Walking from desert to coast for autism

The Trailblazers 2016 Skeleton Coast to Cape Town Endurance Challenge, from left, at the back, Cameron Moore, Hilton Johnson and Janine Johnson. Sitting, from left, are Angus Moore, Chase Daddee and Hilda Cronje.

A group of volunteers have embarked on a gruelling 2 000km journey to raise funds for children with autism.

The Trailblazers 2016 Skeleton Coast to Cape Town Endurance Challenge sees six walkers taking on the desolate landscape of Namibia and ending in Table View.

Their aim is to raise R10 000 for the Cornerstone Living Centre and the Ethan Education and Training Hub.

The walk started at the mouth of the Ugab River in Namibia on Monday September 19 .

Hilda Cronje, one of the volunteers, said they had been scheduled to start on September 1 but had to postpone to sort out issues with their permits.

The walk was tour coordinator Angus Moore’s idea. Chase Daddee, Cameron Moore, Hilton Johnson and Janine Johnson make up the rest of the walkers.

The walk is part of The Big Autism Thing (BAT), an initiative developed by the non-profit organisations, Association for Autism and Charity-On-The-Go.

“I have been associated with BAT since 2012 and would like to make BAT a household name in South Africa and abroad. This walk is to create awareness of autism,” said Mr Moore.

Two centres had been chosen as beneficiaries because they were both desperate for funds.

Mr Moore said the walk had been challenging at first, but once they found their rhythm they were good to go.

“Once we found our feet, it turned out to be an excellent group of people standing together as a team against 2000km to be done for children with autism,” he said.

The group, which is currently making its way to Bitterfontein, covers between 75 to 100km a day.

Hilton Johnson, 59, and his wife Janine, 56, from New Zealand, have been married 32 years and they say the walk has been an amazing experience as a couple.

“Together we have proved that age has nothing to do with achievement. We have endured challenging terrain together and marvelled at the beauty of Namibia together. Each corner unveiled entirely new landscape which we got to joy,” said Ms Johnson.

Mr Johnson, who is blind, uses his 20 percent eyesight as best he can on the walk.

“I do miss out on seeing the scenery and rely on Janine to describe it to me, or I use the binoculars to get a closer look at what everyone else can see.

“The biggest challenge is when walking alone along the road I can’t see oncoming cars until they are almost on top of me. On a few occasions there were a few close shaves.

“If I am walking into a headwind, I can sometimes hear the vehicles and get a little warning, but most times, I am walking in faith that the cars see me before I see them.

“I try not to let my visual disability limit what I can do and can boast at being the best cook in camp.

“I am so grateful that despite my disability I am able bodied and can do this amazing walk to support the families of autistic children and their disabilities,” said Mr Johnson.

The group has faced extreme heat during the day and extreme cold at night. Hyenas and jackals have helped themselves to the walkers’ left-over food and then there have been he blisters – nothing, say the group, has compared to the blisters they’ve endured.

Mr Moore said they want the community to participate in their last leg of the walk which will be done in two “walk-ins” on Saturday November 5.

The first starts at Melkbosstrand beachfront, at 10am.

The second starts at the beachfront in front of the Blue Peter hotel. Tickets for the walk-ins costs R30 a person or R100 for groups of four. The walk-ins end at 1pm at the Bloubergrant High School, the final destination.

“We are pleading with the people of South Africa, and especially in the Western Cape, to assist us with these walk-ins by entering and joining us in our walk to our finishing point at Bloubergrant High School. Let’s unite for children with autism,” said Mr Moore.

To donate to The Trailblazers 2016 Skeleton Coast to Cape Town Endurance Challenge or find out more information about it, you can visit www.bigautismthing.com