Tuesday, May 22, 2012


In the winter of 2002 we, together with our friends, planned a trip to the beautiful Kunene region of northern Namibia.  This remote and sparsely populated area had many beautiful things to offer.  Besides the peace and quiet that we needed, the attractions included the Epupa falls, and the elusive desert elephants.  There also was another irresistible attraction for the men and their 4 x 4 machines; the infamous and extreme van Zyl’s pass or DR3703, rated as one of the five most dangerous roads in the world.

This extreme road is not really a road, but merely a route over a mountain made by travellers over time.  A lead-up of 10-15 km of tough driving brings you to this outrageously steep and narrow pass, a pure adrenaline rush for the off-road driver. 

At the time I was thankfully unaware of this rating, and although I was usually quite adventurous, there seemed too many factors out of my control on this pass.  I resisted the men and tried to get them to abandon the idea of travelling the pass.  It soon became clear that I was on the losing end of this battle and the male ego prevailed; if other men and their machines could do it, so could they.

I didn’t take that easily and decided to distance me from this folly.  In my opinion this was unnecessary, as there was a safer alternative, albeit longer and less direct road to our next destination. 

In the weeks before we departed on this trip I had many nightmares about this treacherous pass.  It allowed only one way traffic and had to be travelled from east to west, because it offered no opportunity to turn a vehicle around.  I panicked with the thought that somebody might ignore this rule and meet us face to face! There was after all no police in this area to enforce any laws.  I was overwhelmed by many ‘what ifs’, many of them not unfounded.  What if our vehicles slipped or rolled down that mountain?  Recovering a vehicle from that remote location would, at the very least, have been extremely expensive, if not impossible. We also didn’t have the necessary and specialised insurance for this. What if we got flat tyres on the steepest and roughest sections?  I had doubts about the men’s driving skills and their abilities to deal with a mechanical breakdown.  There would be no help anywhere nearby and no mobile phone reception….and so the list went on and on….

At some stage I considered putting my hiking boots on and walking the road, ignoring their dangerous attempts.  I selfishly and foolishly thought that I would then be in control of my own fate.  As if I would have been able to ignore it if any of them, or a vehicle, came in harm’s way!

But this was not to be, for when we reached rough and rock strewn bits, where all resemblance to a road totally disappeared, it proved to be very difficult to walk as well.

By then I also realised I was an integral part of the team to get ourselves and the vehicles safely over this pass.  On reaching these seemingly impassable spots, the road was first inspected and the biggest holes filled with stones.  Then, one vehicle at a time, engaging the lowest gear, the driver would inch forward, while the rest of the team closely watched and anticipated the ground clearance.  It was our job to report to the driver on how to avoid the undercarriage from getting stuck on the rocks and the tyres from being slashed by sharp stones.

Nobody could have been more relieved to reach to end of that 13 km pass after 5 hours of intense driving!  Despite all my misgivings, this most treacherous journey had a happy ending; not a single flat tyre or any damage to any vehicle (my nervous system excluded)!

As we descended the beautiful vista of the Marienfluss valley (ancient glacial valley) below was a most welcome reward for this stressed traveller. 

Soon my friends will be leaving for Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago for MSA.  They too have many doubts in their abilities to cope with the great distances of between 500 km to 780 km; will they be hampered by blisters or other physical problems, will they find a place to sleep at the end of a hard day of hiking, will they be able to sleep when sharing the hostel type accommodations with other snorers, will there be bed bugs, will they and their belongings be safe…

Now, on this most difficult journey of my life, I share with them what I have learned thus far; I am not in control, and cannot possibly control everything.  I mustn’t look up at the mountain and think it insurmountable, but rather take one step at a time and fill the holes with stones as I go along.  ‘That doubt sees the obstacles, and faith sees the way.  Doubt sees the darkest night.  Faith sees the day.’ 

Buen Camino to Emilene, Eddie, Susan, Gerda and Esther!  

Monday, May 7, 2012


You have been part of my life for only a short time, and yet you managed leave me enriched in many ways. 

Bob introduced you through facebook.  I saw pictures of you with family, with friends, and with the Bombshells fundraising team.  I admired you bravely attending functions  and wondered how you managed this despite your many physical problems?  You inspired me to try harder.  To realise that God will also provide me with the necessary strength and means to overcome the many hurdles of MSA.  In this picture of you in your purple ‘CURE MSA’ T-shirt I saw the strength and determination of a warrior in your eyes. 

I don’t know if you realised what effect you and Bob had on others.  The light of your love and devotion for each other surrounded you and warmed all around you.  The light of hope through your association with the researchers and fundraising for them, reached also us here at the southern tip of Africa.  Its brightness ignited the light in us.  A light that we hope to carry on the trail you left for us to follow.

Now you have been relieved from your broken body, and we must let you go to rest in the peace that you deserve.  Heaven has gained another MSA angel.

Dear Bob you have lost, in your own words to me, ‘your sweetheart and your hero’.  After 47 years together.  I will not attempt to fill the void left by your loss with words.  Your caring devotion to Susan was always inspiring to watch.  Despite caring for Susan 365/7, you always found the time to encourage and inform many others across the world.   Your enthusiasm and joy is infectious.  I hope that you will remain my friend for many years to come.

My prayers are with you and your family in the difficult days ahead.  

With all my love,


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