Walking to heal a warped heart

A CAPE Town woman is walking the talk in her venture to raise money for charity.

Charlotte Steyn is taking her idol Nelson Mandela's book title Long Walk To Freedom and turning it into a 5327km walk for nine charities.

Her quest, called Hearts In Motion, is to walk through South Africa in the shape of a heart, and it began after she quit the corporate world.

"I resigned from my job [as a training and development manager] in September last year and I took a break overseas just to clear my head.

"Then in December, I was at the hairdresser getting my Christmas hairdo and I kept asking myself what's missing. I closed my eyes for a second and I got this vision in my mind of the outline of South Africa and a heart shape in it.

"I just dismissed it and put it out of my head but it kept coming back to me," she said.

Unable to shake the vision, Steyn then printed out a map of South Africa and a heart – and the walk was born from that.

"The vision of the heart just kept coming back to me and when I printed it the heart didn't want to fit onto the shape of the map. Then when I warped the heart it did and it hit me South Africa has a warped heart and we all need healing. The heart is the core of our moral being and we need to heal it," she said.

Steyn has spent 136 days walking and covered just over 4500km to date. She started the walk in Blouberg in the Western Cape and it has seen her go into towns like Calvinia in the Northern Cape, Lichtenburg in the North West and other towns in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and now the Eastern Cape.

She walks in Vibram Five Fingers shoes which separates the toes of the shoes to create a barefoot walking experience.

Although she does have a back up driver who joins her on some parts of the route, she has largely travelled alone and walks most of the route through the veld and not on the highways. For the coastal legs of the walk, she has followed the coastline.

"Of course there have been some safety concerns but I can say I have walked right through South Africa without incident and for me that's incredible.

"There are so many ways to express how this has been and if I had to choose two words to describe this, the words would be 'absolutely magnificent'. The weather, the sands and the gorges have been part of it and they complete the journey.

"It is tougher at the river mouths because of the tides and I do have a back up vehicle in case something goes really wrong but it's all been a wonderful adventure."

Steyn said although the people in her life expressed reservations about her ability to finish the walk within the prescribed time, her tenacity keeps her going.

"Many people react to things differently and some people were telling me I need more time or I need more resources but to me the word no does not exist and one has to change your approach until you get to the yes and I am doing it right now.

"When I get back home, this will not be the end of it.

"I am going set up an online auction to keep raising funds and I am going to set up a facility to help people to set up their businesses to make a better life for themselves. For me, this is just the beginning".

Steyn will arrive in Knysna on September 26 and leave on September 28. From there she will walk to George and arrive on September 30.

The final leg of her walk will see her go through Oudtshoorn, Worcester and Paarl before arriving at her final destination in Cape Town on October 20.