Walking in my shoes

I walked all the way to the end of Africa. Many people say they did because they went to Cape Hope. But the end of Africa is at Cape Agulhas. You can’t walk any further South than this. I went there on a beautiful summer day in mid-March. The owner of the hostel I was staying at had laid out a perfect day at the end of Africa for me. Starting a few hundred meters West of the Cape I was to walk about six kilometers back to the hostel in Struisbaai.

So far so good. But a few hundred meters from where my host had dropped me I suffered a wardrobe malfunction.  My beloved flip-flops that had carried me from Berlin to London , Paris and Madrid , into Africa and there through 15 countries died. In short succession of each other. At the most Southern point of my journey. How symbolic!

How tragic! I had to walk at least one kilometer to the village. Across a field of rocks, some the size of pebbles, some larger than a large man’s fist.

Eckhard Tolle suggests an exercise to learn to  recognize the present moment: walk across the room but only concentrate on the step you’re taking now. All that matters is the current step. And so I walked. Slowly. Step by step. By the time I had made it to the Cape Agulhas lighthouse I stopped worrying about the next step. I climbed up, barefoot. I went to the salt water pools, barefoot. I walked along the road. And when they told me that you can’t get flip-flops in this resort village I walked on. Barefoot.

About a kilometer past Cape Agulhas the tarred road started to hurt. But I was determined to walk on. After all: what doesn’t kill us…

Luckily at this point an older gentleman in a beach buggy stopped. When I explained my situation he immediately offered to take me to his friend who happened to own a shop in Struisbaai that sold the finest selection of shoes around. I jumped onboard.

My new flip-flops donned ribbons which I tore off as soon as I was back at the hostel. But they were comfy. And when they died in Sudan  I was sad again, until I found a pair of Ipanemas for eight dollars.

Looking at my Ipanemas right now I can’t wait to step out into the world again. Maybe next time to the end of the Americas.

My advice

  • Travelling to warm countries you really want a pair of good (comfortable, sturdy) flip-flops.

You’ll find flip-flops (pretty much) everywhere. So it’s not that important to buy expensive ones or carry an extra pair. An exception is when you have rather big feet. That applies to Africa and even more so to Asia. I’ve heard stories of people having to start with three numbers too small and trading their way up until they finally found a pair that fit…

  • Adventure travel without a pair of good walking shoes will not work.

Who knows whether you happen to come across the opportunity to scale West Africa’s highest peak; or you really want to go see those ruins in the jungle, five kilometers off the road; or you can’t get a taxi and have to wander around town until you find a hostel…

I have seen feet that suffered really badly from the wrong shoes. Therefore try to stress test them before your trip. In my opinion the ideal walking shoes have a flexible sole, support the ankles and don’t mind getting wet. They also shouldn’t be too small. Keep in mind that when this surprising trek into the mountains comes along you might want to wear extra socks. My toes hated me after I walked downhill for hours wearing thermal socks in shoes that I had bought to wear without socks…

Regardless of how hot it is, when you go for a longer walk (mountain, city, forest – it doesn’t matter) wear your walking shoes! Flip-flops don’t support the feet as well. That will result in knee pain. No one likes getting sick on travel.

Also prevent stinky feet by wearing socks and using inlays. Inlays are sold widely across Africa. So toss them before you get tossed out of the dorm…

  • Luxury: again, because you packed so smartly you may consider bringing a light pair of fancy shoes (ballerinas, for example).

On Africa 360° I wore flip-flops whenever I went out or to official meetings. So consider what color flip-flops you buy. But you will see men in suits with flip-flops. So I think it’s widely accepted.

Lastly: don’t forget to take care of your feet by washing and scrubbing them regularly and keeping your nails nice.


Today’s title is brought to you by Lee Hazlewood. Click below or here to hear this classic song interpreted by Donnole Martiri:

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  • Joe 2012-10-02 at 6:04 pm

    Great post….yep…take care of your feet…and your feet will take care of you! 🙂