By Kim van Kets

As usual before we get to day 4, there are some loose ends to tie up from the previous evening.  Rain was threatening on night 3 and our Kamp Kommandant mentioned at briefing (after his rather moving motivational speech to get us amped for the long day) that there was a possibility that we may have to evacuate camp which was set up in a river bed.  Oh dear.  Also it was cold and windy (so much so that a tent pole feel on Nikki’s head in the night) and I was grateful for the decision to bring my sleeping bag instead of a bivvy.  Erica is less fortunate and looks like a bag lady at night with a figure hugging plastic bag as a top and a bin bag for her bottom half to insulate her flimsy sleeping arrangement.  Ronnie on the other hand has a glorious white onesy made out of something light and flimsy.

My favorite comment of the day came from Pierre (after protracted discussion around his urgent need for a girlfriend). Poor Dalene suffered a minor injury tripping over the guy ropes and Pierre sprang into action to offer to comfort her. He managed to get his wires a bit crossed: “I am a storm in any port!” He declared with confidence.  That he is! The rest of the Ghetto is all in perfect agreement.   Another epic comment: Estelle was bewailing the fact that her legs were covered in gashes and bruises and wouldn’t look their best in her rokkie at the prize giving.  Erica’s reply:  “Toe maar, DIE’ ouens laaik dit!” (the bruises and gashes, that is. Really?). The epic fail of the day was Nadia brushing her teeth with Germolene, and being so tired she didn’t even notice.

I have been neglecting to write about my fabulous food, but will make up for it today.  Altie and I are planning to draw up a menu for the rest day (we planned this while I was watching her eat her freeze-dried apple crumble.  She gave me THREE WHOLE SPOONS of it so now she is my new BFF.  We are planning a sleepover at her gazebo for later in the week and I’m going to plait her hair on the rest day.)

My Kedgeree breakfast in preparation for the long day was simply epic.  Delicious beyond measure and a perfect combination of carbs, omegas and protein:  Woolworths precooked grains (multicolored rices and quinoa), with a full tin of smoked herrings, a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds and a dash of Nando’s chili sauce, seasoned to taste with rock salt and freshly ground pepper.  All this while everyone else is eating Futurelife!  My cup runneth over!

The long day is very challenging on every level and the first mental hurdle is the wait.  Runners set off in small groups thirty minutes apart between 6am and 1 pm.  This is to ensure that we all get to experience both heat and night running and also keeps the field more or less together.  But the sitting around waiting is really hard.  So much so that I was forced to have a follow up breakfast of chicken and veg soup, mature cheddar and a seeded wrap.  That helped to pass the time until 11.30 when I finally set off with Robert (who’s belly has thankfully recovered), Ronnie, Craig and Estelle (who took of like a bat out of hell never to be seen again).  The first two legs of the day were my favorite so far and were astonishingly beautiful, especially in the cool weather with the brooding purple clouds instead of the usual intense sunlight that often turns the view into nothing but a glare.  Running up the increasingly narrowing Duiwelskloof, imagining the watchful eyes of leopards in the craggy caves and inhaling the unspeakably beautiful smell of a few rain drops on the dusty parched earth….I was so firmly in my happy place that I had to take a few moments to quietly (for once) express my gratitude to everyone who makes this extraordinary experience possible.  A group who had left earlier (Retha, Este, Julie, Sophie) had been followed up the Duiwelskloof by a large pack of baboons, so their experience was slightly less euphoric.

I was treated to some springbok leaping effortlessly across the road directly in front of me and relished the solitude of running alone with only brief interactions as I passed someone or someone passed me.  It is always a bonus to imagine which fabulous crewmembers would be at the next checkpoint – they all have an ability to make you feel like their very favorite child.  I was especially delighted to know I would see Mich and Rolien at 2 checkpoints.  In 2017 I ran most of the race with Mich and I thought about him often, especially on the long day.

I had the good fortune to hook up with Craig the dairy farmer between about 25km and 45km and we got into a nice rhythm and ran along distracting each other happily with stories.  I cant recall the exact context, but he came up with a complete gem at one point which almost caused me to collapse in my (sandy) tracks from pure hilarious delight: “Ja, (he said wisely and with much gravitas) they get much stronger after they calve.” (This was with reference to woman runners.)  Shortly after I met up with Craig we passed a glorious party bus of 4 (led by Owen and Fronnie – a faction of the Kroonstad Trio) who kept picking up stragglers until they were 8 strong.  Apparently they took it in turns leading the bus, declaring time for group wee breaks(many), baked virtual cakes, called time for going fast and slow, learned and performed the Leeuloop song (by Robbie Wessels – the mind boggles) and even rewarded each other with a phone call to a special someone from Fronnie’s Nokia (when there was signal).  I bet they will remember the long day forever.  This is the camaraderie of the KAEM at its best.  Brothers in arms suffering flat out but laughing through it all and getting each other over the line.

One of my highlights of the day was coming across a secret compartment in my pack that I had forgotten all about.  I had stashed TWO pairs of A-Team socks in it and then proceeded to forget about it.  I came across them by pure chance at about the half way mark and was emotional with gratitude.  Nothing makes me happier than fresh fluffy socks (except a good meal perhaps).

We were treated to the most exquisitely beautiful lingering sunset – I was running along a plateau at the time and the sky seemed like an endless and magical world of color and beauty, with quiver trees and rocky outcrops silhouetted against the pink and silver sky.  Wow!  Another moment of extreme bliss.

I stopped for dinner at the second last checkpoint and had a brief moment (mid tuna wrap) of semi melt-down when I realised that my special pain management treat planned for checkpoint 7 and carefully stashed in a very safe place was nowhere to be found! Expletive!!  I tossed everything out my pack in a frantic search before realizing I was actually fine and not in need of it after all.  My joy levels were still pretty high and I didn’t need drugs, especially with the sparkly glitter rocks shimmering a path home in the light of my headlamp.

Despite all my waxing lyrical and despite the good weather and the beauty of the stage, a 78 km day on the back of 3 hard days with a heavy pack is always hard.  Especially when it includes a lot of sand (uphill sand, flat sand, downhill sand).  There is no one who didn’t have to dig deep yesterday at some point.  I was relieved and grateful to see the lights of the finish with my sense of humor undented (mmmm….other than that drug loss moment).  One thing I know for sure, if you have not run along alone (or with a KAEM brother in arms) in the magical quiet of the Kalahari moonlight, you haven’t quite lived.  Just saying.

Rambo and Louis (bless their hearts) have created a paradise for us on the banks of the mighty Orange, we are all putting ourselves back together and doing our laundry and washing our hair with Omo (a useful tip from Toosie.  Who needs salon shampoo!?)  I would be lying if I said we do not fear the big, hot day tomorrow.  But for now we are living for the moment. I am excited to make my long awaited pizzas this evening and to finally get the weight of my ingredients out of the pack.  Special news and further detail on that to follow.

Comments:

Had a moment in the riverbed at 2.30 am this morning.  Threw a tantrum and refused to go another step.  But all to no avail.  We finished it.  Karlien Coetzee 

Ek het altyd gehoor van die KAEM Familie, nou het ek dit beleef.  Nerens het ek op Comrades, Ironman of Cape Epic hierdie close omgee beleef nie.  Goed gereel.  Kan nie beter nie. Dankie KAEM team.  Paul Maree

We are on a lovely walking holiday and have learned some valuable lessons from the long day:

  1. Bring more cheese biscuits
  2. Take more Harry
  3. Wear gaiters or you will end up in the construction supply business


Mark Gallen

This is what I came to the Kalahari for: 78km across the most beautiful terrain.  It was tough going but so worth it.  Every checkpoint welcome. Top tip: set your watch properly!  Apparently I did 88km instead of 78!  Andy Williams

I have never before experienced such harsh rugged beauty.  And the final verdict: YES!  I am married to the Sandman!  Dave, this one’s for you! Nadia (after a 26 hour long stage, she still has her sense of humor.)

Everyone else is asleep or telling me to sod-off…. That’s it for now