Archive for February, 2011

Bat Run – Taking on Cape Town’s 3 peaks at night…again

When the Bat Run organisers asked me to sweep this year’s event I jumped at the opportunity, as I did last year. It gives me an opportunity to be involved in a special event, organised and participated in by special people.

Bat Run 2011

Bat Run 2011

Now taking on Cape Town’s three peaks at night is not everyone’s idea of fun, but it is mine. I have completed five Bat Runs and stood checkpoint on Devils Peak (DP) and at Maclear’s Beacon in the past. These events, like a few others in Cape Town, are like family affairs, devoid of the commercialism and hype that accompany some of the newer trail runs.

Having recently recovered from an embarrassing summer cold, I was happy to trail the field and keep the stragglers company. So I packed the partner and kid off to the more sedate Moonstruck on Clifton 4 and headed for the mountains. The table cloth covering DP and Table Mountain(TM) looked ominous and we had reason to be concerned, not helped by the mountain rescue vehicles camped at the bottom of Platteklip.

The lower slopes of DP were sedate but once we left the saddle and climbed a bit higher, the devil let us have it, with ferocious winds and poor visibility.  A quick hello to the brave souls standing check point on top, and the backmarker and I headed down. We were rather happy to reach Tafelberg Road and the seconding station at the bottom of Platteklip Gorge, where we enjoyed an array of treats, the kind you won’t find at watering tables on road runs.

Time for TM and if the devil was angry TM was in no mood to party. Platteklip was nasty – the wind funnelling down the gorge, the rocks slippery and my dodgy headlamp working overtime in the poor viz. We reached the top where we bumped into a team of mountain rescuers. These hardy mountain men had already rescued a 14 year old boy who had spent close to 16 hours on the mountain after getting separated from his group. They were still looking for a tourist who had spent a similar amount of time lost in the terrible conditions; he was eventually found the next morning. Respect to these volunteers who get called out at all hours, in horrid conditions to search for lost hikers.

My fellow bat and I decided not to go to Maclears, he was knackered and I just wasn’t in the mood, so we descended. He went home; I went to Lion’s Head. After the washing machine effect of DP and TM, LH was an oasis of calm; balmy, clear and the bright moonlight sufficient to walk without the use of head lamps. I did the final peak with Jana; we took our time, not that we know any other way, talking mountains and life and greeting those on their way down to cold beers or hot coffee at Kloof Nek. We arrived for our fix at about 3.30am at a still festive parking lot.

Most runners had already headed for club duvet but the beers were cold, there were plenty left over snacks and those runners and organisers remaining provided good company to end another adventure on Cape Town’s three peaks. I arrived home at about 5am, had an hours sleep, before been woken to set off on a multiple family hike, planned weeks before, but that’s another story.

Thanks organisers, seconds and fellow Bat Runners for a superb evening out – this event, now numbering close to 120 runners, has come a long way since my first run in 2003 when there were just 30 odd, and I mean odd, runners. Still it has lost none of the family atmosphere that this event first started with.

When I left the Nek those die-hards (including the organisers who always wait for the last runner to finish no matter what time that is) were still there, watching the lone headlamp of seasoned stalwart and back marker, Gavin Mohammed, as he slowly descended the Lion.

For the record, winner, Ake Fagering didn’t notice the poor conditions and broke the record, finishing in 3 hours 35 minutes – just silly!

FEAT, Fascinating Adventure and Expedition Talks

I have a new mission in life I want to be invited to speak at FEAT. Just to be clear, I have no desire to speak in front of 500 people, but what I do want to do is an adventure that is worth speaking about.

FEAT, Fascinating Adventure and Expedition Talks, is organised by well known adventure racer and trail runner, Lisa De Speville. A brilliant concept, it involves one evening, with nine speakers relaying their fascinating stories, with large screens displaying slides and video footage. They each get seven minutes, which is not a lot of time, especially for the kind of adventures that these speakers have experienced.

The speakers:

Braam Malherbe, together with running buddy, David Grier, ran the entire length of the Great Wall of China (4218km), in 2006. They ran a marathon a day for 98 days. Yes, seriously cooked, especially when the experts, and by experts I mean Tim Noakes, said it couldn’t be done. Seven minutes wasn’t nearly enough but it gave a good taste of what they went through.

Monde Sitole (20), the youngest speaker on the night, told of his three months spent on a Canadian tall ship sailing from Cape Town to Bermuda. Sitole, definitely one of SA’s up and coming adventurers, is planning many more and he has the seven summits firmly in his sights, with two knocked off already (Kili and Aconcagu).

Tatum ‘The Hobbit’ Prins has adventure raced all over the world and won many local trail races, but it appears the experience that most left its mark on her and her three AR buddies, was getting attacked by stinging trees in Australia; can’t those Aussies just leave us alone?

She describes the pain as similar to being attacked by someone with a hot iron. The cure, which seems even more excruciating than the stings, involves placing toilet paper on the wounds, and then pouring hydrochloric acid on them and leaving it there for up to 20 minutes. The video footage of her and her team mates being treated is funny and horrific at the same time, and made Australian TV.

Hanli Prinsloo is one of SA’s top freedivers. This woman can hold her breath for six (6) minutes. Go on try it – see how far you get. She holds numerous national records and is probably as close to being at one with the ocean as you can get – for a human.

Prinsloo has trained some of the world’s best big wave surfers in holding their breath and her talk focussed mostly on the physical aspects of free diving, which, while educational and interesting, kind of left me wanting to know more about her experiences, as some of her slides showed her free diving with sharks and in one case holding onto the fin of a very large predator of the deep.

Johnny Cronje and his mates thought it would be fun to unicycle from Durban to Cape Town, through the rural interior. So they did, taking 44 days to cover 2473km. This is a unicycle – one wheel – a fixed wheel at that – so no free-wheeling downhill – you pedal every kilometre. Yip – nutters.

Peter van Kets paddled 5,438km, with rowing friend Bill Godfrey, winning a transatlantic race. They alternated paddling and resting for 1 ½ hours at a time for the duration of the race. This clearly wasn’t challenging enough for van Kets so he returned to do it all again solo, on one occasion spending six days in a full blown Atlantic storm, in the middle of the ocean.

Nick Bennet played a cooperative version of “Survivor”, seeing how long he and nine others could last on a deserted island. The goal was 30 days, he lasted 25; only two of them lasted the full 30 days.

Allyson Towle & Marc Booysen completed a sea-to-summit adventure in Chile. They cycled from the sea to Ojos del Salado, Chile, the highest active volcano in the world at 6900m. Considering neither of them was particularly experienced in this type of adventure makes it pretty special.

Benita de Witt, a physiotherapist who deals with many top athletes and claims the barefoot shoe is the way to injury free running. That’s a bit simplistic but her talk was good and those five finger shoes are now on my shopping list – low down – but on the list.

So time to find my adventure – although I’m waiting for my 3 ½ year old to get a bit bigger so he can join me. Ray Chaplin, extreme adventurer and speaker at FEAT Jhb last year is about to embark on an expedition to become the first person to vertically circumnavigate the planet using only human power, tells me no one, as far as he knows, has circumnavigated Africa on foot. Now there’s an idea – that should get me an invite – put me down for 2020 Lisa.

Max Cleur, the entertaining MC for the evening, describes the speakers as “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” More like a bunch of nutters doing crazy stuff.

The evening is like a selection of Ted Talks for the outdoor adventurer – educational, inspirational (I know it’s overused) and highly entertaining.
Can’t wait for the next one.

Is Julius for real, or just a finger in the wrong direction?

Is Julius Malema for real, or is he part of a huge spoof to suck everyone in, providing a diversion for an inept,  mostly corrupt, beleaguered, bumbling, ANC? I mean, racism, retro economic thought (nationalisation), corruption, incivility, crass grossness and a raised digit to anything that smacks of First World norm (let alone Third World) appear as  the ruling party’s Youth League leader’s trademark.

I think Julius (derided for his scant education) has been reading up about the greatest evil to have lived in modern times, Adolf Hitler. After all, much of Malema et cronies’ actions smack of 20th Century hate and holocaust potential, almost as orchestrated.

Is he funny? Is he the butt of bar room jokes? Is he the cartoonists’ dream? Is he not to be taken seriously? Bad odours, fears and disturbing ideas are traditionally excised in traditional ways; whistling a happy tune is a prescribed panacea.

South Africans, especially the non-black middle class, are whistling a happy tune.

They may regret it; they will have only themselves to blame. “I told you so” does not repair shattered dreams and lives.

Laugh at the perceived joker by all means; if you dare.

In the 2007 Mein Führer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler, a film by writer-director Dani Levy, Hitler was portrayed as the funniest man in the world.  Poor taste, you might say, right on, but there were Hitler comedies before – Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator, where the comedian-director played Hitler caricature Adenoid Hynkel, and later a Nazi-bashing comedy from Mel Brooks -The Producers.

As sagacious observers will note, the USA did not suffer jackboot dictatorship; most of Europe did and might have wryly smiled, but 6 million Jews and who knows how many million “others” might not have found things that amusing.

That is why in South Africa, cartoons from the brilliant Zapiro, so admired overseas for what they see as political lampooning, to those nearer the ever-present swart gevaar may portend more sinister implications and be nearer the truth than the titters.

Perhaps, it may be argued, it is in poor taste to ridicule a nation’s leader?  Certainly if unfunny, blatantly malicious and degrading, it is descending to the levels for which one’s adversary is despised. But if freedom of speech is enshrined in a constitution, so be it.

But is Malema a leader in the true sense of the word? The answer of course, is a resounding NO. He may be an elected member of a ruling party’s organisation, even  possessor of a freebie MP’s ticket, but he has the mandate of only a lunatic fringe …but then there’s one in every organisation and nation’s cupboards.

Forget at your peril that revolution is not an offspring of the masses, but a concerted, organised movement from those in power. The masses provide the gun fodder.

Much media speculation and letters to editors around the world have either vilified or supported Sandton-dwelling Malema’s anti-white, anti-Coloureds and anti anti-ANC diatribe.

If, as his detractors say, he is a jumped-up Johnny-Come-Lately, what have they to fear?

Is Malema laughing behind everyone’s back, or does he really mean what he says?

And my guess? Would he really take power if it were offered? A true joker eschews responsibility. If Ian Botham, England’s doyen of the cricket world’s boozy buffoonery, was offered chairmanship of the ICC, he’d laugh in their faces and order another pint… That’s the type of man who doesn’t want to be taken too seriously.

But if JM were offered all that JZ has, would he head out and buy a new pair of cuff links (or another 4×4)? You bet he would. After all, didn’t Uganda’s Idi Amin claim he was “the last king of Scotland”?

I think he will, if ever he takes power, or controls enough of the nation, or convinces sufficient similar thinkers to run the risk of finally turning South Africa into the shambles in which the rest of the African continent’s nations find themselves, the die will be cast.

How does one stop him?

Well, a peek into history might help. In the late 1990s, after seventeen years of “freedom”, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe pottered along quite happily, its agricultural infrastructure intact and its economy stable. Mugabe, the “joker in the pack” rapidly turned into “the angel of death”… where is Harare now? Is South Africa, seventeen years after independence, teetering on a similar political precipice?

Or go even further back. The Romans, the Mongols, the Goths, the Vikings, the Spanish, the Brits, the Austrians, the French, the Germans, the Afrikaners, some Muslims and without doubt the Americans, have all had screaming figureheads in their histories.

It usually took guts, sacrifice and long, long, bloody wars to topple those that seized power or mesmerised the unemployed or the “disadvantaged” (ring a bell?) into pursuing a forlorn and hopeless cause …  until another “cause” arose phoenix-like from the ashes of the so-called  “good guys’” pyrrhic victory.

Hitler was the “upstart Austrian corporal”, Napoleon the “Corsican peasant” and Mussolini the “Italian imposter” … remember them?

Time to stop snickering and passing on sotto voce jokes about JM … believe me friends, this guy is for real