Wednesday, 21 August 2019

First Aid Level 1 up-to-date

My first aid certificate expired about a year ago and, as I am often responsible for people outdoors, I have needed to get my certification up-to-date. The last course I did was with Pulse Point and so I turned to them again. They offer regular courses at a variety of venues in Gauteng.

This time around, they were offering a blended course with the theory component online (approx 10hrs) and then only one half-day with them to practice CPR and scenarios.

I thoroughly enjoyed the online content, which was well presented and it used images and videos effectively. There were questions to answer at the end of each section. In class, we practiced CPR on the dummies and various scenarios with each other. We were assessed on a theory paper, doing CPR and how we dealt with a scenario.

All-in-all it was a good experience and I can highly recommend doing your next first aid course this way, especially if you have done first aid courses multiple times over the years.

I am in-line to do a Wilderness First Aid Level 3 in November-ish, which I'm looking forward to. I haven't done a Level 3 since the early 2000s!

JHB International Flower Show collaboration with The Garden Girl

The new Johannesburg International Flower Show (30 Oct - 3 Nov 2019 at Waterfall City) has been on my radar for a few weeks after a YOLO Compost Tumbler customer, whose company is involved with the event, contacted me saying that it would be a great to exhibit YOLO (she loves hers).

After five days of exhibiting at Decorex two weeks ago, things have moved along very speedily and I'm really excited about the direction that things are going.

Last year I met 'The Garden Girl', a Joburg-based landscaper, when my pink-and-grey YOLO Compost Tumblers caught her attention. Her company colours are pink and grey. Danielle (aka 'Dan') does a lot of residential work and my compost tumblers fit in perfectly - she has installed a couple of tumblers for her clients. From the get go, we connected.

I follow Dan's 'The Garden Girl' Facebook page and just love her before-and-after photographs. What I appreciate most is how she uses clean lines, simple upgrades, existing materials and clever use of practical plants and flowers to create a garden that is pleasing - a space that can be used and enjoyed.

She recently assisted a client with a small project where the client sent Dan a photo or the space they wanted to improve, and Dan sent back a 3D rendering and instructions on what plants to use and how to create the improvement. I just loved it!

When I moved to Parys, I totally revamped my front 'garden' by creating a geometric pattern with 'quadrants' using gumpoles - there are two identical shapes on either side of the walkway. The big oak trees on the pavement creates dense shade throughout the summer and so plants don't do very well here. I'm not big into watering or maintenance, which doesn't help either. I've got existing plants and newly planted plants... all in all it is not what I envisaged and it looks scruffy when I wanted neat-and-tidy.

I emailed Dan before I went to Decorex to say, "I need your help please".

At Decorex, I met a lady from the Johannesburg International Flower Show (a different one to the lady that I'd been in contact with). Shelley had made a bee-line for our stand announcing, "You just have to have YOLO at the flower show!". She didn't yet know that I'd already had comms with the event; she specifically handles gardens and outdoors exhibits. Shelley suggested that I incorporate the compost tumblers into a garden display, which is something totally beyond my frame of reference. I got back from Decorex and called Dan.

The wheels turned quickly and the next day (last week only!) Dan met with Shelley to get the specs and rundown, during last week we whatsapp'd inspirational images to each other, and today Dan came through to Parys.

Hanging with Dan the Garden Girl.
Our theme is 'Kitchen Courtyard Garden' and Dan has really come up with lovely design for a garden that even I would be able to manage!

She will rope her mom and dad into creating some of the bits that we'll need; I'll rope in my mom, Celliers and our factory to create others. Dan has things and I have things that we will incorporate and then there will be other items that we will need to borrow and source for the show. She is definitely the brains and skills behind this design and the implementation. I'll be a good assistant.

Tickets for the show are already on sale. This show is destined to become an annual feature event - to be South Africa's own 'Chelsea Flower Show'. Considering how well South African landscapers, designers and gardeners have done abroad, we will be in for a treat on home soil. There will be gardens to see, plant, flower- and garden-related items to purchase, live music to listen to, and workshops to attend. The Johannesburg Flower Show website is

I have never been involved in anything like this before so it will be an exciting journey. We have two months to get the pieces together to create magic.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Four Days on the Orange River

Shortly after my birthday we left for the Northern Cape town of Prieska for a four-day, three-night kayaking trip on the Orange River. It was superb!

There are very few photographs of me as I took most of them! Here are two that Celliers took:

Sunset posing

Cooking oats for breakfast with Ruben looking on.
I actually got some superb photos just because this area is incredibly striking.

We had excellent paddling, some long days, great comraderie and superb food. With my big down sleeping bag, I slept snug despite the subzero overnight temperatures.

I've written a piece for our Vagabond Kayaks website, which I've pasted below. A stash of photographs are in an album on our Facebook page.

Are we going to go back? Of course! We've got dates scheduled for late September, over new year and for end March 2020.

Four Days on the Orange River

The Orange River is South Africa's biggest and longest river. Despite having paddled many sections of the Orange, there are still some sections that neither Vagabond's Celliers Kruger nor Graeme 'Riverman' Addison had ever been on.

A number of weeks ago, Graeme gave us a shout to see whether we'd be keen for a winter kayaking trip to scout a lesser-known section of the Orange: the stretch between Prieska and Koegas. In writing his book 'Run the Rivers of Southern Africa', Celliers was mostly after whitewater, so he had never ventured to this area. We were in!

We knew that this section would be mostly flatwater with some islands and channels and some easy rapids - perfect for our Vagabond sit-on-top kayaks and inexperienced paddlers. The water here is regulated by outflow from the Vanderkloof Dam, which generates hydroelectric power. Flow fluctuates between 40 and 200 cumec.

This was to be a partly supported trip as Graeme planned to take along three rafts carrying camp kitchen equipment and dinner for 23 people for three nights. The kayakers needed to carry their own breakfast, lunch and snacks. Graeme carried containers of drinking water on the rafts; we carried a gravity water filter.

We were all in for an exploratory trip; a four-day, three-night journey to discover the best features of this area.

Kayaks are faster than rafts
With three rafts and 14 kayaks on the trip, there would be a discrepancy in speed. As kayaks are faster, we decided in advance that the rafts would depart earlier each morning with the kayakers catching up during the day to meet and share the overnight camps.

The kayakers joined the rafters at two of the three camps. We waved goodbye to each other on the morning of Day 3 as the rafts were to take out earlier than planned and the kayakers needed to cover more distance.

Winter is also for adventures
Doing anything outdoors in winter is primarily a matter of packing warm gear for the cold nights and mornings. We woke up to considerable frost and ice on our kayaks. The days warmed quickly once the sun chased away shadows. In contrast to the sweltering summer days in this area, winter days are sunny and mild. At night, from our cosy places around the campfire, we were treated to a magnificent night sky with exceptional meteor sightings.

 The paddling
As expected, the water was primarily moving flatwater with thoroughly enjoyable ripples and channels.

We covered shorter distances on days one and two, and made up for this on the third and fourth days to get to out take-out in good time. In total, we covered 98km! A superb effort by the kayakers. Now that we know the lay of the land, we can accurately plan a shorter and more leisurely trip for our next visit to this section.

Camp cuisine
We enjoyed hearty meals on this trip. Each person packed their own breakfast, lunch and snacks; dinners were communal. Ahead of the trip we split the 23-person strong group into three teams, each assigned to providing and cooking dinner for one of the nights on the river. Who says that camp cooking has to be relegated to smash (dehydrated mashed potato) and tuna!

For the first night, Group 1, the rafters, prepared a delicious braai (aka barbeque) complete with potatoes, a tomato-and-onion sauce and a green salad. For dessert, we were treated to chocolate mousse with cream.

For the second night, Group 2 pulled out an oxtail stew. Francois' wife (not on the trip) had pre-cooked and frozen this five-star meal. This was accompanied by polenta cooked in a three-legged pot on the fire. Rozanne's chocolate-brownies-with-custard dessert was, understandably, well received.

With the group splitting on Day 3 into rafting and kayaking contingents, the kayakers loaded a cooking pot and their dinner ingredients onto their kayaks. The rafters had sufficient food packed, which left the 16 kayakers to enjoy Lisa's 'Red lentil sloppy joes'. These were served with bread  baked in tin cans on the fire, and Shane & Chantelle's funky salad.

Lienkie and Herman's dessert was the figurative cherry on the cake. Lienkie created individual layered desserts served in cups; cookies, strawberry pudding, flaked almonds, goji berries and cream. As Celliers eloquently says, "It tasted like a rainbow". That sums it up beautifully.

The sights
Day 1 stands out for its unbelievable rock formations. The layered and folded cliffs defy belief. The world's largest deposits of tiger's eye, a metamorphic rock that is prized as a gemstone, are found in this area. Mountains of the stuff!

Day 2 was big on birdlife. This stretch of the Orange River is well vegetated along the banks, which would account for the abundance of birds. Flotillas of ducks and geese, fish eagles around every bend, sightings of the striking green plumage of white-fronted bee-eaters, numerous Goliath herons with their two-metre wingspan, giant and pied kingfishers, and also coots, egrets, darters, cormorants, bulbuls, barbets, weavers, wagtails... Sighting a martial eagle was yet another bonus.

The sky on day 3 was spectacular. It was the most magnificent blue made exquisite by patterns created by cold-font clouds. Birds, especially fish eagles and Goliath herons, were constant companions.

On day 4, we saw dozens of leopard tracks at a snack spot. The final kilometres leading to Boegoeberg Dam were characterised by long sand banks, which gave the river a completely different feel. 

While there are farms on the banks of the Orange River between Prieska and Koegas, the countryside is sparsely populated, rocky and unforgiving, especially in summer. This gives a sense of isolation - an experience to be treasured in our always-connected world. The combination of pleasurable paddling, the variety of sights and the feeling of being in the middle-of-nowhere will draw us back to paddle this section again and again.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

New timetrial PB

After my super birthday run yesterday, I wasn't planning on a spectacular run at timetrial tonight - but I had one anyway!

Contrary to popular belief, a dog clipped onto you doesn't mean a faster run. Said dog likes to sniff and pee here and there, which loses time like crazy. I think that the best time that Rusty and I have had at our local 4km timetrial may have been last week when we ran a 22:40-something - even with a bit of sniffing. That was surprising.

I started running time trials earlier this year. They're held at 17h30 on Wednesdays starting from a local park. It is a tough 4km route.

I've done a low 22 minute on my own, but not less than this. Well, tonight I nailed a 20:20, taking around two minutes off my PB.
(I judge PBs off the last three-odd years, not all time).

I am super chuffed. Now to take this to a sub-20. I haven't done any speed work but I am doing the big hill once a week, which seems to be making a difference. Yeah!