Tuesday 21 November 2017

Divine one-group-only campsite just outside of Parys

Friends who live just outside of Parys have set up a special campsite (Klipdas Boskamp) and trail on their property.

Karen, my mom and I went along on Friday evening - with our dogs - to walk the trail.

Rocksy and Rusty on the track

Karen and Jeanne-Marie disappearing ahead
It's about 3km in distance, runnable and mountain bikeable, and with lovely views of the Vaal River from the top of the hill.

The campsite (for a single group only) is too divine: waterless toilet and a donkey shower. Enjoy the scenery while you shower.

Campsite. A lovely fire area is to the right (out of photo)

'Donkey' for the shower. They salvaged an old geyser that washed up from the river, got a guy to weld it and used it to make this donkey.

Campsite kitchen

Waterless loo. Cunning!

Bush shower - with a view
If you appreciate nature, bird-watching, river and tranquility, this is a spot you'll love. And it is dog-friendly.

Rusty looking at the Vaal River
Kayakers, you can see Gatsien from the river's edge and it is a quick-and-easy paddle upstream to get to the rapid.

15 mins from Parys. Day visitors welcome too (on appointment only). Contact Jeanne-Marie directly 072 877 6153

If you'd like something more substantial over your head than the canvas of a tent, then Otters Haunt is the place for you. Also dog friendly  Rusty loves it here. On the river, lovely property and island to walk around and a number of accommodation options. Good old-fashioned fun to be had here in the form of being outdoors and enjoying nature.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Canine cookie marketing that worked on me

My Rusty girl is on a weight loss nutrition programme because she has a few kilos to lose (she came to me a bit heavy and gained another kilo on the first food we got). She isn't a big fat dog but as my running companion, it really isn't good for her joints to be heavier than she should be (just as carrying extra isn't good for humans either).

Of course, I love to give my special girl treats. She gets a tablespoon of leftover sauce/gravy with her special diet crunchies, if I have any on hand. She loves Beanos, even the Lite ones. She gets one or two a day. She especially loves the chicken liver dog biscuits that I bake for her, which I haven't done for about three months because of her diet. Any snack she has means a few grams less of her next meal.

She has been doing really well on her weight-loss programme. After being on a plateau for weeks, she is losing and is down 1.6kg. She has another 4kg to go to get to her goal weight of 17kg.

Today I went to the shops and a new box of Beano Lite was on my list. Next to the Beanos I saw this...

So, Beano Lite that tastes and smells bland but has a good crunch to it. Or this? Who can resist 'Superfood Biscuits'? Not me!

They look rough, they smell decent, they're crunchy and Rusty likes them (then again, Rusty likes pretty much anything). And they are similarly priced to a box of Beano.

What caught me was the whole superfood thing as well as the packaging. The styling is much like that of human sports nutritional supplements and products. It works for a sporty person like me who has a sporty dog.

Well done Canine Cuisine.

Rusty will be limited to one of these gems each day so they should last her a while. 

Lovely Ezemvelo Trail Run

This past Saturday I took part in the 21km distance at the Ezemvelo Trail Run. Located around 25km from Bronkhorstspruit, this is a superb property with lots of grassy, open space, small rolling hills with rocky tops. There are also some great cliffs and crags along the Grootspruit, a sweet river that flows into the nearby Wilge River.

This was a Wild Trails event and while I've heard the name of the reserve a number of times, I'd never been there before.

This entry was a sweet gift from Celliers. He entered me a few months back and it really was a treat to go there to run. He entered himself for the 10km, the longest run that he had done in at least 15 years (various knee injuries and surgeries).

At the start.
We were planning to camp there but a small chalet booking opened up two days before. It was nice to have the simplicity of staying within four walls. We did go take a look at the campsite, which is a really great space with lots of trees.

The 21km kicked off at 07h00 on the Saturday morning. This terrain is really runnable so I knew I was in for lots of running and not lots of hiking, which I had at Golden Gate Challenge.

The first 10km ticked over really quickly to the second waterpoint, where we then went into the rocky crags above Grootspruit.

Leaving WP2 behind and down below.
There was a lady behind me and a lady in front of me - so we got chatting as we walked. It wasn't running terrain for any of us.

The lady in front is an architect; the one behind a mining geologist with three children. With her oldest at five and her youngest at one, she has been out of running and training for five years. She started training again four months ago, has lost 15kg and is again participating in events. She is very thankful for her husband, who has taken on more child-care duties. What a great story!

The next 10 kays ticked over nicely and I enjoyed the scenery and sightings of antelope. Except for the rocky hilltops, the terrain is very non-technical and it makes for easy running.

At the finish, we chilled in the shade amidst other runners before retreating to our peaceful chalet for a shower, snacks, bird watching and a nap.

My dad is a very good bird spotter; I am not. But I'm trying. Here in Parys we have good birdlife, especially with fish eagles, Goliath herons, grey herons and long-crested eagles being my favourites - and the sweet crested barbets and brown-hooded kingfishers.

Sitting on the lawn at Ezemvelo with my binoculars and bird book (a pressie from my dad), I had the time to just watch the birds swirling around the tree. My top identification was that of a Diderick's Cuckoo. What a lovely bird! We also saw a delightful pin-tailed whydah and out in the field I'd seen a red-collared widowbird and a long-tailed widowbird (I saw these two the next day too). So now I have four birds that I have seen, identified and that I so far remember. Progress!

On Sunday morning we drove around the reserve and were treated to the sight of what we counted at around 280 eland! We have never seen that many eland in a herd - males, females and lots of young ones.

It was only a 2.5hr trip home.

Ezemvelo will definitely see us back again - it is a great spot for mountain biking too.

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Looking at my rogaining route

This past Saturday was the annual rogaining event presented by Rand Orienteering Club. As I know the area, and had put out a couple of controls the day before, I opted again to run on my own as a non-competitive entrant.

The race rules this year were as follows:
The checkpoints (controls) were numbered and offered a selection of odd and even numbered locations. Participants had to start with either odds or evens.

You could swap from one to the other at any point within the limited event duration (3 hours or 6 hours) BUT one you swapped you could not swap again.

The idea would be to spend half - or more - of your time collecting say evens and then to swap halfway and begin collecting odds.

I added my own rules too.

  1. I had to aim to go to places on the property where I'd never been before (which was many of the control locations)
  2. Far controls that I would normally exclude, I had to get. If I looked at a control and thought, "I really don't feel like going there", I had to.
I had a really, really good day.

At prize giving, when I heard Nicholas Mulder and Kelvin Trautman's point score, I felt wholly inadequate. Nonetheless, I had a good day.

Let's take a look at my route:

To make it easier to see, I have highlighted the even-numbered controls in green and the odds in yellow. I started out on evens (green) in an anticlockwise direction from Thabela (bottom of map).

I made two mistakes - for the rest I was very, very happy with both my navigation, route choice and order of collecting the controls.

Mistake #1
Following my route from the start, I hit the first two controls beautifully. Going to #3, my mind wandered. Leaving #2, I had a visual fix on where I needed to go for #3. I came off the hill from #2 on target, crawling like a little animal through thorny trees (the theme for the day!). In a hop-skip-and-jump I was across the valley and onto the next hill, exactly as I'd planned.

Going up the side of the hill, diagonally, my mind was in its own world. I remember thinking things like:

"I miss not having my dog with me; but it is a good thing because she would hate this terrain and being out here so long."

"I love rogaining. This is so much fun."

"I really need to get around to adding proper orienteering colours to this map."

"Thank goodness for the recent Golden Gate Challenge. I'm climbing these hills like a champ."

I got to what I think was probably the right spot to head straight uphill to the control but instead I continued a bit longer, moving through gaps in the vegetation. I went a bit further still and thought, "It really feels like I've gone too far". I decided to just head upwards more as I couldn't see a thing through the vegetation. Again I thought, "I am sure I'm too far right" and "I'm sure I've gone too far". Well, yes, I had gone too far. I got to the top of the far-right rise and had to contour and then drop down into the saddle to get the control, which was exactly where I'd initially expected it to be and the saddle there was the size and shape I'd expected it to be. I estimate that I may have lost a good 20 minutes with this one. I didn't have a watch on so it really is a guestimate.

It was good to make a mistake then and there because it kept me more focused for the rest of the day. 

The terrain our here is brutal. Rocky, steep, grassy, thorny, steep, rocky... I climbed and climbed and descended... I am thankful for the recent Golden Gate Challenge where I did the same. Only this time I didn't have my trusty trekking poles. As my thighs were acclimatised to the rigours of steep ascents and descents, I actually felt really good.

The terrain being what it was, I didn't run much, especially on this early part of the route. I even did a good number of stints ascending rocky slopes - sometimes going up bare rock - on all fours!  Running along the valley road was a treat.

Not a mistake
To the left, middle of the map you'll see my green track dipping in and out (near control 146), like I've backtracked. I went to get water at a water drop before continuing. I was down 1.5 litres and very thirsty. I filled up with another 1.5 litres and drank a good 800ml there, headed back out on the road and continued. 

Mistake #2
I swapped to odds (yellow route) once I was satisfied that I'd done ok with the evens and that getting any more evens was no longer advantageous.

From 137 to 151, I ran on the trail. I could have taken a short cut to 151 in distance but in time it would have taken me longer being off road and bashing through vegetation. 

I hit 151 spot-on. I took a great route from 151 to 153 - initially. I have a feeling that I dropped down very nearly spot-on, adjacent to the mine tunnel. Except, I hadn't yet looked at the control description so I didn't realise that the flag was at the mine tunnel, I thought it was in the re-entrant. I wasn't even looking for it at this point.

On the map I struggled to see the track for the path loop, that I knew was there. I thought that it went up higher than it did. I was also a little mixed up because earlier, going past 163 I'd seen the control in the re-entrant. With my map quite torn and folded, I didn't realise that what I'd seen before was not the one that I was now looking for. So, I took the path less travelled up the re-entrant. It was great exploring but after a few minutes I realised that something was wrong as the flag wasn't where I expected it to be. I unfolded my tattered map, read the control description and turned around. Of course I knew where the mine tunnels are and I knew that I'd overshot. I nailed the control a few minutes later.

I still had more than an hour at this point. I took a neat run to 147 and met up with two guys there. We went through to 159 together. Leaving 159 we took the same route down but I went for 141 while they went elsewhere.

Breaking my rule at the end
My initial plan was to get 141 and then return to the road, head past the green control to 143 and then to 145 on top of the hill before heading home (dotted purple track). It was a more gentle route to get to 145 via 143 and I still had 40 minutes...

Leaving 141 I took one look at the hill on which 145 was located and decided that I could live in peace for the rest of my days if I didn't get it - the descent would have been steep and thickly vegetated. So, I didn't. 

I bagged one last low-scoring control on the road home, chatted to people and made it to the finish with at least 22 minutes to spare. 

The cold pool at Thabela was very welcoming and soothing. Have I mentioned what an absolutely sweltering day it had been? Definitely in the mid-30s the whole time out there - absolutely roasting!

I finished with 610 points, which looks dismal compared to Nic and Kelvin's 990 points.  Nonetheless, it was a good enough score to place me fourth overall. Second and third scored 770 and 690 respectively. As I was a non-competitive participant running on my own (rogaining is always in pairs), it is just a score on paper. Still, I'm chuffed.

I was happy with my strategy, I felt at no time under pressure and I took the climbs like a champ - feeling good and strong all the way. I look forward to see Nicholas' route. He has a cunning mind for rogaining and sees options for sweeping through the course to collect maximum points that I just don't see.

All in all, a very good day and one of the most strategically cunning rogaining routes that we've had in many years. Congratulations to Ian on his superb planning and to Glen for being Ian's right-hand aide.

Saturday 4 November 2017

I do love rogaining

What a divine day I have had! First I was Run Director at our Parys parkrun this morning and a celebration of our 3rd birthday. Then six hours of rogaining in the Vredefort Dome area, starting from Thabela Thabeng. I had a very good day out - I'm happy with my route and nav. It was brutal out there today - tough terrain and incredibly hot. But I loved it! Most of the controls I went to were locations I have never been to on the property. Thank you to Ian Bratt and Glen Terry for a cunning course.

After Forest Run, I decided to leave my sign up for visitors to the area (I enjoy seeing altitude markers). I saw it pop up in some photos from the recent Kinetic Full Moon event held out here and now it was my turn for a photo with the trig and sign during the rogaining event today.
What a great view! This is what it looks like 'inside' a section of Vredefort Dome area. It really is magical. You don't get to see this unless you're on foot.
I'll post my route and comments in the next few days.

Putting out rogaining control flags

Rusty came with me on Friday morning to help Ian, Glen and Sheila by putting out a bunch of flags for Saturday's annual rogaining event presented by Rand Orienteering Club. The area is looking green and lovely although rains are so needed to get the small streams flowing.

I took some photos.

Checkpoint with a view - Vaal River in the distance.

Hot dog.

It felt great to be navigating. I went on sections of the area that I've never covered before.
About 2cm of crystal clear running water... with 10cm of fine muddy silt. Oh dear!

When a muddy dog shakes herself off...

Her tummy and legs are usually white...

Pretty little flowers on this tree

Friday 3 November 2017

Returnable box project for YOLO

We received our new double-walled boxes for our large YOLO Compost Tumblers last week. They're very strong and, well, large! Packaging is expensive and so wasteful. When I picked up our large boxes last week, a quick chat with our box supplier gave me an idea...

The box for our large YOLO Compost Tumbler is returnable. We want the boxes back so that we can reuse each one a number of times before it is retired to compost. Every time that we send out a large YOLO Compost Tumbler, we'll include three reusable velcro straps inside the box, which will be used to secure the box and flaps. We'll arrange for our courier to collect the box from the customer to bring it back to us.

I must have looked pretty comical yesterday. In these photos you can't quite gauge how big the box is. It is 1210mm long, 800mm wide and 820mm high. It weighs 4.5kg.

For now, we're just doing the large box as returnable. My next box order for the medium tumblers will be for the double-walled version and we'll probably make these returnable too.

 As we order small quantities i.e. 20 or 30 units as opposed to minimum order quantities of 250 or more (new business cash flow challenges!), the price that we pay per box is really high. It saves us money to courier the box back to reuse. The benefits really are aligned here with saving money and being able to reuse the boxes so that we generate less waste. We also take the problem of disposing of such a large box off our customers' hands.

We are fortunate that our customers are environmentally-minded; they have embraced our returnable box project with enthusiasm and appreciation.

The first return comes back to us next week.