Day 1 of the 114km Wild Coast Wildrun along the Transkei seashore (Photo courtesy of Nick Muzik)

After four weeks exploring some of the remotest and least visited corners of Namibia and Zambia, it was time to head across the border to Zimbabwe. It had been ten years since my last visit and I was shocked to see how far Zimbabwe had regressed during its ‘lost decade’.

However, thankfully, there were a couple of things that remained largely unchanged… Vic Falls was one of them. The town of Victoria Falls is to Zim what Hong Kong is to China: an economic powerhouse and enclave of prosperity in a country beset by challenges.  The local people were the other.  I can unreservedly say that Zimbabweans remain amongst the very nicest and most genuinely friendly people in all of Africa; and it was a real privilege to explore their beautiful country again. Zim might be a pale shadow of its former glory days, but I still thoroughly enjoyed being back and interacting with its wonderful people.

The quintessential African sunset over Lake Kariba

After some quality R&R in Vic Falls and neighbouring Zambezi National Park, we set off to investigate a defunct safari lodge concession on Elephant Island in Lake Kariba. Sadly, the camp structures were in disrepair and much of the wildlife appeared to have been poached and eaten by hungry villagers in the tribal areas we visited, but the giant inland sea of Kariba remained just as impressive as I remembered it.

After just a week back in the office, I jumped on a plane and flew to East London to take part in the Wild Coast Wildrun courtesy of adidas (http://www.adidas.co.za/).   My ART teammates Duncan Gutsche and Michael Arbuthnot joined me to tackle the long trail across windswept beaches, tidal estuaries and rolling grassy hills as we sampled the highs and lows of the 2012 Wildrun firsthand.

The Wild Coast Wildrun is arguably South Africa’s premier multi-day trail running event and over the course of three unforgettable days, we joined 77 other fortunate competitors as we ran, rambled and rolled our way north along South Africa’s most remote and captivating stretch of wilderness coastline.

After nearly 13 hours and 114 km on our feet, we hauled ourselves over the finish line at Hole in the Wall exhausted but elated.  Race Director, Owen Middleton, summed up this year’s race experience and its hardships brilliantly in his excellent blog posting: http://www.wildrun.co.za/2012/09/wildcoast-wildrun-2012-–-wild-conditions-hamper-race-record-attempts/.

The desolate windswept beaches on Wild Coast Wildrun (Picture courtesy of Nick Muzik Photography)

With a fearsome reputation for gusty and unpredictable weather, the ocean-ravaged Wild Coast is both insanely beautiful and unforgivingly brutal.

Starting at the Great Kei River, roughly 80 km north of East London, the Wild Coast Wildrun traces the former Transkei coastline northwards all the way to Hole in the Wall: one of our country’s most picturesque and iconic natural wonders. The Wildrun route is unmarked bar the start and finish of each stage, and runners need only stick close to the seashore keeping the ocean on their right to attain the finish line each day. For most people winning is the furthest thing from their mind; they come instead to immerse themselves in some of the most incredible coastal scenery and rugged running terrain to be found anywhere on our planet. Entries open on 17 January 2013 at midday; go to http://www.wildrun.co.za for further details.

Coming up next month is Africa’s greatest trail run: the 42km Otter African Trail Run.  Check out https://www.stevecunliffe.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Explore-SA-Otter-African-Trail-Run.pdf for more on the first-ever west to east running of the Grail of Trail.

ART teammates Michael Arbuthnot, Steve Cunliffe and Duncan Gutsche at Hole-in-the-Wall