re-re-sized eles

Enduring the delights of Africa

My apologies for not keeping this site updated, but what an eventful 3 weeks. I was first in Plettenberg Bay to celebrate a birthday. I arrived just before the Big 5 Marathon, but sadly was unable to get up there. This marathon, as you know (or follow this link for some background information) is organised and run by Adventure Marathon. 214 people from 24 countries took part in the race, some were there who had run the race many times before.

Linda Te Au, a New Zealander from Sydney, was taking part for the first time. “When a lion wakes up in Africa it knows it has to be faster than the slowest antelope if it is to survive. When the antelope wakes up in Africa it knows it has to be faster than the slowest lion if it is to survive. When I woke up in Africa after a 14 hour flight from Sydney I wondered what Jan Taylor, my club mate, had gotten me into”, she said. The intrepid lady from the land of kangaroos and koalas was in for a few surprises…

“Two days before the race we went on a bush walk where we encountered six elephants. Let me just say that mother elephant did not take too kindly to nine marathon runners and two park rangers wandering into her territory. Two warning shots and a lot of yelling from our ranger eventually stopped her in her tracks but not before we had sprinted 500 metres down the hillside, scrambled over rocks and round trees, then climbed up the other side to safety and a ride home. I will not forget the sound of an elephant trumpeting or the majestic sight of her, just metres above me, on a slight rise: ears flapping, huge tusks pointed at me, shoulders ready to barge their way through trees, and knowing that she could easily outrun me.”

This same band of elephants were still loitering with intent on marathon day which necessitated a change in the route, the first time this had been necessary.

“The big five marathon is named for the big five game animals – elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, lion and leopard and though I did not see them all it was an awesome marathon and a totally awesome adventure in Africa . Forget Boston, London and New York marathons, running a marathon through lion country – priceless,” was Linda’s final evaluation. She successfully completed the marathon.

The race was won by Frenchman Pierre Poulain in a time of  3:48:18.

This was followed by the 10-day Knysna Oyster Festival in the eastern Cape – an oyster bonanza where around 200,000 are expected to be consumed by the end of the festival, a festival which celebrates sport and the good life concluding with the Pick n Pay Cape Times Forest marathon and half-marathon.  All sorts of side attractions are held for the amusement of all including the Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour which has grown to be a two-day cycling festival of mountain and road bike events, the biggest of its kind in South Africa. As we flew in, contestants were arriving from all over the country and the world. Anticipation and expectations were high – a combination of looking forward to the challenges ahead as well as the prospect of gorging oneself on aphrodisical oysters! Cyclists nearly brought the streets of the Garden City to a stand still during their race.

Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour, South Africa

The weather that week was appalling, culminating in a weekend of storms second to none. It rained and rained and rained and further inland snow fell. In fact, we flew out on Tuesday and the snow was pretty well continuous from just off the coast all the way to Johannesburg. However, despite of, or perhaps because, of the icy conditions “organisers of this year’s Knysna Oyster Festival, in the Southern Cape, say it is the best yet. The 10-day event, which kicked off last week, is jam-packed with over 100 activities to keep visitors entertained.”

Sadly the marathon and half-marathon had to be cancelled due to unsafe conditions. This was a tragedy for all concerned, for all those who had trained hard for the marathons, for the event organisers and not least for the charities that were set to benefit from the event.

But a second sporting event benefited from the high winds and rough seas. Billabong Pro Surfing went ahead despite the bad weather and had superb wave conditions. Billabong Pro J-Bay, on the ASP World Tour Supertubes, was held at Jeffreys Bay and featured the world’s top 32 ranked surfers. This R3 million event is Africa’s only stop on the ASP World Tour which determines surfing’s annual men’s world champion.

Billabong Pro J-Bay 2012

Billabong Pro Surfing Jeffreys Bay, south africa

With such good waves on offer there was some incredible surfing performances, including a record four 10-point rides during the day for Jordy Smith (ZAF) – he must have been very happy to have achieved a perfect 10 on home turf; Vasco Ribeiro (PRT), Olamana Eleogram (HAW) and Ezekial Lau (HAW).

“I was ready for that wave,” said Jordy of his ten-point ride that consisted of a series of critical turns and tube rides all the way down the 300 meter-long pointbreak. “I managed a couple of cracks on the outside and the wave set up nicely on the inside for that barrel.” He had been experiencing phenomenal crowd support that erupted over his ten-pointer. “I could hear all the cheering and the vuvuzelas from the water,” said Smith. “It really gets you pumped to hear all the support, so thanks to all the fans and supporters out there.”

And so from Plett to Zimbabwe where my week included nothing more strenuous than a wonderful trip to Kariba, floating around in boats and drifting close to elephants, hippos, zebra, enormous crocs and other wildlife. Kariba Dam, for those of you who know it, is incredibly full this year which does not make for good game viewing. Why? Because all the lakeside grazing is under water. The hippo are as fat as pigs, the elephants, etc, rather scarily skinny, but all quite magical nonetheless.

Elephants at Kariba, Zimbabwe

Eles on Kariba

And so back to reality…

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