K-Way Travel

K-Way – Travel

Adventure racing at a young age must be one of the best preparation schools for any person wanting to explore beyond the borders of his own town the day he is old enough. If you are lucky and do not pick up any serious injuries, bankrupt yourself in the process of buying gear or by accident have quadruplets at the age of twenty-two, you can participate in adventure based activities until a very ripe age. Whilst participating in adventure racing from a young age you get exposed to various things that in modern times are seen to be a bit, well, uncivil and not necessary. On the other hand, let’s look at what it can prepare you for.

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Adventure Race Camp with Helpmekaar Kollege Students

Adventure racing

With normal adventure racing you get given a map with PC coordinates (Passport Controls) that you have to plot on the map and then at your own pace you have to find these PC points. Normally a schools adventure race consist of running, mountain biking, swimming and/or canoeing that serve to transport you to various other activities like abseiling, rock climbing, archery, shooting, rope work, jumping from obstacles and any masochistic activity thought out by the organizer. The whole adventure layout and plan is normally aimed to make sure the athlete gets a fairly good injection of adrenaline, get to know their personal physical limits whilst at the same time enjoy nature in its purest form. At the start and during the entire race the athletes have to plan their own journey carefully as not to get lost, run out of fluids and make sure that they eat enough and therefore have to carry everything for sustenance and survival with them. Speed is always of utmost importance since after all, it is a race. Careful planning must go into what type of fluid taken, food carried, shoes worn and clothing to be carried with you to cope with the elements and survive whilst pursuing the adventure. Simple things like sunblock, basic medical provisions, emergency cold weather clothing, some survival equipment like a knife, a means to make fire and lighting must be included to ensure you do not get stranded without being self-supported. Dirty clothing, no hot water to wash your face, sleep deprivation, craving for mom’s food and being constantly tired are but a few of the challenges you have to overcome on an adventure race.

 

Adrenaline

 

However, adventure does not need to be the pursuit of adrenaline only and this is where K-Way comes into play. Without him knowing it I know now who they named the clothing and adventure travel accessories line after that is sold by Cape Union Mart. It must be deducted from the König Way. Many very privileged children, and by that I do not mean that they are always financially privileged children, get to experience KATS (König Adventure Travel School). If you have been unfortunate and never participated in Schools Adventure Racing nor have travelled with Klaus König then you are now very fortunate to read about the KATS experience. Every year during the winter break for private schools Herr König takes a few very excited school kids on a tour, plainly called the August tour or the Overseas tour. To get accepted on the tour works on a first come first serve basis and apparently no bribe whatsoever will get you included if you do not make the cut, cut-off date or default on payment dates. Klaus König is the charismatic, widely loved, immensely respected, sometimes controversial, always direct, big-hearted, travel loving, born educator and principal of Helpmekaar Kollege in Johannesburg where he is instilling some fundamental ethics and basic principles of hope and certainty into the life and future of many a young person, adding the icing to a potentially stale education process, through KATS.

Anika Matriek

K-Way Graduate

Planning

 

The tour is meticulously planned and booked well in advance with specially selected establishments that not only provide reasonable accommodation but very importantly they are fairly affordable. Remember you actually are going on an exploration to provide a historical and cultural experience and by staying in five star accommodation would not serve the purpose of the idea. All students are provided with a folder that include the entire itinerary together with detailed information on the history of the country and all places of interest that will be visited. This enables students to read in advance and understand the significance of what they will go and experience. With his team of teachers that get allocated to a few students for chaperoning on the tour, Herr König is only left to lead the group and can leave the nitty-gritty of herding and controlling to his officers. Every eventuality, risk and activity is investigated and dissected to plan ahead that could delay the trip and even recommended pocket-money is suggested based on experience.

 

Planning for a trip with KATS is so easy because everything is done for you. The only thing you have to do is to get a bit of training behind you since the man with the walking legs do not wait for the weak, he only pushes on and on and on.

 

The Tour

 

This is where the similarity to Adventure Racing comes in and where the experience you gained from doing some Schools Adventure Races come in very handy. The similarity is actually scary when you look at it. When you travel with KATS or the K-Way you use planes, trains, boats and busses for getting around to go visit the places of interest and with SchoolsAR it is Mountain bikes, running shoes, tubes, rafts and canoes. The distances just differ quite drastically. You both go into the unknown but for the sake of safety the route gets checked by the organiser long in advance. See the relationship? As with an adventure race, with KATS you have to keep up or you get left behind. The tour group get divided into groups with a teacher as overseer of the group which is very similar to the captain of a SchoolsAR team. Likewise you do not leave any of your group members behind and everybody need to look out for their buddies. Lots of travelling is squeezed into a fairly short period of time to maximize the exposure one gets. This means that on a tour with KATS doing it the K-Way you also get very tired, sleep deprevated from travelling at night, blisters on your feet, get thirsty and many other symptoms in line with those encountered in SchoolsAR.

 

The clothing you take, the shoes you choose, when to drink fluids, when to eat and many other pre planning issues are unbelievably closely related to that of a schools adventure race. Before you start any activity you need to know exactly where you are going, how you are going to get there and plus minus how long it will take. When you get lost you return to the last place you remember where you know you were and then orientate yourself again to take the correct direction.

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KATS in China

Consequence

 

The consequence of graduating from KATS is simply astonishing. The K-Way automatically pops out when these graduates get into travelling mode with parents or other people afterwards. Get up early, move, explore, move, explore, move, go to bed late, don’t complain, just go. Being fortunate to have an inbuilt desire to explore beyond the norm, our family has had the privilege of having two graduates from the König Adventure Travel School. One explored the Far East and the other had the rare fortune of multiple qualifications because he traveled to India and then also to North Africa and Europe with KATS and The K-Way. Both definitely know the K-Way and the oldest seems to have been born with the K-Way in any case.

 

Apart from the graduates now not at all afraid to travel on their own, they also thrive on grasping the opportunity to get sponsored by their mother and simultaneously try to stop me to SKI, as in Spend Kids Inheritance. However, the exposure obtained by travel and the consequential damage caused by it (my pocket) cannot be compared since the exposure far outweigh any negative. My K-Way kids now appreciate history, geography, cultures, heritage, architecture, communities, cities, villages, art and most importantly they understand diversity through their K-Way experience. The consequence of the König Adventure Travel School is priceless.

 

 

What next?

 

Well, I believe that Herr König is planning something new for 2017 that will involve some close friends and acquaintances and obviously some very lucky kids. The love for travel need never be hampered by physical limitations and maybe because of the pace of the youth, mechanized transport could replace some of the “on the trot” trips to ensure that more is seen in shorter a time but without putting too many kilometers on those worn out soles. Yes, an iron horse trip I believe is in the planning to explore previously unreachable destinations in faraway countries with hidden gems. Kids, do not worry, Schools Adventure Racing and KATS will stay and The K-Way will grow and grow.

 

Once the travel bug has bitten you………….there is no cure, just do it The K-Way !!!

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Blisters

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Introduction

The secret to enjoying and finishing any foot race, hike or trek is quite simple, look after your feet.  Many articles have been written about foot treatment, blister treatment, blister plasters and many more cures to blisters but the main factor to look at is actually prevention.  The old saying of “prevention is better than cure” becomes so relevant with blisters you cannot even fathom the reality of it.  Herewith my opinion about blisters and how to handle them.

We all like to wear shoes for different reasons.  I can think of a few for myself.  I like to wear running shoes when going for a run.  Very few people fall into the Zola Budd category where it seems to be more comfortable to run barefoot.  Personally I like to walk barefoot and as a child basically only wore shoes on Sundays and then only for about an hour maximum.  In those days’ paper thorns (Alternanthera pungens) were merely something terrible to barefoot kids from town and not an obstacle at all to us boys living on a farm.  We had very hard and tough soles and treated paper thorns like a carpet.

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Photo 1.  Alternanthera pungens or better known as Burweed or paper thorns

When growing older you buy shoes for different occasions and depending on your likes and dislikes you tend to end up with sport, work and leisure or casual shoes.  When buying a new pair of shoes you inevitably land up with some friction, irritation and often a blister or two.

Why blisters form

So why does blisters actually form?  Basically there are three factors that need to be present for blister forming.  Once all three are present it actually happens quite fast.

Heat                              Moisture                                Friction

The factors above work very well together to form a blister that can make big men cry.  I say big men because for the mere fact of their size and subsequent weight they normally form blisters faster and tend get them in enormous sizes.  Basically your foot will get hot and then start sweating and because of the type of socks and shoes you wear the friction they cause will make you develop blisters.

How Blisters form

Now that we know why they form I suppose we can look at how they form.  The outer layer of your skin rub against something that exerts friction. The outer layer of your skin then rub the inner layer of your skin.  After enough rubbing the outer layer becomes loose or separate from the inner layer.  This is where the dynamics of your body takes over and lymph fluid is pumped into the space between the two skin layers.

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Photo 2.  Lymph fluid between skin layers

At this stage you say goodbye to the outer layer of skin as it basically dies due to the loss of contact with the oxygen and nutrients of the body.  It becomes dead skin.

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Photo 3.   Dead Skin

When do you get blisters

In the sport disciplines I have been involved in blisters are part and parcel of it.  In canoeing you get blisters on your hands, bum and while doing a race like The Dusi canoe marathon you can also very quickly develop foot blisters.  In cycling you can develop very nasty blisters on your bum and believe it or not, on your hands.  Running, trekking and trail running are obviously the big culprits when it comes to feet but I believe the biggest culprit for causing blisters is the o so popular hiking.  When I look back at what caused blisters in my case it was predominantly too much, too soon with not enough conditioning.  Thereby I mean that the affected area where the blister formed was not exposed to the activity long enough in training to produce the excessive conditions to produce a blister.

In canoeing as with in cycling we use the term “you must spend time on your seat”.  This conditioning of your body parts to get used to continuous rubbing and chafing is why some people get blisters and some do not.  If you inspect any good canoeists hands you will find them very tough and ninety percent of the time a callous or three will be found in spots where excessive friction occur.  Wearing gloves in my opinion just increases the possibility of adding friction and speeding up the process of getting a blister.

Cycling has developed a fairly good preventative piece of clothing to eliminate blisters on the bum.  I do not know if padded cycling pants were developed for prevention of blisters or for relieving pressure on nerves.  In any case, most cyclists will tell you that it’s intention is that your ass does not get sore.  With padded cycling pants you get a relief from friction due to the multiple layer design of the pants.  The problem of heat, moisture and friction is still present and only the type of material used for the pants can cause problems.  It could happen that the different materials used in manufacturing the pants cling to each other when it gets wet and then the same old problem occurs.  Blister on the bum or there where you do not want it.  Therefore you get a million different anti-chafe and chamois cream products on the market.  Vaseline (petroleum jelly) is still my favorite.

Road running, hiking, fell running, trail running, orienteering, cross country and trekking all fall in the same category because the biggest culprit here and common denominator must be socks.  Very few people do not wear socks while participating in events.  Very short runs also seldom cause blisters unless the shoes or socks really do not fit.  I once believed in medical dubbin and applied it to my feet and between my legs in the thought that it would make my skin like leather.  Obviously there is a great difference between chafing and forming a blister.  Chafing can be horrible but is much easier treated than blisters.

How to treat Blisters

Prevention

I am a firm believer in prevention to be better than cure. From personal experience the best prevention to getting blisters is to slowly walk- or run-in new shoes (including boots) and gradually increase distances to get the shoes shaped and to get your feet used to them.  Trying out new socks and combinations should also be done gradually.  I have been fortunate to always finding shoes with the correct length and width to accommodate for my own challenges.

One must understand the dynamics of the body to know why certain things happen.  Your feet for instance swell during running or hiking.  I for instance go shopping for running or hiking shoes in the middle of the day.  My feet are then not swollen like when I am on my feet the whole day and in the long run they fit better.

Gravity is not your best friend when you run or hike since it is constantly pulling fluid from your upper body towards your feet.  Normally if you are on your feet for longer than an hour while training you will develop some swelling in your feet.  This fluid retention in your feet make your feet swell and very unhappy since they inevitably get pressure from places not normally evident.  This is where you must know your own body and when buying new shoes you must take the swelling into consideration.

During my 200 km Master Trek through Libya I took a break from time to time.  I took my shoes off and elevated my feet a bit to relieve the fluid retention and subsequent swelling.  Just lying flat for a few minutes at regular intervals also help.

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Photo 4 Taking pressure off the feet and drying socks

The extreme heat of Libya did not help a lot but because of this preventative measure I did not develop any serious blisters.  Swelling of the feet also causes other problems like toe nails getting irritated and inflamed.  Another solution I have been trying is compression socks.  It apparently improves blood flow and prevents fluid retention.  I have been cycling with them but have not done any long distance running or hiking with them so cannot comment with personal experience.  From the photo above you can see that I am also drying my socks.  Dry socks and dry feet obviously prevent the formation of blisters.  Carrying an extra pair of socks to swap is also good practice. Some people use talcum powder and other type of moisture absorption powders but I have not really experimented with it.

Another way of preventing blisters is to apply another layer of non-slipping and thus a non-friction forming layer.  By non-slipping it is meant that the layer must not slip on your skin.  By non-friction it is meant that the layer must be smooth and not cause further friction with your socks.  A good example here is “blister plasters”.  These plasters should be applied immediately once you feel any heat sensation that concentrates on one spot.  They stick to your foot and are smooth on the outside to cause no friction between the outside and your sock.

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Photo 5.   Blister plaster on left big toe. No blister.  Feet after 200 km Desert Trek – Three days non stop.

I have used “duct tape” or “gaffer tape” as it is known in Europe.  It sticks to your foot like nothing else and is smooth on the outside so it does not cause further friction.  A further advantage I have experienced with “duct tape” is that it is waterproof and keeps moisture away from the problem area.

I have used “duct tape” or “gaffer tape” as it is known in Europe.  It sticks to your foot like nothing else and is smooth on the outside so it does not cause further friction.  A further advantage I have experienced with “duct tape” is that it is waterproof and keeps moisture away from the problem area.

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Photo 6.   Duct tape to decrease friction and keep skin dry

 

When you apply normal plaster with some gauze and antiseptic cream you can still cover it with duct tape to prevent further friction.

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Photo 7.   Duct tape over normal plaster to prevent friction.

I have also tried another innovation that has stood me well so far.  Marvelous Mimi, born to the name of Mimi Anderson, is a legend in ultra-distance running and she introduced me to “finger socks”. Yes, they are like gloves but only for feet. I used to be a bit prone to blisters between my toes but subsequently have been blister free in that area because of the toe socks.

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Photo 8.  Toe socks to prevent friction between the skins of the toes.

Should You Pop Blisters?

Personally, I always pop my blisters with a sterilized needle, sharp object or pocket knife, drain them and then put a band aid with antibiotic or anti-bacterial cream on them to keep them from getting infected.  If I have the luxury of carrying a syringe, needle and some Merthiolate, I draw the lymph fluid out and replace it with an agonising burn/pain just bearable to a normal man by injecting it into the cavity.

Merthiolate and Mercurochrome, also called “Monkey Blood” by some people, apparently interferes with the healing process and therefore a good anti-bacterial cream should rather be used.  I have found that Merthiolate dried out the blister faster and you could remove the dead skin faster and therefore get going sooner.  Since I am not medically trained I will state again that everything in this blog is totally personal opinion and I recommend that you seek professional opinion before believing anything I say.

However, there are some people who say that you should never pop a blister.  Why?  Because the blister is “nature’s band aid.”  It’s thought that if you pop a blister, bacteria will have contact with the unprotected skin and it leaves you open to infection.

That said, there are some times when popping a blister is necessary -such as when it interferes with your being able to wear your shoes.  Or, when the blister interferes with other things that you need to do in life.

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Photo 9.  Popping a blister to enable somebody to proceed with a race.

Taking care of blisters

It obviously happens too often that you think that it is only a bit of discomfort and that you will carry on for a little bit more and then look at what is causing the irritation.  Needless to say, once you take your shoes off you are normally faced with something that is much bigger than initially thought.  Your body obviously has a mechanism of helping to protect you and therefore produce certain fluids in areas of concern to protect you.  Low intellect or stubbornness could also be a factor in not feeling it early enough!!!

If you need to proceed with whatever you are doing and cannot afford the luxury of waiting for a blister to heal naturally then you need emergency treatment.  These emergencies then also normally happen very far from hospitals and doctors and therefore calls for innovation, knowledge, basic first aid knowledge and a hand full of common sense.

Personally I would drain the fluid from the blister, apply some anti-bacterial cream and cover it with a waterproof layer. I would make sure that no more friction and pressure is directly applied to the spot.  A bit difficult when it is under your foot. Here the preventative measure of using walking/hiking poles could be significant.  They assist in taking a lot of pressure of your feet.  Take care, if you are not used to moving with walking/hiking poles, they can cause other problems.  Cutting away parts of your shoe can be helpful if you can afford it. I have personally cut open the front of my running shoes after a specifically difficult downhill Comrades Marathon.

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Photo 10.  Relieving option for blister pain with swollen feet.

Finally

If you do not have to proceed with a race or you are finished and need blisters to be treated, it is best to get decent medical attention. Again, the blister should be cleaned if already broken and anti-bacterial and possibly antibiotic cream can be applied to speed up the healing process.

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Lear, Conquer, Explore

Learn, Conquer, Explore.

As experienced by Christo Horn.

The sun is slowly dipping to the west, not a cloud in sight with the smell of dust overwhelming our senses.  The cool misty morning has changed into a lovely escarpment winter afternoon. The land is dry, wishing, begging and yearning for some moisture. The grass everywhere is short, bone dry and waiting for the fire that will spark the cycle of new growth. This is the water divide; the water does not stay here. It flows away to the east through Swaziland and Mozambique into the warm Mozambique current or west into the Vaal river catchment area to eventually dump into the cold Atlantic Benguela current. Not much stays here, not much is needed here.

There are three of them about fifteen meters in front of us, two of them about ten meters a bit to the right, the three of us, at the back. You can smell the anticipation and excitement, or is it doubt, nerves or just plain fear? The pain of the long day is slowly draining away, forgotten the cramped gripping, first with one finger, then two, three and finally a whole bunch, the frustration of trying and trying and the feeling of weakness is also disappearing. Burning, bloodshot eyes, like red highways on a roadmap imprinted on our eyeballs, but it does not bother now. Every sense totally focused on that first turn about sixty meters further. The muscles tension, senses sharpen, eyes wait, minds scramble. This is the culmination of what we have learned, excitement can be tasted and thoughts can nearly be heard, voices in your head telling you what to do, adrenalin slowly preparing to rush through the body, looking, waiting for the signal. How did we get to this point?

Have you ever thought how animals communicate? Do they talk to each other? Are there languages like buck, cat, vermin, reptile, mammal and fish? I asked my son how animals talk to each other, for instance lions. He quickly replied that lion growl in different pitches and fish have signs and make noises like dolphins. Ja swaer, very unlikely I think but they must have some sorts of communication. I watched a TV show once where a pack of wolfs went hunting for deer in Alaska. There were about eight or nine of them. It showed three to four of them approaching from the bottom of the valley and herding the group of deer up the valley. After about a kilometre of chasing a lone wolf waiting for the group would come from the right and cut off a few of the faster deer from the front of the herd. Obviously the wind was in the right direction so the deer would not expect him. He would then join the pack and chase the others further up the valley. After about another kilometre a fresh lone wolf waiting would cut from the right and split the group again, joining the pack with the chase. After another kilometre another fresh wolf would join the pack and believe it or not but would cut off the weakest, slowest or most tired deer. The final fresh wolf after some chasing would then appear from his waiting position and basically go for the kill. This proved that the wolf’s had excellent communication, a very well developed idea, chasing strategy, and execution plan. How did they do it? Did they sit together that morning, licking ice, talking about their mother inn-laws, cursing Raymond Ackerman for not opening a Pick & Pay in Alaska yet or talking about the noises their hunger pains made and then decided to quickly put together a plan to catch a weak deer? Did they also like humans discuss the tender pieces, what they are going to eat first, who is getting what and how far they will have to walk home with their full tummies? Maybe one was worried that his wife would complain about him being out so late with his buddies. Well, think about it, it must be something like that. A moving ambush we would call it, they most probably call it “catch lunch”. No, they most probably learned it from their mother.

It seems that non-verbal communication with animals is much better developed than with humans. Let us look at the lioness as an example. She will patiently show her cubs from a very young age through example how to hunt. They will learn all the skills from her to survive in a world where hunting for food is the only means of survival.  Without knowing it they put all their trust in her hands to learn. Learn is to gain knowledge or skills and to find out about new things. She does not talk, she just shows. They observe, they smell, they taste, they play, they feel, they “listen” and finally they practice, again and again until they have the knowledge and master the skills. The mother does not get agitated, she does not shout, she does not give up, she lovingly helps the slow one, patiently observing, thinking of how to best prepare them for the task at hand. Not one of the cubs get preference, all equal in her eyes. She knows that soon they will conquer, defeat the fear of hunting alone and overcome the feeling of insecurity, helplessness and dependency. The lioness will nurture and teach the cubs so that when they have learned and conquered, they will go out into the wild alone and explore, to investigate and to examine the possibilities. Most importantly, she teaches them all these skills to ultimately survive, to live, to hunt another day.

Like a cat stalking its prey, excited, careful, nervous, ears ready, eyes fixed on the target and not blinking, visualising the feast, we sit on our powerful iron horses, waiting for the signal. Ready, very ready to race around the oval track. We are merely cubs this weekend and our mother is the very capable instructor at Country Trax Off-Road Riding Academy. Through careful instruction and example he has taught us the finer skills of off-road riding. Tyre dynamics, balance, clutch control, front brake control, back brake control, throttle control, body position, foot position, protective clothing requirements, tyre repair, how to accelerate, how to slow down, how to slow down very quickly, how to turn, to look up and many more important facts that are absorbed into our sub conscience. He knows that we have learned, he believes that we can now conquer and he hopes that we will go out and explore with our new found skills. Like a lioness, he will not let us go without making sure we have conquered so he gives us this last challenge to gauge again, to measure again, to observe our skills, to see if we listened, to see if we understood, to see if he has succeeded, to see if he can let us go. It is not a race, everyone is a winner, everyone has behaved like a sponge and absorbed as much as possible. A smile confirms his hopes. All has succeeded. I am sure that if he was really a lioness we would have each received a proud lick over the head.

Did we learn, are we ready to conquer and will we explore and survive? What a question? Every cub in the litter must answer that for himself. Do I stay with my mother and learn more or am I ready to go out and practice the new skills to perfect and enjoy them? We are fortunate that we can communicate with a language or languages and as Homo sapiens we do not have to depend only on non-verbal communication, how lucky? It is great to be human, we can ride our motorbikes!

Am I ready to explore, beyond borders?

Who knows?

With anything you do, do not practice until you get it right, practice until you cannot get it wrong.

In memory of Andre (Duppie) du Preez who sadly left us in 2014 to ride alone.

Libyan Challenge 2006

Libyan Challenge 2006

Christo Horn

The first Libyan Challenge Master Trek was held from 27 February until 2 March 2006.  The race being a 200 km non-stop GPS assisted race was the first of its kind.  There were only 43 mad enough people to enter the race that was to be done in the South Western part of Libya in the vicinity of Ghat and through the Akakus mountain range. Participants from all over the world entered representing Canada, England, France, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Ireland and South Africa, to mention a few.

Just organising the logistics for such a race must have been a feat. With all international events something should and will go wrong. Nothing was different with the first Libyan Challenge. From getting Visas organized to airports being renovated and closed for landing were only but a few of the obstacles that the organizers handled quite well to let us participants have a smooth event. It meant that we had to do an unscheduled 550 km bus trip on a Libyan Desert highway but at least it just added to the experience.

We left Paris on a scheduled charter flight at 4’o clock on Saturday morning 25 February and after landing in Marseilles to collect more passengers it felt like we landed at every airport in North Africa to unload or load something. We eventually arrived in Sebbah in the middle of Libya at about 4:30 in the afternoon. From here we started our bus trip to Ghat and our base camp where we arrived at about 2 am on Sunday morning the 26th of February. Nearly starved we were treated to our first serving of what seemed to be camel snot soup, chicken and couscous. This seemed to be the staple diet and except for one evening this became our diet in base camp. We had to supply our own food for about four days in base camp and obviously for the 3 to 4 day Master Trek that lay ahead.

On the Sunday we had to do registration which included our kit check. This was quite serious and even the calories of our food carried with us were checked to the finest detail. We had to hand in an EKG report and a doctor’s note to confirm that we were healthy enough to tackle such a challenge. Every piece of compulsory kit had to be approved by the race organizers. Most interesting was the difference in technology of the professional athlete’s kit and the fish and chips at the back. The difference in the final weight carried also substantially differed. It mostly was attributed to the fact that the front guys did not worry about hot food and coffee where the back markers basically carried small supermarkets with them. Quite obvious also was the type of clothing that the professionals used compared to the run of the mill kit that you can buy from any department store that the plebs use. The kit that the locals used ranged from a cloth with a piece of rope to tie the things down with, to old army webbing belts and backpacks. Needless to say, footwear also presented quite a different picture. From top of the range Salomon specially designed shoes for desert racing to the basic no-sole canvas shoes you would find in imitation Chinese shops, were used. One young French guy was even seen walking barefoot at some stage.

As for me, I had technology on my side due to the fact that in South Africa we do not fool around when we know we are going to a desert.  Everything I took was well thought through and planned. From clothing to food and, well everything. Clothing from First Ascent protected me from the sun, cold, flies and also provided me with some of the best fashionable adventure clothing on the market for the off chance that there was a model scout lost in the desert looking for a middle aged dummy. The zip-off legs on the Utility Pants provided me with cool in the heat of the day and with the legs on lovely protection against the chilli nights in the desert. The short sleeve and long sleeve Canyon shirts were awesome in the heat of the desert. The quick-wic AR-X long sleeve top I used for the race and the AR-X shorts were awesome and I never had problems like others with chafing, etc. At least I looked and felt like a top athlete in my First Ascent clothing. Most important was my AR-X cap without which I would have overheated and perished during the day.

It was also the first time that I requested somebody to help with a balanced diet that weighed close to nothing. As said before, we had to carry our food with us. Energy Dynamics, a division of PVM, came to the party and assisted with the eating plan and then provided me with the food. Everything from the porridge for breakfast to the meal replacement powders were calculated to the point to give me the necessary nutrition during the whole seven days in the desert. All I had to do was add water and there was my fully balanced meal. Most important was obviously the weight to be carried during the race and there the powder based meals were excellent. The Fusion meal replacement, Octane energy drink mix, Ignite carbo load/recovery mix, Octane Gel and PVM bars were excellent for the trip. I never went hungry during the race and for that I have to thank PVM. At the end my weight for the food was less than even the professional athletes. I think they starved themselves. Not knowing how long I was actually going to take I did carry my full compliment of food for 4 days.

I was also the only person to have used hiking boots in stead of running shoes. The choice was Montrails. My feet were at the end of the race most probably in the best condition out of all the participants regarding blisters due to the choice.

The actual challenge started on Monday morning 27 February what felt to us like in the middle of nowhere. The bus dropped us off at two banners and a few vehicles and we were set of to follow our GPS points provided a week or so beforehand. Although on the mailing list as a participant, I only found out about this on the bus trip to Ghat and as such I sat the most of Sunday loading grid references into my Garmin 301. We were provided with 69 grid references which included 8 checkpoints or Control Points (CP’s) and the rest were waypoints to guide us along the route. At the CP’s we were to receive 4.5 litres of water. This meant that at about every 20 km we would be able to re-supply with water. In actual fact it did not work out that nice and the first two CP’s were 27 and 28 km apart. With about 90% of the way being sand and dunes the 27 km would be covered in about 4 to 6 hours by most. Needless to say, most people needed a bit more water in these hot conditions so dehydration was at the order of the day. In any case, I covered the first 50 something kilometres in a personal record breaking time of just over twelve hours. Needless to say that this was a bit slow but it is difficult to explain walking over dunes and then over another dune and another dune and another dune…… We designed and hand made gators that worked very well. The participants with no gators had to empty their shoes after just about every dune. Being overhydrated a bit, I decided to sleep a while and then carry on. It was so nice in my sleeping bag that I only got up the next morning to leave with the others that arrived during the night at CP2. This meant that I just wasted 8 hours of good progress. The idea was that I would not sleep at all except for a power nap here and there.

The scenery made the second day more bearable in the heat but due to the sand the pace was still not as it should have been. My intended pace was an average of 3 km per hour but due to the sleep the night before this pace was a bit under pressure. I decided that if this pace was kept with another long sleep then I was not going to make the cut-off at 18:00 on Thursday 2 March.  I decided that come hell or high water I was going to walk through the night. The team from England, Andy the Irishman and I decided to join for the night walk. We went a bit slower in the dark but reached the 105 km mark at about 3 am the next morning. After eating and sorting out our sleeping spots on the sand under the stars we had a two hour sleep. Waking up that morning at CP4 I decided that I had to carry on by myself or I will be demoralised if somebody had to pull out. The feet of some participants at this stage was in dire straits and I really thought that they would give up.

So from PC4 I basically walked alone and just saw some other participants coming and going at PC5. Arriving at PC6 in the heat of the day I decided that before going onto the plateau in the scorching heat I would wait until it cool down and then tackle the second last leg to PC7. This was going to be the toughest for me as I did not do much hill training. For that matter, I did not do a lot of training at all. My feet were killing me and I was really feeling sorry for myself. I rested for about an hour and a half in the shade where I entertained myself by taking photos of, well, myself. I must also confess that I lost a lot of time taking photos.

As the sun started setting I left PC6 with me believing that I would most probably finish last at the pace I was going. I never believed anybody behind me with the state of their feet would finish in time. Walking at night to PC7 was an awesome experience. I had to haul across the plateau to reach the descent before it was totally dark. Being dark moon it was really pitch black at night. I lost the vague track a few times and cursed while tripping over rocks. It took me much longer than anticipated. After the most hectic 3.9 km and dangerous descent of my life I reached PC7 at around 11 pm. Knowing well that I had about 46 km to go and another day of painful feet and lots of sand, I decided not to rest. The marshal then came with the good news that the race had been shortened due to the toughness and that I only had about 16 km left to the finish. I jumped into my sleeping bag and decided to sleep for two hours and then push on to the finish.

At about twelve some other racers that I caught up to, made lots of noise getting ready to leave and I decided to get up and go. I left at a cracking pace only to run into some stupid rocky ravines. My feet were killing me and I realised that for some reason I am not making lots of ground on another group of participants that left just after me from PC7. Eventually I gave up the rush through the rocks and cut away perpendicular from the GPS bearing for about 1 kilometre to where I found a sand track that made progress much easier. I finished at about 5:30 in the morning. No one can explain the feeling of walking in soft sand and dunes at night unless you have done it for more than 175 km non-stop. I managed to finish 21st with three other participants in a time of plus minus sixty eight and a half hour’s.

A mind boggling experience that will stay imprinted in my mind forever.

Thanks to the following people that supported me and helped:

  • My wife Yolandie and kids for the help and giving me the time off.
  • Petru at PVM for the food sponsorship and Elma for the diet plan
  • Andrew and First Ascent for the clothing sponsorship
  • Garmin for their assistance with the GPS
  • Nexans in France for my accommodation while in Paris
  • Andrew at Compass Sport for all other bits

Blog 6

Navigating to nowhere.

If you are an adventurer or adventurous type of person and you have never been lost, you are very special. Being lost is very easy. Whenever I walk through a shopping mall I see many lost people. They are lost in a world of loneliness, empty of adventure, isolated and gathering things instead of living to make a difference. Some can hardly walk they are so stuffed with too much junk food, genetically modified nonsense and artificial sweeteners. The people walk as if on their way to nowhere and on their way they observe nothing. Nobody makes eye contact and very seldom do they acknowledge a greeting by just even the driest smile or nod. Lost man, I tell you, they are lost.

Whilst participating in adventure races the worst thing that can happen is that you get lost. “Where are we now?” These words team members never want to hear after they have raced for hours, are tired, running out of food and water and worst of all, running out of daylight.

Getting lost in broad daylight with a topographical map in an area with many landmarks is unforgivable. Getting lost in an area like the bushveld is another thing. When you are in an area that is fairly flat, with trees just higher than yourself and very few large land marks, natural or artificial, you can very easily get lost if you do not stick to basics. By basics I mean real common sense basics. I always ask kids what the most important rule is about Adventure Racing. My simple answer is without failure “always know exactly where you are”. This statement is two-fold. The one is to know where you are on the map and the second is to know where you are physically on the ground. If you do not know this then you are lost.

The second most important rule when navigating in an adventure race after knowing where you are is to know where you are going. If you do not know where you are going, you are also lost. It is imperative to plan the route that you want to follow. By planning your route there are many things that you must take note of. How long will it take? How much water or fluid must I take with? How much food must I take with? If it is a cycle leg, what will be our average speed, where do we have to turn, where will we possibly have to carry our bikes and for how far, will we get wet, do I take wet lube or dry lube? Is it going to rain and do I carry rain clothes or will the sun shine and do I pack extra sunblock? If it is a hiking leg you must choose footwear to suite the terrain, etc, etc. Socks are very important. Blisters are your enemy number one and advance planning on how to deal with blisters can be the difference between an experience to be shared and an experience out of hell.

The third rule to consider is the simple one of “never follow another team”. They might be lost and as a rule of thumb, they will never admit it. So instead of following another team rather make sure that you know where you are and where you are going. If you do not know then just ask the other team to show you where you are on the map. From there you re-plan your route if you are not on track.

Rule number four is as important as all the others together and normally is the difference between success and failure. There can only be one navigator in the team. Only one person can make the final decision on where exactly to go next. I have seen over many years of racing and coaching teams that the successful ones follow a simple method. The navigator makes the decision on the route and confirms it with the assistant navigator. After confirming it with the assistant the navigator informs the rest of the team of the plan of action and thereafter keeps the team up to date as the race progress. If you do not trust your navigator, do not race with him or her, you will only get frustrated and won’t have fun. You should also be honest with team mates when you realise you are not a navigator as some people just do not have a sense of direction. This does not mean you cannot be a valuable member of the team, it just means you should stay away from the map.

On top of the list when preparing to pack your kit for an adventure race must be the one and only tool that is imperative to the success of your race. Yes, the Compass is the one tool you cannot go without and failing to use it is the downfall of 80% of teams that have navigation problems. It is the first tool to use when orientating the map and thereby yourself. When racing in the dark you cannot go without having your compass handy the whole time and making sure you are going in the right direction. Remember, at night you do not necessarily see landmarks that are normally easily identifiable in daylight and therefore cannot rely on features indicated on the map. Knowing how to determine true North to orientate your map with a compass by allowing for the magnetic declination is critical. Rule number five is to use your compass constantly.

Rule number six could also be rule number one but according to me it is less important but still something important to consider. If the captain of the team is not the navigator then he cannot overrule the navigator’s decisions. He can only assist and make recommendations like the other team members.

Basically an adventure race is very similar to real life.

  1. Know where you are at all times. Know why, where, how and with whom you fit in. Your work, social, mental, physical status and position in society at large must be known by yourself.
  2. If you do not know where you are, how would you know where you are going? Everybody, does not matter what age you are, need to have goals, aims and vision of where they want to go. Be it work, sport or social goals, the fact is that you need to have some sort of future planning in place. I have heard the saying, “if you do not know where you are going then any path will lead you there”. You need to choose a destination and then plan the route or path that you are going to follow to get there.
  3. If you do not plan or use certain tools to guide you in the right direction then you could find yourself lost. Sometimes a good friend could be the compass that guides you in the right direction, literature or gut feel are also tools that could help guide you.
  4. You have to make and execute your own plans. Do not be a blind follower, be a leader.
  5. If you find yourself in a team you must understand and respect each member of the team’s position. Accept their input and decisions but feel free to give input with recommendations.

Always remember:

Adventure can be more than just the pursuit of adrenaline

Andries the Dog

Blog 5

Andries the Dog

You might think, “What the hell does Andries the dog have to do with adventure?”. You see, to be able to do most adventure activities you need to be fairly healthy and for most adventures you also require a certain level of fitness. If you have a full program and especially a non-routine type of work then it is difficult to fit in with routine exercise.  Not many people can also discipline themselves to train alone and that is why Gym’s do so well or that friends form training groups. These groups work when you have routine working hours and are undisciplined. Yes, I say undisciplined because you basically go not to let the others in the group down. This is where Andries comes into play. Andries is always ready to go for a walk or a run. Andries is basically always free since his real job is only to please the family and be played with. He also moonlights as my training partner. He might not know it, but he is my inspiration. He has never said no to training, never complained, has made no demands, he has never not enjoyed it, never complained about my route or distance and he has never had an excuse of any sorts not to go. You will also see from below why he thinks he is also my protector when we go for a walk or run. Yes, he thinks that he is my bodyguard.

Animal behaviour to millions of people does not make any difference to their lives. With this I mean the behaviour of domestic animals and specifically dogs. There are too many animals classified as domestic to even differentiate but my pet peeve is domestic animals that do not behave. I do not even want to go into the issue of domestic animal behaviour in public spaces and specifically my beloved Johannesburg Botanical Gardens next to Emmarentia dam that was put on the map by the world famous Dabulamanzi Canoe Club. A topic for another day.

Andries is a mini or miniature poodle. Andries does not think so. According to him this is him.

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Instead Tibo is part of his adopted family. You see, Andries comes from Greenside in Johannesburg and was born at the Van Wyk residence where his mom and dad used to reign supreme. Since then the Van Wyks obtained a real size poodle in the form of Thibault (Tibo). Tibo is a real giant and we believe that during one of our holidays when we left Andies in the care of the Van Wyk family, Andries was brainwashed by Tibo. He surely believes that they are now equals. I state this because this is the attitude we pick up from Andries. This is actually Andries and not the giant you see above.

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Andries is actually Anika our daughter’s dog. She studies at Stellenbosch some 1400 km away and guess who must look after Andries’s ego now. Jip, you are correct. Yours truly. Andries was the first domestic animal we allowed in the house except for Chuck. Chuck is the budgie the Woodhead family left with us after relocating from South Africa to England. Chuck must have also been listening to the Woodheads plans of emigrating as the first opportunity he got, he flew after them. It is now some 12 odd years later and from first hand knowledge, Chuck has not reached England yet.

In any case, to get used to a domestic animal in the form of Andries in the house was easy since Andries does not loose hair, eats outside, is quite intelligent when it comes to doing number two’s and from time to time is allowed to take food from you next to the table in the most decent and humble manner. Apparently peeing on the other hand Tibo his mentor and equal told him, was imperative and totally necessary to show his stature and confirm his alpha male status in the Horn residence. However, when confronted you would think he is constantly being physically abused with his well taught (by Tibo we think) act of crouching like a farm dog caught with a chicken in the mouth. Droopy eyes and with the tail between the legs.

Taking Andries to the parlour is another story. Apart from the fact that he makes the weirdest moaning noises on the way there and back he apparently hates the whole experience at the parlour even more. Maybe this is where he sees that Tibo tricked him into making him believe that he was a giant poodle. It is a dog’s life they say. Well, a dog’s life in the Horn house and especially when you are Andries seems to be the way to go. I often remark to my better half, “When I come back, I want to be Andries or at least a dog in this house”. I go to the barber around the corner for my monthly treat of a haircut and a steam shave. This sets me back a whopping R 70.00 and to top it I normally get a head massage thrown in. I also normally walk there. Andries on the other hand gets picked up by our company driver, gets delivered to the “Doggy Parlour” and after a do not know how long pampering of nails being clipped and filed, shampooed, shaved, dried and powdered gets collected and delivered back home to come eat, shit and lie around. This after a whopping R 180.00 from my early retirement fund.

Obviously being a fit and healthy dog, Andries also get only the best food from the best manufacturer for the best price. Best price here does not mean what you think. The best here sways its balance to that of the food manufacturer and by that I mean the manufacturer gains the financial advantage. I know their answer to your question regarding the price. “A dog is man’s best friend. Would you feed your best friend cheap food?” No, but I do not eat lobster and caviar each day. “No sir, this is a healthy balanced diet for your dog! Blab la bla !!.” Farm dogs that has never seen dog pellets look as good if not better than their pellet eating city counterparts.

I have read that it is very important to let your dog understand who the pack leader is in the relationship. If you do not reaffirm this with your dog then they develop behavioural problems. Little dogs growling, barking and jumping on people is not cute but their way of showing you who the boss is. If the owner does not discipline or show the dog that he or she is the pack leader then you will have problems.

It is funny how Andries shows Anika that he is her boss. When he goes for a run with her, he is at full strength in front of her and thus believing he is the pack leader. When running with me on the other hand I keep him on a short leash next to me and therefore I have noticed also that he listens to me more than to her.


Anika & Andries

Does not matter his small dog syndrome behaviour, he is quite a good running partner with a good temperament and has an ongoing character trait to keep on pushing the limits in trying to take over as pack leader in the Horn family.

Ps. I know why Tibo is rebellious. The little dogs in the family are treated like pack leaders as they are picked up, petted when they look for attention, allowed in the house when visitors come and whereas Tibo, the big one, is being disciplined. I believe he is just fighting for his place in the pack and due to his size he thinks it is unfair that Romeo (Andries’s dad) is BOSS.

Home Bar

Home bar

Not many people have the privilege to plan, design and build their dream home during their lifetime. Most people, or should I say ordinary people normally have their first priority to be that of employment. With this comes the need for a roof over your head and a comfortable bed to sleep on. Depending on your age, size of family, likes, dislikes and most importantly budget predominantly dictates where you will look to find an estate agent to assist you in your hunt.

Estate agents are my nemesis. I do not understand their total lack of understanding of the fact that taste differ. I know I am generalising a bit but I am still to be corrected by my better half. First thing they ask you is, “what is your maximum budget? And then they go show you three houses that are over your budget. They do not understand the simple fact that you already feel a bit intimidated by their fancy clothes and sometimes extravagant car and then they try to play havoc with your emotional needs. The second question is always as to how many bedrooms you want. If you say two they go show you houses with three bedrooms and quickly tell you that you can utilise the other as a guest room or mostly they advise on how you can convert it into this or that and sometimes a study. Hallo, firstly, we can’t even afford the house and now you want us to do renovations?

The cherry on the cake is when they walk into a certain room and passionately tell you how lovely this room is. Without failure I always respond with the following: “please let me decide. What might be lovely to you does not necessarily mean it is lovely to me. I will ask you when I need your opinion”. This might seem harsh but you must never forget that the agent is not really on your side. The more they can get for the seller the higher their commission.

Some people on the other hand want to build their own house from the start. This dream obviously finds its origins in how you grew up and to what you were exposed to. From the weekend builder that never finish to the person that does all off-plan.

As with many people we started off in an apartment complex or as we commonly refer to in South Africa as a block of flats. Flats have a certain flavour to them. The layout, parking area, number of access points and communal area will dictate how well you get to know the other tenants. I really enjoyed the time we lived in a flat. The lock up and go type of living really suited my lifestyle at the time. Needless to say, all of us, or most of the people I know just always wanted a house with a garden, trees and then the all important South African requirement, an entertainment area which basically means a braai spot. An entertainment area means that there should be a bar counter somewhere. The Home Bar.

The modern South African home comes out of the pen of an architect and I would be totally amazed if any home in South Africa is planned without an outdoor entertainment area. When I say outdoor it is not really true because most of them are connected to the house and could be closed to the elements and made to look as if it is just another formal area in the house.

home bar

With this entertainment area inevitably comes a built in bar. I grew up in a house where we had a liquor cabinet that was basically only opened when visitors came around. My parents did not really drink so it was only on special social occasions that the cabinet was opened. However, the cabinet was a piece of furniture that stood out and you could immediately recognise it when you walked into the lounge area. With its beauty it obviously was mostly also the most expensive piece of furniture in the house.

Secretly I must admit that I still fancy a classy but small liquor cabinet over a grotesque built in bar stocked with booze that has expired many moons ago.

small cabinet   

If I am not totally wrong I could imagine that a bar in any designer house must be the most argued about addition to a house and the second most expensive after the kitchen. A kitchen gets utilised every day but a bar is an extension of the man in the house’s ego. If you come to somebody’s newly built house the bar will be shown first or the surprise will be kept for last. You will never walk past it like the third bedroom, no you have to stop and discuss the excellent parties you are going to have there, etc, etc. Sometimes it can be compared to a quote by GT Basson, owner of Tokara winery. He says that owning a wine farm you obtain a ROE and not an ROI. Return on Ego and not Investment. Same could be true for a home bar.

fancy bar

If you drink and drive, the best vintage is definitely Chateau de Pomp or better known in South Africa as Windpomp Sherry (H2O).

Don’t drink to forget, rather forget to drink.