Public Sector Manager - - Contents - Writer: Duane Stacey Pho­tog­ra­pher: Duane Stacey

The pot­holed road to par­adise

The gen­tle ‘pit­ter pat­ter' on the roof of our car cut into the joy­ful road trip chat­ter. Ner­vous glances passed be­tween pas­sen­gers and so­lu­tions were sought be­tween the spa­ces that only si­lence filled. No­body said the road to par­adise would be lux­u­ri­ous and as the gen­tle spat­ter­ing of rain turned to a fe­ro­cious down­pour the roads were fast be­com­ing a night­mare to nav­i­gate in the fad­ing light.

Within min­utes the once hard-caked mud roads were turned to slosh and the in­evitable push-and-pull, slip-and-slide ad­ven­ture of the Transkei had be­gun a few hours ear­lier than we had an­tic­i­pated. For­tu­nately, James Che­val­lier (owner of Chev Transkei Trails and part of our con­voy) has nav­i­gated th­ese roads many times be­fore and so, fu­elled by his con­fi­dence, our group pushed on to­wards our Transkei trail-run­ning ad­ven­ture.

The sun peeked through a crack in the cur­tain and so I rolled from my bed to let the light in. Gob­s­macked, I stood in awe of the lus­cious rolling hills that faded into the ocean. The only re­minder of last night's ad­ven­ture was the mud­died cars that stood parked be­tween me and my view of the ocean. Overnight and with a lit­tle help from the sun­shine, this land­scape had trans­formed into a par­adise be­yond my ex­pec­ta­tions.

Chev Transkei Trails prides it­self on the de­li­cious food they dish up each day and the aro­mas float­ing in from the kitchen were enough to get me out of bed to find out for my­self. Af­ter a hearty break­fast it was down to busi­ness and the real rea­son be­hind our trip – a three­day trail-run to ex­plore the un­touched coast­line of the Transkei.

Madak­eni indige­nous for­est

Day one of the Chev Transkei Trail starts in the Madak­eni indige­nous for­est. As you nav­i­gate your way through the lus­cious over­growth the fresh­ness of the air is a real re­minder of the re­mote­ness of this lo­ca­tion, with only the sounds of the for­est to guide your run. It is a 16km route and as you exit the thick fo­liage you sweep back in a northerly di­rec­tion along a stretch of beach you might have to share with the lo­cal Nguni cows, although it is un­writ­ten law here that th­ese cows and their herders have right of way.

A fresh pot of cof­fee and an af­ter­noon to re­lax is the re­ward for this group of run­ners who have end­less sto­ries of spec­tac­u­lar views, river cross­ings and for­est find­ings. There is so much to do, and while some opted for an af­ter­noon nap, oth­ers bathed in the glo­ri­ous temperatures of the In­dian Ocean, switch­ing be­tween kayaks and surf­boards all while con­ver­sa­tions con­tin­ued to flow around the fire and early potjie prepa­ra­tions which would be

the evening feast.

One of Chev Transkei Trail's great­est at­tributes is the flex­i­bil­ity of its tour and abil­ity to tai­lor it to meet the ath­letic needs of any group. If run­ning is not for you there are some in­cred­i­ble walk­ing routes which open up some spec­tac­u­lar views in this very unique part of the world.

Surf's up

On day two we tested this flex­i­bil­ity when we woke up to an off­shore breeze and per­fect swell lines rolling in from the point. We had a group of very keen surfers and so in a flash run­ning was post­poned and surf was up. This was ar­guably one of our best de­ci­sions as the weary run­ning legs had some time to re­cu­per­ate while the arms were ex­er­cised and we pad­dled into per­fect wave af­ter per­fect wave in one of South Africa's best kept point break se­crets.

The sec­ond day of run­ning takes you deep into the home­lands. Heart­break Hill is a prom­i­nent fea­ture along the route as you climb. Just as you be­gin to feel like you can't go any fur­ther, the lo­cal sup­port ral­lies with cries of “Baleka! Baleka!” and the sound of trail­ing foot­steps of small chil­dren from the vil­lage who fol­low, laugh­ing in ela­tion. If the scenic treat of rolling grass hills and river cross­ings are not enough the seafood ex­trav­a­ganza should cer­tainly seal the deal. Oys­ters, cray­fish, mus­sels and fresh fish are some of the aro­mas which fill the in­ti­mate din­ner setting. The choice re­ally is end­less and a coastal treat that is rare for city folk.

Spec­tac­u­lar views

Day three starts in Nt­lonyana with a ses­sion of yoga on the deck to loosen up the stiff bod­ies be­fore head­ing north along the beach. This part of the trip is the high­light of the Chev Transkei Trail, as you pass the Eco Lodge in Bu­lun­gula. Some may opt for a cof­fee break and chance to re­fuel, as the last 5km which leads to the fin­ish at Hole in the Wall is tough go­ing. How­ever, the panoramic views are spec­tac­u­lar and well worth the in­cred­i­ble mem­ory which draws to a close too soon. Run­ners then have the op­tion of a re­turn flight via he­li­copter, which of­fers both re­lief to tired mus­cles and an in­cred­i­ble in­sight into the land­scape tra­versed by foot.

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