Posts Tagged ‘Adventure Sports’

Overnight Hiking on Table Mountain, South Africa – Oct 2012

The idyllically located Overseers Cottage boasts unrivalled views over the Peninsula and False Bay

After six months of training, October was supposed to be a hardcore trail running month with media invitations to take part in three big races. The Chappies Challenge (http://www.energyevents.co.za/) was a 21km warm up for the main events: the inaugural Retto Edition of the 42km Otter African Trail Run (http://theotter.co.za/) along the mountainous coastline of the Tsitsikamma National Park followed by the epic 250km Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (http://www.extrememarathons.com/). Unfortunately, acute patellar tendonitis in my left knee – courtesy of all the beach running in last month’s Wild Coast Wildrun – forced me to withdraw from all three events and instead embark on a six-week rehab and strengthening programme at the Sports Science Institute in Newlands.

To pull out of the Otter and KAEM was absolutely gutting, but at least the doc encouraged me to do lots of walking and hiking as part of the recovery process.  This provided the catalyst for a month of regular table mountain hiking excursions with one particular weekend of multi-day hiking standing out above the rest…

Friday the 19th of October saw our group of 11 friends hire out the 12-bed Orangekloof Tented Camp (http://www.sanparks.org/gallery/index.php/parks/table_mountain/ht_orange_kloof/).  Located barely a hop, skip and a jump from Constantia Neck, this eco-friendly and thoughtfully-designed bush camp is one of the four Hoerikwaggo trail’s camps scattered across the mountain chain. All camps offer bathrooms with hot water showers, comfortable beds, fireplaces, fully equipped communal kitchens and self-catering dining areas. Guests need only provide their own bedding, towels and food.

Spring flowers bloom on Table Mountain

Orange Kloof Tented camp lies tucked away within an ancient restricted-access Afromontane forest that was until recently closed to the public. The result is an old-worldly forest and tranquil setting that combine to ensure a superbly relaxing wilderness getaway right in the very heart of Cape Town!

After a rather damp Friday night braai, Saturday dawned bright and clear with deep blue skies overhead as we set off to tackle the hike up the restricted Disa River Gorge. Despite having grown up in neighbouring Hout Bay and nearby Llandudno, this was the first time any of us had ventured up this magical mountain trail.  The scenic route traces the river into a steep sided gorge all the way to the base of Hely-Hutchinson dam wall and then continues across to above Kirstenbosch before arriving at the idyllic Overseers Hut perched on the edge of the Mountain.

The beautifully furnished and ultra-comfortable Overseers Cottage provided an incredible opportunity to enjoy a night atop one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  Accommodating up to 16 people, it was a real privilege for us to settle into this stylishly renovated old stone cottage. Comfy couches, a big fireplace, gas-heated hot showers and big soft beds with crisp linens ensured we slept like babies even as thick mist enveloped the mountain outside.

Sleeping high above the city proved a truly memorable and highly recommended experience.  To find out more about hiking trails and overnight accommodation on Table Mountain, click on the following link:  https://www.stevecunliffe.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Explore-SA-Table-Mountain1.pdf

Katherine and I will be headed to Botswana next month on an incredible sounding 8-night &Beyond itinerary to experience Chobe Under Canvas and Nxabega Okavango Camp – two of the finest luxury tented camps in all of northern Botswana.  More on this exciting assignment in next month’s blog update…

Khaudum, Sisheke and Zambezi Whitewater, Namibia & Zambia – Aug 2012

Spotted hyaena feed on a kudu carcass while thousands of flamingoes look on at Nyae Nyae Pan

After a thoroughly enjoyable summer holiday in the USA, August was devoted to a long-awaited and much anticipated JavZam work trip to explore the Sisheke District in the northern sector of the KAZA TFCA (http://www.kavangozambezi.org/).

I departed Cape Town with three work colleagues on a drizzly winter’s morning for Namibia; first stop was seldom-visited Khaudum (http://www.met.gov.na/Documents/Khaudum%20National%20Park.pdf) in northeast Namibia. This arid park falls within the KAZA TFCA and is quite possibly Namibia’s wildest national park. Elephants are dime a dozen here and anyone with a soft spot for these giant pachyderms should make sure a trip to Khaudum features prominently on their safari bucket list.

Khaudum is wild tract of arid Namibian wilderness where elephant herds outnumber tourists 10:1

After 5 days exploring the wilds of Khaudum and its neighbouring flamingo-rich Nyae-Nyae Pans, we reluctantly bid farewell to the elephant herds and made our way through the Caprivi to try out the new Sioma Border Post north of Kongola.  A fancy new road terminated in the middle of nowhere and we were forced to backtrack 17km to find the Namibian ‘immigration table’ perched under a shady tree!  In contrast the Zambian side had some very fancy new immigration offices, but no road yet!  All this made for a great adventure as we eventually figured everything out.  Later, we learned that we were the first visitors to use this new KAZA tourist facility, which had only officially opened 5 weeks earlier.

The primary reason for our trip was to conduct a thorough reconnaissance of the Sisheke District and Sioma Ngwezi National Park as these areas make up the core area for the exciting and ambitious Sisheke Conservation Project (http://www.sisheke.com/).

An inquisitive wild dog at Katuli Pools on the edge of Sioma Ngwezi NP

For the next two weeks we drove, boated and flew through out the 3,000,000ha Sisheke Conservation Area that was recently awarded to JavZam to manage and develop on behalf of the Barotse Royal Establishment for the benefit of the local people and wildlife alike.

In amongst clocking up many miles investigating this massive tract of wilderness, we also managed to catch a few tiger fish and find a pack of 16 wild dogs!  Sadly, we also saw the unsustainable practices of escalating elephant poaching, widespread logging and uncontrolled burning at every turn. The area has incredible potential but huge challenges as well.

After a couple of weeks deep in the bush, we headed for a well-earned break in Livingstone where the folks at Safari Par Excellence (http://www.safpar.com/) treated us to a great day of world-class whitewater on the mighty Zambezi.  After an adrenalin-charged morning of river boarding where it was hard not to feel like crocodile bait, we abandoned our little body boards in favour of a more sociable self-bailing raft for the afternoon session.  The rapid-infested Zambezi is a very special river and it’s hard to imagine there’s any better way to spend an action-packed day in the wilds of Africa.

Tackling the wet and wild Class V whitewater with SAFPAR on the mighty Zambezi River in Zambia

In Wilderness with Wild and Tracking in the Lowveld, South Africa – June 2012

Ebb and Flow Rest Camp in the Wilderness Section of Garden Route National Park

The month got off to a cracking start when Katherine joined me for an action-packed Wild magazine assignment to explore the hugely diverse Wilderness Section of Garden Route National Park (www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/) on the Cape South Coast.  An activity extravaganza of hiking, running, canoeing, birding – and even some flying – dominated our active, outdoorsy itinerary during a memorable four-day stay at the Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp on the banks of the picturesque Touw River.

While we had great fun hiking all the local Kingfisher Walking Trails within the park, paddling the Serpentine and Touw rivers trumped the trailing as we glided effortlessly across the water  amidst a dazzling array of avian entertainment.

Soaring above Wilderness in a 'para-trike'

However, nothing could hold a candle to the grand finale: an epic 75 minute flight with Fly Time Paragliding (www.flytimeparagliding.com) over the lakes, beaches and indigenous coastal forest of the Wilderness area. Flying in the Garden Route’s only tandem ‘para-trike’ (a type of motorised paraglider) ensured an unrivalled bird’s eye view of the intriguing and varied terrain of this tract of coastal wilderness nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Outeniqua Mountains. With fabulous early June weather to boot, it proved a highly enjoyable assignment and an outstanding ‘long weekend away’ destination.

A week later, my lovely wife pulled out all the stops to ensure I celebrated edging closer to 40 than 30 in fine style.  Running the Old Fisherman’s Trail Challenge (www.fishermanschallenge.co.za) with my ART team-mates in the morning was followed by  Test rugby and drinks at our Three Anchor Bay apartment before moving on to a birthday bash to remember at Pigalle Restaurant (www.pigallerestaurants.co.za/capetown/) in Green Point.  The wine flowed freely, the food was excellent and the live band got everyone fired up on the dance floor of Cape Town’s most diverse and truly New South Africa party venue.

A final magazine assignment for the month of June took me up to Thornybush Game Reserve to interview tracking guru Louis Liebenberg for an article to be published in the October 2012 issue of Africa Geographic.  Based at Royal Malewane (www.royalmalewane.com) for the second time this year, I caught up with old friends and colleagues at the lodge while simultaneously gathering material and researching the story.  I was privileged to accompany some of the Lowveld’s finest trackers as they interacted with trainees and aspirants while tracking down rhino and lion on foot.

Finally – on the subject of recently published articles – it was a busy month for me with features on Namibia’s Sossusvlei and South Africa’s Mokala National Park coming out in the trade and travel magazine Explore South Africa, along with some additional publicity for the Lesotho Wildrun trail running event (which I participated in back in March).  For those who are interested, check out the links below to view PDFs of these entertaining stories:

Running The Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge with ART teammate Duncan Gutsche

Hermanus, Plett and the Wildrun, Lesotho – April 2012

Perched high atop the Hermanus cliffs, overlooking Voelklip Beach and accommodating guests in the utmost luxury, the opulent Birkenhead House (www.birkenheadhouse.com) gazes out onto the whale watching paradise of Walker Bay. Katherine and I belatedly accepted an extremely generous wedding gift and spent three nights soaking up the luxurious, pampered splendour of Birkenhead House. After completing the Two Oceans Trail Run (www.twooceansmarathon.org.za/events/trail-run/general) on Friday morning, we savoured the delicious food, fine red wine and cosy atmosphere of this irresistible seaside lodge for the remainder of the wet Easter weekend. Situated barely an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Cape Town, Birkenhead House proved an idyllic spot to celebrate the second anniversary of our Franschhoek wedding festivities.

The Lesotho Wildrun (www.lesothowildrun.co.za) is an amazing 112km stage-race through the pristine, undulating landscapes of a remote mountain kingdom that lies right in South Africa’s backyard. An epic three-day wilderness journey takes runners through the magnificent and truly wild Ketane Ha Mothibi and Thaba Putsoa mountain ranges in the very heart of Lesotho. With the generous support of sponsor Adidas (www.adidas.co.za/running/), the folks at Wildrunner (www.wildrunner.co.za) pulled out all the stops to make sure everyone enjoyed an incredible, ‘never to be forgotten’ trail running experience.

I fell into step with the similarly paced Stephen Kriel (a seventh generation butcher from Darling) and Guy Jennings (an advertising executive from Joburg) to form a well-matched running trio that became known as ‘Team SSG’ by the race crew. Our triumvirate officially crossed the final finish line a couple of hours behind the overall winners in 17 hours 20 minutes and 27 seconds, but finishing times fade into relative insignificance when compared to the incredible mountain scenery, intriguing Basotho culture and camaraderie of newfound friends. These factors combined to ensure the Lesotho Wildrun was a truly memorable experience for everyone privileged enough to participate in this unique event. And whether you see yourself as a king of the mountains or a more social 33-hour finisher, this tough race has an appeal to trail runners of all ages, stages and abilities. Yes you need to be fit, but this is – above all – a rewarding wilderness journey with likeminded people: a life experience that you’ll find yourself savouring long after the race is done.

Our good friends from India, Bryony and Matt Greenwell, brought their six-month-old daughter Alice on her inaugural visit to South Africa. It was great to have them to stay for a few nights in Cape Town, but the highlight of our time together was undoubtedly the five-day long weekend we spent up the Garden Route. Located only a few kilometres from the bustling seaside resort of Plettenberg Bay, The Waves (www.thewavesatplettenbergbay.com) is situated right on the long white-sand expanse of picturesque Keurboomstrand. The luxuriously appointed contemporary villa, located a stone’s throw from the sea, was an incredible place to be based.  Generously loaned to us by Bryony’s former boss, we revelled in the villa’s comfort, Enrico’s seafood lunches, nightly braais and daily dolphin visits that dominated our stay at Keurboomstrand.

There is also some great news to share regarding the Zambian conservation initiative I’m working on … the Sisheke Conservation Project (www.sisheke.com) website went live this week, so take a moment to check out this link for an overview of what currently appears to be Africa’s most exciting and dynamic conservation and sustainable development venture, taking place within the KAZA TFCA.

The Sisheke Conservation Project, South Africa – Feb 2012

Six weeks into my new job at Javelin Capital Limited, I feel like I’m finally starting to strike the right balance between my work on the dynamic Sisheke Conservation Project (SCP) and my ongoing photojournalism assignments.

My magazine contributions for this month were dominated by multiple commissions from Explore South Africa (www.capemedia.co.za/explore-south-africa); I supplied the Cape Town-based trade and travel magazine with three stories for their March-May 2012 issue, covering Mokala National Park, Table Mountain hiking trails and canoeing the Orange River.  Thankfully, with only a couple of 4×4 articles and an Indian adventure sport feature lined up for March, the coming month is looking considerably more manageable and balanced.

Things are looking good with the SCP initiative in southwest Zambia and I’m now feeling much more settled in my new role than this time last month!  While Javelin steams ahead with progressing this exciting conservation initiative, the Peace Parks Foundation (www.peaceparks.org) and Mwandi Office of the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) are dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s ahead of the signing of the final Memorandum of Agreement between the parties.  With the ball squarely on their side of the court and not wanting to simply sit back and mark time, we decided to forge ahead with the new Project website this month.  I can report that – as of the end of Feb – we have reached the stage where the vast majority of content has been generated, images chosen, designs agreed upon and the site construction begun.  We are eagerly awaiting www.sisheke.com going live sometime during March.

I’m happy to say that while it was a hectically busy month on the work front, February certainly wasn’t all work and no play.  Katherine and I have found Cape Town and its idyllic lifestyle a perfect fit for us and we’re enjoying an active, outdoorsy and action-packed time rediscovering the many attractions of my hometown.  In keeping with the spirit of a leap year (the year when a woman can take the initiative and propose to a man!), Katherine organised a Valentine’s Day surprise this year.  I arrived home from work and was immediately whisked off by my lovely wife and up Table Mountain – via the very impressive Aerial Cableway (www.tablemountain.net).  On top we enjoyed a delicious picnic, sundowner beers and watched a magnificent sunset, before taking the revolving cable car back down to the ‘fairyland’ lights of Cape Town below.  What an awesome way to spend a Tuesday in our beautiful city!

Our Cape Town crowd of friends is dominated by some hardcore athletes, fitness fanatics and a large group of casual runners, so we too have embraced an active lifestyle.  The Sea Point Promenade (right in front of our apartment) is an incredible resource for keeping us sane, not to mention getting us fit.  As a result I ran my first-ever road marathon on Sunday 19th February.  The Cape Peninsula Marathon (www.topevents.co.za/index.php?sectionID=157) was a great experience and my race time of 3h26 definitely exceeded my expectations.  I did find, however, that the road took its toll on my weak knees and leg muscles, so my plan is to stick to half-marathons and trail running in the future.  So the Milkwood Half-Marathon (www.energyevents.co.za/events_detail.php?id=576&type=current) on Sunday 4th March will be the next exciting challenge.

March is shaping up to be another cracking month with running, overnight hiking, a trip with friends to Churchhaven, and lots of live rugby and cricket to keep me suitably entertained in amongst all the writing and interesting Sisheke Conservation Project work.

Cape Town and the Otter Trail Run, South Africa – September 2011

After an incredible 9.5 years living abroad, I arrived in Cape Town on Thursday the 8th of September ready to embark on the next exciting chapter in Katherine and my life together. The first couple of weeks back home were dominated by admin, buying a car, researching apartments and where we want to live, meeting with my magazine editors and, of course, catching up with friends and family.

After a couple of weeks of writing magazine stories, proofing articles and fine-tuning the itinerary for next month’s Northern Cape and Namibian sojourn, the month concluded in fine style when I travelled up the Garden Route on a much-anticipated assignment to compete in and cover the gruelling Otter Trail Run (www.theotter.co.za). Dubbed the Grail of Trail, this brutal 42km full trail marathon weaves its way along the very same route of the legendary Otter Trail – South Africa’s most iconic and spectacular hiking trail – as it traverses the rugged coastline and fords the rivers of the majestic Tsitsikamma National Park.

On the morning of Friday September 30th, two hundred endurance athletes and one pretender (me) gathered in the inky blackness below a star-studded sky at Storms River mouth for the Otter Run: undoubtedly one of the hardest and simultaneously most incredible events I’ve ever competed in. Nervous tension mingled with an electric atmosphere in the cool morning air ahead of first light. As dawn broke on a picture-perfect day, we set off running through indigenous coastal forests, into deep ravines, over imposing mountains and across the fynbos-clad slopes of the Garden Route National Park, before overcoming one final obstacle – a precariously unstable floating bridge – to finally finish at De Vasselot campsite in Nature’s Valley.

Returning from his epic victory in the gruelling Leadville 100 mile ultra marathon in America, Ryan Sandes, the soft-spoken trail runner extraordinaire, dominated what was arguably the greatest trail running field ever assembled on South African soil to clinch first place in Africa’s premier off-road running event to clinch the coveted Grail. Shaving an impressive seven minutes off André Gie’s record, Sandes finished in a blistering 4h40m.  I staggered over the line two-and-a-half hours later in around 110th place, but, thankfully, well within the eight hour cut-off time.

October is looking like it should be a good month with spring in the air, Katherine returning from Kenya and an exciting magazine assignment to the Northern Cape and Namibia on the horizon. Here’s holding thumbs that the Springboks can play out their boots at the Rugby World Cup and turn a good October into a month to remember … Go bokke!

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