By Kim van Kets

‘I don’t push it and I don’t hang about.  If I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, it stands to reason that I’m going to get there.  I’ve begun to think that we sit much more than we’re supposed to.” He smiled. “Why else would we have feet?”

The young man licked his lips as if he was savouring the taste of something that was not yet in his mouth.  “What you are doing is a pilgrimage for the 21st century.  It’s awesome.  Yours is the kind of story people want to hear.’

An extract from “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce (which I happen to be reading at the moment, on loan from my running mate Sally).

There is so much to process and so much debriefing that needs to happen and so many nuggets filed away in my memory.  I look forward to taking them out to turn over and over in my mind like a smooth stone.  A kaleidoscope of images and snippets of conversation and the memories of very particular emotions have been making me completely unable to sleep.  It’s exactly like watching a movie in 3D all night in my head.  So what follows are some random and disjointed thoughts:

When I got out of bed this morning I was struck by how much I had appreciated (without realizing it) the complete absence of choice available to me in the last week.  I certainly don’t always want to live that way, but there is a glorious simplicity in having to put absolutely no thought into what you plan to wear, what you plan to eat or what you intend doing with your time.  It frees your headspace up more than what you would imagine…I miss that.

I am so grateful for the health and strength of my body.  I realised for the millionth time that it is a machine rather than an ornament.  I mean Gazebo 3 firmly believe that even our hair growth (legs and pits) conspired to help us by slowing down so as to contribute some power saving to the overall additional effort required by the difficulty of getting through every day.  (This is based very much on theoretical rather than empirical evidence). I felt particularly grateful this week for the reassuring consistency of my amazing appetite.  I am astounded by it robustness.  The heat and exhaustion sometimes made the rest of my very glamorous gazebo look a little wan and disinclined to have their dinner.  They became (increasingly) lithe and whippet like as a result.  But not me, no way!  My desire to eat even ramped up a notch or two and I would manage to snack all day, consume my main meal at supper, and then routinely wake up for  surreptitious midnight feasts of salami sticks, almonds and Jungle bars, trying not to make disturbing feeding noises that may rouse my neighbours.  I have put it out there before that my very earliest pre-school report states that “Kim is somewhat over-confident” and then a little later it adds: “and she is also a very efficient eater.” (A little direct if you ask me) Both attributes have to some extent remained constants in my life, sometimes a blessing and sometimes less so.  This week the efficient eating part was a blessing of note.  I did the jeans test this morning and I have not even lost 1 gram!  And that’s more than ok with me because if there’s an apocalypse I am going to rock it! (Ok I think that may be the over-confidence side kicking in now…) And I would so choose Camo Camp Kommandant and friends to be part of my post apocalyptic community. They have skills! Just saying.

Something extraordinary occurs when a group of people are thrown together so out of their comfort zones and then pushed to the very edges of their previously perceived ability to endure exhaustion and agony.  Its much like going to war together or surviving  a disaster.  Everything is stripped away and we become more exposed to ourselves and to each other in a matter of days than we may in an entire lifetime of ordinary days and ordinary meetings. Hermien is sometimes able to capture that essence that is left after the stripping away. And that is why some of her images can move me to instant tears.  We have seen the best of each other and witnessed the strength and the beauty at the core of our brothers in arms (even if only very fleetingly in certain cases 😉 and that is why friendships were forged this week that may last a lifetime.

And I could go on and on and become deeply profound but I won’t so back to the practical things:

Things I would do exactly the same:

  • Pack fabulous packets of mini ginger nuts!
  • Pack 10 pairs of socks and change them at every opportunity during the day
  • Pack a large zip lock full of foot powder and leave a magical trail of powder puffs across the Kalahari
  • Run my own journey without thinking about trying to race anyone (go figure…my closest rival ran Comrades in less than 8.15!!)
  • PLAY at every opportunity
  • Pack way more savory food than sweet
  • Salami sticks!
  • Create and inhabit a fantasy world
  • Form a first impression and then take delight in proving myself totally wrong
  • Try to innovate in 1 area every day
  • Use salt and dried chilies as currency for other necessities
  • Be in Gazebo 3
  • Leave my watch at home so as to avoid checkpoint yearnings

Things I would change:

  • Choose different shoes. I would have been 100% more comfortable if I had put more thought into the harshness of the terrain and chosen a shoe with a more robust sole.
  • Pack a mini spritzer/spray bottle
  • Pack a very thin sarong to use as a sheet/skirt/changing room/shroud/girder of loins
  • Pack hand sanitizer (it feels like a waste of water to wash your hands so things get a bit manky)
  • Pack even more electrolytes than what I did. I used Drip Drop which totally worked for me but I could have done with 3 times more than I had.
  • Richard’s shorts
  • Richard

Delightful nuggets that made me laugh out loud:

  • The multifaceted genius of Tony proclaiming Steve Shipside to be “Tugboat” to Dave (the Fathership?). So many layers of hilarity and cleverness in there.  Really, it’s just too much!
  • Being told by CCK: “Jy’s ‘n rowwe meisie! Jy dra jou skoene van die binnekant af deur!” (Loosely translated: You are a such a rough/hardcore chick that you wear your shoes out from the inside!) Oh my complete nerves! It’s just the best!  Almost as good as being called a “Ramkat”!
  • Telling Jane I would go to war with her at the end of day 4 and having her respond, in a tearful squeak: “But I don’t think I even want to go to war!”

Thank You

Where does one even start?  I mean really?

  • Nadia and Estienne, words fail me. Thank you for dreaming KAEM into reality.  You have created a beautiful legacy.
  • Dallas…you are enough of a legend for me to forgive you the river-beds. Thanks for all the hours of missioning that made this happen.  I suppose we will have to give Jane back to you now, but thanks for the loan.
  • Thanks Gen, (the apparent calm at the centre of the storm) Simon (I want to be your groupie!) Hermien (an absolute force of nature – maybe a Kalahari thunderstorm?) Simone’ (the pocket sized dynamo), Dangerous Dave (exactly like the big bad wolf in my childhood Red Riding Hood). You are all astounding and somehow create a magic alchemy despite being polar opposites.
  • Doc Grant and all the medics from Namaqua Paramedic Services. Yho! I have a story about each of you but suffice it to say that you made each of us feel like the epicenter of the universe every time we saw you.  How? How?
  • Fiona, Chris (my special super man!) and Jess. My legs feel better than they did before the race started.  You are the best! (I mean second best, after Gazebo 3 of course).
  • The entire crew. You all stand out and you are all astonishingly kind.  We come back because of you. Thank you.
  • The main manne in the Camp, Tannie Brendes, Louis and Clinton. Words fail me.  How am I supposed to live without you? And those camo hot pants on day 4. OMG!
  • Aquelle and Namaqua: The water and the wine. Thank you so much.
  • Saab Grintek Defence Partners, the guys who kept it all together from a coms, visibility and tracking point of view. We are awed by you.
  • Plato Lodge, Daberas Adventures and the landowners, thank you, there is no race without you.
  • Augrabies Falls National Park, thanks for keeping us in such style before and after it all.
  • Augrabies Falls Lodge and Camp, thanks for being the crew headquarters and feeding us like kings. I have stretch marks because of you. Just saying.
  • Airlink, thanks for saving some of us a really long drive.

I will be back. (in the  obligatory Arnold Schwarzenegger accent).