Adventurer on 6,000km walk to help save our oceans

Talk of the Town - - NEWS - ROB KNOWLES

How many of us can imag­ine walk­ing all along the South African coast­line, from Namibia on the west coast to Mozam­bique on the east coast and on to the bor­der of Tan­za­nia, a trip of about 6,000km, while car­ry­ing ev­ery­thing you need in a back­pack?

That is ex­actly what for­mer Zim­bab­wean Dean Swart, 48, is do­ing, and is now rais­ing aware­ness of ma­rine con­ser­va­tion by speak­ing at schools.

“When I started off I was not do­ing this for fame or money. It was just some­thing I know I needed to do,” he said, as he sat at the Duck Pond in Port Al­fred to be in­ter­viewed on Fri­day af­ter­noon.

“But, when I saw how badly our oceans were be­ing treated, I knew that I could add some­thing mean­ing­ful to oth­ers if I made peo­ple aware of what we are do­ing to our ma­rine ecol­ogy.”

Swart said chil­dren and grand­chil­dren were the ones who would in­herit any mess we left be­hind and that they had the right to de­mand that we do bet­ter with re­spect to ma­rine con­ser­va­tion.

“That’s why I speak at schools, to tell the chil­dren that they should de­mand bet­ter of us,” said Swart.

Swart said that the build­ing in­dus­try from which he came was not do­ing well and so he de­cided to fulfil his dream.

“I think I might be the first per­son to make that the last leg of a coastal walk,” he said.

Be­fore he left, Swart took a three-month sur­vival course to en­sure he was prop­erly pre­pared for the trip. “There is no clean wa­ter for some of the trip so I had to take a small re­verse os­mo­sis de­vice to de­sali­nate the wa­ter,” he said. He also needed good boots, ex­pe­di­tion clothes, a light-weight sleep­ing bag and sev­eral other pieces of equip­ment for the jour­ney, his to­tal back­pack weigh­ing in at a mere 34kg.

“That’s still a lot of weight to carry. And I have had a num­ber of in­ci­dents that have de­layed the jour­ney,” he con­fessed. “Th­ese in­cluded a bout of Red Tide Fever, mild hy­pother­mia while in Stil­baai and a stress frac­ture that laid me off for two months,” said Swart.

While re­cu­per­at­ing from the frac­ture he stayed with fam­ily in Cape Town.

Swart es­ti­mates his jour­ney will take an­other 14 in­jury-free months to com­plete and in­tends to write a book on his trav­els that will fo­cus on the way in which we need to heal the planet.

“The eco-pyra­mid is in­verted in the oceans,” said Swart. “The sharks are the top preda­tors of the oceans and we are slowly killing them off. If we lose the sharks, the whole eco-sys­tem will col­lapse.

An­other pas­sion of Swart is to ad­vo­cate for the elim­i­na­tion of sin­gle-use plas­tics.

Trav­el­ling around South Africa Swart said he was amazed at how friendly and help­ful peo­ple have been.

“I get in­vited to stay at guest houses or ho­tels along the way, or just at peo­ple’s homes. I would like to thank all the peo­ple who have helped me along the way, and par­tic­u­larly Port Al­fred High School and the Hal­yards Ho­tel as well as the peo­ple of Port Al­fred.”

Swart said that he would be in East Lon­don in the next few days and then con­tinue on­ward to the Mozam­bi­can bor­der. Swart’s jour­ney can be fol­lowed on Face­book: 500sun­sets, or his blog.

Pic­ture: ROB KNOWLES

A LONG WALK: Dean Swart’s ob­jec­tive as he set out on his walk along the South African coast­line, a jour­ney of about 6,000km, was to meet peo­ple and ob­serve na­ture. Yet, hav­ing wit­nessed the way in which the oceans are be­ing abused, Swart has be­come a cru­sader for ma­rine con­ser­va­tion

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