Thursday, 3 January 2008

Visiting the Kingdom

Like most of South Africa, the Kingdom of Swaziland has received abundant rainfall this summer. The mountains are green, the rivers are flowing and the trees sparkle. It was really great to see some super areas from quite a different perspective as I was not - for the first time - a) racing across the terrain, my eyes on a map, or b) so sleepy that I couldn't remember what I saw anyway.

I've always maintained that the one thing adventure racing destroys is your ability to just chill out on a hike; to stop and smell the roses. I laugh when people spend a week doing a 100km hike... in an AR (or ultra run) we'd blitz the distance in a day. As a result, I don't join social hikes because I get too frustrated and agitated - not nice for me and not nice for friendly hikers.

While in Swaziland Darron and I went out to check out some prospective kloofs (no jumps) and mountainous locations. The Kingdom is certainly looking beautiful and we were able to fill up our water bottles from fresh mountain stream (without treatment!); during April, when the race is held, the country is considerably drier.

One thing I can tell you is that the Swazi roads department has been a busy beast. There are a number of new roads (all dirt, but good quality) up mountains and through valleys. This spells good news for reducing the distances that support crews have to travel - a logistic that seriously affects the race route.

I've included a few photos below from our explorations up one river valley. Unfortunately this is probably not going to be included in the 2008 race as it lies too far off the current (3rd) version of the race course. But, all is not lost and the delightful 7km downhill mtb option (new dirt road, great quality) may feature in another year's event.

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