Day 2 – Sunday 16 October

Ah good sleep. Wonder if Brendas has got the fire going for our morning coffee? No movement anywhere. Versuvius is exploding every 5 seconds somewhere higher up under the gazebos, but otherwise all is still, apart from the wind whistling through. Wonder what the time is? 2am! Damn! Now what?

Patrick sneezes. Five times. The camp wakes up. Five times. Versuvius continues erupting.

Time to ablute. Not too bad, especially if you leave your head outside the porta-loo when you zip up the tent. Like living in two worlds at the same time.

Rise and shine! The camp is alive with everyone getting ready for the day: making coffee, mixing muesli or whatever concoction someone else thinks will be good for you, nibbling on nuts, getting dressed while still in a sleeping-bag, etc. We all look up to see what the weather is doing and I chuckle as I realize my hotline upwards is more powerful than that of The Windmill. Lord, if it be your will, can we please have cool cloudy weather? (George). Good God, I want it bloody hot! (Estienne). And the Lord said, “Let it be cool and cloudy”. Aha.

There is a staggered start this morning, based on the finishing times from yesterday. The buffaloes bundle out of camp at 7am, the eland elope at 7.30, and the springboks sprint out at 8am.

The first hour slips by almost effortlessly under the ‘cool and cloudy’ order as we climb up onto higher ground along an old jeep track. Everyone has somehow recovered from Day 1 including our sweep Fransa who was tempted to mount her broom and fly out yesterday. Oh dear, just heard that Patrick was cramping badly last night and so has decided not to carry on. Ah here is Josef, sounding as if he is playing Wagner on a didgeridoo, but I realize he is humming to himself. And who can blame him? These glorious vistas draw forth our gratitude which demands some sort of response. Like a visit to Oxford or Cambridge calls forth our academic souls, so running through these wildly rugged places calls to something deep within.

The first of the eland, my tent-mate Geerts, gallops by, looking strong and determined. Later the
first springbok effortlessly trots past. Dirk is not known as the King of the Kalahari for nothing; he fits into this space so comfortably that you know some of his ancestors must have come from these parts. Tomas is not far behind him, rhythmically pumping his arms to a steady beat.

One of the delights of starting first (and being slow) is that at some stage during the day, everyone passes you. So it is Hi Belinda, here’s a Ginger Nut, Looking good Mike, Give it hell, Altie!

Down down down to the lush vineyards on the banks of the Orange. The vines look over-Photoshopped in this harsh countryside, and the green is almost too green. I meet a farmer watching us with a bemused expression on his face. Jus meneer, these vineyards look fantastic! Ja man, we have to find something to farm in this dry plekkie. We once had cows but when we tried to milk them they produced Cremora. Ag no, boet, you should rather have tried sheep. Ja swaer we did, but they were so thin we could fax them to the abattoir.

As we enter Death Valley, the weather starts to get really hot. What happened to my hotline? But as we are reminded just before Collection is taken in Church, the Lord loves a generous giver, and only He knows how much Estienne has given to the KAEM and in such a generous spirit. So I don’t begrudge The Windmill this minor victory.

Death Valley is simply magnificent. Huge koppies and krantzes on either side, with scattered boulders littered all over the sandy river bed. The rocks are in all shades of black, purple, green and brown, and many sparkle with a million diamonds. It is quite a scramble, though, and at the top Veteran Edward can’t resist “Es, do you know the difference between a trail run and rock climbing?”

The last 5 or 10km are always a slog and most of us lose the punch line on the final stretch. I know you buggers on the quads are having fun like cowboys at a rodeo, but can’t you leave the middle-mannetjie untouched so that we runners can have one small part of the road that isn’t churned up?

The top positions remain unchanged: Maretha is first lady with a lead of over an hour on Altie, who in turn is currently 19 minutes ahead of Allison. Dirk had a lead of 17 minutes on Tomas at the start today, but was only able to increase it by 3 minutes today. Thierry is third, 11 minutes behind Tomas.