Sunday, May 10, 1998

TR South Africa

Trip Report
South Africa
2/18 – 3/5/98


Cape Town Old Mutual Marathon,
Cape Town, South Africa
Sun, Feb 22/98
Marathon # 123 – Country # 7

 I had finished four continents and now it was time to make a ‘soft’ goal of completing all seven continents into a major goal! I planned a trip to complete 2 marathons/2 countries/2 continents in the same trip. Africa was the 1st leg.

 The Sports Manager and I arrived in Cape Town a few days before the race to acclimate and recover from jet lag. It was summer in SA and HOT! We explored Cape Town for a few days enjoying a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain – 1086 m above sea level. It offered spectacular views of Cape Town, Robben Island, and the Peninsula. We visited Victoria Wharf often to sip cool wine & beer and enjoy cool breezes off the Atlantic Ocean. Did I mention it was HOT??

Sun was ‘M’-day. The race started and finished in the magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the eastern foot of Table Mountain. The race started at 10 am. Did I mention it was HOT??? Thankfully parts of the course were shaded. I passed 10 Km in 49:10 and a split of 4:50/km – too fast for the heat! I tried to slow down but still passed the Half in 1:43:11 and a split of 4:59/Km. I figured the 2nd Half would be much slower as it was now very HOT! When I reached 32Km in 2:46:15 my pace had slowed to 6:23/Km and I was struggling. Did I mention it was HOT?? I struggled through the last 10 Km to finish in 3:52:21 – my slowest time in years! But I had finished marathon #123- country # 7 and continent # 5! Now we could play tourist and enjoy ourselves for a while.

We rented a car and drove along the Atlantic Coast. The area is upscale and pretty and reminded me of California. We drove as far south as possible – to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, the most southern point on the African continent. We had difficulty avoiding the Chacma baboons because they are very aggressive. There is a penguin colony on Cape Point. Then we drove north along the east coast of the Peninsula to Simonstown on False Bay where there is another penguin colony at Boulders Beach.

Then we headed east to the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek Valleys in Western Cape Province. These are wine valleys with many wineries. We quickly discovered that South African wines are great – and the wineries are small and informal and don’t charge for tasting! We stayed in the wine valleys for a few days enjoying the scenery and tastings and then headed south and along the coast of the Indian Ocean to Knysna which is part of the Garden Route. We drove along the Indian Ocean back to the Peninsula and Cape Town following the route of the Two Oceans Marathon. What a beautiful marathon course – but very hilly. And did I mention it was HOT??

Sadly it was time to move on to Johannesburg where a friend, Mike Howell, worked and lived. Before we visited Mike we enjoyed a 3-day safari in Kruger National Park. We stayed in a rustic lodge in the Park and saw many animals including the ‘Big Five’. I remember two important events. The 1st event occurred as we were entering the Park and the guide/ranger stopped to show us a black mamba (snake) sunning itself on the road. He explained that if that snake bites you, you only have 5 minutes to live! I immediately decided that I was not running in the Park. The fence around our camp might stop a lion but it wouldn’t stop a black mamba! The 2nd event occurred when we were stopped at a water hole to watch game and a lion had killed a gazelle. A bull elephant came to the hole for water and he became really pissed off that the lion had killed the gazelle. He charged the lion and when the lion retreated he was still enraged so he charged our van. Even the ranger was scared – and we also retreated to safety!

At the end of the safari we visited Mike. He lived in a walled compound (with barb wire on top) and 24 hour-armed security. He warned me NOT to leave the compound when running so I had restrict myself to a short 1-mile loop inside the compound. Mike showed us around JNB including Soweto. We enjoyed side trips to Pretoria, the capital and to Sun City – an African version of Las Vegas. Two days before we were to depart Nicole fell in Mike’s yard and broke her wrist. We took her to a Medical Clinic where they x-rayed the wrist and then set it in a cast that would allow for swelling on the plane. The treatment was 1st class and the total bill that I paid by Visa was $150! When we finally got back home and went to our orthoped he was impressed with how good the care had been!

But we weren’t ready to return home yet. We had to make a slight detour and stop on the way home to run a 2nd marathon/country/continent!

Stay tuned!




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