Wow! What a wonderful ending to the APT Trail when the group was met by Fr Shabalala and Fr Mota at Mariannhill and given a special blessing in the church. Fr Shabalala called up each person to receive their certificates of completion and a blessing.
Over 12 days from Reichenau to Mariathal they passed through farms (were invited to stop for tea and coffee by a farmer) forests, veld and villages, visiting 8 missions and staying over at two. They were kindly welcomed by all the people in the villages – especially the owners of the Spaza tuck-shops when they stopped to by cold drinks! Fr Paul blessed many people along the route and continued to offer spiritual guidance and mass. One memorable mass was in the tiny, abandoned chapel of St Bernard high in the hills above Lourdes. The locals arrived and sang in the chapel.
As you know they spent two nights at Ashtonvale, owned by Carol and Russell Hill and two nights at Myddelton Farm where they were hosted by Linda Hodson. At Kevelaer Fr Mhlongo set up mass before they arrived so that Fr Paul could offer mass and Communion. They were all thrilled to see the APT Trail piece of slate with the yellow Trappist cross, at the base of the reliquary which holds the relic of Our Lady of Kevelaer.
Fr Ignatius at Centocow was a hit with the group and his kindness and wonderful cooking was memorable! Fr Paul rang the bells for them and offered a special mass. What was great about the masses is that non-Catholics who attended could go up for a blessing.
When they arrived at Lourdes they were met by Sister Sylvia, Sister Imelda and me with cold water, juice and biscuits. Because there is no accommodation at Lourdes our hired bus and driver took them to Emaus for the night where the wonderful sisters cared for them and cooked for them. The plan was to return to Lourdes the next day and walk to Emaus, accompanied by Sister Imelda (Emaus) a Koinonia Sister from Lourdes and Bishop Dziuba. But, torrential rains turned the road works along the front of Emaus into an impassable muddy quagmire and no vehicles could get out or in. With no network to make a call or send a message, the folk at Lourdes waited in vain for the group to arrive. Our hardy pilgrims decided to climb the Stations of the Cross at Emaus instead. Sister said that perhaps Abbot Francis wanted them to spend another day at Emaus and experience his Stations!
The next morning Bishop Dziuba arrived at Emaus at 7am for an interview with the film crew, but had to park on the muddy excavated road and slip and slide through the mud into the Emaus property. The group walked in the puddles and mud to Umzimkulu accompanied by Sister Imelda and the APTTA chairman, Trevor Kohwa. Trevor is not a regular walker and told me that the next day he was walking like a wind-up soldier and had difficulty getting up and down from a chair! He has a new admiration for the mainly over 70 year-old hikers in the group.
As they approached the small mission of Maria Hilf (Mary Help) they could hear singing. A crowded celebratory mass was in progress, with choirs singing and congregants reaffirming their faith. Fr Msomi gave the group a warm welcome and has invited them all to return for a braai one day!
They spent a night at Korongo Valley with Sue and a night on St Isidor Farm at the beautiful Kings Grant retreat with Cheryl Biggs. The next day they walked to Mariathal Mission where Fr Khumalo welcomed them with water, juice and scones. The group was accompanied for the first 6 days by a film production crew, filming a segment for the SABC religious program ‘Hosanna’. Another film production crew walked with them all the way filming the first APT Trail, which will form a part of a promotional video for the Harry Gwala District and will be offered to the SABC. Fr Khumalo offered to take the film crew back to Kings Grant to get their car and also to drive our wonderful Trail Guide, Mdu Zuma back to Reichenau. (Ngiyabonga Fr Khumalo!)
I must admit that when the group set off, I had feelings of trepidation about the safety of a team which consisted mainly of ‘abelungu’ walking through remote tribal lands and villages but they were met with kindness, curiosity, sometimes excitement and goodwill wherever they went. People were delighted to see a priest with the group and Mdu was invaluable, with his wide smile and confident manner, he claimed the team as his own and proudly told everyone that they were his group which he was leading for the church! When the team had a farewell for Mdu at the end of the walk, he sang for them, tears pouring down his cheeks.
We are going to be raising funds for R8000 for the purchase an APTTA focussed 5 – 10 minute promotional video, which has to be done in a studio with a voice over artist. If you have any ideas, or are part of an interest group that might be able to help raise money for this, please let us know. My husband has offered to pay R5000 for a longer video on the trail itself which will be a memento for the walkers on this pioneering walk. If you would like to buy a copy of the DVDs, let us know and we will add your name to our list.
We want the APT Trail to be accessible to everyone so we have planned to have group in July to cater for school teachers; in September, November (a Slow Walk) and early March next year. The November walk will be a ‘Shongololo Trail’ (walk-and-ride) with stages no longer than 8 – 10 km for people who can’t walk 20 km per day but would like to walk to each mission and experience the trail as a pilgrim. Please share the link with friends or interested people. https://abbotpfannertrappisttrail.weebly.com/book-a-trail.html