Cape Town - A Cape Town hiker who was on a walk with his eight-month-old daughter survived a terrifying ordeal after fleeing from two assailants who threatened to take his child if he did not hand over his valuables.
Conrad Zygmont, a psychology professor at Helderberg College in Somerset West, has spoken out to warn other hikers a week after his traumatic experience.
“I have two daughters, aged three-and-a-half and eight months, and I always take them for walks – either on Miller’s Trail, in Gordon’s Bay, or at Gantouw Pass,” he said.
“My wife was taking a nap with my eldest daughter on Saturday afternoon, so I decided to take a walk with my youngest,” he said.
“I parked my car, and took my daughter in her stroller, parallel to the railway line for a while. I started heading back at about 5pm and I saw these two guys heading on the trail towards me. Didn’t think much of it, thought they may be walking home. I do this trail very, very often and I’ve never seen anyone on it.
“One of the men reached behind his back, to something tucked into his belt, when they were just a few metres away, and I started praying ‘whatever happens, just protect us’.
“One of them rushed to me and the other guy started searching the pram. They demanded: ‘Where’s your phone, your wallet, your keys’,” Zygmont said.
“I said my wallet was in my car, that they could take everything, so long as they gave me my baby. But he wouldn’t let me come closer. One said: ‘Now we’ve got your baby so you’re going to do whatever we tell you.’”
He had not told them about his phone, which was in a pocket in his baby’s pram – as he knew he would need it to urgently call for help if they took his baby.
“But then they found my phone. They were very angry – they said I’d been lying to them,” he said.
In that moment, he had a choice.
“I knew I couldn’t let them separate me and my baby, so I rushed to the pram and picked up my baby and ran,” he said.
He ran in the opposite direction to his car, which was about 1.5km away, “so that they’d have to choose between me and my car”.
“After about 100m, I looked over my shoulder and saw they were arguing – pointing at me, and then my car, and they then set off for my car.”
Zygmont left the path and began working his way back towards the N2 and Sir Lowry’s Pass, but only after he had first climbed to higher ground so he could see the path, in case the pair returned.
“Eventually I got to the N2 and saw my car was gone.”
He managed to flag down a motorist, his baby still in his arms, and used their phone to call his wife and urge her to leave home and wait at their neighbours’ for safety, in case they found his address.
Police found his car the next morning in Pineview, a suburb in Grabouw.
“It was completely stripped, just a shell. I couldn’t believe how fast they’d worked,” said Zygmont.
About his terrifying ordeal, he said: “I’ve never hiked on Table Mountain, where there have been muggings. Out where I walk, people have only ever asked me about the danger of baboons. But I know baboons – when you hike a lot you learn that their behaviour is predictable.
“But humans are not predictable. You just don’t know what they’re going to do. The reality is that walking alone in isolated areas makes you vulnerable,” he said.
Gantouw Pass is just east of Sir Lowry’s Pass and is the site of the famous Trekkers’ wagon tracks over the Hottentots’ Holland mountains, which date back hundreds of years. Gantouw refers to the eland, which used the pass to migrate prior to the Settlers’ arrival.