Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Road tripping to the Cape for a wedding

One of my oldest friends got married on Saturday in the sweet village of Greyton in the Western Cape. I don't know the Western Cape at all so we took the opportunity to take interesting routes down and interesting routes home to see a bit of the region.

Forget Cape Town. The rest of the Western Cape is spectacular!

Here are some images from our travels.

Vanderkloof Dam wall

The koeksister monument in the town of Orania. We enjoyed our visit and found the inhabitants to be very friendly and the town to be neat and tidy. We went in search of some koeksisters and found them. Yum!

Die manne keeping watch over the town of Orania. From Oom Paul to Strydom, Verwoed and co.
We spent the night on the trip down in Calvinia, at the same place we stayed when we went to Afrikaburn last year - Katryn's B&B. The biggest bathroom every. Super shower.
The Vanrhyn's Pass dropping down from Niewoudtville on the R27 to Vanrhynsdorp (cute town).

At the top of Vanrhyns Pass. 
Lunch, red cuppachino and a shared slice of rooibos-baked cheesecake in Clanwilliam.
Great view from Marina Break, a B&B in the suburb of Chapman's Peak, Noordhoek, in Cape Town. The access to the beach is just below us. Unfortunately we got there late in the evening and left early the next morning. Excellent location.

We made it onto Chapman's Peak just before it got dark. I haven't been up here for many years; a very enjoyable drive. The road safety / rocky cliff reinforcements that have been made are incredible. View of Hout Bay, which is where we were headed for dins with friends.
Lunch with friends in Melkbosstrand. What an awesome village and not even an hour out of CT.
Oh goodness! Check the carpet. This was in a B&B that we stayed in for a night just outside of Franschhoek. The place actually won us over with its ancient decor, large bedroom, comfy bed and pleasant blue bathroom (excellent shower) - across the corridor. It let us down on breakfast which was toast (and bread - lots), tea, coffee, melrose, few slices of salami... No eggs.

Heading up the Franschhoek Pass. My first time travelling through Franschhoek. We had a lovely dinner in the town (at the Old Station pub) and took a quick look around in the morning. It is undoubtedly a pretty town but a bit too perfect and contrived. I felt that it lacked personality, something so many of the other towns through which we travelled had a lot more of.
The lovely deck outside our room at Marina Cottage in Greyton. BEST PLACE WE'VE EVER STAYED.

Running around Greyton.

Late evening run in Greyton - light starting to disappear.

End of town. Greyton.

Magnificent crocheted dream catchers at Shaun and Shane's Epic Wedding. There were a bunch of these, each with a different pattern and different sizes too. Oh, my heart.
A deliciously misty and drizzly drive through Tradouw Pass on the way home.

Looking downstream, back the way we'd come.
We just love the passes.

Meiringspoort. Totally, totally magnificent. On the route from Oudtshoorn.

Spectacular rocks. Meiringspoort.

We arrived home to see our sunflowers in bloom - they were still closed when we left. Next project - painting the garden wall to show off the flowers (ivy is off and the wall has been scraped down).

Saturday, January 23, 2016

River is up

Our poor Vaal River has been low-low-low this season. It has hovered at around 15-20 cumec. We check out the water level by driving across the bridge on the Potch road and if the flat rocks are visible the water is low. If they're just covered, it's around 40 cumec.

When I drove to Potch this morning I expected the river to be up but saw the flat rocks exposed. But by the time I drove back over the bridge, returning from the Bert's Bricks 21km in Potch, the river wasn't just covering the rocks, it was fast-flowing, much deeper water with turbulence.

Later, when I headed out to the shops, I took a drive along the river to check it out.

This photo below was taken of a pretty, rocky section near my mom's place on 22 November 2015.

A reasonably level in November - maybe 60 cumecs. It has been a lot lower since with rocks jutting out everywhere.

And this is the same section today.

There has been a release from upstream at Barrage. This is about 90 cumecs coming down. There is also a lot of water hyacinth being washed down and I'm sure the Gatsien rapid is working perfectly. As this level rise is due to a release, it will drop when the release finishes. It's great to enjoy while it is here.

I enjoy watching the river and seeing how its personality changes with the water level. Another bonus of living in Parys.

Bert's Bricks Great Brick Run 21km

When I have to wake up early for road races - well, anything really - I tell myself, "You'll have so much fun when you're there".

And so it was this morning when my alarm went off at 04h50. "You'll love it," I told myself as I started pulling on my running kit.

This morning was the Great Brick Run hosted by the Bert's Bricks Athletics Club in Potchefstroom. Potch is just under 50km from Parys on a lovely road that initially crosses the Vaal River into North West Province and meanders through some hills and valleys of the Vredefort Dome and then onto an open landscape where the road is bounded on either side by farm lands.

About 30km from Potch a light rain fell and continued until I reached the beginning of town. This cool and overcast morning made for perfect running conditions.

I registered (only R80 for the 21km - cheaper than JHB) and found myself in a crowd of a few hundred runners. Maybe 500? The 21km walkers had set off before our 06h30 start and in our group were the 10km and 21km runners. There was also a 5km fun run scheduled for a 07h00 start.

The first 2.5km of the route took us past the back of my old high school (standards 6 & 7) at Potch Girls and then out the back of town.

This is an out-and-back route (for all courses) and the turn-around for the 21km is at the Bert's Bricks factory. It's a tar road all the way with small holdings and farmed land on either side. It is also flat all the way, which was a treat for me because I haven't done a lot of running - flat was good.

The quirky element to this run is that at the turn-around you have the option of picking up a brick. If you carry it all the way back to the finish, you get a six-pack of beer. Even though I don't drink beer, I was totally in for this. On the race information it did say that only the first 100 people carrying their bricks to the end would get the beer. Brick carriers are in the minority so there was certainly enough for all making it back with their bricks.

I set a very comfortable and easy-breathing pace to the Bert's Bricks factory. Looking at my splits they were beautifully in the 5:45/km pace range. We has friendly and well-supplied water points every 2,5km, plus one as we entered and exited the factory.

I'd brought along a pillowcase to put the brick into, which I just carried in my hand to the turn-around. I wasn't sure what the brick would be like and it was a regular, solid clay brick. No holes in it. I popped it into my pillowcase and headed off.

First I tried tucking it under my arm - it really didn't sit right. After a kilometre I saw a guy ahead of me running with his in a bag too, and just holding the bag in his hand with the brick below. I gave that a try and it definitely proved to be a good option. I'd swap hands every hundred metres or so. Holding it with both hands at belly height also worked for a bit of a break and later I'd hold it on my shoulder, tucking it into my neck/face to stabilise it.

The brick definitely got heavier! Nonetheless, I held onto a comfortable 6:30 pace to the finish and felt way better than I'd expected, especially as I haven't run a half marathon for ages. The cool temperature and flat terrain definitely helped.

At the finish I got this sweet medal and my six-pack of beer.

Even though I dread early mornings, it is always worth getting up to run. Every time.

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Forest Run route scouting fun

My Forest Run event is moving from its three-year home in the beautiful pine plantation of Lakenvlei (near Belfast/Dullstroom), to the hills and valleys of the Vredevort Dome, within spitting distance of my new home town of Parys.

It looks like Saturday, 21 May 2016 will be the new date. Almost confirmed - very, very likely.

Despite my best intentions to get out onto the trails over the festive season, I didn't. We were topping upper 30s and into the 40s - it was just too hot! We had better temperatures last week so on Thursday I headed out to scout trails in the first of a few sections that I aim to link. Although the morning was cool, it was up to 35°C for a chunk of the day. But what a magnificent day to put in 27 kilometres of exploring! I haven't yet done half the trails I want to check out for the new route and I aim to get out there again on Wednesday to explore another section I have my eye on.

 My mom, Liz, came out with me on Thursday. We split up shortly after the start as she was planning to just walk to the waterfall and turn back (about 4km total). She climbed up the steep and rocky section to the top of the waterfall and decided going down would be too tricky. Instead of descending she decided to do a loop trail section. She missed the critical turn-off and corrected later, but it meant an extra few kilometres. I think she put in 13-14 kilometres of some friendly sections and a bunch of technical, rocky trail. She rocked it and wants more. Well done mom xxx.

After some deliberation, I will be keeping the event name as Forest Run. The same event and feel, different location. While there isn't a pine plantation out here, it is far more forested than you'd expect. Natural forest and a diversity of tree and vegetation types. You'll see some of this in the photos below.

Here are some photos from my first day playing in the Dome.

A lovely foresty section - cool and shaded.
Yeah, we have got trees here.
Lying in the shade. It was about 34C - a hammock under the trees would have been divine.
Checking out an old open mine from back in the 1800s when gold was found in the area. The find didn't turn out to be as good as hoped. Mining folded and the people left the area.
Another foresty section. It got better and better.
An open, fast-running section.
Water reservoirs are fabulous. I was surprised to find this one full. Very inviting!
A trail runs through the valley below - I'll definitely use it because I so enjoyed being down there.
This was quite a climb up in temperatures of 35C. I was roasting!
There is such an incredible mix of terrain - and I haven't even covered half of what I want to check out. This is a rocky trail section.
Howz this! A forest of protea trees on top of the one ridge.
Trig beacon bagging.
Windmills are so cool. Down in the valley.
I wet my hat in the cattle drinking trough on the other side of the reservoir.
It was a treat to come over a saddle to see lush green fields and pastures, the Vaal River and my end point.
Lots and lots and lots of sugarbush protea trees - not many proteas out.
And then I saw this one next to the trail.
Despite a full reservoir and having a good drink at a bush camp, I was thirsty when I got back.
It was a hot but fabulous day out there.