Hiking adventures with my cane in rural Africa

Good day Michele

Details follow of a walk in Venda I’ve been trying for years to make a reality…A South African ‘Camino’ albeit in shorter form. This is the ‘inaugural’ walk. Rather short notice I know.

It would provide unparalleled exposure to African/Venda culture, walking through magnificent countryside- one of the last ‘deep’ rural, traditional areas of South Africa!

All the best,


I received this email a week ago, and as soon as I read it, felt a crushing sense of disappointment. I’ve been desperate to do this trip for a very long time. It’s at the top of my “before I go blind” bucket list.

Jeffrey Rink is a psychologist and conservationist and has been running eco-psychology retreats for over twenty years.

I attended one of these six years ago, at a time in my life that I was emotionally stretched to breaking point, following the end of a toxic relationship with my  ex-wife.

The trip, which began in the Kruger park, and ended with a few days in Venda, included daily excursions and meditations in nature. In spite of the breath-taking scenery, I struggled to reconnect or to shake off my deep distress. Until we arrived in Venda. Ironically, it was here that I had visited my ex -wife’s Afrikaans, farming family. Staying in a tribal village was the polar opposite.

I was deeply affected by the warm Venda people, the fertile land with it’s  mysterious forests and the sacred lake. Venda entered my system on such a deep level, that I can feel it to this day.

So when Jeffrey spoke of his dreams of organizing a walk from village to village, I made him promise to keep me informed.    Which he did, But the timing sucked.  It was just too soon to try and take off the time from work, I’m half way through the year with my craniosacral studies, and then there’s the small matter of my four children. Besides the insurmountable fact that I didn’t have the funds to cover such an indulgent luxury.

If, in the future, I  manage to find the time and save the money for a different year, then, I might not have the required eyesight, a  recent test having revealed that I only have 7%of my steadily deteriorating sight left.  So it seemed I would be doomed to never experience the longed for journey.

But oh, my word, the longing I felt as I read and re-read the email, which, among the many delights in the various villages,  promises “seriously good music – extraordinary music – quite unique! Tshikhona music particularly is quite surreal, hauntingly evocative, and entrancing! Musicians up to 100 strong playing flutes, and pounding huge drums!”.

The longing was compounded by photographs that Jeffrey had taken on his previous visits.

It was my mom who insisted that I go. She has sponsored my trip and insisted that her and my partner Sam will keep the home fires burning.

As luck would have it, the trip just happens to fall neatly into a week we have off between two modules of my course.

I can’t describe my gratitude. But now that my dream journey of a life time has become a reality, my excitement has an ugly visitor- panic! Can I go from chronically fatigued couch potato to hiking 15km a day in such a short space of time? Am I crazy to travel to Johannesburg alone, and then navigate rural Africa with 7% of my vision left? What if I fall into a pothole, step on a snake, slow down my fellow travellers? What will the locals make of this stranger with her long, white stick?

Whatever my fears, armed with blind courage, my cane and my notebook, I’m off to tribal Venda, where I will write and record every step of the journey.

I’m also going to try and raise awareness of the journey for Retina South Africa http://www.retinasa.org.za, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for retinal blindness.

Okay, need to go,  it’s a Friday night after a long week, and I’m leaving crazy early on Sunday morning, which means that I only have one day to organise everything. Mosquito spray, sleeping bag, water bottle, hiking books…aaaargh, the panic monsters attacking me.

Will keep posting.


  1. Val Bender-Reply
    August 26, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Absolutely fabulous. So exciting and awesome. Can’t wait to read about your adventure. It’s going to be wonderful. You are an amazing person, with incredible courage and strength. Enjoy every minute. Safe travels. Waiting in anticipation for your next chapter in the wonderful journey. So proud of you.

    • Michele Macfarlane-Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Many thanks Val. The trip was mind-blowing, and I will begin posts this week.

  2. Audrey-Reply
    August 28, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Jeffrey Rink…a saviour in so many ways!

    Michelle MacFarlane you have come across this angel-man for a reason. You have reminded me of the reminders l experience randomly about my two trips into the psychological and physical wildnerness of his group sortees in the bush.

    Please write your heart out. You do it with a clearsky starlike quality as we experience in the bushveld. You sound amazing. I bow to your 7% courage. Blessings for your trip of wonders.

    • Michele Macfarlane-Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 3:08 pm

      Thank you for your encouraging message Audrey. Jeffrey Rink is indeed a saviour in many ways, and the journey into Venda, has affected me profoundly.

  3. Gail Fisher-Reply
    August 28, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    What an inspiring journey Michelle….will be watching from afar.

    • Minnie-Reply
      August 29, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      I’m so proud of Michele to brave this journey. It is hard to believe how incredibly poor her eyesight is if you look at her, so even I, who should know better, sometimes forget.

    • Minnie-Reply
      August 29, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      I’m so proud of Michele to brave this journey. It is hard to believe how incredibly poor her eyesight is if you look at her, so even I, who should know better, sometimes forget.

    • Michele Macfarlane-Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      I hope you enjoy the upcoming posts Gail.

  4. Lisa Cohen-Veit-Reply
    September 16, 2017 at 6:32 am

    I’m so excited to read your blog Michelle, it sounds like a really special, life altering experience.
    You have so many amazing people in your life- Minnie, Malcolm, your Sam, (who I haven’t met but has a smile that glows), and those wonderful inspiring kids! 🙂
    Jeff and Phill have known each other for years – he’s a beautiful person. What a great way to spread knowledge and kindness. He has, as coined by Jonnie Clegg, ‘a great heart.’ Definately one of life’s special people. 🙂

    Really looking forward to reading your blog! Much love from Cambridge where winter is almost upon us. Xxx

    • Michele Macfarlane-Reply
      October 9, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Will be posting the next blog today, Lisa. It really was a trip worth sharing on so many levels. Hope all is going well with you in the U.K

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