Put Foot – Sleeping arrangements

Planning of the sleeping arrangements for the Put Foot Rally was quite simple.

“You know it; Ronald does not share a room; got it?”

It is the amateur travel agent that know the inns and outs of all the people I ever traveled with to sporting events.

“Yes, but we are going to camp so he can get his own tent.”

“Ha, ha, he is not a camper type, he will look for a lodge at every overnight stop. You are going to camp alone.” The travel agent thinks she knows him better. (she was right)

I am going to get myself a pop-up tent, quick to set up, light in weight and small to pack in the little Pajero.

There is nothing like the internet to do your shopping.

Unfortunately, you also get a lot of misguided information. At the end, common sense is all that should prevail. O yes, you should also speak to some people that use tents a lot. Campers!!!!

Ronald’s lodges are easy, you just look at the comments and reviews section of wheretostay.co.za, safarinow.com or afristay.com and you will immediately know if the establishment you are looking at is a dive or a jewel.

Speaking to hardened campers they all recommended a rooftop tent for an African Adventure. There were many reasons of which the most important was;

“lions normally do not climb onto cars to get to campers.”

The drawback in our case was the small little Pajero. All our bedding and clothing had to go inside with jerry cans, water tank, camp chairs, braai grids, pots and pans, etc, etc that had to go on top.

Things to consider;

Double layer roof to stop condensation falling on you.

Strong ground sheet that is waterproof.

Strong zips

Enough head space to sit upright when you get dressed.

Long enough to fit a mattress into it.

Utility pouches inside where you can store headlight, etc.

It was the Malamoo 3 Seconds Pop-Up tent from 4×4 Mega World in Strydom Park that got the nod. Will report later on the fun we had with them.

The amateur travel agent hit the internet and all her favourite websites to book some accommodation so that we at least get a decent wash and clean bed every so often.

So, nineteen to twenty days staring in Melkbosstrand on 15 June.

Accommodation planning:

South Africa

15/06 Melkbosstrand – Ou Skip – Resort lodge tent

Namibia

16/06 Fish River Canyon Village – Chalet

17/06 Sesriem – Quiver Desert Camp – Chalet

18/06 Henties Bay – De Duine Hotel – Room

19/06 Outjo – Sophienhof – Camping with tents

20/06 Etosha – Halali Camp – Camping with tents

21/06 Caprivi – Popa Falls Resort – Chalet (Room)

Botswana

22/06 Maun – Sitatunga Camp – Chalet

23/06 Gweta – Salt Pans – Camping in tents

24/06 Kasane – nothing booked – planned to camp somewhere

Zambia

25/06 Nothing booked – planned to camp somewhere

26/06 Victoria Falls Waterfront – Rooms booked

27/06 – Lake Kariba – Eagles resort – chalet

28/06 – Nothing booked but wanted to reach Chipata

Malawi

29/06 – Nothing booked – possibly Senga bay

30/06 – Senga bay – Hotel – room

Mozambique

01/07 – Nothing booked but wanted to reach Tete or Chimoio

02/07 – Nothing booked but wanted to reach Chimoio or Inhassorro

03/07 – Inhassorro – Booked camping at Camp site

Obviously, this planning went hand in hand with the route planning. This is not a real rally; the idea is to see things in the countries before you get to the checkpoints for the theme parties.

Next: Route planning

Put Foot – Planning

PUT FOOT –Africa Adventure – Planning (Well, sort of)

2B or not 2B, elementary my dear Watson, elementary. Or not!!

I get a call from The Nav:

“they informed me that we have to change our team name. 2B has already been taken by team one hundred and ninety-seven comma nine five six zero seven and fifty.”

“But we are team six, how can they ask us to change our name?”

“Ja, se moer man, the other team can change theirs.”

A few e-mails later from the legal eagle and our name is now 2B Barefoot. Name sorted.

“I have a SWB (Short Wheelbase) Pajero Diesel that we can use, it is not vintage but has a lot of kilos on. I think it will be great.”

The Navigator is a bit skeptical but since it is a fully paid, roadworthy, reliable and in good shape vehicle, he does not argue. We also agree that it will just be the driver (pilot) and navigator, no passengers.

Since I am married to an over eager amateur travel agent (far better than a useless professional), planning the accommodation took us no time. She did everything with a smile. Eish, Africa is style.

Now, for those of you that do not know. A Pajero SWB is tiny, very small, minute. Short means short, as in small. No space to pack for 20 odd days in deep darkest Africa. Jip, we will have to be self-sufficient since there are no Woolworth’s branches in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi or Mozambique that we know of so phoning my wife will be fruitless when we need to top up with provisions. The car is just so small, so we must plan not to die of hunger.

 

 

We take out the back seats since we are only two. If you pack or just throw in things, you will take forever to find things.

 

 

 

Two sheets of 9 mm plywood, a piece of 19 mm cut off Pine plywood and a few screws, a handful of eye bolts and a pair of heavy-duty sliders and we have ourselves a home-made, custom built, Pajero utility rack.

Not being professional campers, we need to borrow some stuff since we will most probably only use it once.

Second battery – Chris Erwee

GPS with Africa Tracks – Chris again

Fridge/freezer – Zander Horn

Goggles and snorkel – Zander again

We were offered a roof tent but since one of the pilots do not like to share, we each bought a pop-up tent for sleeping at the camp sites where we could not book rooms.

A list of camping equipment added to the limited space being cramped to the point where the little Pajero nearly burst out it’s seams. Just to list a few:

 

camping table                                                  2 pop-up tents

2 camping chairs                                             1 stretcher

1 camp mattress                                             2 braai grids

1 sleeping bag                                                  2 duvets & pillows

1 fold up braai                                                 1 small gas stove

5 Spare gas canisters                                   Snorkel gear for two

Recovery kit                                                      2 first aid kits

Boules set (French adult marbles)       Golf club and small bag

Lots of “wet wipes”                                       Toilet paper

Small potjie                                                        2 pans

Jaffel pan                                                            shovel

Lots of utensils                                                2 sets of plates, cups & cutlery

4 boxes full of provisions (too much)  2 camp lights

2 head torches                                                 Canon camera with back pack

2 Go Pro cameras                                           2 binoculars

Africa Map                                                          Dash Cam

Hats                                                                        Sunglasses

Electric compressor (pump)                      tyre repair kit

6 sets of party clothing                                 team clothing

There were more things, but I think this list gives an idea how the little Pajero was crammed. Planning to fit it all into the little Pajero was top of the list. We managed.

All we need now is a route

Put Foot In the beginning

PUT FOOT –Africa Adventure – In the beginning

“We are going on the Put Foot Rally; I have entered us.” Not a question, rather a statement, nearly an instruction, maybe even a threat. The we and us said with exclamation. I am taken back for a split second. Only a split second and then I am on it with much more enthusiasm than he ever expected.

“I will have to check if I can get a free pass. How long is the rally? I have been offered a second hand Sandmaster with a V6 Nissan Navarra motor in a while ago, I will check if it is still available?

The navigator (he does not know it yet, but I drive) smiles and lets me rant on for a while as he knows how exited I get when you start talking about any adventure.

“We must first try to just finish and if we look after the car and do not make mistakes a podium is not that farfetched.”

The Navigator is now laughing out loud. WTF.

“Wait, wait, your imagination is running away from you. It is not that type of rally.”

“What do you mean? A rally is a rally. You get a car, make sure it is mechanically sound, you enter the race, put juice and then you put foot. Take no prisoners. Finish and klaar.”

I quickly add; “You just have to make sure you can read those route notes fast enough. I can’t wait for sloths.”

The Nav is now more serious and I have an idea he has realized that I am driving. To my utter disgust he holds up his hand to end my rally.

“No, stop, stop, it is a charity event. There will be no racing. We are going to drive through Africa and hand out shoes to underprivileged school kids. You don’t have to buy a real rally car; we can go in any jalopy.”

And so, the planning begins:

Team name – 2B Barefoot

What car – Pajero SWB

Who’s car – Mine

Team members – Christo & Ronald

How to break it to the Boss. – Eish

Securing finances from the Boss – Eishy

Route – who cares

Accommodation – the Boss

Camping kit – eish

Refreshment top up locations – Ronald

Team clothing – Anika

Charity fundraising – Eish

Theme party dress – Anika

Next is preparing the chariot for the expedition – yes, the rally is now an expedition into deep dark Africa.

 

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.

Anika 52

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 !!!

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