Friday, 31 December 2010

The book thing

With moving home this past week I've given a lot of thought to books and stuff in general.

On the whole, I don't have a lot of stuff. I don't hoard; I delight in trashing (or passing on) stuff I don't use, keeping only things I use with a degree of regularity. But, when you're packing and moving boxes, it does seem like a lot of stuff! Then again... my hairdresser said that he recently helped a friend to move - she had over 300 packing boxes, 36 of which were shoes! I've got 18 boxes (small to medium in size) plus some race crates.

My mom helped me with some packing during the week and she commented on my abundance of extension cords, plug adaptors (multiple slots) and two-prong plug adaptors (at least one or two for every adaptor row). At my mom's place, plugs have always been an issue. No matter how many my mom bought, I was always moving two-prong adaptors around everytime I wanted to plug something in; and then there wouldn't be enough sockets for regular plugs and then the cords wouldn't reach... Ja, how we grow up affects us later ;)

The book thing has really been on my mind too because I think it is silly; and yet I can't part with my books. My collection of mountaineering, polar exploration, trail running, expedition and adventure travel-type books is pretty cool and I've been buying them for over a decade. I have very few fiction books as I read them and pass on, not caring to keep them. But my adventure books...

Now, the strange thing is that I don't like to lend them out because inevitably they do not get returned - so I'm not sharing them. And, I rarely read them again (although there are a number I'd like to read again - it has been years since I read those tales of adventure). Yet, I don't want to let go. An even funnier view is that, with the books currently in boxes in storage, I don't miss them because I know where they are - and they're still mine. I find this really silly because I'm generally not sentimental - I toss out race medals and trophies and gifts that I don't use. But these books...

In discussing this with an avid-reader friend, he reasoned, "But, they're your friends". And he's right.

I've crossed the Antarctic with Ran and Mike; travelled to the North Pole with Pen and David; circumnavigated the Artic with Mike; climbed mountains (and have fallen off them) with Jon, Steven, Joe and others; gone back to the age of exploration with Cook, Nansen, Scott, Shackleton, Burton, Darwin... Yes, we've been through some gruelling adventures together.

That the people in these books are my friends and companions makes the most sense to explain my attachment to these adventure-genre books, especially as I'm able to discard with ease and detatch myself from so many other things. Nonetheless, I think it is silly.


Would an iPad remedy my desire to free myself of the material tie-downs? Mmmm... not sure. Fiction, fine. Non-fiction... I'll think about it. For now, I prefer my 'friends' to be tangible paper and ink.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Blood blog

Over the past month or so I have been encouraging people to donate blood in December. It's a holiday month fraught with car accidents and blood supplies, understandably, dwindle.

18-months ago I made an effort to become a regular donor again, after a few (too many) years where I didn't donate. I have maintained my regular donor status (at least three donations each year) and will continue to do so.

This morning Sarah joined me for her first donation. Our local Bruma SANBS clinic was busy (yay!). Two dudes donated at the same time as us - the one making his second donation and the other, his fourth. I've sent them pics of me, Sarah and the other dudes for their wall ;)

I've also received photos from Darrell (a regular donor for many years) and Garth.

There's loads of space on this blog so make a plan, between now and year-end, to donate. And, remember that your intention should not be once-off but to become a regular donor (this is important because all blood components are used from regular donors).

Darrell had a 'family bleed' on Thursday in Port Elizabeth.
He was accompanied by wife Evie and son Greg.

Me. I think this is my 22nd donation. I'll hit 25 next year ;)

Garth Flores in the Southern Cape.

Sarah joins the blood donor family - her first donation.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

After the sand

Flew in from Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge early Friday morning - only made it through one movie and I then slept about 5 hours! Completely comatose. It seems crazy considering that ADAC is a staged race where we generally get enough sleep.

Always nice to be home; but within hours of getting on the plane to return home my mind is working on ways to get my butt on another plane. This travel and racing bug is a nasty itch that I've had for almost a decade. Trips don't scratch the itch; they make it flare up even more! Post-race blues don't help either. I suffer from them after races, waiting for them to subside over a few weeks. Finding new events and travels helps ;)

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge
We finished up 39th out of the 49 starters; a result I'm quite happy with considering that the race was more difficult than last year and that, unlike the other participating teams, our team is selected for inexperience, not performance.

Steven, Lisa, Zelle and Lizelle
Wonderful to have THREE South African teams participating.


Teams Cyanosis, http://www.ar.co.za/ and Mzansi
Even though I kuk off in the desert just like everyone else, I still love it and this open expanse of dunes and crusty pans remains one of my favourite-favourite places.

My new desert gaiter design, which four teams - including us - wore, worked brilliantly. At the second desert checkpoint I took off my shoes to see what the sand situation was and not a grain fell out! Not a teaspoon and not even a pinch. My socks held some ultra-fine powder sand, which was easily dusted off.

I really enjoy the social aspect of the race and the cancelled paddle day (Day 5) allowed for much time to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. I'd been missing this special aspect of the race because the previous days had been long stages and non-stop rush-rush-rush from stage to transport to camp to prepping for the next stage.


My posts from during the race, photos and final thoughts on the race and female-dominated teams (still to be written) can be found on our team blog at http://www.teamwwwarcoza.blogspot.com/.

New home
At the end of November I gave notice on my cottage, where I've been living for almost two-and-a-half years. I'd sworn to be out by next winter because this place is a freezer but opportunity has presented for me to leave month-end. So, now that I'm back it's all about packing.

Before I left for Abu Dhabi I rented a storage garage. It's something I've had on my mind for ages because I have so little storage space here. And I also don't like living surrounded by stuff I don't use often - even if it is stashed in cupboards. I prefer a big open spaceAnd from adventure racing I've got things like tents, water cannisters, crates, banners... So, even after this move I plan to hang on to my 5x3m garage.

Books
Part of the packing process includes working through my books - yes, they are my vice. I've got a super collection of polar expedition, mountaineering and such books that has grown steadily over the past decade; I've even got a number that have been autographed - one of my most favourite is Ranulph Fiennes' 'Mind Over Matter' on his Antarctic man-haul expedition with Mike Stroud. I pass on fiction without hesitation but tend to hang on to my adventure books.

I've resolved to put aside some of the good-read expedition books that I'm not as deeply bonded to. I've got some friends in mind who would love to read them.

Summer flower mix
I arrived home to see my front flower bed looking lush after the rains that Jo'burg has experienced while I was away. I tossed in a 'Summer Mix' packet a few weeks ago and have been waiting for the seeds to take. The flowers won't be out before I move but I'll definitely plan to run past in late January.

Cosmos on the left and general summer flower mix on the right -
this bed is going to be so pretty and colourful.
Acroyoga
Team Yogaslackers, so named for their practise of both yoga and slacklining (and doing yoga moves on the slackline) also teach acroyoga, a multi-partner discipline that combines acrobatics and yoga. On the 'social' day they did a demonstration and then invited us to give it a try. I absolutely loved it and learned a number of fabulous party-trick moves and stretches.

Acroyoga, also known as trust yoga, is not as much about twisting like a pretzel and humming as it is about using your body weight and that of your partner in counter-balance moves. It is incredibly graceful. I've tracked down some workshops in Jo'burg for January.

There are definite strength, core and balance parallels to pole fitness/dancing, which I've been doing for over 2.5 years.

This is a video on YouTube of Jason and Chelsey from Yogaslackers working through a series of moves. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqMh4SRnd9E

I've done the move on the left, both as base and flyer. Amazing hamstring stretch.
Images from http://www.acroyoga.org/
Donating blood
It's December, a holiday period when blood stocks are always low because of the high volume of accidents on our roads. Last month I began encouraging you to donate blood this month and to send me a photo of you at the donor clinic for a photo montage. I've only got two photos so far.

It doesn't matter in which country you are - go and donate blood. Please. It will only take you 15-30 minutes from when you walk in the door and start on the forms to when you walk out after donating and downing some cookies and juice. And email me your photo.

I'm going to my local Bruma SANBS clinic on Wednesday. Probably at about 09h00. If you're in the area, join me there. Otherwise, go to your nearest clinic or mobile unit (http://www.sanbs.org.za/).

Forget about spending hours in malls spending money on stuff that your friends and family don't need. Rather spend a half-hour at a donor clinic as your gift during this season of giving.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Ready for ADAC

After six months of preparation with my new team, we're ready for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge. I'm racing with Steven Erasmus, Lizelle van der Merwe and Lizelle Smit.

We packed our crates this afternoon and will hit the airport by 10h30 tomorrow (Monday) morning. We arrive in Abu Dhabi at midnight and will be picked up and taken to the race hotel. The hotel is the Park Rotana, where we stayed last year. It's divine - 5 Star, friendly and stylish. What a treat!

So often friends and family confuse Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Sure, Dubai has, in the past, had more PR. But it's like getting Jo'burg and Cape Town mixed up; or New York and Washington.

Abu Dhabi is the 'sporty' Emirate. They're really working hard to position themselves as a sporting and outdoor environment destination. Abu Dhabui Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi Triathlon, Marathon, Red Bull Air Race, power boating champs, tennis, cricket and, of course, Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, which is an amazing showcase of the terrain and environment.

The other two teams - Cyanosis and Mzansi - fly out on Tuesday. We'll spend Tuesday and Wednesday doing touristy things - gonna be so much fun.

I've put relevant links on the front page of http://www.ar.co.za/ to follow blog postings to our team blog (http://www.teamwwwarcoza.blogspot.com/) and live tracking through the event website at http://www.abudhabi-adventure.com/.

You'll hear from me on the other side. Till then... bye!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Desert gaiters, v3

Since last year's Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, I've been cooking up modifications to make to my previous desert gaiter designs (2009 version).

Although my design last year worked really well, the main problem was getting to the laces and also the hassle of getting your shoes on and off. The thing is that the gaiter was stitched to the shoe - by hand. There was a velcro-sealed 'window' to access the laces. But, the design needed work.

This time I've gone with a more traditional approach of having the gaiter around the whole shoe, attached by velcro. We've had the velcro stitched around the base of the upper, by a cobbler.

In additon the gaiter has some neat innovations to accommodate different shoe sizes (we've made two patterns - the smaller one is good for up to a UK8.5 or so. The bigger one is from a UK9 and up) and to tighten the neck, especially for going down big dunes.

We've made four sets; for us (Team AR, white), for Cyanosis (cyan blue), Msanzi (a kinda chartreuse) and GRM Loggerheads (Abu Dhabi team of Aussies; a fun floral pattern).

On Saturday I went to my mom's place to help her finish off a new modification to the shape of the front. We were having such a nightmare because the sewing machine (a new one!) kept seizing and wouldn't sew a stitch. We were in a panic because we had so many to finish off.

We dismantled the holder that the bobbin goes into. Like the needles, which we were chaging regularly, it gunked up with adhesive from the velcro. We cleaned it up with turps and tried again. And then it seized again.

We couldn't figure it out because we'd been sewing these before without this amount of hassle. We wondered whether this was a different brand of adhesive velcro that our local store was bringing in? This whole headache took about two hours. I then got the idea to put the gaiters in the freezer to chill the adhesive, thinking that it was nothing more than the heat causing all the problems. It worked! The problem was that in the heat the adhesive was more sticky so it was gunking up everything and we could barely force the machine through a few centimetres.

We modified and completed 10 pairs in the next two hours with me cutting, pinning, sticking and running up and down the stairs between the freezer and the sewing machine. Hahaha ;)

Desert gaiter sewing is definitely best suited to winter.

Do you eat it?

I like this. Works for me. Unless it's a blob of mashed potato that goes 'splat', I'd probably eat it. Then again, it depends on the surface that the food item lands on. The ground (grass and regular dirt)? For sure. A pavement in downtown Jo'burg? No way.


Four out of five Kinetic Adventure wins

Yesterday was the fifth and final event of this year's Kinetic Adventure sprint series. It was held at Hennops Pride, an area near Hartees that I know from orienteering.

This time I was racing with Lizelle and Vicky. Lizelle has been in the team the whole year, taking Debbie's place. Lauren, an original team member, raced the first two events of the year with me and Lizelle. She's been doing a trail guide course, which she recently finished, so her weekends have been filled with outdoor components of the course. Lizelle Smit, one of my Abu Dhabi teammates, did the next two events with us; and Vix jumped in for this last one.

Lizelle, Lisa, Vix and Calvin

This event was easy on the nav and tricky on the bike, with technical biking on slippy and rocky terrain. We made sure to keep our lips sealed on the short paddle on the Hennops River. Last time I did a race out here - on a nearby farm - we tubed on the river and I spent a good 12hrs next day in the bathroom, unable to move more than a few metres from the loo. Let's just say that there are more bacterium in this river than a children's pre-school... and that's quite something!

Vix plays piggy-in-the-middle
Overall we had a smooth race to take the podium for the fourth time this year in the women's team category. We came second in one of the earlier events.

Lisa, Lizelle van der Merwe and Vicky Wirsam Wagner
Our thanks to Triumph for sponsoring our girly team for the second year. We're through-and-through Triumph girls - it's the best support a sporty woman can have.

Heidi and Stephan (and your team of helpers) - wow! You have done so well again this year to continually improve the courses, venues, variety at the events and a wonderful vibe at the race. Thank you for all those hundreds of hours you've put in to present these funfilled events.

* Photos by The Big Baboon

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Ran fan

I've been an avid follower of Sir Ranulph Fiennes for about a decade. In 2002 I scraped together my pennies (I had very, very few of them at the time) to buy a ticket for a seat at a breakfast function where he was a guest speaker. I had a few words with Ran after the breakfast, during the book signing. Yes, I have a very treasured, signed-copy of 'Mind of Matter', Ran's account of his epic trans-Antarctic man-haul expedition with Mike Stroud (I've got Mike's book too).

I've got a good number of Ran's books - stories of expeditions, biographies... I recently discovered that my copy of 'Atlantis of the Sands', Ran's story about finding the lost city of Ubar in Oman, is missing. If you've got it, please return it...

Although Ran is not on my dream-date list, which is currently topped by Alexander Skarsgard and Felix Baumgartner, I would absolutely love to have dinner with him. Or lunch. Or brunch. Or just coffee. Or even five-minutes sitting on a park bench. We'd have so much to talk about. He also just seems like a nice chap.

Anyway, last week, while working on FEAT for Cape Town in Feb, I thought I'd drop Ran an email. Imagine having 'The Worlds Greatest Living Explorer' at FEAT! I have such a super topic in mind for him.

I received a reply from Ran last night - the best invitation decline I've ever received.
Many thanks for your kind invitation of FEAT. Sadly my 2010-2014 diary is jam-packed with expedition preparation, charity fundraisers and paid conference events. But my thanks for thinking of me as a presenter.

I replied to say that I hoped to catch him in 2015, by which time FEAT would be a global phenomenon, celebrating adventurers around the world.

Of interest, Ran is now 66 years young and still going strong.

2015 is only four years away. I look forward to meeting him then ;)

Monday, 22 November 2010

A second FEAT

Yes, the news is official! FEAT is coming to Cape Town in Feb 2011. The 12th, to be exact.

As a personal note - I have special thanks to FEAT's sponsors, who I saw in Cape Town recently. It is special to have such super brands on board and also to have their unhesitating support for this event. FEAT will go through so much growth over the next few years; and I have no doubt that it wouldn't be half possible without this support.

The official announcement is below.

What do you get when you have two handfuls of adventurers assembled under a theatre roof – invited to talk on recent expeditions and topics related to adventure – with legendary runner Bruce Fordyce as the MC to introduce the speakers? It’s FEAT, an evening of time-limited talks on adventure sports and expeditions. FEAT comes to Cape Town for the first time, in February 2011.


The inaugural event, held in October in Jo’burg, was sold out two weeks before the night. Feedback from the audience confirmed that while they’d expected FEAT to be good, they didn’t expect to experience ‘mind-blowing’, ‘inspirational’ and ‘awesome’. More than one audience member left the theatre wondering how to get a few weeks off work to undertake an adventure they’ve dreamt about!

“What an amazing event and what brilliant speakers,” says FEAT MC, Bruce Fordyce. “The format was perfect for keeping the pace fast and exciting. I sat spellbound listening to each dynamic presentation. It was an honour and privilege to share the stage with such special people.”

FEAT director, Lisa de Speville, says that the Cape Town event has an exotic mix of speakers. “We have a few names that people will recognise from mainstream media exposure, like ocean-rower Peter van Kets and ultra-distance runner and tv presenter Braam Malherbe. We also have people whose names the public won’t recognise – and this is just what FEAT is about. It is a platform to promote and publicise adventurous exploits by any South African.” De Speville adds that these speakers have completed exciting adventures and their accomplishments are inspiring.

Seven of the ten speakers at FEAT CT are Allyson Towle with Marc Booysen, Braam Malherbe, Howard Fairbank, Monde Sitole, Peter van Kets, Tatum Prins, Team CounterBalance (Alan Read, Donna Kisogloo and Johnny Cronje). Presentation topics cover mountaineering, mountain unicycling, ultra-distance running expeditions, adventure racing, ocean rowing, adventuring lifestyle, a North Pole expedition and tall ship sailing. The final three speakers are still to be confirmed. Speaker bios are available on the FEAT website.

FEAT celebrates the achievements of South African adventurers, bringing their outdoor experiences indoors. FEAT is the ultimate armchair adventure experience.

FEAT will be held in Cape Town on Saturday, 12 February 2011, at the Artscape Theatre on the Foreshore. Tickets will be available through Computicket from early December 2010.

FEAT is made possible by its sponsors – Black Diamond, Buff, CAPESTORM and Hi-Tec – and media partners, http://www.ar.co.za/ and Go Multi Magazine. For more information, visit the FEAT website at http://www.featsa.co.za/ and FEAT page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/featsa. Photos and videos of talks, from the inaugural FEAT event held in Jo’burg in October 2010, can be viewed on these websites.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

What does your mall face look like?

A couple of weeks ago I assisted a client with a mall activation. She co-authored a book (now in its second edition) and we promote it through various avenues. It has been on the cards for months to have a table in our local mall and to gauge the response. The response was good with some post-event follow-ups. But, what I found most interesting was our interaction with people - only if you've done something like this can you completely understand.

Passersby are either friendly and interactive, happy to take the small card to look at (some stop to chat and ask advice, which we were there to give); they acknowledge you and walk swiftly past; or they completely ignore you, not making eye contact. There are open faces with warm eyes, blank faces that are devoid of emotion (and personality) and sad faces - a few very sad faces with owners I wanted to hug.

This experience got me thinking: what does my mall face look like?

As a school pupil I recall doing a charity collection, with a money box, for a charity supported by my school. A majority of people rushed past, completely ignoring us. At varsity I did a few years of Wits Rag magazine sales at traffic intersections. Again you get the people who buy with a smile, those who acknowledge and say 'no thanks' and those zombies to stare straight ahead, trying to wish you away.

This is something I absolutely hate. I'm one for a simple "yes" or "no". The actual answer is never the issue, it's the acknowledgement. Do you want to come for lunch? Yes/No. Here are free tickets for FEAT, would you like to come? Yes/No.

As such, I've always made a point of acknowledging people handing out flyers (yes, I do take them) on street corners, those begging for food or money and even those pesky window washers and car guards. If they persist and mess with me, I'll tell them where to go, but I always acknowledge them. In malls I accept flyers, smile at those manning stands and I'll occasionally stop to chat if the display is of interest.

I've just started reading Riaan Manser's 'Around Africa on my bicycle'. In the very beginning he comments about his mall experiences when he set up displays in malls to publicise his expedition. Of this he says:

Many of the people were interested in my journey and my ideas, while most would chat for a few minutes and then wish me lots of luck before leaving. Not all, though. Some people thought I was raising money and waved me away as I approached to give them a brochure. But I laughed off the occasional rude rebuff; such miserable people damaged themselves and those who had to live around them, not me. I was amazed at how they stood out like sore thumbs among the thousands who passed my stand, positively radiating negativity, and I remember thinking that I didn't want to be like them - regardless of what they might have had in terms of material wealth, I wanted to be on the other side of the equation as a human being.
When you hit the mall this weekend, give some thought to what your mall face looks like and how you interact with these strangers. They're people too.

Friday, 19 November 2010

SPAM emails vs spam emails

There are SPAM emails that offer medications, wrist watches and various other items; and also those lottery and banking scams. And then there are spam emails from well-intentioned people who don't have a clue.

The dictionary definition of spam is "a disruptive, esp. commercial message posted on a computer network or sent as e-mail".

Occasionally, depending on my mood, I reply to them. I like to think of it as public relations activism ;)

My pet hates include emails with attachments (big PDFs) from people I don't know with nothing but a signature and phone numbers in the email message; and also those postings that ask me to click on a link to something when I don't know either the person or their company.

Something else that drives me insane is when people don't bother to respond for months - even a one word reply that says, "Cool" or "Nice" or "Ok" or "Done". And then, out of the blue they email me asking for help/advice or to do something for them when they've friggin' ignored me... hrrumpf! I'm taking a stand on these too.

My theory is that if you want something from someone, even their attention, you should take a few minutes to communicate clearly with them.

I received an email late last night from a guy in Cape Town. I replied. He replied. I replied. He replied. He seems like a decent guy and his work is probably credible and good, but he doesn't have a clue when it comes to emails. Perhaps our interaction will be of benefit to his business.

The emails follow in chronological order. I've change his company name to 'Yellow Banana', which is not its real name. I'm in purple. 'Joe' is in blue. (Cee, I know you'll enjoy this).

Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2010 11:45 PM
Subject: Yellow Banana website has launched

Hi Lisa,

Hope you are well. Check out www.yellowbanana.co.za to view our new site.

Cheers

Joe
Creative Director
(with contact details)


On 19 Nov 2010, at 12:19 AM, Lisa @ AR wrote:


Heya Joe,

Mmmm... Am I meant to know what this is? Can't place you either. Out of context - and it is late.


And I don't click on links unless I know what it is about...


Lisa


Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 12:31 AM

Hi Lisa,


It's just a link to our new website showcasing some of our work. Yellow Banana is a graphic design company. I sent out a whole bunch of automated emails to my entire address book.


I can't place you either, but if you need any design work done you now know who to call ; )

Keep well

Joe
Creative Director



On 19 Nov 2010, at 8:26 AM, Lisa @ AR wrote:


Heya Joe,

Here's a tip... (I'm in public relations and media).


Your first email looks like spam - which it is. I emailed back because I do that occasionally when people don't seem to have a clue. Don't take offense from my comment, it just is. And if my reply to you can make a difference and stop stupid emails in my inbox, then I've succeeded.

If you want people to interact and respond to what you send out, especially when people don't know who the hell you are, then write them a decent email.

I have amended what you sent me - I've made up the content, obviously.


Hi Lisa,


Hope you are well.

Our company, Yellow Banana, is a graphic design company based in Cape Town. We have recently revamped our website to showcase some of our work from this year. Although our gallery of flyers and brochures is striking, we specialise in the design of company logos, creating something to complement the spirit of the organisation. Our favourites from 2010 include the whacky character spiral for Monkey Pie, the green-themed baobab illustration for Bigger 'n Better and 'James', the friendly frog for the Frog Preservation Society.


Our new website can be viewed at www.yellowbanana.co.za. To view our favourite designs from this year, click on the link for 'Gallery'.


Cheers

Joe
Creative Director

Lisa


Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 10:55 AM


Thanks Lisa, have a wonderful day.


Cheers

Joe
Creative Director

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

We need a Mr Condom here too

My day job is as project manager for a sporting programme supported by UNICEF. We place coaches in schools earmarked by Dept of Education as bad in all manner of social evils: drug and alcohol abuse, violence (ja, stabbings and all, at school!), gangsterism, high absenteeism, failure rates, HIV affected, child-headed households and teenage pregnancy. Sport is used as a tool to teach life skills as well as providing the children with regular exercise and an activity alternative to hanging out in gangs, drinking away the afternoons.

A recent component of our programme has been a mass talent identification testing project and we've encountered large numbers of girls - in a range of grades - who didn't take part because they were pregnant. *sigh*

I'm a big supporter of contraceptives (of any form) and I do believe that there is no reason why, in this day and age, women should fall pregnant without intention - provided they are educated about family planning and have access to contraceptives. Life is tough enough without being young, unemployed and pregnant. Oh, and add HIV infected to the mix for good measure...

One of my most favourite TED Talks is this one, by Mechai Viravaidya, also known as Mr Condom in Thailand. Mechai spoke at a recent TEDx event. I'm a big fan.

We have HIV Awareness programmes as well as contraceptive education in schools and yet we have this ever increasing rate of HIV infections and pregnancies. There's a difference about knowing and accessing. I believe that Mr Condom has nailed it with accessibility of contraceptives, empowerment of women and also a societal responsibility to reducing family size for a better quality of life for the community.

 Imagine being able to go to your local spaza shop and to be able to get family planning advice and your contraceptive pills (plus condoms for infection protection) with a loaf of bread and a litre of milk. Contraception is not rocket science.

This whole doctor/nurse/clinic setup that we have is difficult for too many people to access (large distances, lack of transport...). Government provides child-grants for women with children (this is contentious because rumour has it that women - young ones especially - have children to get the grants, which they don't use for child-care)...

What about financial facilities and incentives for non-pregnant women? Like micro-credit and assistance with setting up businesses? As Mr Condom says, "If you're pregnant, take care of your pregnancy; if you're not pregnant, you can take a loan out from us". And these non-pregnant women contribute to their communities.

I love Mechai's 'Vasectomy Festival'. I cannot count how many male friends I've told to go for a snip. They've had children and don't want any more - but they just don't go. Dudes, you've still got that rifle, it just ain't got any live ammo. Stop being so chicken, irresponsible and self-centred. Your wife shouldn't have to keep taking artificial hormones when you could go for a little procedure. Geezzz... I've done this to rats - it really isn't a big deal.

Interestingly, Mr Condom's primary goal is not population and HIV control, it's about raising the standard of living of people in his country. But, it starts with population control.

I recently did some school visits in the Free State - schools under my wing where our coaches assist with Life Orientation teaching and sports coaching. Every school has a feeding scheme where they provide the children with lunch; beans and samp, pap and gravy or such. This is probably their main decent meal for the day. We've got 36,000 children that our coaches access weekly - and that's only in 71 schools of the thousands in SA.

Most of the children can't take part in after-school activities because they have to rush home to take care of younger siblings. These child-headed households are a serious and sad reality.

We have a poverty problem AND we have a population problem. Dealing with the latter goes a long way to fixing the former - it may take 30 or 40 years, but Mr Condom has proved that it works.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Friendly running

I don't often run with people because I generally don't like being tied to fixed running times. Paddling fixtures work well (afterall, I usually paddle double!); but for running I like variability.

That said, a few years ago I used to run every Friday night, during a winter, with a friend who lived nearby. We'd go out for about two hours, touring through the suburb under cover of night. My regular circuit training group, which has been somewhat irregular since June, is also great fun. Circuit is something that is way more enjoyable when done with friends. I also enjoy irregular run outings with friends - these are usually trips to Suikerbosrand, most often with Tony, who loves the place too.

Yesterday I had a treat, a lovely afternoon road run with Tania, my orienteering and rogaining buddy. We set this date about two months ago! I met Tania at her place in Bryanston for a 16h00 run. Driving to her place my car's thermometer read 36C - ja, a hot afternoon.

Bryanston is a leafy suburb so we kept mostly to shaded pavements as we ran and chatted without interruption. Although we see each other at orienteering events, the opportunity to really catch up is rare. Events are usually little more than "Hi" and "Bye" greetings.

Glorious summer afternoon - running in 34C temperature. Very sweaty post-run. With Tania.
Lives filled with work, training, events, hobbies and other committments (children, family etc) leave too little time to be spent with friends. I certainly don't have the balance right, which is why my run yesterday, with Tania, was a special treat and thoroughly enjoyable for the activity and even more for her company.

Friday, 12 November 2010

What are you doing now?

Last night I was watching a YouTube clip with a friend about a guy who suffered major injury and then decided to undertake a physical challenge for a cause. He could barely walk and he completed the distance in a time exponentially greater than you or I would do it in.

While I think it is great that he has these goals and he's on a mission, I'm not completely moved. There are many other examples just like this one.

Why? Well, the questions I asked my friend was, "Why does it take tragedy or a near-death experience for people to live?" and "What did he do before the accident?".

About a year ago at my local blood donor clinic the sister told me that 89% of regular blood donors only start donating after they have received blood (operation, accident, illness). I don't see much difference between this and people waking up (figuratively) after a car accident and deciding to run a marathon, when they would have impatiently waited for a parking space closest to the mall entrance pre-accident.

Friends, wake up now. Don't wait for some life-changing incident to remind you how precious it is to be here and now. Love with abandon, strive to have job you enjoy, live where you're happiest (and with whom you're happiest), participate in any event or activity that catches your fancy and stop saving those words for another day.

Some, like the injured guy in the clip, get a second chance to do what they should have done during their 'first life'. Others don't.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Triple Challenge, triple fun

Yesterday (Sunday), I did my first Triple Challenge with ADAC teammate Adri. It's a super event that has been around for years - organised by ex-adventure racer, Max Cluer.

My report on the race is up on our team blog at http://teamwwwarcoza.blogspot.com/2010/11/triple-challenge-all-day-racing.html. You'll also find contributions from Lizelle, Steven and Adri too.

Lisa and Adri

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Donor December

I've decided that December will be a good month to encourage everyone I know (and that's a lot of people!) to donate blood. It's a time of year when around 1400 people will die on SA's roads. That said, the stats are just for the people who die; what about those who are seriously injured. It can take 25-60 units of blood to save one person's life!

So... please donate blood during December and if you are not a regular donor, see this as the start of becoming one. You need to donate at least three times a year to be classified as a regular donor in that your blood is safe and all components are used. Once-off donations make you feel good, but they're not totally useful.

SANBS needs to collect 3000 units every day; my local clinic is happy when they get 10 donations a day - they average just over 300 a month - not much eh?

I'm going to my local Bruma SANBS donation centre on Wednesday, 22 December 2010. Join me there or go to your local centre (find one here) any time during December. Please ask a nurse to take a photo of you donating and then email it to me. I'll make a nice-nice montage of the photos ;)

I've written a couple of posts about donating blood over the last year when I decided to regain my status as a regular blood donor. They explain how donation works, how blood is used etc.

http://adventurelisa.blogspot.com/2009/12/three-pints-in-six-months.html (30 December 2009)
http://adventurelisa.blogspot.com/2009/10/o-so-special.html (1 October 2009)
http://adventurelisa.blogspot.com/2009/05/blood-donor-day-12-june-2009.html (27 May 2009)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Waiting for the phone to ring

This evening I stopped at the DVD store to pick up a movie for tonight. I've had the past two days in Bloem and Welkom for work, visiting schools. The downside is that because teleportation is a no-go, we drove - and covered 1120km over the two days. I'm bombed and so in the mood for a good movie.

Walking out of the store a tall, slightly overweight young guy stops me. When he started with 'a story', I flat-out asked him, "Tell me straight what you want? Money?". You know the 'usual' hit for taxi money, money to feed three children etc.

In essence, yes, that's what he wanted.

Although I rarely hand out money (I prefer to give food, like to the people at the traffic lights) I was irritated. 20 minutes back in Jo'burg and I'm being hit for money already! And, the thing is that my heart goes out to every person on every street corner who begs for money because the reality really is that in most cases they haven't got a hope in hell of getting a job. And while some become successful entrepreneurs out of necessity, too many more can't make ends meet.

The only money I had in my wallet were two R2 coins and one R1 coin and a few 5c and 10c. I gave them to him. He thanked me but really looked distressed and out of place. I listened.

David said he was in Jo'burg, from Cape Town, because a guy offered him a job and he came up here to meet up with him and to start work; but the guy hadn't shown up. He asked me if I knew if there was a shelter in the area. I didn't but I suggested that he ask the nearby car guards.

As I type this next part you'll probably think, "Geezzz, this chick is a sucker". Maybe, maybe not.

He says he doesn't have a place to stay and now this job-promising guy hasn't shown up (would have been yesterday or the day before that the guy was meant to meet David). He wants to go home to CT, where he can return to his old job (cleaner), but travelling by bus is more expensive than the train, which is R280. He has R60.

My mind was working double-time because I just had this heart-wrenching feeling for this guy. I was thinking how hard it would be to try to get five Rand and 10 Rand from untrusting Jo'burgers at a shopping centre when he has no place to stay and no job. It could take days; and where would he stay and get food? I decided to give him the balance of the money.

To add here that David is a tall, big guy with a kind face. This face also was very distressed and while talking to me he was very hesitant, on the verge of tears and his eyes were scared. Just as I trust my ability to choose a team for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge from superifical written applications, so I trust my judgement of people in person.

I get very emotional about situations like this because there are things about this world that I so hate and that distress me greatly - like people in need. I hate that by necessity I say no to people too many times each day when I pass them on roadsides, outside malls, inside grocery stores (yes, I'm accosted in-store occasionally too!); I hate that there are so many people who are desperate; I hate that people don't help each other because they've been scammed so many times that they don't trust...

Needless to say, I was in tears and I told him that I would give him the balance he needed because I wanted him to go home to Cape Town and to get out of Jo'burg. I told him to stay where he was. I went to the ATM in the complex and returned with the balance for his train fare plus a few Rand extra.



I told David to go home; not to ever again leave his job and home and head to a Province where you don't know a soul, without a cent in your pockets to get back if it doesn't work out, just because some guy has said he has a job for you (he agreed and said he'd learned a lesson here); that I was giving him my money because there have been so many people in my life who have been kind to me; and because I may have been the one in his shoes and that I would hate to be in the position where I needed help and noone would help me.

He asked where to get a taxi to Eastgate, to get the one going to the train station. I gave him a lift as Eastgate is nearby and on my way. We chatted in the car. I was no longer in tears, but he was teary. He said he was offered a job (no, I didn't ask by whom or how he had initially met the guy) that paid more than what he was earning in Cape Town. He said he's a cleaner and he earns R900 there; but that he realises that the R900 he earns is better than nothing and it pays for food. He wanted to earn more (who doesn't!) so he came here. I get the feeling that David and his mom live together. He's 26.

David reminds me a bit of those pretty, young women who flock to Hollywood to be models or actresses; they are spotted by 'agents' in their home towns who promise to make their dreams come true and they arrive with nothing but their clothing to find no agent and no work...

We also spoke about his job and I suggested that he stick with the job he has in CT for now and also look at other avenues like working double jobs - cleaner by day, waiter by night - to earn more. It means working double jobs but that this may present him with other opportunities. He hadn't considered this.

We also spoke a bit about trust - in the sense of people helping a stranger. I think he had been at the shopping centre for much of the day. He has probably been brushed off by so many people. It is soul destroying. He noted how people won't stop at all and I commented how they're asked so many times a day for handout or such like that they're just not interested and that they've been scammed before so they don't even want to go there.

Anyway, I dropped David off at the taxi stop and said that I didn't know how it worked here; he said he'd ask one of the people standing around. I wished him luck and safe travel home as he retrieved his large togbag from the back seat.

The train leaves in the morning and David will be safe in the waiting room tonight. I've given him my number with instructions to call me from an 021 (Cape Town) number to let me know that he has arrived home safely.

Sure, there's that little nagging feeling - born of learned distrust of people in need - that I may have been scammed. But, I also have this feeling that David is a decent guy who made a bad decision, lured by the glimmer of something better, something more for his life - offered by a dishonest stranger. And for this error David ends up stranded in an unfamiliar city with no place to stay and no way to get home... It is anyone's worst nightmare. And he isn't a man of means with cash in hand to solve the problem.

So, I'm holding on to my belief in people and my judgement of this decent, young chap. The train arrives in Cape Town on Thursday afternoon; I'll be waiting for his phone call.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Wonderful day of rogaining

This year's Capestorm Rogaine, the foot one, on Saturday was fabulous. Held in the forested Kaapschehoop area, it was a pine-scented and hilly run with perfect weather.

For reference, Kaapschehoop is off the N4, past Waterfal Boven but before Nelspruit. Steven and I were running together and we stayed in a comfy little house with Tony and Kate. With the rogaine only starting at 08h30, it was not a crack-of-dawn alarm wake up, thank goodness! The start was a quick drive from the town and through the forests.

When we got our maps at the start, Steven and I took a while to decide to run North or South; and then clockwise or anti-clockwise. North had the same number of max point score controls but less of the middle ones. I didn't have much recollection of the area from when I ran here in 2006 with Tania. We ran South and I'd mountain biked the following day in the North. That was as much as I could remember.

Anyway, Steven and I decided to run South as there were a couple of low scoring options North and close to 'home' that we'd be able to grab if we had time. Our route went clockwise from the event centre towards Kaapschehoop, then very far South and then coming back North-west. We chose to run clockwise because of the gradient - it looked like we'd have some nice long downhills to run.

In terms of navigation - not a helluva lot of choice. As mentioned the options were North, South, clockwise or anti-clockwise. And whatever your choice, most ran the same routes. Navigational difficulty was easy - perhaps too easy, especially with the higher scoring controls. Sure, they're far from the event centre, but I think that the decision to get them should be based not just on how fast you can run to them, but also how difficult (how much time) the control would be to locate. The only thing with this is that on a 1:35,000 map, it is hard to make the controls to a comparable orienteering difficulty because you don't have the detail on the map.


The full map.
Without much in the way of route choice and easy navigation, winners will be those that run like hell. Very, very few opportunities to go cross-country through the forests (nasty quality forest floors - faster to run the roads). And when we did cut through, it was very short sections. Results showed groups of pairs with the same point-score (there were only 30 controls) - many pairs got the same controls.
Map trimmed to show only the southern section that we ran. Our route superimposed. Logged on an igot-U unit and then imported into QuickRoute. The shading on our route indicates speed; green being fastest and red being slowest (where we would have been walking).
Steven and I had a great day and we ran well together. Temperatures climbed in the morning until about 11h30. We were really hoping for rain - we got a few drops and enjoyed the drop in temperature, which continued for the rest of the race.

A favourite part of the route was the fabulous long running from #29 (far South) to #28, through #16, #30, #20 and to #19. It was mostly down with few ups so we ran a lot here and enjoyed the cool shade of the forest, lovely scents and fabulous running. We especially loved the section running down to #14 and then down towards the river. Here the forest quality allowed us to go cross-country through the forest - bounding through a thick layer of pine needles. Older forest and just absolutely beautiful.

On reaching the finish, we discovered that those who ran North first cleaned up there and still had time to pick up some of the closer southern controls. Running in the North was more exposed with less shade but it was faster than the South.

We ran almost the same southern route that Nicholas Mulder and Ryno Griesel (race winners) ran, but in reverse. The main difference would have been to run #16, #14, #21, #30, #20, #19 and then #8, on the way to the finish. We did #16, #30, #20, #19, #21, #14, #1 and finish. Truthfully, it would have been more uphill for us and we wouldn't have had the lovely run that we did. We also doubt that we would have made it in time... we got to the finish with about 13 minutes to spare and we had a delicious downhill from #1 to the end. It would have been a longer uphill from #8 to the finish and taking into account being slower on more uphill... I think what we did worked well for us. Nic and Ryno cleaned up in the South and then cleaned up most of the controls in the North too!

Nic's route (as the crow flies) in blue. Nic ran this North to South (#8 to #16). This could have been an option for us to run in order to get #8, which was out of reach with our route.
I haven't seen the final results but I can commend Nic and Ryno for collecting a very impressive 700 points! There was another pair a bit below with around 600 points and then a bunch of us with 530 or 510. We got 510 (I seem to recall there were about four pairs with 510) and were ranked 7th overall. This would have been provisional, not final results. Steven and I covered 46km.

A big thank you to Ian, Craig, George and the other ROC members involved in putting on this event. My year wouldn't be quite the same without rogaining every October - it's a favourite-favourite event ;)

Ian Bratt doing race briefing

Steven and I before the start
A nice bit of through-forest traversing from #17. Here we were with a pair from Stanford Lake College - these guys did really well. The most the one guy had ever run was 10km! I unfortunately didn't get to chat to them at the finish.
A little stone house on the way to #22
Wild horses between #22 and #29. Kaapschehoop is known for their approx. 200 wild horses. We lost the 'youngsters'  a little after this when Steven and I stopped at a 'pond' to fill up with water. We saw them twice after this and lost them for good at #16.
Little froggie on the water reservoir at #28. Lots of froggies here.
Steven was taken with this tree on the out-and-back road to #20
Sign in the town of Kaapschehoop ;) Aside from the incorrect use of apostrophes, it's cute (should be kids, cats, dogs, frogs, no apostrophe). Pic taken Sunday morning during a walk around town.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Whip out those knitting needles

My suburb has a pro-active community headed by the I Love Kensington Association. They do many community projects and the most recent one that they're getting on board with is an initiative to provide something like 7200 knitted blankets to organisations working with abused women and children.

I don't always get very involved with all of ILKA's activities but when things like neighbourhood clean ups or flower planting come up and I'm around, then I lend a hand. And I can certainly knit a square or four over the next month.

The whole gig with this blanket thing (it's a Knit-a-thon and family-a-thon) is that all the donated squares will be sewn into blankets (1mx1.5m); completed blankets are number one prize. On 4 December, the blankets will be spread out on a rugby field and joined together to make a record-sized blanket (they'll then be separated again for donation to organisations involved with women and child abuse).

So... I'm roping in friends to help me make up a couple of blankets to contribute.

To give you some guidance...
  • I'm using 3.5mm needles and inexpensive single-colour, 4-ply (double knit) wool (Elle Family Knit - available at any fabric/knitting store).
  • Please use YELLOW, BLACK and WHITE wool only - http://www.ar.co.za/ colours.
  • 25cm squares
  • It takes around 68 stitches to get 25cm in width. And then you knit until you get 25cm in length. Remember to fold your square into a triangle to check that sides are even.
  • I'm knitting patterns into the single-colour squares, for fun. I found a whole lot of easy patterns for squares using only knit and purl - like basket weave, checks and diamonds - on the Halfknits website. Patterns will make each square more interesting and also offers tactile variety for children.
Please email me directly if you're keen to participate and to knit a pair of squares, or more (the lady at the wool shop seems to think we'll get two of three squares from one ball of wool). Knitting is for boys too - don't be lazy gents.

Finally, as I've never gotten the hang of crochet, I'll need some assistance joining the squares together. I'll make a cake ;)

Some images below for inspiration.

Here they're using more than one colour per square. Pretty.

I especially love the patterns knitted into the single-colour squares

Again, pattern knitted into the square. Nice.

It's rogaine time!

This weekend bring with it one of my favourite-favourite annual events, the 8hr Foot Capestorm Rogaine. Yes, 8hrs of running in, through and around forests in search of controls - as many as you can nab in 8hrs. The key is getting back 'home' within the 8hr period, or risk losing points with every minute that you're late.

I always describe rogaining to people as a version of orienteering where you receive a map with controls scattered all over the area and you have a limited time period to 'collect' as many controls as you can. But, it's a bit more than this because it isn't about getting as many controls as possible; it's about getting as many points as possible.

The controls are points ranked; those that are further away from the event centre and more challenging have a higher point allocation than those that are easier to get and closer. Ideally participants should not be able to get all the controls on the course so this brings in a strategic element because the team with the most number of points wins.

This means that you need to plan your route really well to sweep efficiently through the course.

In past years I've run with a mix of people - most often with my orienteering buddy, Tania. The women's trophy is ours ;) This year Tania is away so I'm running mixed pair with my Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge teammate, Steven. He's keen on developing his navigation skills so rogaine will be great for him, even though the controls are not as technical as regular orienteering.

This year we're in the Kaapschehoop forests; recent years have been at Lakenvlei. I haven't been to Kaapschehoop since... mmm... maybe 2005? The rogaine was held there again in 2007, but I was overseas so I missed the event. It will be fun to be back in this area - almost like running in virgin terrain.

Hip-hip-hooray!

Ah... World Rogaine Champs (WRC) in NZ (South Island, just North of Christchurch) are coming up in late November and Nicholas and Ryno will be taking part! I ran in the previous WRC in Estonia in 2008 with my friend Heather Graz. It was quite an experience (and freezing cold!). These are 24hr rogaining events and I think they stand out as my most favourite duration. World Champs are only held every second year and I hope to make it to the next one in 2012.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Cocoons

My silkworm cocoons.

I have no recollection from childhood of this massive variation in the colour of the cocoons. I seem to remember them all being dark yellow? I thought that the way to change their silk colour was to feed them other leaves, like beetroot for red and cabbage to white.



Hymenoptera (bees, wasps).
Silkies are Lepidoptera
(butterfly, moth family)
My silkies all ate the same leaves and they lived in the same box under the same conditions. They started spinning way before their siblings, who a guy from work kept. There were hundreds of them! I think that mine got so big and started to spin first was because I had a small number in a big box - 'goldfish' effect perhaps?

There was no correlation between first spinners and later spinners and the colour of the cocoon. It's quite remarkable. Also, the worms were all big and yet some (lazy buggers) spun small cocoons. 

My little friend and I were reading up on the web this week on what was happening inside the cocoon. Yes, that big word... metamorphosis! Silkworms undergo a complete metamorphosis, which is called holometabolism. We learned the difference between a pupa and a chrysalis too.

And, we learned what happens to all those silkworm pupa that are 'left over' when the cocoons are used for silk. Yes, they're eaten - steamed, boiled, fried, canned... Known as beondegi, they're a popular snack food (for entertainment, try a Google Images search on beondegi).


Now we wait for the moths to emerge. The first should be out this week. Amazing what happens in two weeks! An incredible transformation and re-engineering. It's got me thinking of the 80's movie, The Fly.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Get a... what?

On Saturday I attended a sporty lunch where one of the ladies, who follows my blog, was asking after my silkworms and their progression from fat worms to cocoons. She asked whether I had made them spin shapes (attempt one-and-only ended after an hour when worm escaped and got attacked by ants - I rescued him, killed the attackers and he survived to spin a cocoon) and other questions around these silly worms.

I return to my table as the conversation is ending and it picks up again with other people. After a few minutes the one guy says, "You really need a boyfriend". I'll comment on this in a moment...

A bit later, I'm walking past the table where the above mentioned lady was sitting and I stopped to say hi to some of the other people. The silkworm thing comes up again and another mindless guy comments, "You need to get a life".

First of all, taking an interest in something other than oneself - even if this something is a box of silkworms - does not constitute the need to either get a boyfriend or to get a life and both comments are insulting.

Silkworms are interesting, amusing and transient pets. They're a lovely diversion from non-stop work, emails and organising. Although my original plan was to keep 10 for me and 10 for the little girl who visits me daily, I kept all of them - my little friend has never had silkworms and she was not keen on them at first. She subsequently went with me to pick leaves, she got bold enough to touch them and she has monitored their spinning progress. We've also looked on the web to learn about their lifecycle and she now knows what a pupa is. This week we'll spin some thread on to her school pencils and our first moths should appear in another week. I've been fascinated too and I plan to have more silkworms next year.

Society has not progressed much in the last 60 years because people evidently still have issues with a smart, intelligent, multi-talented and sporty woman in her 30's who is not tied into a long-term relationship or a marriage with 1.7 children? Growing up, my ambition was a Nobel prize and to revolutionise the world, not to have a family. Now, I don't care for the Nobel prize but I do hope to change the lives of many people for the better; and I still don't want a family. [I can recommend the 70's classic, The Women's Room by Marilyn French]

As for getting a life... this has to be one of the most ignorant comments directed my way in some time. It's also a bland and empty cliche. What is 'a life'? I breathe, eat and sleep; thus, I have a life. So does lichen and fungi.

I've mulled over this posting for a few days and I've written it because these guy just happened to articulate what others think; perhaps of me and certainly of people around them.

I take interest in many things - books, people, activities, flowers, spotting satellites, little creatures, cooking - and I enjoy sharing things that delight me with other people. Both of those comments were totally inappropriate.

Since I have no issues with my marital status nor my [too] full and active life (I'm rather proud of both), I'd guess that the issues are theirs.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Special Suikerbos

In recent months I've run the day hiking trail at Suikerbosrand many times. It is well maintained and a pleasant 10km loop. The two-day hiking trail is the one that I like more, but after two runs early this year through grass up to my eyeballs and overgrown trail, I'd avoided that side for months.

I suggested to my Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge teammies that a run out there could be fun and good for time on our feet. We were up for giving the two day side a try. This 24km route only takes around 3h30 to complete.

Lizelle, Adri, Lisa and Steven

Well! What an absolutely magnificent morning and the trail in perfect condition as the area burned this season. I don't think that this eastern side of the reserve has burned for a few years, which would account for the overgrown and impossible-to-follow-if-you-don't-know-where-you-are-going situation I'd encountered before.

I absolutely love the bright green of fresh grass shoots; the colour is amplified by the black background of burned ground. This new green carpeted most of the route. Some flowers are out, following the recent rains - they will be spectacular in a week or three. And, the highlight was seeing dozens of eland, some zebra and a jackal!


I've seen eland there before - in the distance. This time, emerging from the 'fairy forest' we saw one eland standing across from us. I thought this was pretty cool. Steven spotted the jackal running on the hill above the eland.

Adri and Lizelle in the 'fairy forest'
We emerged from the valley onto the higher plain and Steven and I were looking towards Adri and Lizelle, who'd stopped at a sign posted low wall - I wanted to take a photo.

Nearby, on my left were six eland, just watching us. What was really sweet is that when we started running single-file along the trail, the eland started running, following us for a good while until they reached the place where they met the road.


Running 'with' us
And then, up on our right were another three eland. After passing through the overnight camp, we headed out another valley and frightened a few eland into running across, from right to left. We turned to see where they were running to, only to discover a huge herd of eland! There must have been 40 odd animals there. I've never seen some many of these elusive and shy antelope before. That was really special.

More downhill, to the left
I've had an interest in this antelope for some years. In my first year at varsity I did Archaeology I and my favourite component of this was San rock art. Eland are highly regarded by the San as potent animals and they were often painted. There are many paintings often in reference to therianthropy, where shamans take on 'eland traits' during trance dances.

This is a nice little piece from a Wiki entry on South African rock art.
Rock art shares the same San religion, consisting of San trance or San power. If San religious beliefs are understood then the rock art can be explained. The San believed in a tiered cosmos with realms above and below the material world. Once an eland had been killed, a link between the realms was created. The eland (often depicted with shamans) was a main symbol of trance due to its fat, the prime container and essence of trance. Rites of passage are initiated with eland fat. These include: marriage, boys and girls initiation (with the boys first successful eland hunt), and trancing. Once an eland was killed, a shaman would ‘dance eland potency’ and enter the spirit world, often depicted in rock art. The shaman would go through a trance, seemingly gaining animal senses, and enter the spirit world. Once in the spirit world, they could make contact with God and important spirits. The shaman would be given supernatural power in these meetings. There is a key aspect of the San belief that needs consideration: everything that is taken from nature must meet the needs and must not be more than what is required. Anything that is taken has to have a purpose and must meet the needs of the community.
The rest of the run back to the start was pleasant. A super morning out. I have never seen Suikerbosrand looking as stunning and fresh as it was yesterday.

Re-drawing of an eland from San rock art

A quick break for a snack