Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Another Journey Home

Alas, another journey has ended, and again I find myself in transit. The past week in Dullstroom has been very enjoyable, mostly training, and relaxing. Rather than bore you with the details, here are some of my favourite photos of the area and the trails, and some photos from my visit to the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Centre just down the road.

South Africa has been very different than I expected; yet again Africa throws up some surprises! The two training sites that I visited were each very different, and my brief stops in Johannesburg and Pretoria, highlighted to me just how diverse this South Africa is – and that’s without visiting the coast. I’ll definitely come back at some stage, but for me the country lacks some of the ‘soul’ of east Africa. Of course that means much less of the hustle and bustle of east Africa, which isn’t always a bad thing.

Next stop: Berlin half marathon on April 1st, followed by Morocco the following week for my penultimate altitude venue. Almost there now!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Christmas in Potchefstroom

And so I’ve spent my third Christmas in five years in Africa.  This has probably been the quietest yet, but no less enjoyable.  After the ice and snow of ’09 and ’10, it was nice to have a warm Christmas again.  Christmas morning I went for a run in the scorching heat around the North West University campus where there is a specially set out cross country course, a 400m grass track, and lots of well kept pitches to run on.  After an enjoyable run, I went back to ‘Cosy Cottages’, the very pleasant place at which I was staying.  After some lunch, I relaxed by the pool, took a walk around the town, did some bird watching, did another run, eat and slept.  I know it sounds a bit dull for Christmas, but for me, apart from my family not being here of course, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it.  And if you’re getting a bit jealous of the heat and sunshine, it did absolutely bucket it down all day Tuesday. It’s not all sunshine, so to speak.

New Year’s Eve was even more low-key.  I did my long run in the morning, got a little bit dehydrated, and was pretty much whacked out for the rest of the day.  I went to bed about 10pm, and as is starting to be tradition for me, I managed to just about stay conscious until midnight, acknowledged that another year had arrived, rolled over, and slept soundly for the rest of the night.

I spoke to Dad before I left Heathrow at the beginning of this trip, and we chatted about how another year had nearly finished, and how we were going to make 2012 the year of living in the present.  The past is finished, and not worth living again, and the future is not yet ready for us, so best to live in the here-and-now.

And so, to the here and now.  I arrived in Dullstroom via Johannesburg yesterday.  Again there were thunder showers yesterday evening so I didn’t get to explore very much. I was pleasantly surprised to see how beautiful the place was when I went for a run this morning.  Dullstroom is a lot more rural than Potch, and the countryside around the small town is as beautiful as I’ve seen anywhere on my trips so far.  The town itself has an interesting selection of shops including an antique shop, no less than two chocolatiers, a clock shop which boasts the largest selection of shops in the southern hemisphere, a small brewery, a shop selling locally produced cheese, and a whiskey bar which reportedly has the second largest selection of whiskeys in the world.  Add to that a small supermarket and a few restaurants, and what more could you ask for?

Despite the modern shops and the reputation of Dullstroom for flyfishing, mountain biking and other Western pursuits, there is a small township close by, and the town feels far more like the Africa that I know and love than Potch, or even Johannesburg.

And now?  Well I guess it’s time to go and do some living in the here-and-now.  I might even go check out some of those clocks.

Have a very special 2012, and I hope that this year is the year that most of your dreams come true.  Not all of them mind, because as someone once said, ‘if today were perfect, what would be the point of tomorrow?’