XTREME WILD COAST
7 February 2006
While running (or rather jogging) this morning, I realised how lucky I am to experience so many exciting adventures in my life.
I will be leaving on Friday to second Ernest, Mark, and Alan (all from the West Coast Running Club in Cape Town) on the Wild Coast Xtreme Ultra run (274 km along the Transkei coast from Port St Johns to East London). The race is over 6 days, off road along the coast, over steep hills, along sandy beaches, through coastal forest and numerous rivers. Each runner will have to be self supportive during the day (Iím pleased it wonít be me running with that pack). I will be driving the backup vehicle to the overnight stops, which will be an adventure in itself as the roads are poor and not very well signposted. It appears from the map that the inland roads around the rivers can be long, so I hope to get to the stops before the runners do (I'm sure theyíll be a bit peeíd off if they get there before their second).
After the Wild Coast I will have to start getting ready to leave for Nepal in March for (what I think will be) a fantastic 3 week trek along the Annapurna Trail. It is rather difficult to think what to pack, sitting in Cape Town on a very hot (36 degrees) day. But that I will leave for later, as now I must get everything ready for the Wild Coast trip.
Oh yes, I must not forget to organize someone to take the kids to swimming lessons twice a week. The kids are Micah (6) and Karla (4), Micah is my sister Karin and her husband Rouťn's daughter and Karla is my youngest sister Erica and her husband Wikus's daughter. (Whoíll be the lucky one to stand in for me while Iím gone?)
Right, the Toyota 4x4 bakkie (truck) is back from the service garage, so now we can start packing. Tables, chairs, gas stove, food (plenty of potatoes and pasta), pots, pans, books (for me) and vitamins (for the runners). What about beers (should we take beers guys?). I better pack my hiking boots and running shoes, just in case there is time to do some exercise.
It is amazing how many things there are to organize when you go away. Any takers for watering the garden? Val is here visiting form England and staying with me so maybe I can ask her. I can't push my luck too much though, as she has already painted my entire house on the inside. Thanks Val!
Wow, we are all back from the Wild Coast in one piece, and what an exciting trip it was! Ernest and I left on the Friday and stayed overnight in Knysna (500 km from Cape Town). Saturday morning we drove the remaining 600 km to East London where we stayed over at Cedric's place, and met up with Mark and Alan the following morning. We all piled into the bakkie for Port St Johns where we arrived in the late afternoon, just in time to set up camp before the briefing. The briefing was short and sweet (keep the ocean on your left and run until you get to the overnight stop!).
The 24 runners set off at 5 am on Monday 13 Feb, and all the seconds drove in convoy to the overnight stop. It was a very slow drive at an average of about 20 km per hour. The roads were really poor, but the scenery made up for it. At least we arrived at the stop before the runners, and there was plenty of time for me to sit on the beach and have a nice swim. The weather was great and the water warm (nice for the seconds). The overnight stop was at Hluleka nature reserve were we stayed in chalets which must have been really nice a few years ago. However, I didnít hear one runner complain about the accommodation. I was really surprised so see Ernest, Mark, and Alan arrive in the first group. I didnít tell them at the time, but they looked rather worse for wear (full of scratches and thorns from battling with the coastal bush Ė a short cut is never a short cut). Although tired after 9 hours (50 km) on their feet, they had enough energy to drink a good few beers (re-hydrating they tell me).
On the second morning (Tuesday) the runners were off at 5 again for the longest day of the run, 61 km of very hilly and difficult terrain. Once the runners had left the seconds packed up and loaded the vehicles for the trip to the next overnight stop. I had to stop and get some more beers, as I had definitely under-catered in that department. As on the previous day it was a very long drive around, but the scenery was even more stunning. This overnight stop was at Xora river mouth, where we all shared 2 holiday cottages. We arrived fairly late in the afternoon, and after unpacking we were just in time to see the first runners coming along the beach in the distance across the river (in order to reach their stop for the day they still had to swim the river - after 12 hours on the run). Once again Ernest, Mark, and Alan were in the front bunch - well done guys! They were also the only oneís to arrive in daylight, with the last runner coming in after midnight. This was a real hard day and I must admit they looked a bit tired, but I didnít say anything. Once again the first thing they wanted was a coke and a cold beer. Later we made some food but Iím quite surprised that they didnít eat as much as I expected. We went to bed quite early that night.
The third day (Wednesday) was a relatively short day of about 28 km, so there was less of a rush to leave in the morning. Everyone was by now getting into the routine of packing their camelbacks (water, sunscreen, energy bars, dry socks, maps and goodness knows what else). The seconding convoy again had to stock up at the local stores for chips, bread and beers. The destination for the day was Dwesa nature reserve where there were some chalets, but not enough for everyone. We set up camp on a green lawn under a big tree. During the day Ernest left the group at some stage and made his own way, but got horribly lost in the forest and marshlands. Full of scratches and bruises he somehow still arrived just ahead of the others, who were again in the first bunch. We had a swim in the lagoon, which was a most idyllic setting with lush forest on both sides and the beach right in front of you. The water was lukewarm and clear, what a paradise! That night it started raining, and continued into the following day. As a result everything felt damp (the humidity just added to it).
On the fourth day the runners left for Cebe, 42 km down the coast. The seconds packed up, and we made our way along the now muddy roads. In those conditions a 4X4 vehicle was necessary, otherwise the roads were nearly impossible to negotiate. Needless to say some of us got stuck in the thick mud and had to be rescued. As a result the going was very, very slow but we made it to Cebe, where we all crammed into a holiday cottage for the night (Ernest and I again camped outside in the bakkie). This was a fantastic spot, right on the beach with excellent views. The runners finished in the pouring rain, and had to que for the single shower. This was the only night when the whole group stayed in the same place, and everyone had a chance to sit down and chat, have a few drinks, and eat together. A rather large amount of beers were consumed, it seemed to me the runners were getting used to this Wild Coast thing.
On the Friday morning (day 5) the runners left in their own time (some prefer to start early to avoid the heat, or to get to the destination before dark). Ernest left about a half-hour after everyone else, as he doesnít mind the heat. The destination for the day was Pullenís Bay, 48 km away for the runners. The rain had continued throughout the night, and the roads were even muddier than on the previous day. The first problems occurred as we attempted the long hill behind the house, but after towing the ones who got stuck we made our way to the Kei River in the rain. We crossed the Kei on the pontoon, where we waited for the runners (who also crossed over on the pontoon - this is a very large river). We stocked up with supplies in Kei Mouth village (bread and beer again!), and headed for the overnight stop. Pullenís Bay was a real haven, with very nice accommodation, beautiful beaches and lush vegetation. By now the runners were becoming a bit strung out, with all of them suffering from various ailments, mostly blisters. Various methods were being used to relieve the pain, but to no avail.
Day six arrived and the runners were in high spirits, as this was the last leg and they were going to do it, even if they had to crawl. The day consisted of 2 stages, the first stage being 27 km to Kwelera river mouth. There they would join the start of the 18 km Surfers Challenge race to Nahoon Beach in East London. For the seconds it was packing up for the last time, everything was by now wet and very smelly, and the bakkie was a mess. But, it was the last day and one could sort it all out at the end. It was extremely hot and humid and I found it hard to believe that one could run in such weather, but by now the runners just seemed to press on and do what had to be done. We all met up at Kwelera mouth and waited for the start of the Surfer's Race, which follows the coast and crosses 3 rivers. At the finish there was a very festive atmosphere with a large tent and music. I have never seen so many beers disappear in such a sort time. All the runners were by now limping, and although they were in good spirits everyone had one complaint - "my feet".
Of the 24 starters, 19 runners completed the entire distance. Congratulations to Ernest who took 1st place overall, Mark 4th and Alan 5th - you guys are fantastic! I admire you for your endurance and determination.
After staying over at Cedricís place in East London that Saturday night, we headed back to Cape Town on the Sunday morning. Ernest and I took an easy drive, again staying over in Knysna along the way.
For now it is back to work until I leave on 8 March for my own little adventure in Nepal. The plan is to do a 3 week trek around the Annapurnaís, starting near Besishahar. I will have to pull up my socks a bit and try and get more fit before I leave, as I have done absolutely nothing in the past 10 days (there was just no time!)