It was still dark when I grabbed my Bug Out Bag from the back of my car.
Bag weighed about 15kg. I had not checked the contents for months……
And that was the point of the exercise. To test my own preparation for a just in case scenario. I work about 30km from home, and with all the student protest, infrastructure decay and of course notorious Gauteng traffic, it is not inconceivable that I would have to walk home.
In fact, many many South Africans walk 5km or more to work and school every day.
Also: working for TheQuarterMaster.co.za customers often ask for advice about Get Home/Bug Out and First Responder bags. It would be in a sense a test of advice that I had read and also given.
My objective was to walk to my shooting range AKA Funky Town home of SAS.
According to Google it was about 30km distant. I had no idea how long it would take given the distance and my own physical condition, which to be brutally honest was not great. I am unfit and overweight.
Nonetheless it was a challenge which I looked forward to.
To complete the scenario, I was wearing the safety boots that I would normally wear to work.
So, what was in my bag you ask?
- 4x500ml bottles of water
- 30mx10mm Rope
- A mess kit
- Emergency Stove & fuel tablets
- Single meals
- Flameless Ration Heaters
- Gun cleaner
- Jet flame lighter
- Drimac jacket with hood
- Solar charger
- Extra 9mm Ammo
- Anytone 3318 Dual Band radio
The only addition to the load out was a spare battery forthe 3318 and of course a cell phone and a GPS. (To verify my trip)
The route however would be as different in geography as it was long. The route from work is entirely on tarred road and Urban for the most part. Today’s route would be through trackless veld and dirt road.
Over the years I had completed the route on quadbike so I was confident of not getting lost. However, I had made arrangements with Plaashaas who gleefully awaited my call for him to 'Extract' me.
But there was another purpose: Having recently become a licenced amateur radio operator I also wanted to make use of the dual band and repeater set up to make comms with PlaasHaas.
I would also 'Drop pins' from google maps on WhatsApp so we could verify distances and locations if anything would go awry.
I donned the jacket from the Bag and set off. It was cold and chilly late September morning about an hour before sunrise.
I cannot remember the phase of the moon, but it was light enough to walk however I did need my EDC torch when I had to cross two unpleasant smelling ditches.
Soon I was in the veldt, crossed a major road, passed a cemetery when the sun made its daily appearance from the east. It’s pretty uneventful and pleasant to be up and about at this time of the day.
I crossed the fast-flowing Klipriver and was crossing a large field when Plaashaas made contact on the UHF channel. Being rather new to this I am mindful of correct radio procedure etc. It really was great to be able to make contact without the use of a Cell phone.
Not having had anything to eat and getting quite hot I stopped for a break about 2.5hours/9km into the walk.
Plaashaas then sent me co-ordinates and a compass bearing for a short cut to FunkyTown. For the life of me I could not get it keyed into google maps, so decided to use the GPS. Even this was a chore, as the last time I had used it was about 3 years ago and had to quickly re-learn the contextual menus. I managed this and saw that I had 7km before I got to it.
I then hit a dirt road and had the pleasure of seeing a herd of Springbok. I had now entered an area that had a series of kopjes (hills) that interfered with comms on the repeater we were using. We switched over to a simplex frequency (Direct radio to radio) I was pleased that we were able to make contact via this method, as Plaashaas is in the process of assisting locals set up a radio network for farm security in the area.
After another 1 or 2 stops I was at the waypoint. Well not exactly. A GPS co-ord from Google Earth does not exactly translate into a precise location on a GPS. I was probably within 100m of it, but being familiar with the area I was then able to navigate on a compass bearing until I came into familiar territory. It was after 11:00 and the sun was beating down. I was walking with my shirt unbuttoned and had consume 2 ½ bottles with 500ml of water remaining. My legs were very saw and my soles painful. It was hot
Nonetheless I was happy with my progress. Comms with Plaashaas were now out of radio comms due to geography and the fact that he was mobile, losing the height advantage of the SAS Radio/aerial.
I kept looking for shade to stop but there was very little and with the extremely hot dry wind, I was tiring.
At about 12h00 Plaashaas had driven to high ground and we regained comms. Using the strobe function on our torches we were able to signal our location to each other. It was quite amazing that at the brightest part of the day being able to use our torches to signal over a distance of about 2km!
Earlier in the day Plaashaas had convinced me to change my destination with the promise of ice-cold beer if I could make it.
The last 90 minutes were really tough. As My feet were aching and stiff. I had to be careful not to twist my ankles on tuft of burn grass and stones. Finally, I could hear the shooting at FunkyTown: Music to my ears! Just over this rise I though then I would see the range flags! But it was not to be that simple: I had a further two blind rises to cross before the familiar sight was observed.
I should have approached from the north, but due to poor decisions on my part I ended walking about an additional 1.5km approaching from the east.
Must say it was nice to take a moment now and then to lookback of the distance travelled! It is quiet rewarding. The vehicles were insight and seeing my buddies in the distance was a real boost and I tried not to limp to much as I got closer. Box strapped a purple smoke generator to the flagpole and activated it as approached the finish line, for me it was a very personal achievement finishing the walk in a haze of smoke.
But the day was not finished: Box Had brought his 50 Cal Truvelo to the range and I was able to shoot 3 shots from 300m!
This followed by some cold beers made it an awesome day: think about it, in which country can you walk 27km without trespassing and do some shooting and then have some cold beers?
My cell phone battery died after about 6 hours and I could not find the re-charging cable.
I had about a mouthful of water left out of two litres. Whilst I had urinated earlier in the day, once I was well underway I had no water left to pass as my body was sweating it out.
My knowledge of the route/area gave me confidence in taking shortcuts.
Comms worked well and I am certain that I could have communicated with any other licenced amateur should the need have arisen.
Some of the gear in my bag was perhaps superfluous for this walk, however, if I ever had to do the real thing (Next challenge) it might just come in handy, so no major gear changes for me.
Get fitter…..its always on my to do list: If I could sell it in a pill form I would not need to win the lotto. There is no substitute for staying in shape and there are no short cuts either.