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Text: Ugene Nel. Photos: Jacques Marais.  Article from the February/March 2012 issue of DO IT NOW Magazine.

Walker Bay and Hermanus are probably best known for the Southern Right Whales that visit during their annual migration.

Top of switchback Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Hot on their tails were almost 100 trail runners, some from as far as Gauteng, who also temporarily migrated to these areas, to take part in the 50km Berg & Beach stage trail run in October. Day one was a 22km scenic run along the coast from De Kelders to Fernkloof Nature Reserve, followed by a 28km mountain run on the second and final day.

As with all events, there will always be a couple of clowns about. At this year’s race, I forgot to put my Capestorm shorts on under my tracksuit pants, so I made a frantic call to Trevor Ball, famed for the Table Mountain Challenge, and asked him to bring a pair of shorts to the start. An hour later Trevor pitched up wearing his underpants from yester year and handed me his own pair of shorts. This led to endless remarks from the other runners, but it also served as an icebreaker an hour before the start.

A short while later, the Hermanus School bus arrived and all the runners boarded; the familiar smell of a school bus bringing back memories from boarding school days for some. The 30km journey to Die Plaat, next to the coastal village of De Kelders and our dropoff point, lasted less than 40 minutes.

This section of coast was extremely popular and well known to 4×4 enthusiasts and fishing folk for decades, before a ban was imposed on vehicle access. However, Die Plaat, which is managed by Cape Nature Conservation, now has a healthy population of Black Oyster catchers. In a bygone era, this was also a section of coast where Quena descendants settled and evidence of their lives remain in certain areas today.

DINfO box (i)

In 1811, Quena descendants erected fishing cottages next to the cove and started a thriving fishing culture in the Gansbaai area. It was used by Capt. Robert Stanford to transport his fresh farm produce to the Cape.

The runners were looking forward to a unique experience, as they looked over Walker Bay toward the Fernkloof Mountains behind Hermanus, a grey apparition in the distance.

After numerous quirky remarks about Trevor’s attire, the group set off along the decades-old, sandstone jeep track, dropping onto the beach after a short rock-hopping section. The tide was receding and the front runners had already made their intentions clear by the time they reached the hard sand. Our trusty sweeper, Lofty, entertained the backmarkers whilst ensuring they moved along at a decent pace.

Unlike many other beaches, Die Plaat hardly has a camber and makes for flat running at low tide. The runners had two hours to cover a 17km section of beach before reaching the Klein River lagoon mouth, at its lowest tide at 10h00. The mouth was open, with a strong outgoing tide. About 200m upstream, Quantum Adventures’ crew had set up a safety area and entry point to cross this fast-flowing section. The first runners reached the mouth in just 70 minutes and hit the water at speed. The water spanned about 60m across and after an initial 20m of wading they reached the deeper and fast-flowing channel. Accompanied by the inflatable safety boat, they swam for the opposite shore while being swept downstream by the current. They generally reached the shore about 30-40 metres downstream, with the slower swimmers tending to float further towards the mouth. But they all managed amidst some anxious shouting to one another!

Exiting the lagoonWet and chilled, they had another kilometre of hard beach and a further two kilometres of cliff path along the shore, before heading away from the coast along the Mussel River, to finish day one at Fernkloof Nature Reserve. Noel Ernstzen finished a couple of minutes ahead of Derrick Baard, whilst Landie Visser had a commanding lead over Suzanne Marais and third-placed Linda Doke. With the next day being a completely different run in the mountains above Hermanus, the stage was set! In the meantime, the rest of the field battled against a headwind that had started to blow and it was a race against the incoming tide.

Day two arrived with ominous cloud cover and rain forecast for late morning. There were moans and groans from a few runners, with stiff hammies and other minor ailments, but nothing a hot cup of coffee couldn’t solve. After the race and safety briefings, the group, now less a few bodies due to injury or lack of fitness, set off once again, this time along the trails of Fernkloof Nature Reserve. Trevor was still in the same underpants from the day before – apparently he gave it a good scrub!

The first three kilometres wound slowly along a contoured path that led to a view point overlooking a waterfall not far from the start. This was followed by a sharp, steep climb above the Three Dams kloof before levelling out for the next seven kilometres, to the first checkpoint. By this stage another two runners had pulled out; one with a pulled hamstring and the other with a twisted ankle. The terrain evidently suited the more technical runners, as Robyn Ferrar and Linda ran together with Landie a minute ahead. Derrick led the men all the way to the steep switchbacks before Noel and Eddie Lambert caught up and stayed with him to the top. This was a brutal climb, but the view from the top was well worth the sweat. Not everyone agreed on that though.

Runners were then faced with another 10km steady climb to the top of Platberg, at 780m. The Cape fynbos and floral display on the mountain slopes was impressive! Passing checkpoint two, Noel took the lead from Derrick, while Linda, in her element in the mountains, ran strongly to edge away from Robyn. Landie slowed down a bit, but was still in control at this point. Lofty, our sweeper, had now acquired a couple of mates along the way, with Marc Johnstone deciding it was way more fun to sweep than to run behind Trevor in his powder-blue undies.

At the top of Platberg, the runners had reached the highest point of the route and stunning vistas across the Hemel en Aarde valley greeted them. After the recent rains, water gushed down a ravine near Galpin Hut and was a welcome and pristine water source for some thirsty folk.

The route then contoured via the valleys and back towards the finish, some eight kilometres away. Meanwhile, Lofty’s group gathered strength and started to catch up with the back markers. But at the rate they were moving, they were going to miss the cut-off at 13h30. Race HQ radioed through a message with an ultimatum – if this group is not at checkpoint 2 within the next hour, they will have to catch a ride home with the 4×4 from here! This fuelled their fire and saw them moving faster uphill over 10km than they did on a reasonably level 10km at the start! The motivation had worked.

A few drops of rain started to fall as Noel cruised in to claim his second win in two days. He ran straight to the shower and appeared a few minutes later, making himself at home as he waited for the next runner in. In the ladies, it was Landie Visser who powered across the finish line to win the ladies section.

Race HQ had a little surprise in store at the prize-giving; Trevor’s undies, and it was Marc Johnstone who won that lucky draw.

This is what race runner Odile Quintard had to say about the event “My legs are still recovering, but what an amazing weekend! I had an incredible time, everything was awesome, the people, the views and the swim, definitely an event to recommend. Once again, thank you to the whole team for a fantastic, fun-filled weekend. Looking forward to next year.”

To view all the awesome photos from this run, visit our Facebook page – Quantum Adventure Events or visit Quantum Adventures.

Come and join us at the 2012 event, but enter early to avoid disappointment!


Pos                             Name                                  Day 1                           Day 2                Total

1                               Noel Ernstzen                   01:38:22                      02:37:38            04:16:00

2                               Derrick Baard                    01:39:25                      02:47:22            04:26:47

3                               Eddie Lambert                  01:49:47                      02:42:51            04:32:38

4                               Sean Privett                       01:42:23                      02:54:05            04:36:28

5                               Armand Bosman             01:45:16                       02:57:09            04:42:25

1                               Landie Visser                   01.51.43                      02:59:08             04:50:51

2                               Robyn Ferrar                     02:05:22                      02:59:58            05:05:20

3                               Linda Doke                        01:56:24                      03:14:54            05:11:18

4                               Suzanne Marais                01:53:33                     03:26:04             05:19:37

5                               Jeanette Steyn                  02:13:28                     03:42:06             05:55:34

More info on the town of Hermanus More info on the Cape Overberg


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