Sunday, 27 October 2019

Vaal River Overnight Kayak Tour

Last weekend we enjoyed our first official Paddle With Us - Vaal River Overnight Kayak Tour with six clients - three adults and three teens. The river came up a bit on the Saturday and fortunately stayed up on the Saturday and Sunday.

The difference in our paddlers from Day 1 to Day 2 was significant. By Day 2 they were blasting into the small rapids and handing their kayaks with significantly more confidence - I find this immensely rewarding to watch how they improve so quickly.

This really is a lovely section of river and we look forward to more of these monthly trips throughout summer. A few snaps from the weekend.

Lunch stop on One Tree Island

Camp shower at our pop-up private campsite on the river. Bliss!

Composting toilet at our pop-up private campsite. Cover with sawdust - no odour, no mess.

Building a garden for The Joburg International Flower Show

During this past week, I was involved with building a garden for The Johannesburg International Flower Show, a new event created to be South Africa's equivalent of the 'Chelsea Flower Show'. I teamed up with landscaper Danielle Day - The Garden Girl. We'd met last year through YOLO. I love her work and ours has been a great partnership.

Dan created our design for a kitchen courtyard garden - it is charming. What I love most about it is that you'll look at our garden and think, "This is awesome, I can do something like this in my courtyard / small garden space". And you can!

Dan had a clear plan for the week starting with the layout of the site on Monday and brick laying of the pathway and perimeter to installing our wall and washing line, the planting boxes, and then the planting and finishing touches.

What was really exciting is that we use my pre-production YOLO Concrete Mixer to mix the concrete to plant poles. The one challenge we'll have in the marketing of this unit is really around behaviour change. If you've mixed concrete in a wheelbarrow for 15 years, it will take a bit to change to using something that is neater, cleaner and more convenient purely because it is different.

Using the pre-production YOLO Concrete Mixer for stand building. We emptied a 40kg concrete premix bag into the YOLO and added water. The tap was downhill - about 15m from our stand. We rolled the YOLO up to where we needed it and poured the concrete into the holes for the poles. Job done.

Compost delivery - kindly sponsored for our show garden by Stanler Farms. This compost is so rich.

Paved walkway. We used bark chips in the gaps and for the rest of our flooring.
Composting plays a big role in any garden to improve soil quality and provide nutrients to plants. The theme of our garden is "From table to garden" because all of the organic materials that come out of your kitchen as a result of meal preparation can go straight into a YOLO Compost Tumbler to create compost that can go into your garden. Less trash going out of your home and more goodness going into your soil.

We've incorporated a medium-sized YOLO Compost Tumbler in our kitchen courtyard garden.  Organic material from your kitchen and home, like fruit and vegetable peeling, egg shells, egg trays, tea bags, and coffee grounds can go straight into your YOLO. And the compost, can go straight back into your garden.

Danielle has cleverly planned our four planting boxes with plants for Health & Immunity, Digestion, Skin and Mental Health. Take a look at the plants, see what you can identify. Which colour corresponds to each health theme? Elands Nursery kindly provided the strong and healthy plants that decorate our stand.
We've got garden judging on Monday afternoon and the show starts on Wednesday through to Sunday. It should be an interesting adventure this week.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Heritage Day paddle with friends

What an awesome way to spend Heritage Day (Tuesday, 24 September 2019) - paddling with friends. We paddled the Day 1 section of our new monthly Vaal River Overnight route and it was a treat.
(FYI - We still have places open for our trips - one weekend a month in October, November and December).

With thanks to my friend Chris for planting the seed to get on the water - I'm so glad that he suggested it. Unfortunately Chris had a small op the day before to reattach a thumb tendon (a fall down Balloch Wall a week earlier!) so he and Sanet didn't get to paddle their Mazowe, but they did come to hang out - waiting for us at the take out.

Off we go. Four Vagabond Mazowe doubles. Photo by Chris.
What was really cool is that I paddled a double with my mom. She has done a bit of paddling but not much for a while. She really enjoys it and was keen to come for her longest paddle to date - 15-odd kilometres. We were treated to excellent Goliath Heron sightings, we saw one fish eagle (briefly) and also a giant kingfisher. Comrants, daters, ducks and geese were out in their numbers, enjoying this lovely day on the river as much as we were.

Orange circle shows the location of a Goliath heron. We saw quite a few. This guy just watched us pass.
Celliers paddled with his daughter Kyla, I paddled with my mom, my dear friend Allison paddled with her partner Alan and Fred, who I have not seen for too long, paddled with his partner Debbie. This was a really good day on the water.

Celliers and Kyla
Alan and Allison
Fred and Debbie
That's my mom paddling into this small rapid - I took the photo.
This is my mom again on a flatwater section. So pretty.
I received the sweetest message from Alan. He has been down the commercial section of the river - from town downstream - many times. He wrote, "I've paddled many times (mostly inflatables) but Tues was the most enjoyable paddle experience ever". That's really nice.

I took a bunch of photos along the way. A highlight for me was finally stopping to picnic on 'One Tree Island'. Karen and I named it this some time back because... it is a small island with one big gum tree. It exceeded my expectations. Great picnic spot. I always fly past it, chasing time.

Picnic on One Tree Island
What a great spot!
A really good few hours spent on the river. I look forward to tripping it again soon - with more water.

Approaching the take out. Photo by Chris.

The Hill - first running

There is a hill just outside of town that I've been running regularly this year - at least every two weeks. Sometimes I just go out there with Rusty to trot along other trails but usually I head up, up, up.

This hill is a bugger. I can't run the whole thing (yet) without walking.

From the first day that I came here, a plan began to form: to do a hill challenge event. My idea was that is would work much like the 'Crazy Kay' that I used to organise for AR Club in the early to mid-2000s on a one-kilometre stretch of road.

The participants were provided with the distance from start to hilltop (2.3km) and the gradient (150m elevation gain with a max 23% slope), and they were then asked to write down the time that they thought it would take to get to the top. Participants were allowed to run with watches but were asked not to look at the time until they pressed the stop button at the top.

There is a cement strip from 1.5km, which makes the surface easier - but the gradient is not! The route itself is not linear - it winds as it climbs.
There would be two winners: the person with the fastest overall time and the person closest to their predicted time.

A chance conversation with friends on Saturday morning led to the first running of 'THE HILL' on Sunday afternoon. What a blast!

Runners, walkers and dogs (Rusty and I were not in the photo because we took it. Celliers was already on the way up.)
Mandatory selfie - I'm at the back.

Andrew logged the fastest overall time at 15:24 and I was closest to my predicted time (11 seconds faster at 17:23).

Celliers, Ruben and Kyla came through to enjoy a walk up.
 We'll definitely have another running - maybe one each season? It is good fun and a good benchmark of one's fitness!

Sunday, 15 September 2019

parkrun milestone - 100th Volunteer Occasion

Thank you very much for your support at Parys parkrun, event 258 on 2019-09-14. 
You've now volunteered at this event on 100 separate occasions.

Yesterday, I reached an unofficial (official milestone is 25) parkrun milestone: 100th Volunteer Occasion. Of these, 68 have been as Run Director at our Parys parkrun. I've been the Event Director, initially together with my friend Karen, since I moved to town in December 2015. I have lived in Parys for 192 Saturdays.

Instead of being full of joy about this milestone, I'm resentful. Not about being a volunteer, contributing to my community, and of the pleasure I have from interacting with our local parkrunners and visitors. These give me joy. Instead, I am actually pretty irritated because in October last year I was on 82 parkruns. Just shy of a year later, I'm only on 93 parkruns. 

So why, you ask, have I only run 11 parkruns in a year (and only 5 logged parkruns this year!)

Late last year, parkrun forbid volunteers from running before the official 8am parkrun start, doing their volunteer duty from 8am to 9am (or there abouts) and then being included on the parkrun results for their self-timed run.

We are a small parkrun with around 30-40 locals at each event; our numbers are often doubled by visitors. Our volunteers are the same-same people each week. They love running and they enjoy volunteering. We would meet at 7am, run the parkrun route - opening gates and picking up litter at the same time - and then do our volunteer duties.

With a small pool of people who volunteer, we don't have the luxury of non-core volunteer roles that allow for participation too. These roles include 'equipment storage', 'results processor', 'media' and the like. What a joke! We only have volunteers are needed for timekeeping, barcode scanning, tokens and turnaround marshal. Sometimes we have a tailwalker. We can get by, and we do, with three volunteers plus RD: two timekeepers, a turnaround marshal and the Run Director doing barcode scanning AND tokens. We all jump in with pre-event setup and packing up.

For some time we continued with volunteer runs even after I had phone calls from parkrun telling me that we couldn't do this. I told them straight that I didn't agree with their ruling and that it would have a serious effect on us. It did.

We were, of course, under the spotlight and our results were being checked. I received a not-so-friendly email telling me to delete the results of those volunteers who ran before parkrun. I couldn't do that to them.

We stopped the volunteer runs. Some of my regular volunteers need their Discovery points; so they rarely or no longer volunteer. Others have little other opportunity to run in the week and so they volunteer less often so that they get to participate on a Saturday morning.

Where before there would be five of us on route at 7am, on my run Director days this year I've been out there at 7am - on my own. Why should the volunteers get up earlier than necessary to run for no parkrun points when they can enjoy a warm afternoon run on a route of their choosing (if they run/walk at all on Saturdays). Even now, I don't always run the whole route - at 07h30 I just run to open the gates and then I return to the start to setup.

Our volunteers are awesome (the same-same people generally), but we've lost something.

Why did parkrun introduce this no pre-run ruling?

They said it was because of safety.
This is bull because if I am the turnaround marshal, I stand 1km from the start, on my own, on a public access road, with my mobile phone in my pocket. A sitting duck until the runners start coming through. Now, without other volunteers, I run on my own in the morning on a public access route with not many other people around. My safety is more compromised than on a volunteer run with other volunteers for company.

They said it was because their public liability only kicked in from 8am. This is rubbish too. Their public liability should cover from at least an hour before the start as people arrive early at the very busy parkruns to get parking and volunteers are also very early at some events to setup.

They said that parkrun in the UK never had volunteer runs and it all works quite fine there. Sure, and it works mostly quite fine here except that small parkruns are under pressure and there is a lower level of volunteerism here than in the UK. South Africa has a culture of volunteer runs in the running club environment where volunteers at club-hosted races run the weekend before their event. I enjoyed this privilege myself for many years as a volunteer marshal at a big 21km event organised by my first running club.

parkrun rides on the goodwill of volunteers who, without compensation, ensure that events happen every Saturday around the country. Rain or shine. We use our personal mobile phones with a downloaded app for timing and scanning (the original provided barcode scanners and timers are obsolete). We clean the routes, pick up litter, deal with any access/permissions. Not parkrun. Us.

No volunteers. No parkrun.

I used to get so worked up about people cheating at parkrun. I've heard all kinds of tales from other parkruns where people join the route halfway or they skip a loop... As this is hard to police, these people still get their parkrun times, Vitality points etc. This was brought up at an annual parkrun convention where the people from parkrun UK were in attendance (I wasn't - I received this feedback second-hand). They told the event directors not to stress about this; that it wasn't worth making their lives more challenging by implementing policing strategies. Vitality's perspective on this was apparently that parkrun gets people out and active, which achieves their aim of better health and fitness of their clients. Whether people run the full 5km or only 2km, that the cheater got out of bed, walked/drove to parkrun and did a few kilometres, is better than if the person stayed in bed and did nothing active.

I really appreciate these perspectives. They are correct. I've been far more chilled about this kind of thing ever since. I don't like it, but I don't see red.

What I don't get is that this is ok but volunteer participation is not? I still don't get why parkrun is preventing the people that they depend on to make this organisation possible from participating.

So, this explains why I have only done 11 parkruns in almost 12 months. For most of this past summer, I wasn't in town on Saturdays and when I was, I was Run Director and I ran early - but didn't log those runs to avoid getting nasty emails from parkrun.

There have been around 32 Saturdays this year so far. Since January, have been Run Director 13 times, I've run only 5 parkruns officially. I was out of town a lot for the first few months of the year. And the rest? I've had little motivation to run at parkrun.

So, I celebrate this milestone with mixed feelings. It is nice to have a measure of what I've put into my community and the return is in the friends that I have made and the pleasure of enjoying the successes and milestones of our parkrunners.

I totally subscribe to parkrun's values and I uphold them through my action of volunteering. Seems to me that volunteers to parkrun are like the cobbler's children who have no shoes.

We've got about 15 weekends left this year. I'll be RD for at least 4-5 of them. I'll be away for some others. I've got 7 parkruns to go until my 100th parkrun milestone. Will it happen this year?

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Is paddling on your radar?

As a child, gymnastics was never on our radar. It wasn't a school sport, I only knew of one girl in my grade (and probably the whole primary school) who did gymnastics and I didn't ever join the dots and consider it to be a sport for me. My mom had no reference to gymnastic either so it was not a sport on her radar either. I did athletics, netball and swimming (and I tried my hand at tennis but it was never of much interest to me).

I would have been so good at gymnastics! I've always had an aptitude and affinity for anything with strength, balance and neat tricks, which is probably why I so loved pole dance and circus school as an adult - and I still love the challenge of yoga balances.

Unless children (and adults) have an opportunity to try an activity or for the sport to be placed front-and-centre on their radar, they're unlikely to know that it even exists.

Our town has a monthly market that attracts local and out-of-town visitors. It is near a spot on the river, which makes it well placed for a bit of 'market research' from us.

We gave this a try this past Saturday, taking along our children's Kwando kayaks and also the Tsomo kayak, our shortest adult kayak. The area is not big, but it is sufficient.

This plan worked a treat and we had lots of children coming to paddle as well as an grandpa with his young granddaughters, a super cool aunt who paddled with her niece and a number of first-timer adults. We generally have really good success with people at demos specifically because we have the right kind of kayaks with our Vagabond Kayaks - they are designed to be great to paddle.

There was one boy in particular that caught our attention. He absolutely loves paddling. It seems that his dad, who lives in KZN, paddles surfski. This boy spent hours on the water and really got the hang of catching eddies and paddling in the little bit of current. He is totally the right type of child to get into the sport. We did chat to his mom about bringing him to our paddling club for coaching with Celliers. They live in Vanderbijl - so we'll see if anything comes of this. I certainly hope it does because this boy has a natural ability and affinity for paddling.

We'll probably try this monthly - getting a better feel for interest and ages - with the aim of growing children's paddling and bringing about awareness to parents that the sport of paddling is accessible to them and their children.

Children take to paddling our Kwando kayaks like ducklings to water.

Intro to whitewater... Boys, Kwandos and surfing mini rapids. Note some crazy configurations with the boys on the pink and green Kwandos paddling 'backwards' - sitting in the tankwell! They do all kinds of fun stunts. These two, Erik and Ruben, are good young paddlers. The one on the blue, first timer. The one on the yellow has paddled quite a bit and this is his first time playing in a small rapid on a Kwando.

First woman and dog at SPCA night run

Earlier this year, a SPCA fundraising run was held in town and last night another was hosted at the Parys Golf Estate. This time I took Rusty along. They had a 5km route and a 10km option (double lapper) so I decided to run Rusts with me for the 5km, drop her with my mom along the route and then run the next 5km.

It turned out to be the most perfect evening - the temperature was just right.

Of course, Rusty was a monster before the start - at timetrial, parkrun and myrun too! She likes to bark and gets so excited - totally embarrassing! Fortunately, after the first 200m of running she is again a perfectly behaved girl.

She did very well on the 5km and seemed happy to see the finish because she didn't want to turnaround to head out again to catch my mom. It took a bit of convincing and then she trailed behind me (she is usually in front or to the side). For the next 500m, I almost dragged her and then she seemed to realise that she wasn't getting out of this and she picked up the pace again. Luckily for her, my mom was only another 200m away but when I handed her over, Rusts then wanted to watch me running of instead of walking to the finish with my mom. Mom says it took a while to get Rusty moving towards the finish. Funny girl. At the finish, my brown girly was waiting so patiently, looking out for me. My heart!

There weren't many of us on the 10km. I had a really strong second 5km but there was no way that I was going to be able to catch Elise. She led from the start and must have ended a good 500m ahead of me. There were no guys ahead so that would have been a one-two placing for us.

The turnout wasn't as good as in March, but there was a decent crowd -  and a good number of dogs (some we know from parkrun and myrun). There was a prize for the first man & dog and first woman & dog. Hendrik with his young spaniel were ahead of us; Rusts and I got the woman & dog prize. We received a lovely gift bag with goodies for Rusty (toy, ball, shampoo and munchies) and for me (chocolate). 

Our Parys SPCA went through a rough time about a year back and NSPCA stepped in to take charge. The new committee has made a huge effort to raise funds, upgrade the facilities and to improve governance.

Thank you to Lorette, all her helpers and Parys SPCA for a lovely run. xxx

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Crater Run 10km win

The Crater Cruise MTB event has been held in Parys for many a year (around 15 years, I think). The event added a trail run (4km, 8km and 10km routes), which I entered and enjoyed this past Sunday.

I was last out at Attie's (from Anatomic and RIDE magazine) farm - Koedoeslaagte - in April 2010 for a circuit race that he hosted. In the intervening years, Attie has put in a huge amount of work creating a trail network, especially for mountain biking, which is his main focus. They host schools MTB events, training camps and the annual Crater Cruise and now the Crater Run.

The 10km run route was a treat. The morning started chilly - 3.5°C when I arrived at 7am - but it warmed quickly for the 7.30am start. The route starts off following the smooth and wide mountain bike trails on the river side of the main road, climbing gently to the road crossing. The winding track is good fun. We then crossed the road for the hillside trails, which are steeper and more rocky. I remembered the climbing from the circuit race!

I worked the hill well, taking two short walks on the steepest section and playing 'rally car' on the winding descent. Crossing the road, we were back on the smooth trail and I was feeling great so I let my legs out, working hard to the end.

The lady who came second was ahead of me until the last kilometre or so. I actually thought that she was on the 8km route, which had merged with the 10km route, as I passed her easily. She must have gone out faster than me from the start (mornings hit me hard!), which is why it took me so long to catch her. I was in my groove and moving very well on the last section.
I don't get to participate in many events so this really was a treat; not only to take part but also to do well. Of course, in a field with more depth, I would have been spat out the back. Nonetheless, the morning was mine and I'm chuffed.

I can commend Attie and his team for a well-presented event with superb route markings. Everything was punctual from the start to the prize giving and I look forward to heading out there again to run - with Rusty.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

What would you do all day if you didn't have to work?

I often think about this and yesterday evening Karen and I were talking about it on our run-with-dogs.

Work and having to make a living gets in the way of spending time on other projects that I'd like to get around to.

Although Parys is a town with young (like me) people, there are also a lot of retired folk who spend their days at home. My parents are also of an age where their friends are retiring (although many of them are going strong and working over the age of 65).

What are they all going to do with their days?

Every town and city in South Africa has people-in-need; from babies and children in care facilities to the very elderly who sit in chairs doing nothing all day.

I've started a list of things that I would do if I didn't have to work every day:
  • Spend more time with Rusty doing things (not just having her lie next to my desk as I work)
  • Walk, run, paddle, bike more than the minimum I'm currently ticking over
  • Travel
  • Do online courses on different subjects for fun
  • Read books to old folk who are no longer able to read
  • Read stories to children - a morning/afternoon slot
  • Get involved with a literacy programme
  • Teach children and adults how to crochet and develop community projects
  • Wash and groom dogs and cats at the local SPCA
  • Get involved with or start a Funda Nenja branch in my town; a project that changes the lives of township children by teaching them dog care, training and ownership
  • Be a volunteer sports coach at any school that needs me
  • Create maps - lots of them!
(And I'd also spend time hiding in bushes to catch the people who continuously dump trash at a number of spots in our town. Catching them is essential to stopping them. I plan to be armed with a paintball gun, to make a citizen's arrest and to make them cleanup by filling bags and bags with litter. I fantasise about this!)

I've always been community orientated and I struggle to understand why people who have no work or people who no longer work can sit around doing not much when their precious skills and hands will be treasured by organisations desperately needing volunteer help. 

Volunteering is not eight-hours-a-day; it may be two-hours twice a week.

Sure, I understand that having nothing to do can make a person less likely to do anything - lack of motivation, depression all play a role here.

There are many things that one can do that will not cost you a cent. They cost time.

Not everyone is for washing dogs and reading stories. Someone who is good with child care can help to change nappies and feed orphaned babies; a person with accounting and bookkeeping skills can assist an organisation with their books; good photographs of animals in community papers helps to find homes for abandoned animals; a passionate cook may help prepare meals at a food shelter; a hairdresser (or regular person who is good with a set of clippers) can transform the homeless.

Needs are great. Hands are few.

If you are out of work and looking for work, doing anything is a feather in your cap and an entry on your CV.

Doing something for others is rewarding. It gives purpose. It keeps you busy. It creates friendships.

If you had every day to fill, what would you do with your time?

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!

43 Days of Running is up

This year's annual birthday challenge, like that of last year, did not have as much impact on my life as in previous years. When I started this birthday game for my 35th birthday, it was at a time when I needed to focus on running; my schedule was erratic, I was chasing ideas and plans and deadlines, putting in a lot of hours and letting time for me slide.

Every year this birthday challenge has been grounding and a reminder that daily exercise and activity is not only good for me physically, but critical for my mental well-being too.

It was like this until two years ago when I got Rusty. While I may treat myself as second fiddle to other people and deadlines, this dog comes first in my life. And our routine is that we go for a run or walk or paddle or something every evening. We both need the exercise and it is great time spent together. So, even when I have been working crazy hours over the past year, I have still been consistent in my running because I go out with my doggy-girl.

The past 43 days have flown past and like much of the past year are a bit of a blur. Not all of the days were running. There were some paddle days and a yoga day and also some longer walks instead of runs, especially if Rusts and I had a harder run the previous day. I'm cool with that. I definitely think that I need to step up my game for next year - I've got time to decide what and how.

I celebrated day 43, my birthday, with a 10km road run, something that I do not do often.

I had spent most of yesterday on an out-and-back trip to Joburg to collect stuff for work. It actually proved to be a nice day as the traffic was smooth and the drive gave me time to think and just be. Waiting at our suppliers I spoke to family on the phone, responded to lovely messages from friends... I wouldn't have had the same peace at my desk with a full inbox and a long to-do list.

On my return to town, I have my mom a call and asked her if she could drop me at an intersection 10km from town, which she did.

She took the dogs for a walk while I was running. I had an awesome run and, with thanks to the cool weather and the hill running that I've been doing almost weekly for the past 6 months, I didn't even feel the hills.

At 8.5km I met up with mom and the dogs, picked up Rusty and we ran the rest of the way home together.

My day started with breakfast in bed and ended with a lovely dinner with Celliers and my mom.

It was a good birthday day.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Hand 'em down to reuse

I like hand-me-downs, items of clothing that are passed from one person to the other.

About two years ago we had a clothes swap here in Parys. A bunch of girls all got together with bags of clothing that they no longer wore / didn't fit / didn't like and we all got pieces that look great on us. It was a fun evening of dress-up. All of the garments that I chose, I wear regularly throughout the year.

I have often, over the years, given away garments that just didn't work for me. I remember a pair of jeans that I never settled into that I passed onto a friend. I thought they would be perfect for her. It turns out that they were. I had forgotten about them and a few months later I visited her and happened to remark on how great her jeans looked on her and where did she get them. "From you," was her reply. They didn't look that good on me!

Other items I have passed on to domestic helpers for themselves, family and children. It really does work just to pass clothing on if they are are doing nothing but hibernating in your cupboard.

With two children in my life, I value hand-me-downs even more because, at 11 and 13, these creatures grow like weeds. They have barely fitted into something when they're already out of it. And many items don't get a lot of wear before they're too small. A neighbour passed on some of her too small items more than 18-months ago for Kyla. Some of the dresses were perfect to a little big and a really cute pair of jeans and a denim skirt were too big but worth keeping for her to grow into. The jeans are now just right and on Friday I put up the hem so that she can now start to wear them.

The children know to put outgrown clothing on the 'Table of Everything' and I pass these on.

Hand-me-down applies not only to clothing, but also to shoes, furniture, appliances, linen, tools, crockery and even spectacles and frames (hand in at an optometrist). Anything that one person no longer uses and that can be used by another.

It was serendipity that I bumped into man from town at the local auction where I was looking for an old wooden ladder. I didn't find anything there but two days later he called to say that his friend was moving and she had an old wooden ladder that she couldn't take with her to her new, smaller home. I picked up the ladder from him a few days later and with a lick of paint it will serve my decorative purposes.

The road to Zero Waste is paved with 5 Rs - Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (compost) - in this order. Hand-me-down clothing ticks the Reuse box.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Why I love watching Netflix

Whether I watch series on DVD or series and movies on Netflix, I love watching tv. Work days are long and stressful and watching an episode (or two) a night is an opportunity to escape. Of course, Celliers teases me that I can never just sit and watch something. My preference is to work on a crochet project at the same time - how could I ever just sit and do nothing!

We've been watching Outlander (currently on the 3rd and last season) and for the past two months I've been working on a blanket. The original pattern is called 'Persian Tiles' by Janie Crowfoot. Another crochet guru, Lucia, saw this pattern and imagined it with more colours, creating the 'Eastern Jewels' colour interpretation from the original. I took one look at this and just knew I had to make it.

The Persian Tiles pattern can be purchased online but the Eastern Jewels colour guidelines only come with a yarn pack purchased from the UK. Prohibitively expensive. So, two months ago, after purchasing Persian tiles online, I spent a very late night scrutinising photographs of other people's blankets and I worked out a colour scheme for my blanket. Yip, 20 octagons (the original pattern has 16, I added another row), 12 diamonds, 14 triangles and 4 small triangles.

How much tv I get to watch determines how quickly the blanket progresses. I work on it for 1-2hrs a night and in the past two months I had two days on weekends when I spent a few more hours during the day working on the octagons. Bit-by-bit it come together.

This past weekend I completed joining each element, added the border foundation and last night I added the first (or 9-10) rows for the border. As each border row is a single colour, it goes way faster than the rest.

That's why I love Netflix. It is a never-ending source of things to watch - series, movies and documentaries; so much that I'll never get to a fraction of what is available. It offers a form of escapism and the opportunity to just sit and to create something with my hands that gives me a lot of joy and reward.

I am so looking forward to a stylish afternoon nap under this blanket and draping it over me while I watch more Netflix shows.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

A bit of whitewater

As if myrun and social paddling were not enough, I enjoyed a late afternoon bit of whitewater at our local spot, Gatsien rapid. I got to paddle our Pungwe whitewater kayak for the first time (without swimming).

My challenge of the day was paddling our Vagabond Usutu whitewater sit-on-top (blue one in the photos below) with Rusty on my lap! This kayak was not made to carry a 21kg dog! On our return route she went down some little bubbly water (not a rapid) and she didn't even flinch. Unfortunately we didn't get a photo as the camera was in my backpack (on my back!).

This was Celliers' first post-shoulder-operation paddle (surgery was back in late January). It is a long road to recovery and will still take many months to gain full strength.

It was a beautiful afternoon next to the river.

Rusty watching Celliers run the first production Pungwe through its paces.

Celliers just makes it look so easy.

Ruben and Kyla chilling on the warm rock.

My first turn in the Pungwe, which is my size whitewater kayak. I really don't have great skills but I did catch some eddies and do some ferrying without swimming. Rusty kept a close eye on me.

On the Usutu whitewater sit-on-top. This is more my comfort zone.

With my girl.

Rusty rocking her doggy PFD.