Thursday, 29 September 2016

School holiday change of adventure

We were going to head to the Orange River for the school holidays next week for a three-day trip. Three days of cruising down the river and sleeping on the river bank. While this is lovely, I was dreading the > nine-hour drive each way.

As luck would have it, the river has dropped dramatically in the past week and at 30 cumecs, it is way too low. Our plans have changed and instead we have concocted a local adventure.

This past Saturday we went hiking in the Vredefort Dome, taking Ruben (8) and Kyla (11) with us. At 11km, this was their longest hike yet.

Celliers with Ruben and Kyla.
Hiking with children can be challenging and there is certain to be a bit of sulking and grumpiness at some point. Of course, there was, but they are at the age now where they're recovering quicker, picking themselves up (mentally) and they keep going (they realise that sitting in one place won't get them anywhere). There was only one incident each. Overall, they enjoyed the hike very much and were full of beans about doing another.

Meeting up with Marianne and Liz, my mom. They started ahead of us. We fortunately caught them before the windpomp, where we enjoyed a rest and a lunch-time snack.
husky. cows. windpomp.

My husky friend, Kiska, spent the weekend with us and so he came hiking too. I have a feeling he is afraid of heights (his dad thinks so too). He won't walk on bridges and he was definitely hesitant scrambling up the rocks on the 'waterfall route'.

Kiska was definitely not going to go anywhere near the edge! Ruben took a peak over the 'waterfall'.
Kiska did really well and with an easy pace plus frequent stops in the shade to cool down and lots of water, he made the 11km distance with energy to spare.

Kiska generally doesn't like anyone to be in front of him. But on technical sections where the trail is less clear, he appreciated following Ruben. But when the trail opened, like here, he would pull to get ahead again.
Yesterday, Celliers told the kids about the river being too low and thus the trip being called off. He presented them with a new option: a three-day hike on the Forest Run route, including camping out and carrying our gear. They jumped for it.

Later next week we'll embark on a local three-day adventure, of around 36 kilometres, that starts only 25 minutes from home.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

100th Parys parkrun on Saturday

On Saturday, our Parys parkrun celebrates their 100th parkrun. It will be a festive affair and we hope to have over 100 parkrunners. We've only had over 100 runners four times since this parkrun began two years ago. parkrunners have been roped in to bake cupcakes, which we have no doubt the participants will enjoy.

I'm one of the Run Directors here (we are fortunate to have five of us sharing the weekly role) and I share with Event Director role with a friend, Karen.

Over the past year we've seen nice growth in the number of local participants and often have visitors from other parts of the country (and world!).

If you're keen for an outing on Saturday, come to our 100th parkrun. I'm Run Director for the day. And then hang around town to enjoy the monthly Saturday market, Hartelus, which is just down river from the parkrun start. There are awesome products in the stalls as well as good food, craft beer and picnic blankets under trees along the river bank. Just lovely!

As for my own parkrun tally... I'm struggling to reach 50 as I have volunteered more often this year that I have run! I should be nearing 40 parkruns soon.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Bring on the female superheros

This is one of THE BEST TED talks that I have watched. It ties in with a post I wrote some years ago about how to talk to little girls.

In this TED talk, Christopher Bell, a media studies scholar, "addresses the alarming lack of female superheroes in the toys and products marketed to kids — and what it means for how we teach them about the world".

With an 11-year old girl in my life, and having just spent 9 days with 20 x 16 year old girls, this talk speaks to me.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Journey experiences

What an incredible programme that my friend, and old AR teammate, Garry Townsend has put together! Garry has been in outdoor education for as long as I've known him (17 years) and this shows in his experience and how he has put this Journey (one of many of his programmes) together.

9 days and 8 nights
20 x Grade 10 girls (16 years old)
Over 60km of hiking
Carrying a loaded backpack
Three food drops
One 'solo' night - sleeping alone in the bush in your own self-made camp
An environmental activity
Kayaking in a two-person inflatable raft (water was too low so we spent the morning paddling on a large pool in the river and jumping off a cliff into a deep pool below)
No mobile phones and internet

For most of the girls in my group (one of three groups) it was their first time ever to hike and camp and carry a loaded backpack and to sleep alone in the bush - and to have no cell phones.

I was fortunate to have a super assistant facilitator, Shane, with me. We got along very well. About two or three days in the girls asked whether we knew each other before this trip. They were concerned about the "What if we didn't get along?". I explained that since we both like the outdoors and that either directly or through friends we had a connection to Garry, that there was little chance that we wouldn't get along.

I thoroughly enjoyed each night's debrief session as it was interesting to hear the girls' thoughts from the day and their experiences. During the hikes we got to chat here and there to the girls, getting to know them.

On the whole, we found the girls to be really sweet and kind to each other. Of course, there were a few odd issues, where a girl here and there thought they were going to die - from the heat, effort or blisters. Shane and I thought that the girls were often a bit too sweet and too sympathetic to each other... where milking of attention is awarded - for small issues. Nonetheless, it was good to see so much kindness.

The area - past Bronkhorstspruit - is lovely, albeit helluva dry. The Olifants and Wilge Rivers are incredibly low and the bush screams out for rain.

This was a rewarding experience for me to see these city girls adapt to this environment and come out of it smiling and richer for the experience. I felt very proud to see these girls discover just how strong (physically and mentally) and capable they are.

Very proud indeed.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Going on a Journey with 16 year old girls

I'm off on an adventure on Thursday. It is an adventure that includes a group of 21 16-year old girls, who will be doing a multiday hike - with a spot of paddling and an abseil. A Journey. An adventurous, outdoor Journey. I'm along as the facilitator of the group.

A friend, and old teammate, is the organiser. He has been involved with school outdoor and adventure programmes for at least 16 years and he coordinates these multiday adventures for schools. I was delighted to be invited along to facilitate one of the three groups of Grade 10s.

We'll be in the Middleburg area, which is a region I do not know at all.

In his briefing, my friend mentioned how this Journey is very much life changing for many of the participants. It stands to reason when you look at the 'firsts' that these girls will encounter.

First time hiking.

First time camping.

First time preparing their own food and being, for the most part, self sufficient.

First time away from home, on their own, for a week.

First time eating, sleeping and spending a week with a group of girls from their grade at school.

This should be quite an experience for me too. While the girls carry their own kit, set up their own tent, navigate the hiking trail and make their own food, I'm on hand to make sure that they're safe, to deal with any issues, illness and the like and to guide a debrief and discussion each evening.

Yes, I'm very excited to be part of this and I hope to be a positive influence and to share a bit of my love of the outdoors and adventure with my group.

With that, my backpack is packed and I'll be offline for the next week and a bit. See you on the other side of this Journey.

New rogaining terrain

On Saturday the annual rogaining event was hosted out here on my home turf, in the Vredefort Dome. After Forest Run in late May, the map I'd created did a whip around and my orienteering friends decided that the area would be great for the annual rogaine. They came out here in July to check out a property, for which I had permission, and the ball got rolling.

Rogaining is a long-distance, cross-country version of orienteering. Instead of having to follow a defined course from checkpoint 1 to checkpoint 2 and so on, participants can choose which of the many checkpoints to visit within a limited time period. For this event there were 6-hour and 3-hour courses us a 90-minute 'Come-and-Try-It' course to lure locals to give rogaining a bash.

I was in for the six-hour and as I know the general layout of the area, I chose to run unofficially, on my own (rogaining is always in pairs).

Oddly, even though I know the general area, there are many places off the trails where I have never been and I found that navigation on a square of folded map, very often I didn't know where I was. And then I'd cross on to a bit of track that I recognised and I'd be totally surprised.

The map for this worked really well. It was a combination of a section of my Forest Run map, which had excellent contour lines (thank you Steph), tracks and some features plus additional tracks and features added by event organiser Ian Bratt and then with excellent aerial imagery underneath. This gave more than enough detail and definition.

For this event we used a relatively small area. Over time we plan to extend the map, but for now - and with only a short time to plan the event - this area was sufficient. The terrain out here is far more difficult and slower going underfoot than the forests of Lakenvlei, Kaapschehoop and Lydenburg where the events have been held since the first South African rogaining event at Suikerbosrand in 2003.

We've got steep climbs, thousands of rocks and an abundance of grass and thorny trees. Sections are quite vegetated, while others are open and easy going.

In general, courses are usually planned such that it is impossible for participants to get all of the controls. Winning pairs may only have to exclude a few, but on the whole no-one will get them all. With this course, being in a small area, it was quite possible.

Knowing that I've never got them all, I made a decision on which checkpoints (also known as controls in orienteering terminology) I would be most likely to leave out and off I went.

I was very, very surprised to cover ground faster than I expected and within two hours I'd cleaned up the controls in southern section of the area that I'd wanted to get. I'd decided at the start to leave the steeper hills in the north for my 'second half'.

At CP33, I was low on water and wondering whether to get the furtherest controls. I had the time... I decided to leave them, but really, I should have gotten them.

On this second half I bumped into a couple of pairs.

I crossed into the hills and made good time, getting everything that I could and reaching the finish in around 4h20. Of course, I could have stayed out and covered more ground to collect some that I'd missed, but cooking hot and out of water, I cut my losses, returned to the finish and enjoyed catching up with friends.

Nicholas Mulder and Piers Pirow had an excellent run. They got all the checkpoints, covered 21 kilometres - with over 1000m of climb - and got to the finish in 3h40!

Piers and Nic - photo by Craig Ogilvy
Celliers did his first rogaine with the 90-minute 'Come and Try It' event. He located all but one of the checkpoints, winning the course, and proclaiming rogaining to be his favourite orienteering-type discipline.

An excellent outing, superb event and a great area with pleasant hours spent on foot. Just perfect.