MAKE THE CIRCLE BIGGER; MAKE THE CIRCLE BIGGER; SHOW DEM SHOW DEM SHOW DEM JA SHOW DEM.
This catchy tune was my personal theme song this year at the Garmin Wartrail. Every time I bumped into athletes, seconds, marshals, medics, locals etc. this tune would pop up and I found myself singing it out loud to the amusement of those in earshot. The reason is that I was making my circle of adventure family bigger; we were making the Garmin family; also referred to as the GTribe bigger and WE WERE SHOWING DEM !!!!!.
We were celebrating the Human Rights weekend by exercising our right to freedom, to push our bodies minds and souls to levels that just cannot be reached in mundane day to day living. We were exploring mother earth and our inner beings and all along we were guided by our instinct to survive and where that instinct was lacking by our Garmin GPS units.
It is such an honor to be involved in an event that is a passion and have a passionate sponsor on board like Garmin. It is also a pleasure and honor to have people around me that understand the ethos and history of this event and who have just as much passion as I do for the area, the locals and the Wartrail family. Mike De Haast’s contribution as my partner really makes a huge difference and its a pleasure working with him to ensure we keep on putting on events that keep you all coming back for more.
The Garmin Wartrail 2010 was in my view a HUGE success. The athletes were true characters; the mountain was beautiful yet with a cruel side (hiding her precious water caches this year); the cycle leg was hot and the river was low strewn with momentum halting shallow banks. This year was a true test of endurance.
I am honored to have some of the Countries top multi sport athletes come back year after year to the event but the Garmin Wartrail is not only about the top athletes its about everyone that has the courage to enter a world were we are all stripped to nothing but our primal instinct to survive and conquer. This event is and will never be a mass entry event simply because thee are not that many of us out there willing to put it all on the line without the safety net that we have become accustomed to. Luckily us few that have attempted and conquered the Garmin Wartrail know that we have an ace up our sleeves and that is that we have a huge advantage in the fact that we have access to a world of navigation in our trusty Garmin devices. I am sure that for a large percentage of the athletes they would be lost without their Garmins.
Race briefing took place on Friday the 19th March 2010 after the athletes and their seconds enjoyed a feats prepared by the Mountain View Country Inn. It is always great to look into the athletes eyes the night before and to see the anticipation, the uncertainty, the fear.
After race briefing athletes were given a short course in the use of the Garmin Etrex units that were supplied downloaded with the tracks for the remote mountain hike. Thereafter everyone got an early night in preparation of the 4am start the next morning.
03h45 am the main street of Lady Grey nervous athletes gather under the Garmin arch for roll call before the start. At 04h00 John Michael Tawse blows the rams horn to start the 2010 adventure. After a short run through the town we are soon engulfed in the dark pre dawn night with only our headlights guiding us over the overgrown and rock strewn path leading to CP 1. We arrive at CP 1 approximately 10km into the race with all athletes having checked in safely. The Sunrise greats us with a wonderful view and the day looks like it is going to be kind to us. We pass through CP 2 Olympus to find some of the faster athletes injured and waiting to be evacuated from the mountain by the marshals manning the point. They had suffered ankle injuries and one athlete had gippo guts. After assessing the extent of the injuries I convince Dominic Strano who came all the way from the Cape to continue with us at the back end of the field. He agrees and we continue with a hobbling Domo in tow. Onto CP 3 Snowden we proceed and are greeted by the marshals with a chocolate Easter egg to remember our fallen comrades especially Paul Mitchell who was a true icon and great spirit of South African Adventure Sports. We were sure that we have left no one on the route and the marshals proceeded on with our sweeping group leaving Snowden deserted.
The Section between Snowden and Avoca is the most remote part of South Africa that I have ever been in half way through this section I receive the call that one of the athletes Nr 6 Jacques Booysen is lost and has missed CP 3. I make contact with Jacque and he informs me that he can see Avoca and I as him to use his Garmin to put in Avoca’s co-ordinates and see how far he is from Avoca. He tells me he is 8.4km from Avoca. I look on my Garmin and see that I am 3.3km from Avoca CP. I inform Jacque that he is 5km behind me and that I will wait for him at the CP. As Jacque has done this route twice I was confident that he was on the right track as Avoca is a very distinguishable landmark. Surprise Surprise. My phone rings again and Jacques has started doubting his Garmin he informs me that Avoca is behind him and that the distance is increasing from the CP as he is moving. I request him to give me his co-ordinates and punch them into my Garmin unit that has the topo maps downloaded. To my shock and horror I realize that Jacque has been traversing an adjacent Ridge and was moving further and further into an extremely remote part of the old Transkei with hardly any access or inhabitants. Jacque is immediatley instructed to turn around and hike back to CP 3 Snowden and then given instructions and directions to get down the mountain to the farmhouse below. After a 7 hour ordeal Jacque was found by race organization after the local farmers had fed him a couple of tequilas to calm his nerves. If Jacque was not carrying his Garmin the situation could have been severe.
After this excitement we proceeded on past Avoca CP4 towards Skiddaw and though we had witnessed thunder and lightening in front of us we only realized the extent of the storm by the thick piles of hail scattered all around us. I was thankful that we were not caught in the hail like the front runners must have been. We eventually made it into Balloch the overnight stop at 20h00 16hours after the start. The days winners were rewarded namely Andre Gie and Nico Schoeman in the men and Tatum Prins in the ladies categories then it was time for Margy Frost’s now famous Sheppard’s stew under the Balloch Cave.
07h30 on the 21st March saw battle bruised Mountain Bikers line up under the Garmin arch to tackle the 135 km Mountain bike route that would take them to the end of the road village of Mdlokovane the overnight stop. This route starts off with a quad busting lung burning ascent to the top of Lundeans Nek 25km from the start.
What goes up must go down and the descent from the top of Lundeans Nek to the Tele River below is 10km or pure almost sinful fun. Riders had been warned to watch out for the snot slippery causeways in some of the hairpin bends but still there were some tumbles including the ladies leader Tatum Prins who had some concrete induced makeup at the finish of the bike leg. This route is tough with many climbs but just as many descents and with the heat throwing down the gauntlet all riders took a hammering.
At the end of the bike leg riders were welcomed into a remote village on the Orange River escarpment; Mdlokovane. The locals look forward to this annual visit and a carnival atmosphere with song and dance welcomes the visitors on their high tech carbon or aluminum steeds. This Village experience is a culture shock to first times doing the Garmin Wartrail as there are no showers and toilet fascilities consist of the traditional long drop. The evening is finalized with an amazing gourmet supper prepared in the Village by Lizby Van Zyl and all that attended this years event will agree that she really put on a spread in no mans land.
06h30 on the banks of the Orange the athletes lined up in their K1 and K2’s La Mans Style ready to take on the low level Orange for the paddle to Aliwal North 65km down river. From my journey up to Lady Grey I noticed that the Orange was a bit thin in appearance looking more like a mole snake than the mighty Anaconda I was used to from the previous 2 years. This day was going to test all those craving the finish line as sand banks would determine the line to follow as well as the speed of progress. After many numb butt hours of paddling Hertzog Bridge in Aliwal and the finish of the 2010 Garmin Wartrail was soon in sight giving me; as it does every year; a lump in my throat knowing that all athletes hare safe, have had the experience of a life time and that the event was again a huge success.
This event would not be possible with out the assistance and support of so many individuals, companies and landowners. Our special thanks to our Sponsor Garmin for investing in our sport and giving back to its clients and product users; us the adventurers. To all the landowners for allowing us access to this Gem of our amazing country. Thanks to the Bloemfontein 4×4 Echo Club for their faithful support and assistance year after year. Erika and Coen for the timing and computer program. To my hiking Marshals the Ninja warriors Willem; JJ; Vossie and Rudolph and to AD’s Angels the girls of Avoca led by Barinda, Adriaana and Tuanette you guys are stars. The Frosts of Balloch for their hospitality and great meals; Lizby for the catering at Mdlokovane and the Country View Mountain Inn for their extra service that they provide.
A special thanks to my partner Mike for taking care of the logistics while I have fun out on the route.
The results are attached to the email and will be published on www.ar.co.za and www.trailrunning.co.za .
Hope to see you next year at the 2011 Garmin Wartrail. LETS MAKE THE CIRCLE BIGGER !!!!!