Thursday 22 June 2023

One-year anniversary since my life changed with Vagabond

 On 22 June last year (it was a Wednesday then), my life changed when the doors of the factory that made my Vagabond Kayaks were locked by a sheriff. A year has passed. It feels like only a few months ago. This past year has been traumatic. I fought to save Vagabond's assets. I fought to save Vagabond. I mourned and I grieved and I went through deep sadness dealing with the loss of this business that I had invested heart and soul, years and sacrifice to build. And then, exhausted and broken, at the beginning of this year, I found the energy to look for solutions to get Vagabond back on track. But, it wasn't my decision to make.

While I'm relieved to no longer have the responsibility of Vagabond, there is so much about this past year that makes me desperately sad. I know that it will take time to work through so much grief, heartache, heartbreak and anger. I have learned from this experience.

It is the one-year anniversary of the day everything turned upsidedown and was the start of a cascade of months of events that make for 'truth is stranger than fiction' tales.

Thinking about or talking about Vagabond today has caused me waves of tears and distress. A lot this past year has been emotionally overwhelming, from being bullied, to legal battles and the fallout and loose ends that have consumed almost every ounce of my being.

On the whole, I am fine and most days are actually great. Life goes on, the heartache will fade - as it does with broken relationships and dealing with the death of people who were precious. Vagabond was precious to me.

Looking ahead, I have exciting new projects with rebuilding YOLO Compost Tumbler and growing AR Gaiters . I have great people in my life, phenomenal dogs, things that make me happy and bring joy, and much to be thankful for.

Monday 19 June 2023

Happy Birthday To Me

This year my birthday fell on a Sunday - at the end of a Friday-Saturday-Sunday long weekend. 

I only realised on the Thursday afternoon that the Friday was a public holiday and while I had a lot of work to do, being a public holiday gave me 'permission' to ignore emails and do other stuff. 'Other stuff' turned out to be quite a bit of garden work. We'd had more rain and strong winds during the week, which broke a branch off my neighbour's tree (landed on my side), a branch off a tree in my garden and left my yard in somewhat of a disarray with leaves and disorder everywhere. It was quite satisfying to tidy up and spend time in the garden, with the dogs, doing manual labour.

The high winds had brought down trees in the forests, which had blocked many of the trails in the area. With parkrun cancelled, I joined a group to assist with trail clearing. Some of the guys has chainsaws so they did the cutting and the rest of us helped to roll away the logs and clear the debris. With many hands, lots of energy and two hours, we had a section completely cleared.

Back home, I prepped for friends coming over for afternoon tea. With the rain, chill and wind starting up again, I decided to make a langtafel (long table) in the lounge instead of the garden. It worked very well and I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with lovely tea-time snacks and excellent company.

My birthday-day dawned with perfect weather - as forecast. I started with fixing the leg of the wood dining-room table that has been wobbly for months. The joy in this is in using my drill and the accomplishment of fixing something. 

I then tackled the old peach tree in the garden. The poor thing has probably never been pruned. It had a lot of dead twigs on it. This past season it had fruit, but they rotted on the tree and almost before they fell - stung by insects. I watched some videos on YouTube about pruning peach trees and gave it a go. A few rewarding hours later, the tree was done and I was chuffed with my work. It looked like the old-and-neglected tree was smiling when I was done.

Although finished later than planned, I had enough time (I hoped) to hit a trail that I've been wanting to do. Campherskloof starts from the top of the Outeniqua Pass, skirts the side of the mountains and then drops into the Campherskloof valley on the other side. The vegetation is completely different on the other side of the mountains, the blousuikerbos proteas were in bloom and the trails were runnable. As sun and warmth and the company of Rosy-dog and it was the perfect recipe for a perfect afternoon.

Dropping into Campherskloof

My mom had very kindly dropped us at the trailhead. On arrival, we saw a lost dog. He had tags on and so I called his owners. He had been lost about three hours earlier (out running with his mom). She was on her way back there when I called. I left him sitting in the car with my mom and headed off. Not 5-minutes later I saw them all drive off, the dog successfully reunited with his family. Sweet boy.

Blousuikerbos proteas. A lot of pale and white ones in this area.

Rosy-dog. Good girl.

If I recall correctly, that's the back of Craddock Peak.

Before I came off the trails and hit the Montagu Pass, I called my mom and she and the dogs - Rusty and Bella - set off to pick up me and Rosy from Herald. I must have reached the pick-up point not more than 10 minutes before she arrived - perfect timing. I got to watch the sunset colours while waiting for our ride. 

Sunset colours - waiting for our ride.

Total distance was around 13km.

I have mixed feelings about this year's Days of Running challenge as I wasn't completely committed. My head hasn't really been in the right place although I have been doing more runs of more distance, more frequently the past two months. I also decided to give the '28 Days of Wall Pilates' a try - I kept seeing it come up on my social media. I'm quite enjoying it and substituted some of these sessions, especially on cold and rainy days, of which we have had a lot the last two months. 

So, that's me. 47-years young. Knocking on 50's door! haha haha 

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Arangieskop hike near Robertson

 In keeping with the recent trend of being out-and-about on weekends, I accepted an invitation from a friend to join a group hike to Arangieskop, a two-day hike in the mountains overlooking Robertson. Carine has so kindly invited me on a bunch of outings over the last two years and I've never been able to attend any of them. So when this invitation came up a week before, I said yes.

No Speed Limit gives a detailed account of this hike with distance and elevation breakdowns and good photos. It is a good reference if you're interested in doing it.

This hike was a coming together of two groups. Carine moved to Cape Town a year ago. She and a CT friend arranged the hike and were allowed to invite four friends each to make up a group. Four of us travelled from George on Friday afternoon to meet up with the five, including Carine, from Cape Town. There is a 20-sleeper hiking cottage at the start of the route, which is where we slept on Friday night. A group of 10 from the Berg-en-Dal George-based hiking club were also booked, so there was good comraderie in the cottage. 

This hike is known for its unrelenting ascent on Day 1 and unrelenting descent on Day 2. Day 1 climbs around 1300m over 9km to the overnight hut. On Day 2 you climb about 200m to the summit of Arangieskop and then descend 1500m over 10km to get back to the cottage. I had my trekking poles with me.

With sunrise after 07h30, we were out hiking only from 08h45 with the sun only just coming into the valley.

What struck me most about the first part of the hike were the proteas. Thousands of them. Mostly blousuikerbos (P. neriifolia) but also gems like this aptly named Shuttlecock Sugarbush

We stopped at a stream for munchies. The coffee lovers in our group (of which there were many) made coffee.

Janie and Welme
Stream crossing an steep ascent

Water pouring from the mountain after recent rains.

With Hans, Janie, Welme and Carine. That's the Arangieskop summit up above us.

The route is rugged and well marked.

Toad skin lichen

The town of Robertson visible from the saddle. That dam down below... We started from there.

Carine on the jeep track leading to the cottage - just visible in the picture.

View from my bunkbed looking north and down on the KOO valley and the abundance of mountains.

Catching the sunset. It was cold and very windy.

The 10 from the hiking club were with us in the hut so we had an afternoon and night of hot showers (donkey boiler), good conversations, card games and hanging out in front of the kagel fireplace, which warmed the hut up nicely. The wind did not relent all night. I had a good, long sleep, rising with the rest a bit after 7am.

We were out of the hut and on the way to the summit by 08h30.

What goes up... must come down.

A long way down. Start of the decent.

Going down involved some ups too.

Some of the hiking club people.

After the coffee bunch in our group decided to stop by a stream to make coffee, I chose to go on with two of the guys. We were together for a bit and then split up when I got behind taking photos of flowers and proteas. It was actually good to be on my own knowing that the rest of our group was at least 20 minutes behind, the hikers were close and the guys were ahead. I could stop as much as I wanted to without delaying the group. I was after some observations to log on iNaturalist.

This is a forest of proteas. Mostly P. neriifolia (blousuikerbos)

Protea aurea aurea - Common shuttlecock sugarbush
No points for guessing how Protea aurea aurea - Common shuttlecock sugarbush -
got its common name.

Lots and lots of Protea neriifolia - blousuikerbos

Also P. neriifolia, which also comes in white. Apparently it is normal for protea populations to have pink and white - much like our eye colours and hair colours. An identifier on iNaturalist suggested note to be taken of the ratio of pink to white (or any other colours) and for this to be recorded. I would guess that some populations have greater ratios than others. Pink definitely dominated here with very few white. 

Love this one - Protea nitida. Wagon Tree.

Now to try to remember these names and observations for the future!

I'm under correction but it took us around 4.5hrs to get up the mountain and maybe 4hrs to get down. Now Tuesday, I'm feeling my calves and quads from the descent. Knees are great.

We didn't hang around for long. A quick facecloth wipe down and clean clothes before hitting the road for the four-hour drive back to George.

It was an excellent weekend with good company, perfect weather and spectacular scenery to make for a great hiking experience. 

Whiskey Creek Cabin and the Keurbooms River Canoe Trail

 I usually use weekends to catch up - on work, emails, admin and home tasks. I've neglected a whole lot of To Do list items because I've spent the last three weekends out-and-about. First there was volunteering at the MUT event, then an overnight paddle on the Keurbooms River and this past weekend I went on a group hike, my first group hike attendance, I think, since 1999! I'll post about the hike in my next post. This one will be about Keurbooms.

Whiskey Creek Cabin is an overnight hut on the Keurbooms River near Plettenberg Bay. It is managed and maintained by CapeNature. The hut can only be accessed by kayak so the booking includes paddling up the Keurbooms River - a journey of seven, pleasant kilometres. Kayaks are provided by CapeNature and for me it was the first time paddling a Legend Big Horn three-seater kayak*. While not quite one of my Vagabond kayaks, it suits the purpose and can carry a lot of load.

* Canoes are paddled with a single blade paddle (they're often too wide to be paddled with a double-blade paddle). Kayaks are paddled using a double-blade paddle. We used a double blade effectively making this craft a kayak, but it is styled on an Canadian-type canoe, just more narrow.

We had a good paddle, stopping at a scenic beach or two on the way up. On the path leading to the cabin I discovered some fungi, seeing an earthstar for the first time and finding Wood Ear jelly fungi for the first time in a while.

We hung out in the afternoon, had 60th birthday celebrations for a friend in the group and enjoyed a dinner braai. Sleep in the cabin was good. The morning brought with it a delicious breakfast and a leisurely paddle down the river.

If you ever plan to do this paddle, I definitely recommend staying over for two nights. No less. It really is special out there. The hut sleeps 12.

I shot some video clips, took some photos (all the good ones were taken by Zelda) and made a six-minute video.

Pictures speak louder than words. 

My first time paddling a Legend kayak. This Big Horn does its job as an big kayak to transport people and their gear. Photo: Zelda

Me.  Photo: Zelda

The cabin is big and solid with a big deck, which is where we all hung out. We got lucky with the weather. Photo: Zelda

The big deck and fire place. Photo: Zelda

Playing a general knowledge quiz game created by Zelda. Girls (me, Jolene and Carin) against the boys. We won. Photo: Zelda

Back on the water to paddle home. Photo: Zelda

A memorable weekend in good company with
Zelda, Carin, Jolene, Johann, Johan, Otto and Constandt. 

Thursday 1 June 2023

Aid station volunteer at the marvellous MUT event

George Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) is a big trail running event in my hometown of George. Started in 2018, the event has quickly become a calendar highlight. This year it became part of the UTMB Series where runners can qualify for Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. Course distances on offer include 10km, 25km, 42km, 60km, 100km and the new 100-miler course.

I volunteered at this event last year on gear check and at The Cross aid station. I went for a repeat this year with gear check on the Thursday and Friday and then being at The Cross from Saturday morning to Sunday noon.

I was on a team with the same core crew from last year with Koot, Chanelle and Kuyler. We had extra hands on Saturday during the bulk of the day when the shorter distances came through our spot We were on the mountain for 30hrs, enjoying crystal-clear views of George in the beautiful day and at night, even watching sections of the town come back on after loadshedding. Best view location.

This year we had a big tent, which was a blessing. The Cross typically is always windy. As luck would have it, there was little to no wind this year - or rain. The tent provided good protection regardless and was a big asset this year. Last year, we huddled behind the wheels of the vehicle to get some shelter from the wind and drizzle.

Me, Kuyler, Chanelle and Koot

At our aid station, we see the runners on the 10km, 42km, 60km,100km and 100-mile courses (we don't see the 25km runners). With 4.5km to the finish, we have the task of bolstering spirits to get the runners on the last stretch to the end. Saturday night and Sunday was all about the courageous 100km and 100-mile participants. The last miler runner, who came past us around 12h30 today, made it to the finish before his course's 48hr cut-off.

I got in a decent sleep from about 01h00 to 05h00, which I needed after long weeks in the lead up to the event.

The weather this weekend was perfect but the course was muddy and incredibly challenging. The ground was saturated from recent regular rains in plus rain on the Thursday afternoon before the race. MUT is not a walk-in-the-park; the gradient and terrain is challenging in good conditions. Race day was tough. 

At our aid station, we saw runners after Tonnelbos and Sungazer. Some were head-to-toe covered in mud and absolutely shattered but generally in good spirits knowing that they were almost done. 

It is always amazing to see the front runners but extra special to interact with those at the back. Lots of great interactions and laughs, and another rewarding experience of being an event volunteer.

Well done to all the dozens of people that make this event happen. MUT is a feather in the cap not only of George and our trail community but also of South Africa. Well done to Zane, Carmen, Jacques and their team - from trail cutters to the trail markers, planners, organisers, sponsors and race day volunteers. A huge effort goes into this event. 

Friends from Jo'burg came to do the 25km. It was a treat to have them come stay with us. Other friends who did the 60km joined us for lunch on Monday. Good time spent with good people to catch up.

Put this event in your diary for next year. Rain or shine, you will love your experience out here.