Hosted by
Eastern Cape Parks
Event Partners
Rhodes Run
Home News The River Rises

The River Rises

E-mail Print PDF

10th Baviaanskloof Trail Run

A race report where the race was incidental!
The 10th Baviaans Run took place on 8 September but the run will never be the story. When trail runners and their families congregate at the campfire, on training runs, on trails, in the pub the questions will be “Were you at the Baviaans in 2018?”, and more to the point  “Did you get to the Start?”
Everyone who was with us in the Baviaanskloof will have a story to share. Most will have more than one. Here is ours.
The start was on the previous Sunday when we picked up on the rather significant weather front heading towards the Eastern Cape, and the Baviaanskloof.
Sunday 2 September:
Discussions on Sunday with weather professionals at WeatherSA in Port Elizabeth indicated that the approaching front was predicted to arrive on race weekend and that there would be heavy rain and snow. 
On Sunday evening we took the decision to reroute the race and not stage it from the traditional Start/Finish at Geelhoutbos. We were concerned that in the event of heavy rain the drifts would rise and sedan cars would not be able to reach Geelhoutbos or, if they did, would not be able to leave.
Our best safe option close to Geelhoutbos would be Zandvlakte.
Monday 3 September:
An early morning phone call to Pieter Kruger at Zandvlakte and our ‘Plan B’ was in place if the predictions held good.
Tuesday 4 September:
A nervous 24 hours watching the weather maps and in contact with WeatherSA.
A notification sent to our entrants highlighting the changing weather and road conditions and suggesting everyone approach the Reserve from the Western Gate.
Hours spent poring over maps to create various alternate routes from Zandvlakte, after all our runners would expect a challenging route and a decent hill. 
Pieter & Magriet Kruger made their farm shed at Zandvlakte available to us. Over the weekend this proved a blessing as it became Race HQ, crew vehicle park, Start/Finish, Prizegiving area, crew bedroom and most importantly the sack race venue.
Wednesday 5 September:
There was no escaping it. Our route would be receiving some pretty fierce weather.
Decision made. Zandvlakte and ‘Plan B’ it would be. An easy call when it is a safety issue.
At 6am an email was sent to all entrants and crew that the race would be rerouted and would Start and Finish at Zandvlakte.
Anticipating that travel conditions could be testing on the Saturday we moved the Start time back 30 minutes to 7:30am.
Consideration was also given to the fact that the river flow was west to east, meaning heavy rain up river would only arrive at Geelhoutbos or Zandvlakte possibly 12 or more hours after it had fallen. 
These significant decisions were taken relatively early as we knew that once in the Baviaans we would have limited communication (only our Sat Phones) and we had to err on the side of safety.
We phoned one of our entrants, who we thought might still head to Geelhoutbos, to make sure the message got through!
By Wednesday evening we were looking at ‘Plan C’, with a route along the river and up a ‘nice’ hill (in truth it was more a sharply inclined mountain!).
Thursday 6 September:
Crew assembled in Port Elizabeth and having collected the porta toilets we headed for the Baviaans via the Langkloof in overcast damp weather.
Doubt kept knocking. Was the weather going to be as severe as predicted? Should we have taken the decision to reroute so early? What if it was a glorious summers day on Saturday and the rain by-passed the Baviaans?
On the way to Geelhoutbos distances to various possible route options were measured as the probability of very heavy rain loomed.
Discussions with SAPS at the Baviaanskloof Police Station put us at ease. Local knowledge leaned towards ‘big water’.
Light snow was seen on the mountains around Geelhoutbos in the late afternoon. Maybe it was a good idea to reroute the run after all!
Friday 7 September:
Drove through to Zandvlakte to start preparations on a revised-revised route.
The valley option was now out the window and various road options were under consideration.
During a meeting with SAPS we were told that we should evacuate Geelhoutbos.
Decision made. A road option it would be. Safety first.
Splashing back to Geelhoutbos in our Ford Everest and Ranger 4x4 to pack kit and boil potatoes for the feed station we noticed that in the space of a few hours the river and water levels had risen noticeably. 
Exiting the Reserve we requested the ECPTA staff to not permit runners through the Western Gate into the Reserve. Runners who had planned travelling to Zandvlakte from the Eastern Gate had indicated that they would be travelling via Willowmore or Uniondale. Comforting that no one would be in the Reserve.
Arriving at Zandvlakte the crew set up Start/Finish in the shed, and prepared for a night in that rather large bedroom!
It had been raining fairly constantly for some 24 hours. More snow on the mountain tops around Zandvlakte.
Reports of snow falling on the Uniondale-Willowmore road. Of cars sliding off the tar road. Snow in the Langkloof. Of an abandoned motor bike on the Nuwekloof Pass. Must be one of those 1200cc on-off road tourer types in this weather.
Later, reports of heavy snow on Nuwekloof Pass.
The early calls to change the Start/Finish venue, to delay the Start and to reroute the run were proving justified. The question remained ‘how many runners would make it to the Start?’
And still the rain fell. Glorious rain as it was much needed, especially here in the Eastern Cape.
Saturday 8 September:
Not much sleep for the crew who woke early to the sound of rain on the shed’s metal roof.
Final preparations, then the runners started arriving.
And the stories. The stories. They will be told and retold for years.
The conditions folk travelled through on Friday to their accommodation and on Saturday to the Start were interesting, but none more so than that of Rodger Gysman who had been riding his 125cc ‘delivery bike’ from Port Elizabeth when he was offered a lift by Paul & Kelly Freeth while driving through the snowed Nuwekloof Pass. Rodger was, well, almost in a state of hypothermia and took some time to recover in the warmth of their vehicle. There are a multitude of stories from those who saw Rodger on the road, and those who saw his abandoned bike on the Saturday morning, many wondering if he had fallen over a cliff during the night or worse had been abducted by aliens. 
Shortly before the delayed Start Mark Groch arrived having crossed the river from Rooikloof proudly waving his sodden ID book! Having been turned away from the Rhodes Run registration for not having his ID Mark was not going to let that happen again!
There were three road options depending on the weather conditions.
The decision was made to keep everyone safe and the route would be from Zandvlakte to the Campbell Monument and back. A 30km run along the road, keeping well away from the river and with no river crossings. ‘Plan E’ or was it ‘Plan F’?
Soberly the Campbell Monument turn point had been erected to commemorate victims of the 1916 flood.
1-photo 2018-09-12 19-42-32
1-IMG 9220
The race got under way with 32 runners having made it to the Start.
photo 2018-09-10 20-36-52
While the runners were splashing their way to the Campbell Monument, the few supporters sheltering in the shed at Zandvlakte as well as the Gardmed medics were roped in to enjoy sack races which it must be said had some pretty fierce competition. As keenly contested as the ‘main race’, maybe more so!
SackRaces 3Copy
The Race and Route Directors were keeping a stiff upper lip while all the fun and games, and running and jumping, was underway, wondering with great concern what happened to the runners who had not registered. Had they been forced to turn back on Friday or Saturday due to the snow? Were they stuck on the other side of a swollen river? A multitude of thoughts, some much graver.
Christiaan Joubert was first to arrive at the check point/feed station/turn point, but was overtaken on the homeward leg.
Marais Conradie claimed the win with Jared Jordaan and Dean Hoyle finishing within a minute of Marais. Dean took the 40+ award.
In the ladies’ event, Kelly Freeth won with Benita Joubert and Pauline Thompson taking 2nd and 3rd spots.
Benita was 1st 40+
Two new champions, and everyone who made it to the Start were Legends.
All 32 starters made the cut-off, with Cobus Joubert our sweep this year.
Prizegiving was shared with a small group and was somewhat abbreviated as some had received their awards prior to the last finishers, and everyone needed to return to their accommodation before the river rose too high.
We were thrilled to present three Legend Awards.
John Maritz received his ‘Legend of the Baviaanskloof’ black rhino award.
Henry Hill and Gerhard Vosloo were presented with their ‘Legends of Legends’ leopard award.
After prizegiving some returned to Zandvlakte on Saturday night for an unplanned overnight stay having found the river impassable and could not reach their booked accommodation. 
Sunday 9 September:
Rodger, our ‘Abominable Snowman’ 125 rider, felt the homeward journey would be too much for him (not for his bike which had defrosted by then) and accepted a lift home.
His faithful steed having recovered from the embarrassing ignominy of being ditched in the snow on the side of the road was loaded onto one of our trailers and had excellent fuel economy for its return trip to Port Elizabeth.
Organisers ‘note to self’. In future the entry form to provide for race fee, conservation fee and courier fee!
IMG 9648
IMG 9649
Wednesday 12 September:
All runners and supporters had left the Baviaanskloof after a weekend away for a run where the run will be the least remembered part of the weekend!
Having experienced a number of snow related weather issues over the years at our Rhodes Trail Run events where the village or the entire district is cut-off we know that those runners who could not reach Zandvlakte must be very disappointed. Nature will always have the final say when it comes to remote events.
41498847 2319438945009381 3471488805406507008 n
Thank you Pieter & Magriet Kruger of Zandvlakte for your hospitality.
Thank you to our event partners
Ford and Eastern Cape Motors for the Ford Everest and Ford Ranger 4x4 support vehicles
Alan Ainslie for the bronze black rhino trophies and the ‘Legend’ and ‘Legend of Legends’ awards
First Choice for the Recovery Milk that always goes down a treat
Aramex for courier services
PiA Solar for the finisher shirts
East Cape Parks & Tourism Agency for taking care of the Baviaanskloof Reserve World Heritage Site for us
SAPS Baviaanskloof
Finally, thank you to our crew of legendaires.
Legendaire (noun) someone who assists in the creation of Legends.