The last hoorah – July in SA




With work done, my countdown had changed from a “yey, only x more shifts to go!” to and “oh no, only x more shifts to go!” and I realised how much there was to miss. The landscapes, the beaches, the mountains, the food, the running clubs I have visited, the races on all the time, the parkrun community, and most of all my friends who had become like family.

After my last parkrun on Saturday, I finally had a chance to have a lie in on Sunday. In the afternoon, Karen and I took Kathryn to the lion park in East London where they had lions, a white tiger, a serval, meerkats, monkeys, llamas, a donkey and a Shetland pony.

Monday we went to the trampoline park and Karen and I were the only adults bouncing around, although we did have Kathryn as our excuse.

I then had a relaxed couple days with the family in their home, packing and repacking, before Sandra picked me up Thursday morning for our trip to Knysna. We dropped off Jack, her Boston terrier; picked up Mark, her boyfriend; and got a Friesland milkshake which had been recommended to me months ago and I hadn’t got round to having.

We travelled via Nanaga farm stall just outside Port Elizabeth where I finally got to try one of their pies which had been recommended to me back in October while planning my Christmas trip.

Getting to Knysna, we checked into our AirBnB, then went out for drinks, tapas and live music on Thesen Island near the waterfront.

The next day we had another leisurely lie in, then went for a walk (2 mins from car to photospot) then brunch which turned into lunch with cocktails and champagne in Drydock restaurant at the waterfront. While sitting there, Sandra and Mark spotted some people they knew getting on a boat, so when they got off 90 minutes later, we called them to come and join us. Then Franco came to meet us too. We headed from there to registration and the race expo/village. And from there to an early dinner and bed since we had such an early morning ahead of us.

The race experience was unique and I’ve written about it below. Afterwards we sat in the race village in the sun for prize giving, lunch and to wait for Mark who had fallen asleep after his early morning of dropping us off and running the 5km after much cajoling, signing him up against his will and buying him new kit the previous day. Karen came to join us with Candice, Taryn and Sue, having all raced the half marathon and already gone home to shower and change.

We planned to meet later for dinner and then headed back ourselves for a bath and a nap. We had an early dinner back on Thesen Island with Karen and co, and then joined the 3 girls from the previous day for drinks until closing time. On the way backed, we stopped at a garage to buy baked goods and chocolate in order to have a blind taste testing of Mars, Bar One and another bar for good measure.

Sunday was a long drive home with a short stop for me to go to Knysna Elephant Park which was absolutely amazing, walking ariund with these giant creatures and feeding them by hand. Then I slept a lot of the way, ending up with a sore neck from where my head kept trying to fall off. We had planned to stop and see the surf competition at Jeffrey’s Bay on the way back, but apparently it was quiet and nothing much happening (I was asleep) so we had another stop at Nanaga farm stall (which really isn’t a stall but a bazaar with a restaurant, a pie and rosterkoek takeaway and a large shop).

Monday I went to see Althea at Hemingways mall for my last manicure and pedicure then Sandra picked me up for a fancy lunch at Grazia’s where we were lucky to see whales frolicking at sea; and to say goodbye to Jack the pup.

Sandra dropped me off at Karen’s and we said our farewells then I had a last night in with Karen, Dean and the kids. The next day they dropped me off at East London airport and had an emotional goodbye.

I went through security in tears, but was greeted by Sue (who had been with Karen at Knysna and who I’d met before with Candice and Taryn at a braai) who I chatted to and stopped me crying. I also saw Donald, whose house I’d stayed at in Stutterheim with Sandra.

The flight was delayed by 20 mins, not too bad considering I’d booked my domestic flight to Johannesburg a day early just in case of cancellations of delays which would affect my onward flight home. I spent an hour traipsing around Johannesburg airport, looking for my hotel which according to Google maps was right next to me. There were two hotels signposted but the Protea Marriott was not, and dragging around luggage which weighed the same as me was not particularly fun. I called the hotel to find out where the heck they were and they said I shouldn’t have gone through customs and immigration or collected my bags. I hadn’t even passed through customs, and how could I have not collected my bags when I was flying with a different airline the next day and couldn’t check them through? Turns out there’s two hotels with basically the same name Protea Marriott OR Tambo Airport and Protea Marriott OR Tambo Airport Transit and while I was on the phone to and right next to the latter (albeit through customs), I was actually booked into the former. So I got out and ordered an Uber, which got me to my hotel right next to the airport but a long walk as it was the other side of the runways from the terminal. I finished my book; then went for dinner, which was delicious but the restaurant was flipping freezing. I got a good night’s sleep then went down for a gym and swim before checking out. Turned out the pool was outdoors, unheated, and a little grubby so I decided to skip that! I rejigged my bags, caught the shuttle and checked into my flight, luggage weighing 45.9kg of my 46kg allowance. Bingo! The journey home went smoothly but my ankles and feet swelled like never before so my shoes were painful. The car hire experience at the other end was a nightmare which I won’t go into except to say do not use easirent from Gatwick airport as it’s anything but easy! But finally…I’m home!

The car

The car saga is finally complete. After the whole being unable to license and register it in my name thing which dragged on for weeks; then the clutch going; then being hit by an uninsured driver just before Christmas and waiting 52 days for the garage to complete the repairs…it’s finally over. I spoke with the dealership who sold it to me about selling it back and they said to bring it in for a valuation. I took it along one Saturday and it was checked over and valued at 56-62,000ZAR. Given I wanted the money in my account in time to transfer it back to the UK and close my account, I said I wanted to sell it on the 3rd of July. He said that would be fine and his colleague would be in touch to confirm the price on Tuesday the 29th so the transfer could be made on Wednesday to clear into my account in time for me to hand over the car the following Tuesday. Tuesday I spoke to his colleague who confirmed a price of 60k. But Wednesday when Karen went to sign the paperwork, he called me back to say it would actually be 56k having now confirmed with the manager. I was unimpressed as confirming an actual price after discussing with the manager was the point of yesterday’s call, but what choice did I really have. Then he said they couldn’t make the transfer until they had the car in their possession, the opposite of what I’d previously been told, and had I known I’d have left the car with them on Saturday and hired a car for my last week up in Tsolo. So anyway, given I left work early Friday, I got down to the dealership before closing time and dropped the car off. The manager I dealt with was kind of off, pointing two fingers at my eyes and at his screen, indicating I should look. He clicked a button saying accept and told me the money would he in my account in 3-4 days. The next week, I kept checking my online banking. Nothing, nothing, nothing. So after 4 days I called to chase it up and was told he would call me back. He didn’t after an hour so I called again and got through to him. He said he’d look into it and call me back quickly. Five hours passed and nothing so my dad emailed the general manager who replied immediately saying he would look into it. After an hour I called him directly and found out that there had been a delay, not a small one, but he’s actually only signed off the sale and sent it to head office where the payment would be authorised that day. So there was no way the money would be in my account before I left the country and the rude used car manager who told me the money was on its way had lied. The manager agreed to pay the money the same day from his personal bank account and get it reimbursed. I then finally heard back from the man I had been deali ng with after 6 hours and I told him it was sorted but had been a shambles since he had taken over. The next day the money was in my account from a company not a personal account.


Sunday 1st: I ran 5km of around Karen’s garden accompanied by Nellie the dog and alternated laps with a set of weights totaling 30 mins of strength and conditioning.

Monday 2nd: 4.5 mile morning run with high winds – tree branches everywhere, followed by an hour PT session of weights with Karen. (And some trampolining).

Tuesday 3rd: REST – I had intended to run with Karen but set my alarm and went for a nap and my alarm didn’t go off.

Wednesday 4th: Spinning taught by Karen’s friend Debbie who I’ve met before – 1st and only spin class since being in South Africa! I had great fun with some all out sprints.

Thursday 5th: REST / travel.

Friday 6th: REST.

Saturday 7th: Knysna Marathon. What an experience! Travel into the forest to the start line is restricted so you have to get a minibus at around 5am and when you disembark, you’re handed a big fleecy red blanket. It’s like a zombie apocalypse, with runners enshrouded in their fluffy blankets traipsing through the woods in the pitch black. There is a tent sponsored by Pick n Pay supermarket for hot drinks, rusks and banana bread; and there are fires lit to keep warm. I’d taken an old blanket which Sandra and I sat on while wrapping ourselves in a blankets. I could feel tension in my hip flexors sitting up right (man I need to work on my core!) So we moved to lean against a truck and listen to the commentator. It was hard to spot people you know or recognise club kits given the blankets, but we heard Wesley over the microphone. Just before 7am, we headed to the start line and I took off my jeans which I’d ripped the day before and warn over my shorts to keep warm. We set off, still in the dark and I discarded my hoodie after a few kilometres. It felt tough from the start and I realised maybe I wasn’t as fresh and recovered from Comrades as I had thought. Though it turns out it was an uphill start. The sun rose and I saw people coming towards me. We were on an out and back which felt like about 3km out and 5km back but turned out to be 1.5km each way! I saw Sandra and then turned off for the first downhill. It was uneven and straight away, I felt a jarring of my right hip and sacro-iliac joint. I was only around 12km into the race and a bit worried about how I was going to do the next 30km. I had planned a leisurely run, not racing and enjoying the scenery, and hoped to come in just under 4 hours. That wasn’t going to happen now. And it turned out to be a very hilly course too. I slowed down and kept looking back, expecting Sandra to come up any minute as she had done just under 5 hours the precious year, but not wanting to actually stop and wait in case I couldn’t keep up when she got to me. Up down, up down on dirt road through the forest. There was a stunning view from high up deep down into a valley, and a huge descent into that valley preceded a walk up out again which felt pretty damn chilly. At the top of the climb, the course merged with that of the half marathon and we had 7km to go. There was a commentator announcing we were just over half way! For someone meant to be motivating the masses, I pointed out his error to one of his team and how demoralising it is to he told you’re just over half way when you’re 85% done. And even if you’re doing the half (very few were still at that point of the half), it’s still significantly over half way. Maybe I was harsh or overly critical, but if I was having a sense of humour failure, there would he others struggling behind me also not best pleased to hear his words. From here, we transitioned to tar road, went down another small hill, up into Simola Estate, a very fancy residential area, and then down the infamous Simola hill (nothing compared to the last one but the half marathon runners who make up the majority don’t do the previous descent and climb). I would ordinarily be flying down those hills, enjoying the rush and the speed, but I was hurting and my legs just weren’t up to it. At the bottom of the hill, we turned onto the main road for a short out and back. Still looking over my shoulder to see Sandra on every hill and stretch, I finally spotted her going out while I was on the way back towards the finish, about 1km behind me. I stopped and sat on the fence, soaking up the sun, and we ran the last kilometre, crossing the finish line together in 5:09. A perfect ending to my final race in the country. Franco ran his debut half marathon in 2:05 – very proud!

Sunday 8th: REST / travel.

Monday 9th: REST

Tuesday 10th: REST

Wednesday 11th: 20 mins cross trainer and 20 mins weights in hotel gym….then home!

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