Another Bl**ping BuG ouT walk.
So, it I thought: I‘m going to walk home from here! The time is 16:25 on an early winter’s afternoon in Johannesburg. Ahead lay a walk of close to 13 km and the sun would be setting in about an hour or so. It was already chilly, temperature dropping quickly as the sun approached the horizon
So what’s the big deal?
In 2016 I did a bug out to test whether my Bug Out Bag/Get home Bag would actually help or hinder me in walking 27km. By my account it was successful. (See thislink for full story)
However; I had this nagging feeling that perhaps it was not as “real” as it should have been. You see my bag was packed I had pre-planned my route AND determined the time when I would walk it.
A big factor in a bug out or get home scenario is Timing and Location. It is the unknown. You will not know when (Time) or where (Location) you will be when you are to make the decision to walk home. Bluntly put, you will be forced to make a decision based on you situation. This may be a civil disaster, traffic jam, flood, riot or simply running out of fuel.
Thus after my Bug out in 2016 I had been looking for an opportunity to do a “surprise” bug out. However only Schizophrenic sufferers are able to plan a surprise party for themselves and pull it off.
I had the option of requesting friend to literally collect me from the office or home and then drop me off at a location in a time unknown.
However this never materialised until a few days ago when I went to drop off my vehicle for its service. To get home I would need a family member to collect me, and, as they were busy it would inconvenience them.
Then the though came to mind: Well Camo, now is your opportunity to bug out.
Perfect I thought! Distance was about 12km and it would be primarily along tarred roads and pavements so it should be a piece of cake.
I booked my vehicle in at the Rosettenville Dealership and then retrieved my Bug-Out-Bag.
Immediately the first problem presented itself: I had my Bug out Bag as well as my Lap top bag to carry. There was no way the lap top would be abandoned. It simply was not an option.
My Bugout bag weighed in at 9kg, the laptop at about 7kg. Before setting off I took a bunch of water sachets or “Boebies” and stuffed them into my pockets as well as a battery to charge my cell phone.
I set off with the Bug out Bag slung on my back and the Laptop Bag carried on my chest. 9 kg on my back, 7kg on my Chest and stomach a total 16kg on my feet.
What was I wearing? Essentially office work clothes. Slip on ankle boots, jeans, shirt with collar and a sports jacket. Due to a cut that had inflicted on the palm of my right hand a week earlier I was wearing a buff on my wrist over my palm to protect the cut whilst it healed. Ironically the buff would prove to be gold on the walk home.
Thus unsuitably attired I set of at about 16:25 on a late May afternoon. The sun was going to set and the rush hour traffic was in full swing.
I had a sneaked a peak at google maps to confirm my route was sensible. Google gave me 3 options all within about 1 or 2km of each other in terms of distance to be travelled. I chose what I thought was the safest, primarily alongside tarred roads.
I turned off the main road in Rosettenville and zig zagged my way through less busy back roads towards my first waypoint. It was a nice walk. The bags sat comfortably on my back and front.
Walking really does slow one pace both physically and mentally allowing one to notice what is going on around oneself, Mother collecting their kids from afterschool, kids playing soccer in the street, folks walking home with shopping bags, the smell of suppers cooking; generally a very peaceful scene.
For the first 30 minutes I was hyper vigilant as to the possibility of being mugged. The way I was carrying my bags meant that I was not going to be able to outrun anyone. Fact is even without the bags I would not be able to.
However as the reality of what I was doing set in I became more focused on putting one foot in front of the other, every now and then I would stop and glance back to check that all was ok.
Shortly I joined a main road which I had to use. Essentially it was one of 3 choke points that I had to transit to get home on this particular route. Each route I chosen had one of these and whilst it had not concerned me, if the situation was dire these choke point could make it impassable if they had been blocked.
No more was I in quiet back roads, the traffic was hectic and there were a lot of pedestrians walking home mainly in a direction toward me. As I walked noticed the litter and debris from car accidents strewn alongside the pavements. Quite depressing.
Crossing an intersection with the bags I was carrying proved to be an exercise in patience. No way was I going to be able to show a disregard for a red light, and frankly Gauteng traffic treats traffic lights as yield anyway. So patience waiting for the correct signal and a break in traffic was necessary. Would have been hilarious sight to get knocked over wearing the gear I was.
Reading the newspaper headlines plastered to the street poles: I chuckled when I saw the one read “The burden of Big Boobs” little did I know that I would be sympathising with that headline shortly.
Traffic was as hectic when I reached the top of what is a very steep hill. I guestimate that vertically the drop is about 135m over the distance of about 2.5km. There was no pavement to speak of and I was forced to cross the road and also walk on the island separating the lanes of traffic.
Walking on uneven ground really sucks. Pretty soon the lap top bag on my front was burdening me pretty much as would big boobs or a pregnancy I suppose. Additionally the bag straps would keep slipping off. In the beginning it was a nuisance, eventually it was a major irritation.
At about 17:30 I made my first stop. Dropped a pin on WhatsApp so my family would know where to find my body if I did not make it. I swopped the bags around: the 9Kg Bug out Bag on my front and the Laptop bag on my back. Due to the style and width of the shoulder straps the Bug out Bag were less prone to slipping off.
I had not realised it but the light was pretty dim. Passing vehicles had their head light on, those street lights that were working had switched on. I stopped again and took our my NiteCore NU30 Headlamp and NU05Headlamp (Yes I carry two Headlamps in my bag)
I strapped both to my head. One facing rearward set to flashing red and the other to the front, set to medium output and focused downwards so I could actually see where I was putting my feet. Whist the state of our roads generally is not good, it is way worse for pavements. They are uneven, littered, overgrown and at times dug up. If it were not for the Nitecore I would have planted my face into the pavement on more than one occasion. No jokes.
At one point I was taking a short cut across a section of veldt to save time when an inter-link truck almost rode over me. I have no idea whether he saw me or not, but he pulled off the road either to pick someone up or sleepover for the night. Either way I almost had an 18 wheeler impressed upon my face
I then switched my Nitecore onto a high output. I had been well aware that my clothing and bags were dark, I just could not believe that now one sees flashing lights. I felt like a persecuted cyclist!
Remember the buff I mentioned earlier: Well it was a life saver. As it got colder so did my head and face and ears. I then wore the buff on my head covering mouth. I must have looked a site with two flashing headlamps and my head swathed in fabric. Nonetheless it really worked. My head and ears were protected and warm.
Finally after about 3 hours I got home at 19:30. I had drank about 4 x150 “boebies” (750ml) and was knackered. Compared to the bug out I had done in 2016 it was a lot tougher. Probably a combination of the extra weight and my less than ideal physical condition.
So to sum up it was pretty uneventful although tougher than the 27km event I had done before: However I do believe that some important lessons were learnt.
- Unless artillery, rioters, Gas, Fire or floodwaters are bearing down on you; one will not easily abandon ones vehicle or its contents. Yes it may be insured, but we capitalist’s do not like to throw away stuff we have worked hard for.
- You will have to decide what you can and cannot carry. This is going to depend entirely on your situation, physical condition and route.
- Footwear: Hiking with the wrong footwear is a recipe for a disaster and will probably debilitate you for the next few days.
- Abandoning your vehicle is usually not the best idea especially in a lost in the bundu situation.
- Your car can protect you against the elements, sleep in it and be much more comfortable than sleeping under a bush.
- Walking a long route home is not always sensible. Check your route, perhaps you have friend, family, church or work colleagues that could offer sanctuary.
- A small child or someone wearing heels is going to seriously disrupt your plans for hiking.
So: You need to be prepared for whatever South Africa throws at you and www.thequartermaster.co.za is the place to get your gear.
Thanks for reading.