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Save the Rhino Trail Run

Botlierskop Game Reserve

Botlierskop Game Reserve

Race briefing on Friday evening

After a lovely dinner at the beautiful Botlierskop Game Reserve lodge on Friday evening (having eaten too much with maybe one too many glasses of wine with the notion of an easy run the next day in the back of the head) it was time for race organiser/route planner Hano’s race briefing. Here we were told about all the encounters that we are to expect over the next two days. From lion’s grabbing runners running too close to the fence, to buffalo mauling the front (or rear) runners and angry rhinos with calves. O yes and off course there was the briefing on the route too. We were to expect our first significant climb within 100m of the start, so we were told to warm up properly first (thanks Hano!).

There would be many river crossings, and the going would be muddy at the very least. Included in the routes over the 2 days were a few of Hano’s so called “adventure sections” too. And then there were the all important “orange markers” to look out for which Hano explicitly told us not to miss. All in all 2 great days of trail running in the African bush were awaiting us, all for a good cause, to help raise funds for the plight of the more than ever endangered Rhino population. A large portion of our entry fee would be donated to the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative (

The 1st Day:

A nice and fresh 3degC start to the day up a steep hill and we were in it to win it. Not having paid heed to Hano’s request to warm up nicely, runners reached the top of the hill with quads burning, but the pain was soon forgotten when met by the awesome sight of a pride of lions running beside us (separated by a fence off course). It is precisely here where Hano’s repeated phrase of “DO NOT LOSE SIGHT OF THE ORANGE MARKERS” were completely forgotten and the 6 front runners, marvelled by the lion’s on their left missed the single track turn off to the right down the hill and carried on straight…nice! Right around the lion camp we went and down the same gruelling hill we came up with to the starting point and on. This was clearly one of the “adventure sections” as we needed to duck, dive, scramble and sometimes crawl to get through the thick bush without spearing ourselves with a branch all the while maintaining the correct bearing. Through the gate and up and up and up again. Day 1 passed quickly and runners arrived back at the lodge after an eventful, hilly, beautiful, difficult, wet and muddy, adventurous (many “adventure sections”) route.

The 2nd day:

Hano promised us that day2 will be lighter on the legs but that it might be heavier on the nerves as we would be running through buffalo terrain. After ascending and descending the first big hill on crampy legs, I went down into a kloof and heard the faint sound of someone shouting at me…at first I thought it was the music on my iPod, so I put it a litter louder to get psyched up a bit more, but no I was wrong, it was the game ranger at the top of the adjacent hill. Shouting and waving his arms frantically. Looking to my left I saw what the fuss was about…a big buffalo bull running parallel to me about 20metres away in the bush trying to find a way through to me….oh my shattered nerves! Just as it seemed that my trail run (and possibly life) would end there and then, an orange marker (!) saved my life. Hano allowed me to turn off to the right just in time and head up a hill on a single track away from Mr buffalo (how did he know this would happen? Planned maybe?). The rest of the day consisted of running mostly high up on the plateau, an encounter with three rhinos in our path, prompting us to run to safety next to a game driving vehicle like a Tour De France peloton and every now and again being reminded that we are indeed doing a tough trail run, with a nice “adventure section” down to the river into the kloof and back up onto the  plateau on tired legs. A final technical scramble down to the valley and through the Kleinbrak river saw runners finish a memorable 2day trail run amongst the big4 of Africa. In the end a nice 52km route, much more than we paid for.

One memory that will remain was the look on guests faces at the lodge as we stumbled over the finish line, shattered, bruised and (some of us) bleeding, dropping into a miserable heap (some of us into the freezing water of the dam). What are these guys thinking, was written all over their faces. I don’t understand why they do this to themselves?? Well… if you’re sitting on your backside asking that question you will probably never understand…

Thanks to Hano and Sonja Otto from Southern Cross Adventures for creating a great event at a great venue and sacrificing a lot of personal time and effort in a selfless manner to a great cause! Go ahead and enter their events, you won’t be sorry. ( or

After the lovely Rhino painting by Lyne Aithinson has been auctioned by Sean Falconer, editor of Modern Athlete, a total of just under R20 000 has been raised by the weekend’s event for the “Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative”. The organisers said it is only a start and that they hope to get a few big corporate sponsors involved so that more can be donated towards this fund each year. The Race will be televised on Super Sport in about 5 weeks time on the program Trail TV.

The next event organised by Southern Cross Adventures and TriSport is the Oyster Catcher 2 Day and 1 day Trail Run during the Mossel Bay Sports Festival on the 29th and 30th September where runners will have the opportunity to run from Gourits River to Mossel Bay along the coast line and the St Blaize Trail Run.

Race report by Cornel de Jongh from Cape Town, winner of the 2 Day Save the Rhino Trail Run

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