It is not often that I start a trail run at the civilized hour of 8h00 on a Saturday. But we were waiting for the tide to be out.
I was lucky enough to be invited on this route by Mark Preen. This ranks as one of the best adventure trails in Cape Town.
‘But that was easy’
Could quite easily be the response of one of the other runners in our group. Not so fast! The first time I did this trail which is a mere 10km it took us the whole day! Yes as in a 8h whole day! Ask around and you will hear stories of epics, getting lost, scary scrambles, groups being benighted, rescues, and people being washed out to sea – never to be seen again.
I am not kidding. This is serious!
However on Saturday we were lucky with very calm seas and Spring low tide! Richard planned well and we even had an hour to go before the lowest tide – just in case.
I have done this route in both directions and I prefer the anti clockwise. Either option is doable. I just prefer it. Here I will describe the clockwise direction though as this is the way we did it last.
A good start spot is Mariner’s Wharf. Run through the harbour towards the Sentinel. This is along tarmac. You will pass underneath the Hangberg suburb. You will quickly emerge onto some level single track under the cliffs of the Sentinel and towards Seal Island. This section is very reminiscent of the first bit of the Otter trail.
Once you turn the corner things get a bit more serious in that you need to think about route choice. Staying low and close to sea level is best until forced up. It initially seems like you need to traverse over a steep gully with a path visible on the steep far slope. Don’t try this but rather drop into the gully and back down to sea level.
A few sections of scrambles over damp, slippery rocks follow. Going is slow as one needs to take care.
This is a great great friction testing lab for shoes as adhesion to a variety of surfaces is tested to the max. Some you walk, others you need a bit more upward momentum…
There are often several options available and you don’t always need to scramble.
However at some point you will be faced with this sight. Spot the tatty rope. It ascends the black crack onto the platform above the water. The first step is the hardest. I would encourage you to take a rope – in case.
There is a little section of easier going after which you will face another gully. Once again don’t be tempted to traverse above but rather drop down past the little granite blob onto the floor of the gully and out the other (less steep) side.
Eventually you will do a slow rising traverse on a fair path. This pops you onto the slabs above the Bos 400 which went down in 1994. This is the same bay where the SS Maori is also located. From here it is a fairly straightforward navigational exercise across the burnt sandy slope to the blockhouse at the end of Rocket Road. Find your way to the dunes above Sandy Bay. From here you are pretty much on tarmac back to the start and some welcome fish and chips at Fish on the Rocks.
I can not stress this enough. This is a serious route which requires respect. You will need to go in a group with enough scrambling experience and somebody who knows the route. Also carry a couple of mobile phones in waterproof pouches.
You will struggle to complete this in under two hours. But a fairly competent group should be done in under four. Come prepared for a truly special adventure.
You sat in the middle of the room. Surrounded by people. A guru to us all. Many considered you a dear friend. Wrapped in your blanket on this sunny day. There were too many. I stood outside. I felt something was wrong. Only got to touch your shoulder as you sat there princess like. All the fuss going on a round you for your 70th. It was a Saturday.
Later when all the cake had gone a handful stood around.
You got up from your room. The birds were calling you, you said.
And then you were gone. I heard the news on Monday. There would be no class, no follow on. No weekly gathering. Everything had changed. You were the glue to the whole gathering of a week ago. And now the glue was gone.
I danced with the bears when they scattered you in Tokai.
I thank you for shining the light.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
My only wish for Christmas was to eat some trifle.
And so my wife went to search the local Woolworths for a) a store with a manageable que and b) one that does in fact have stock of said trifle.
I promptly finished the “serves 4” on my own.
When asked which part of the trifle I like best I had no good answer. I like the different textures and how they feel and taste different. Too much of one thing is not that great in the end but it is the subtle combination that seals the deal. Pretty much like a good trail.
A seemingly endless grassy slope is fun in the same way that caramel is fun – in limited doses. Same with bush bashing through fynbos. Fun for a while. Think the biscuity pieces in above mentioned dessert. The short bit of getting lost: crunchy chocolate bits. Scrambles above a big drop: cream. Too much of a good thing ultimately does make my head spin. The girls in bikinis sunbathing at the top: hmm maybe that was a hallucination.
And so I went. In search of new land, in search of new adventure and in search of a new route.
I wake up every morning looking up at Fernwood Precipice and that impenetrable part of our mountain. The last time that I had this view I was preoccupied with harder objectives.
This is the world between GPS tracks and heatmap lines. Now my mix of motivation and difficulty is just right.
The recce was well on its way.
Finding the quickest way onto the contour path from Newlands Forest parking was easy. A quick navigation to find the right gully and it was upwards all the way. Nice pools in the stream bed. Followed by a steep slope led to the obvious slanting line of weakness. Then another traverse onto the edge of the buttress. The long slope up to the next rockband. I got lost a bit here. Did not trust my instincts but then found the delightful calf burner that would rival Kilian’s best fresh pow. In defence of this comparison fresh pow makes you work way too hard for vertical gain, you end up hot sweaty and out of breath. Fynbos is the same with the added delight of ending up with a whole herb garden in your shoes.
This is old school FKT or TM FKT X
From the Newlands Fire base gate to Maclear’s Beacon.
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I recognised the anxiety straight away
The nervousness. The slight hurry in everybody’s step. The frantic darting looks for the loo. The anticipation. I was surprised to find them so strong, so overwhelming and I had not missed them in two years.
Sunday morning I stood at the start of the Hohenhort 15km road race. In fact this was probably the last race I did many moons ago. How would it feel this time around?
The loop through the leafy suburb is a funny one, lots of hills and twists and turns. I started way back in the field. I was not here to race just to do a long run and see how things went.
At the end we had come full circle, back to where we came from under two hours ago and back to where I was years previously. What changed?
Certainly the streets were the same. Many fellow runners seemed the same (though I enjoyed running with three folks I don’t often have a chance to run with) it was I who had changed, I had come full circle.
I realised that this was more true than a linear progression we like to believe in. I was back where I had been before, well almost. But yet I felt different.
I had grown. I wondered about how many New Years resolutions had been swept under the bed already. How many dreams had been given up? Unreachable.
How it all seemed so impossible. Impossibly hard.
If these cycles were true then maybe our approach to achieving goals should be different from our linear approach. If the finish line is back at the start then what is the point.
Well that is the point exactly.
Maybe we can look rather at the next micro cycle and see “What I can I do today?”
“What can I achieve today, that maybe I could not do yesterday?” or
“Can I do something slightly better today than I did it yesterday?”
Because I know I will be back at the start tomorrow and the next day and the next. I can start again.
But start I must.
I am reading Chris Froome’s book right now. The hours and days he spends by himself turning the wheels. Again and again. Each one building. Unraveling the carpet until it gets easier. Until it builds momentum.
But starting the momentum going is not easy.
Our brain wants short term gain for long time sacrifice. We need the equation to go the other way around. This is true in all areas in our lives. Diet, exercise, career, self discipline.
Sunday I ducked under the tape in the finish chute before we got to the coke. I felt no need to replenish what I had not lost.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
I actually don’t need that much when I know I am coming back to the start. Day after day, week after week, 23 day cycle after 23 day cycle.
(A couple of nights before I did not sleep very well. It was full moon. Lunatic.)
The transition to the New Year has had its bumps. Too much compromise, too much eating other people’s snacks.
“It is not what we eat between Christmas and New Year that makes us, it is what we eat between New Year and Christmas that makes the difference.” said my wife.
And so I set myself a challenge of 33 days to eat clean. 100% clean. No deviation. I falter, I start again. Simple. I am keeping a log. It is not the only thing I am keeping a log of.
A record, a record of honesty. Of where I am. When I know where I am I can build. Slowly.
Slowly build momentum.