To walk the entire coastline of South Africa alone but for your dog, from Kosi Bay on the border of Mozambique to Alexander Bay bordering on Namibia, takes courage. To do it an any age takes courage – and tenacity and a sense of purpose. All of which 22 year old Erlo Brown from East London has in abundance.

His 3000km journey began in April this year and he plans to reach Alexander Bay between Christmas and New Year where a contingent of his family and friends will welcome him. What drives a young man to embark on such a long and lonesome journey? Apart from the fact that he is photographing South Africa’s varied and beautiful coastline for his thesis, it was something he feels he just had to do, a dream he had to follow.

A student at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria studying Visual Communication (Photography), Erlo had this year to execute his project. Not wishing to spend the year on something small, and in a state of despondency in November last year, he expressed the wish to just get out into nature and walk the coast of South Africa. Which is exactly what his girlfriend encouraged him to do. And exactly what he is doing.

Kim and I joined him on part of his walk through Cape Point Nature Reserve, setting off early from the carpark above Smitswinkel Bay and parting company with him at Buffels Bay. Photo opportunities? Not many. The dramatic cliffs were veiled in mist and it was only towards the end of our walk that the sun shone through onto a calm and turquoise ocean. But we had plenty of opportunity to talk – no, more than just talk – to communicate.

And I could not help reflecting on the fact that, although Kim and I are probably as old as Erlo’s mom, we communicated as equals, a phenomenon I have observed with most of my sons’ friends. I look back upon myself at the same age – shy and monosyllabic and wholly incapable of holding an intelligent conversation with an adult – and I applaud Erlo and all the other young people like him for their self-confidence, their maturity, for their ability to grasp opportunities with both hands and for their determination to follow their dreams.

And I am filled with admiration for Erlo’s parents who have the courage and the faith in their son to let him go in pursuit of his dreams, aware as they are of all that his epic voyage entails. It is so easy to clip the wings of one’s fledglings, preserving them as much as possible from all the ‘dangers’ in the big wide world but in doing so stultifying their lives and restraining their spirits.

And I was warmed by Erlo’s passion for his art, for the outdoors, for his collie dog Zeta accompanying him, for his family and his girlfriend, for his friends and for his God, without whom he believes he would not have been able to achieve what he has.

Erlo’s journey has not been trouble free. A severe bout of tick bite fever laid him low for several days in Coffee Bay, a bad injury to his Achilles tendon stalled him for a few weeks and he needed to stop and nurse Zeta back to health when she too succumbed to biliary

Loneliness is possibly the worst element of his journey and he is grateful to have had various members of his friends and family accompany him on short stretches along the way.

Once Erlo has completed his thesis, he plans to publish a book on his journey. In the meantime you might wish to see his portfolio on

http://erlobrownphotography.co.za/portfolio.html

 And to follow his progress see http://www.coastingit.co.za/

Viv