9th June 2015
without a massive crash…
Before setting off on our whole Comrades expedition, I’d been stalking the Comrades FB page – as you do. For a novice, it’s some comfort reading the posts, but on the whole, it’s a better way to psyche yourself out before you even set one foot on the road. The pontifications of the old hands that believe the qualifying times should be cut to 4:00 hours or 4:30, and the race cut off moved back to 11 hours are the stuff of nightmares for those of us that qualified slower and only hoped to shuffle round in time to be on the right side of the 12:00:00 hour cut off. But I’m already rambling, and I’ve only just begun.
The thing that bothered me most was a question posed by one runner who wanted ideas on what to do after Comrades. He’d been out previously and done the safari, so what else could he do. And that really exercised my brain. (Because this is where I confess that I’m a bit of an armchair traveller, and I’ve read a lot of South African travel mags in my time). It actually kept me awake at night. (Sad, hey?)
What should you do after Comrades if you’ve already been on safari?
You could fly out of South Africa, I guess, and go tropical, catching some winter sun in Tanzania or Kenya, or across on the idyllic island (whose name I’ve forgotten and my internet connection is so slow I can’t google it and look marginally less well-informed) (I know it’s idyllic because I’ve seen the pictures on FB, so it must be true). Cocktails in the tropics. Noice!!
Or what about the stunning coast line around South Africa, itself. There’s a beautiful place called Knysna (pronounced Nice-na; where “nice” rhymes with “mice”). But it’s not known for mice, don’t worry. And being in the Western Cape, it’s not far from the Wine Route, which means wine. So yum! And unbelievably cheap by Aussie standards. So a winning kind of yum!
Or you can stay local to Comrades and head up to Ballito, another popular coastal resort. We stayed there and I can particularly recommend the icy waters of the Indian Ocean for soothing tired muscles. Although the waves did seem intent on using my body as a skittle for their own bowling amusement. Huh! Oh, and the accommodation ain’t bad, either. We had a 3 bed/3 bathroom beautifully furnished apartment, with fully fitted kitchen (so bonus for being able to wash smelly running kit immediately after the run) and an enormous seafront balcony and daily cleaning service. The most important feature, though, was the fully functioning lift, which meant my menfolk luckily avoided having to carry me on a litter from the car to the room in the days following the run. It would have slept 7, and it cost $150/night. BARGAIN!!
There’s also another VERY noice resort just outside Ballito called Zimbali. If you really want to splash out and find out what superluxe is about, but at a price that is (just) within range of your average Aussie, this is it. There was an inviting outdoor pool, and of course, being British, as everyone else was sheltering indoors in sweaters, we paraded out for a swim because that’s exactly when the clouds blew over and the wind got up… I thought it was a bit like going to Disney and staying in a Disney hotel – the service is super attentive and everything you could hope for, but as it’s all purpose built, it’s somehow just a wee bit fake. It felt very safe, and we were cosseted the whole time, so it was a great experience to try a taste of the high life, but yeah, been there, done that, and that’s enough for me.
Having lived it up to one extreme, I guess the other thing that is worth doing when you’re in South Africa is getting inside the culture of the country. It’s a fascinating melting pot of language (11 official languages recognised) and tribes/races. Plus, there’s still a massive gulf between haves and have nots, so organised town tours and opportunities to meet people from all walks of life help draw the stark contrast between lives experienced in this place.
But all that said, the bit that kept vexing me on my sleepless nights worrying about this poor guys trip post Comrades, was WHY WOULDN’T YOU GO BACK AND VISIT THE ANIMALS???
Look, we all know I’m a bit of an animal-crazy, so maybe I’m missing something. But seriously, people, aren’t there plenty of stunning coastal resorts in pretty much every country that has coast? And fancy hotels? And fascinating culture to delve into? So why would you pass up the opportunity to see a baby rhino plodding through a thicket alongside it’s mum? Or hearing a lioness roar languidly at her year old cubs to follow her, as she was moving off from where they were pouncing on one another. Or better still, hearing the mewling of 2 month old cubs 5 metres from where you’re perched. And watching as their mother tries to steal some warthog kill off a male that was tucking into his breakfast bacon?
Nope. I can’t get past the whole wildlife experience. Because for me, that’s what sets Africa apart from the rest of the world. It might have diamonds buried beneath the surface, but it’s what roams above the ground that is its true treasure. That’s what keeps me wanting to come back again and again. It never gets tired.