South Africa: Durban

We had planned to keep the rental car, but after the joys of Uber we decided it was best to skip it. So we dropped off the huge Toyota and Ubered to our hotel, the Southern Sun Elangeni. This was our third choice of lodging–our first hotel was sold before our trip, and the Hilton booked up in the meantime, so Expedia actually called and offered us a room that was double the price at the same rate. I should have run away. The room was run down and the service was terrible. We made up for it right away by having an amazing Indian meal–Durban has the highest concentration of Indians outside of India, so we were really looking forward to a delicious meal. Our choice was the TripAdvisor #1, and it didn’t disappoint. We most enjoyed the Palak Paneer and the Butter Chicken. Again, we were meeting Comrades runners everywhere we met. The couple next to us would be running as well.

The next day we loaded onto buses to start the course tour, which I had to say already sounds exhausting and I was only riding not running. We got some great information about the race and stopped for some pictures along the way. Since it was John’s actual 50th birthday, we had dinner reservations at a lovely place nearby–9th Avenue Bistro. We had a prix fixe and enjoyed the lively atmosphere.

The next day was a rest day so we could gear up for the race. On race day, John headed out to the start early, while I went to find my bus for the Champagne Course Tour. We would be ferried to several spots along the way to see our runners. We had a fun group and we laughed and shared pictures as we each helped each other find our runners–there was a great tracking software that we used to help make sure we didn’t miss any cheers! Everyone looked fresh and happy at the first stop. At the finish, we all sheered as our runners came in. Johnnie did great! He was tired, yes, and we had a nice rest before getting the bus back down to Durban. What an amazing adventure. John said it was unforgettable, and that the crowds were like nothing he had ever experienced.

South Africa: Stellenbosch

Stollenbosch: My Next Artist Colony

A friend asked recently if I‚Äôm going to an Artist Colony this summer. With nearly 40 days of international travel, it isn’t possible this year. But I tell you what. I would like to come back to Spier Wine Farm and stay for a month (or more) to write and reflect.

First, what stunning scenery. The grounds are beautiful, with rolling hills and mountains in the distance and lush vegetation and a river walk. But let me tell you about the art. The hotel has a strong commitment to arts and culture, and the lobby is full of paintings and sculptures by contemporary South African artists. It is essentially a museum. John and I took time to wander through the lobby and dining room looking at every piece, and we pretty much agreed we would love to have any of them in our home. It is such a beautifully curated collection.

And then, we arrived to our room. It had equally beautiful artwork. And it had a large living room, kitchen, terrace seating, large bedroom, and views to the river. Seriously I would love to live there for a month and be inspired and write.

The hotel was so kind to start us off with a birthday cake and a bottle of red wine. John and I enjoyed a small sip while touring the room, but we quickly showered and put on our first new clothes in 48 hours, and started touring the grounds. There are several restaurants, an amphitheater, Segway wine tours, and a picnic shop.

After strolling the grounds we arranged for a trip in to Stollenbosch. It was about a 15 minute journey. We wandered this University town and chose a restaurant for a snack. That’s when we had the first of a repeating experience that was so fun during our trip. We asked the woman at the table next to us a question, and then we mentioned that John was running Comrades. This woman happened to be from the place we were heading next (Durban), and it turned out she ran Comrades twice! She gave John lots of good advice, and when we were leaving we learned that she had her 50th birthday last week! It was a fun encounter.

Back at Spier Wine Farm, we headed back to the room for a short rest before dinner. The restaurant was so delicious with lots of fresh and innovative choices. I started with squid and had a hake entree. John started with chicken livers and got a pork entree. We had a couple very delicious white wines. Then the staff came and sang happy birthday to John and wished us a good trip.

Back in the room, we fell fast asleep. Morning, and our departure from Spier Wine Farm, would come much too soon.

John’s 50th Birthday: Comrades Marathon

What special event do you have planned for your next milestone birthday? I’m still running ideas through my head for my 50th, which will be here before we know it in 2020. For my 45th I ran the Tour de Mont Blanc and for my 40th I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I think I’d like to pick another adventure.

This morning I had the privilege of chatting with a friend about how she spent her 50th: building homes for the needy in Honduras. When I praised her for choosing such a generous and charitable activity, she generously and charitably (and wisely) said to me that every person is in a different place at various times in our lives, and we will be called to the activities that fulfill us at that moment.

John’s calling for his 50th birthday on June 2 happens to be running¬†The Comrades Marathon¬†in South Africa. It’s a¬†race he has been interested in for a long time, and it¬†falls just near his birthday, so he decided it would be his goal for his Five-Oh. Who wouldn’t want to run an extremely tough 56 mile uphill race to celebrate five decades of living?!

I’m not sure I would! But I would say this race is a good one to choose and it has a long history. It was started to¬†commemorate the South African soldiers killed during World War I. Since the first race in¬†24 May 1921 to this year on 4 June 2017, it’s the world’s largest and oldest Ultramarathon, and John has had a singular vision to get there.

One of the many, many things I love about John is his ability to set a goal and stay focused on achieving it. I am so proud of him for¬†his dedication to his training. It is hard to even articulate how inspired¬†I am by¬†him and how proud I am of him. This year he has gotten up every morning at 4:15 or earlier to do a long run before his long workday. That’s just one of the amazing feats he has accomplished. Here are some of the numbers. Let’s see if you’re inspired too.

So far this year John has run 1586 miles in 244 hours.

His longest run was 33 miles at an 8:35 pace with 2211 feet elevation gain.

He ran a 50K race with 6600 feet elevation gain where he came in fourth overall and first masters.

He ran a sub-3 marathon where he came in fifth overall and first masters

He ran the Boston marathon as a training run.

Before his taper, his training peaked at 106 miles in a week.

Even more impressive to me is that he has remained injury free, and in a generally good mood! He’s really in the best shape of his life, and I’m so excited for him to tackle this next big adventure.

Congratulations sweetie! I love you so much.

Sixteen Days to Go

I have wanted to go to South Africa pretty desperately ever since our friends Kathryn and Ole told us about their wonderful trip there, and that was maybe 17 years ago? It has been a long time. So it seems impossible (impossibly thrilling) that John and I are living in the month of our departure date!

I am so excited about all of our slated activities. I have printed out the 42 page PDF with all of our reservations and maps between towns. I use the app TripIt to gather all our movements into one easy package. Here is the general motion of the trip:

  • We are using British Airways to fly direct Phoenix to Heathrow, then Heathrow to Cape Town. Usually we use miles to fly, but since this was a far (and cheap) flight, we paid for the trip to get the massive amounts of miles on the cheap.
  • First we are driving out from Cape Town to Stellenbosch, where we are staying for two nights at Spier Wine Farm.
  • Then a flight from Cape Town to Durban, and we will drive out to Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge in Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park for some luxury lodge living and Big Five game drives.
  • We drive back to Durban where we will stay four nights at the Southern Sun Elangeni Maharani for John’s 50th birthday with a celebratory dinner at 9th Avenue Bistro.
  • On June 4th John will run the Comrades Marathon.
  • We decided on two locations in Cape Town so we get a feel for coast and town. We will stay four nights at Rouge on Rose in the Bo Kaap area, then move to the ocean to Cape View Clifton. We have chosen lots of great restaurants and activities for our stay there. One is Foxcroft. Another is Reverie. Can’t wait!

And thanks, British Airways, for this feature that allows me to plan my movies for the 10 and 11.5 hour flights. I have a lot to catch up on!