The good news is that you don’t have to go to Europe to walk the Camino. Capetonians now have their very own on the doorstep, a gift from St James resident Gabrielle Andrew.
Based on the Spanish Camino de Santiago, but traced across the Cape Peninsula, a group of pilgrims recently walked the Wine to Water section, from High Constantia to Muizenberg.
This languid linear leg-stretch offers a breath-taking glimpse into wine estates as well as a chance to meet local people.
Starting with coffee at Pastis, Gabrielle’s passion and commitment to this country, its history, people, local sacred sites and future are infectious.
Introducing guides Collin Meyer who calls himself The Bushman, “surfer dude Jono” Jonathan Oxenham, and pilgrim friend Fuad Peters, Gabrielle tells everyone to walk at their own pace. “Any pilgrimage is personal. This is no different. When I did my own pilgrimage I learned that it was important to set and keep to my own pace. This is time for you, a time for reflection, prayer, gratitude or learning – or all of them. It’s about what you want and how you want to do it. What is certain is that the walking, and the time and the thinking, will allow space for processing your life in a very unique and changing way. Bon Camino,” says Gabrielle.
Setting off towards Groot Constantia, taking a right, the first sacred site is the tiny shrine at Schoenstatt where pilgrims are invited to light a candle. Malinda Coetzee did, saying she is preparing for the 40-day pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago in August.
Gabrielle walked it many years ago with her daughter, Peggy Coetzee-Andrew who joined her mum last year and now works full time on the Cape Camino.
“Camino means the way, the journey, it’s a pilgrimage, to cleanse, a self-inflicted penance. As pilgrims walked they could be killed by highwaymen or bears,” says Gabrielle.
Along the way, she learnt the truth of finding her own pace, following her own path. This led to her creating a route across the peninsula, a gift for everyone to follow, a nation building programme.
The Cape Camino was inspired by her childhood. Born in Constantia, it was nothing for her to walk from the Nek to Muizenberg. Arriving there she wanted more, walked to Simon’s Town, and so the seed was sown, bringing it from an idea into reality. And while she may have created the route she invites everyone to make it their own. The route is on her Facebook page but it’s good to go with a guide, to hear the local stories.
Peggy says the Cape Camino is a peri-urban trail rather than a rural hike, and it is an opportunity to explore the peninsula as few see it: on foot. It is designed to provide a beautiful, natural environment rich in spiritual sites, historical monuments, natural wonders and diverse, talented people.
“It’s also an open invitation for small, local businesses to add their names to our website. If they register on our site, which is free, they can become part of filling out the experience for visitors. All they need to do is offer a value-add to our pilgrims, a discount, a free cup of coffee, breakfast; anything that enriches the pilgrims’ experience,” says Peggy.
They want pilgrims, small businesses and local communities to benefit. Part of the Wine to Water route passes through the country’s oldest RDP development, Westlake Village, led by Arthur Ketile, who lives there.
As with many other experiences along the way, pilgrims had never been to the shrine at Schoenstatt, the kramat near Klein Constantia, the valley’s vineyards and farm worker’s village, Tokai Park, and many were apprehensive about walking through Westlake. Not so for Nikkita Rohlandt who, despite having been held up at gunpoint there as a child by five men, now walked through the village for the first since the robbery and said it was a cathartic experience.
For others, the sight of dogs chained to posts, children collecting bottles from dumped waste, many youths hanging around, was a point of much discussion.
Gabrielle wants to get this community involved with the Cape Camino. She wants residents to claim the route, to be proud, she wants to assist them, but how? Last year she was contacted by the South African National Biodiversity Institute who wanted to assist Westlake Village re-vegetate with indigenous plant species. “This is a wonderful development, but is not yet secure. Negotiations have begun though and we will be assisting with the process,” she wrote to the Bulletin last year.
Nothing came of this plan, or another to create a veggie garden with wooden shacks now located there surrounded with a fence.
The Cape Camino’s figure-of-eight route crosses over at Constantia Nek; one loop sweeping south towards Cape Point and the other north, turning in the city.
There are various sacred sites from a variety of beliefs, including indigenous ones. There are stories of a Khoisan princess and the southern loop includes a stop at Koos Burger’s Rotary Camp Labyrinth, the longest labyrinth in South Africa.
A R380 “pilgrimage passport” is valid until all the legs are signed by service providers or sacred sites on the legs. Then they send the passport to Gabrielle and Peggy and they will send the pilgrim a certificate of completion.
The full route is about 200km and keeps on growing. Its legs are divided into various segments of about 20km each: Wine to Water: Constantia Nek to Muizenberg; Whales’ Tales: Muizenberg to Simon’s Town; Cape Buchu: Simon’s Town to Scarborough; Lady Lighthouse: Scarborough to Hout Bay; Atlantic Sunsets: Hout Bay to Sea Point; Colours and Culture: Sea Point to Rhodes Memorial; and Mountain Shade: Rhodes Memorial to Constantia Nek.
They have a competition on Facebook to win a five-day pilgrimage to be walked in May. For more information, visit https://capecamino.co.