Running Mapungubwe – South Africa

The Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun® – A three-day trail running safari adventure through Zimbabwe, Botswana and South African game reserves.

Day 3 – South Africa

Unexpected rain overnight, splattered the dust and cooled the morning. We stood, takkies in hand, ready to splash from the Maramani Community Base Camp in Zimbabwe, across the Limpopo River into South Africa, for the last leg of our trail run into the wild places of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Park.

Elephant dung cooled and pools of urine marked the path, lion spoor lay fresh over the large lilypad steps of the pachyderms. The rangers paused and held us back, checking the dense riverine undergrowth, before waving us forward.

An old SADF vehicle and barbed wire fenceposts, slowly rusted away the history of old border wars, reminding us that these Parks were once the last bastion against communism and the “gevaar” Africa represented to the Nationalists.

We jogged on, vigilant for far more present danger. The confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers, was marked by a deep pool and a Fever Tree. Beyond, Zimbabwe and Botswana loomed, no more than a stroll over a dry river bed.

Across the veld, against a backdrop of sandstone and conglomerate ridges, elephants stretched their trunks up into the trees. We stopped in the valley, watching them ambling silently through the Mopane scrub, as we munched baby potatoes and sourworms, sipping our morning tea. A pair of black eagles swooped above us, hunting the dassies scurrying over the rocks.

We ran on timelessly through the land, our bodies synching into the rhythm of the herd.

Three bodies buried in massive clay pots, with a wealth of beads and bangles, led archeologists to Mapungubwe’s Lost City of Gold, where communities an aeon ago, lived and played and worshipped their king.

We climbed the 147 steep steps up to the summit, guarded by scores of Baobabs on the surrounding hills. We stepped onto sacred ground, foundations of huts and shards of pottery and beads still evident, transported into an era of early trade with the Arabs, and a peaceful community living off a fertile land. Sadly, the community suffered a period of great drought and disease, and moved away – possibly to Greater Zimbabwe.

Many of the local runners, rangers and officials, who had joined us on the tour of the site, found the experience profound, never having had the privilege of experiencing the place, but realising that their ancestors could have lived there.

10km to go, we raced over rocky tracks, through fine red silt and down to the Limpopo for our last race crossing back into Zimbabwe and the Maramani Community Base Camp. Although we had previously seen crocodiles in the river, we abandoned all fear, splashing and playing  in the water to the finish of our 90km three-day journey.

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A final night around the campfire. Eland steaks, mielie pap and sauce topping an extraordinary day, the stories unfolded and the stars came out to play.

Massive thanks to the team that successfully pulled off the World’s first Transfrontier Wildrun. Three outstanding and mind blowing days of cruising the game trails of this ancient landscape. Thanks to the phlethora of immigration and customs officials from all three countries who worked with Wildrun to unlock this iconic primal running experience. Special thanks must go to: Owen and Tamaryn Middleton of WildrunRoland Vorwerk of Boundless Southern Africa, Marion and Fran Siebrits and their crew for the delicious catering, the Wildrun team and the SANParks Honorary Rangers for working so hard to look after the participants and make this event exceptional. Then of course to all the landowners, Sentinel Ranch, Shalimpo & the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, Peace Parks Foundation, the team from Mapungubwe National Park and others who helped to make this event a reality.

Really looking forward to what will most certainly be a capacity event in 2017.

‪#‎wildrun‬‪#‎ExploringWildplaces‬ @wildrunnerza#Wildrun #ExploringWildplacesSee: www.wildrun.com

 

 

Mapungubwe Magic-Zimbabwe

The Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun®  – A three day trail running safari adventure through Zimbabwe, Botswana and South African game reserves of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Day One – Running in Zimbabwe.

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As Kipling once said,”Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.”

I stood, barefoot, mud slurping through my toes, with my Wildrun kit bag heavy on my shoulder, as I contemplated the crocodiles and the knee-deep crossing from South Africa into Zimbabwe. On the other side, a table of crisply epauletted officials waited to welcome me.

It was the start of a great adventure – three days of trail running over 90km through the great wilderness areas of three countries. The Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun® was a world-first, allowing a group of runners to traverse the Big 5 territories of the Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa, Sentinel Ranch in Zimbabwe and the Northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana. Months of negotiations and diplomatic bureaucracy by event organisers Boundless Southern Africa and Wildrunner, had paid off and we had the privilege of skipping the formal border posts and literally wading or running from one country to the next.

Camped under the massive Mashatu trees chattering with vervet monkeys, in the Maramani Community Base Camp on the banks of the Limpopo River in Zimbabwe, I watched the sun stretch over the horizon, as the the community cattle clattered up the beach for the night. The campfire drew us in and runners and crew settled into the crackle and smoke of evening banter.

“Run as a herd, stick together, keep your eyes open, the rangers will be at the front and the back – listen to their instructions.”

Day One saw development runners from local villages, immigration officials, and kitted out eager trail runners, lined up at the start, forming an egalitarian group, united by the thrill of running in the wilderness of Zimbabwe’s Sentinel Ranch.

We gathered to the drums and ululations of the kitchen and camp staff, clapping and gyrating as we set off across the veld. Acacia thorns, red dust, cattle dung, elephant dung, grass seeds catching our socks, we soon found animal paths and bounded out, adrenalin rushing, aware of the openness and our vulnerability.

“Watch out for the Baobabs.” Scratched and scarred by elephants, these upside down trees defined the landscape. We hugged and played  and climbed around them measuring their girth with arms outstretched hands clasped to each other.

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Zebra, antelope, giraffe, wildebeest, impala  and troops of baboons startled and stared.  Leopard and lion spoor marked the previous night. We raced laughing up hills, clambering to rocky viewpoints, striking yoga poses and pulling faces for selfies.

An oasis of 4×4 khaki clad SANParks Honorary Rangers appeared on the next hill, tables laid to serve us tea, coffee and rusks, with a buffet of snacks and water,  all managed with military precision.

As we sipped tea, we learnt the legacy and ancient history of Sentinel Ranch. The sand and mudstones of Sentinel were laid down by geographical forces over 200 million years ago -a time of dinosaurs and fanged crocodiles predating the continental shifts. Fossils of the late Triassic prosaurapod, Massospondylus (210-190 million years old) lie curled up and resting  in the stones from the time of Gondwana.  Hunter gathers later marked their rituals on rocks, and cattle ranchers tried and failed to conquer the wilderness, eventually capitulating and allowing the reserve to become a conservancy.

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The heat settled into the afternoon, and we ran on, down into riverine forest, stalling at the sounds of cracking branches and elephant stomach rumbles, we stepped cautiously through thick undergrowth, thrilled and pumping.

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Finally through a swamp of cracked mud, Fever trees and deep elephant footprints, we scrambled up a sandstone hill and slid down over rocks back onto the edge of the great river, to complete the loop into camp.

Cold showers, lunch, massages, Zimbabwe beer and the sunset gin bar beckoned, as we whooped sweat encrusted dirty happy to the finish of Day One.

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