino pilgrims.
She explained she had just returned from walking the Portuguese Camino. She saw us somewhere on the path today and actually got ahold of Gabrielle to find me. She held out a flimsy plastic bag, and told me to choose one of whatever it held. My hand came away with a perfect little scallop shell with the St. James cross, held on red thread, and according to my new friend, a message inside. Lindl said I’d chosen a shell that had been to Portugal and back, that the others had been made here. That felt significant. Portugal.
I came back upstairs after she charged me with gifting the remaining shells, we’d hugged like sisters, and she strode away. It felt like I’d just been visited by an angel. This took the Camino bringing people onto my path to a whole new level. Camino magic beyond any previous experience I’ve had.
"The message on the back of my shell? “Have faith.” A message I believe meant to carry me home and through the re-entry to come."
DAY 40 : 10km
Noordhoek to Hout Bay
When I stepped out of my room this morning to find breakfast, I walked into angry air. The owner was shouting at a female worker who was standing a floor below him. I ducked into an open door to be greeted with a smile by the woman who was preparing my food. I’d been told it was a continental breakfast so was surprised when she served me fruit, yogurt and muesli in a papaya half. Along with a cappuccino. While I ate I could hear the owner telling the woman how unacceptable the behavior of the other one was. His voice was still very angry. When she came back with my homemade toast, her hands shaking, her smile firmly in place, I wanted to cry.
I’m not sure what I found most upsetting - his tone and behavior, both women just taking it, or my inability to do anything to help them. I was driven to Hout Bay. The curvy and narrow Chapman Peak Road between Noordhoek and Hout Bay is considered too dangerous for pilgrims to walk. Given the choice I would have walked. There were more runners and bicyclists in the road than cars. However, later I was glad to have saved my energy.
My chaperone for the day, the legendary Brent Thomas, met me on the waterfront with his wife and son. Stella joined us just for the walk.
We set out through Brent’s neighborhood toward the peak we would climb. As we walked, he pointed out murals that had been painted by local artists. The purpose was beautification and promoting the artists and pride. He talked about how outside forces want the prime property his neighborhood sits on and the struggles that result from that. He talked about all he’s doing to help his community, to help others step into responsible roles. People greeted Brent and Danita, and returned my greetings if I offered first.
The whole day was a crash course in race relations and post apartheid issues. It was also a look into the heart of a place where a woman creates a sanctuary for kids to be when home is not safe. Where Brent eyes empty pieces of land as sees gardens. Where workers clean up the city that officials aren’t.
One of the things Brent is trying to do is get his community to hike. To explore their land. To get out and move and really know what a treasure their home is. When we finally reached the top of Sentinel, I knew that anyone seeing that view would be changed. I’m sad I won’t be here for the full moon hike tomorrow, or the full moon kayaking excursion.
He had said we were doing an easier hike. Straight up the mountain, rock scrambling, in the heat - not sure what hard would have felt like. Still, it was fun. Danita is a traditional healer and spent the hike pointing out various plants and their uses. She also had a quietly wicked sense of humor which I loved. Jesse, their son was photographer and occasional leader up the mountain. It was a real pleasure to be in the company of the family.
We spent a fair amount of time at the top enjoying the panoramic view and each other’s company. The walk down was much easier. The entire experience so satisfying.
We walked back to the waterfront to look at the galleried work of the mural artists as well as amazing art made from recycled stuff. Stella left us, and we went to Fish on the Rocks for a delicious fish and chips lunch. Then we went to the Hout Bay Harbor Market, where under other circumstances I could easily have spent the day, and a lot of money.
At the end of the day I feel hopeful. People like Brent and his family are working hard to uplift their communities, and to make people like me feel welcome there. I have met so many people here trying hard to find ways across the line, wanting deeply to fix what’s broken. One of the things I love most about this place is the honesty and openness and heart of its people. What I witnessed this morning only serves to highlight the goodness even more.
DAY 41 : 18km
The Last Day - Hout Bay to Cape Town
"This day was absolutely perfect from start to finish. Not because everything went smoothly, because it did not. But because I felt more joy and gratitude than sorrow. And because the bumps simply didn’t matter."
I couldn’t have asked for better companions (unless I could have added friends from earlier in my walk). Faizel was like an old friend by today. Quiet unless he was telling one of his great stories. A protective presence. Caroline feels like an angel sent to show me a more loving way to be. Andrea, her sister, is an older more experienced angel in her own right.
We were on pavement all day, next to the ocean in some way the whole time. It was sunny and warm. The wind, called the Cape Doctor here because it clears the air, traveled with us. The full circle of having that presence from the beginning of my walk rejoin me at the end felt like Camino magic. It pushed and pulled, caressed and blasted. Yin and Yang. Light and darkness. Life’s paradoxes in air currents.
Beauty abounded, both natural and man made. Murals and mosaics. The sea covered with wind-sculpted white horses. The Twelve Apostles mountains, Table Mountain with her tablecloth of clouds. Rocks - some sculpted into bouldery animal shapes by eons of wind and water, some craggy and defiant.
We visited a Kramat at the top of a very steep set of stairs. As Caroline and I stood outside the closed door, a middle aged man dressed in the traditional Muslim kufi and robe came out and slipped his feet into his Merrill hiking shoes. He explained the Kramats surrounding Cape Town to us without our asking, and offered the pure spring water pouring into a pool from the mountainside. He talked of miracles - no Kramat has burned in the many fires that occur here. He said God (his word) is not unfair, a statement that seems profound and full of both truth and mystery. It was a truly holy moment in a very holy place.
We shared the day with people out enjoying a late spring sea coast Sunday. Bikes zoomed by on the downhills. I imagined gleeful inner ten year olds enjoying the absolute freedom of speed and wind. Bikes trudged by on the uphills, less joy, more concentration. Motorcycles and fancy sports cars roared past in both directions, the speed limit a mere suggestion and the coastal curves an invitation.
The closer we got to Cape Town, the busier things got. Beach towns, and full on fancy resort towns. Caroline and Andrea had grown up in Camps Bay, one of the first towns in our walk with easy access to the beach. It is a former beach town grown into resort town, but somehow still holding onto the beach town magic.
One of the biggest gifts of the day was sharing in the sisters’ pilgrimage to their first home, and listening to their stories of childhood so enmeshed with this place. We went to the church where their parents married, and were able to go inside where the scent of incense permeated everything and the light from the stained glass windows softened edges. To witness their experience of holiness and history as they rested in the pews was a privilege.
From there we made our way to the beach. People were out for strolls and picnics and dips in the sea. The wind played. The waves played. We played and enjoyed the quirkiness of the place. It seemed there were signs and messages of love and carrying on everywhere, not just in Camps Bay, but on the entire route.
We stopped for pictures. We stopped for delicious fresh made samosas. We stopped to swim in a tidal pool, the water cold enough to hurt at first, but then feeling like the best kind of medicine.
Finally there was nothing else to stop for, no other way to slow the day down. We turned from the sea toward the city on a path through an astonishing park. We were near the stadium where a soccer game was starting, and the universal noise of avid sports fans filled the air. That was mingled with the smell of braai from the family picnics lining the walk.
As with the beaches we had passed throughout the day, the park held a satisfying coming together of color and culture. Fear felt far away as people smiled and greeted and simply enjoyed a sunny spring Sunday together. I will leave South Africa with the blossoming hope of that in my heart.
We finally arrived at the hostel that is my final Camino stay. Gifts were exchanged.
Caroline read us a John O’Donoghue poem called For Celebration. Hugs were held. My shoes were sent with Faizel to continue their life here. Uber came and I was left alone in the company of fledgling adventurers all young enough to be my great grandchildren.
The Camino had one final last-day gift for me. Andrea came back and took me to the waterfront for the evening. We ate at an African restaurant in the shadow of Table Mountain. I ate waterblommetjie bredie - a delicious lamb stew with the special fruits of water lilies that is unique to this area. And I finally had milk tart, the last item on my list of foods to try checked off. We shopped in one of the biggest and fanciest malls I’ve seen where I found souvenirs for home. A full moon and Venus kept us company on the way back to the car.
As I tucked myself into bed in a place so like the albergues of my Spanish Camino, I felt a sense of completeness.
"41 days. 700 kilometers. Countless new friends, both physical and virtual. A new country to love. My inner landscape forever changed by it all."
“The thing about a long walk is it’s an experience of process, of being in the corridor between the place you started and the place you will eventually be.”
I know to give myself time and patience and kindness. As memories pop up throughout the day like the brilliant wildflowers that dotted my pilgrimage path, I receive them as the gifts they are. But they bring tears, and create longing. They keep me in the space between worlds, a space of not knowing and possibility.
When I walked, my intention was to accept whatever came as gift and to be grateful. I worked to set aside my preferences and to embrace each new experience regardless of how it made me feel. The walking itself was the magic and the medicine, every step a miracle of clarity and connection.
I miss the simplicity of the pilgrimage routine, as I did with previous Caminos. This time, however, I also miss my new friends and fellow pilgrims. I miss the eldritch light that begins and ends each day. I miss the heart and hope that define Cape Camino. I am sad. My heart, so tenderized and expanded by this pilgrimage experience, hurts. If I could, I would live in the long walk space forever. But I can’t. And I don’t truly want to. Because this next leg of pilgrimage where I get to discover what I really learned is as important as the walking.