Foot-slogging, Grahamstown – Alicedale … along the railway track. Day 1 diary.

Kicked off at sparrows from the Grahamstown station. Poor abandoned aged-aunt, gracefully praying for life. Affixed to a ribbon with Alicedale fastened at t’other end, we hastened on our 56km mission.

Lost in conversation and mesmerised by a dazzling March morning we cleared town before she woke. Up past “Brickies” and the New Cemetery. Bush-wacking the overgrown track with whoosh-whirring wind-turbines overhead.

A grand tunnel entrance mystically appeared from the bush. Memories of the message frenetically blown down the carriages. Tunnel! A single word thick with instruction. Old hands engrossed in card games, jostling, Pet Shop Boys and mischief. New-boys engulfed in black smoke. Not a thought for the engineering and architectural splendour of ancient tunnels. Oblivious to being on the cliff-edge of an era.

The old master now a soiled and grizzled home to a colony of bats and, as DAJ thoughtfully explained, pythons fond of eating bats. We continued on our snaking path admiring views and Autumn flowers. The flight and call of a Knysna Lourie. A trio of fine grey thoroughbred horses. Came upon Atherstone – a deserted and dry siding resembling a western-movie set – and then the long haul to Highlands. The going getting tough. 

Treading contoured train-track easy when sleepers a measured, selfish stride – and free of cutting stone. Anything else varying degrees of blistering dread. We soldiered on determined to stay the course. Game fences left and right and suddenly ahead. Not electrified so we slithered, clambered and climbed. Warned of buffalo and leopard but thoughts of depleting water a greater concern. The sun beat mercilessly into the 30’s. Dreams of ice-cold Coke befuddling the mind.

DAJ pulled us on. Surely a verdant pasture and crystal brook beyond the next rise. Break the back of our trek on day 1 the rallying cry. A stashed bottle of Syrah 393 the reward. A bend rounded and still no respite for aching feet and parched throat.

At 34,72km and 54,408 steps we found our camp-site. Beautiful view and comfortable. No water or Coke-fridge but otherwise idyllic. Spectacular evening thick with stars on a track frequented by none. Alicedale here we come.

Day 2 diary to follow.


Before moving back to Grahamstown in Oct 2017, Graeme was a bank executive based in the big smoke and craziness of Joburg. He has 20 years’ experience in the Payments Industry. He is a Chartered Accountant, has a Masters in Management by Research (MMR) from Wits Business School, and attended an Advanced Management Programme (AMP) offered by INSEAD (The Business School for the World!) in France.  

Graeme is the founder of The Grahamstown Project. It’s simple. He says, “Grahamstown is a microcosm of South Africa. If we can’t get this place to function properly then the whole country is stuffed. Many of the troubles we experience as a country today have their roots here in Grahamstown. it is here where black and white people first engaged in conflict on the African continent. It is here where 9 wars of dispossession over 100 years took place and virtually destroyed the amaXhosa nation. But we are where we are. I don’t have a British passport and the boat-trip back to where my ancestors came from is exorbitantly expensive. Furthermore, this is my home. I am a son of Africa. We must work together to redress the injustices of the past and move as one into a brighter future.”

Graeme is an avid historian, writer, vlogger and public speaker. Like and follow the Facebook page. Join him on a tour. Contact him. He would love that.