Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My South Africa Adventure...

By Frank

As mentioned in my Comrades Marathon 2012 race report, here I am talking about my South African adventure. As most of you will have known, I was on a road trip along the South Western Cape after completing my Ultimate Human Race. It certainly was a holiday trip not to be forgotten and I really felt sore that it actually ended so quickly. Anyway, here is what happened in a summary of course. Hope this entry doesn't bore you down.

29 May 2012
A small gesture by Katrina from CARIF and some of my running mates to see me off at Coffee Bean, KL Sentral in the late afternoon before I caught the express train to the airport. Upon disembarking from the train, met up with Wong and we proceeded for the check-in before having an early dinner at Secret Recipe. Flew to Singapore and had a 3 hours lay off there before resuming flight to Johannesburg at 2am.

Seeing off and the journey to South Africa...

30 May 2012
Had all 3 seats to the window by myself but could't sleep throughout the entire journey. Met with a South African who is flying home from Melbourne name Andrew who is doing the Comrades Marathon for his second time.

Flight was about 10.5 hours long and finally, we landed safely at O.R. Tambo International Airport at Johannesburg at around 7.00am in the morning, South Africa time. Airport was huge and immigration process was really smooth. A beagle was called into action to sniff on Wong's bag probably due to the dried meat he brought over for Chee Kong.

Arrival at Johannesburg, South Africa...

Chee Kong and Mei-Ee arrived shorty to pick us up and was soon welcomed by the friendly South African culture by 2 locals. Upon our drive back to Chee Kong's house, we soon experience the rush hour.

Rested for a while in Chee Kong's house before departing to visit the Rhino and Lion Park some 30KM aways. Mei-Ee was too tired to follow though. I had fun at this park simply because I like to see animals. Spent a pretty long day here before going back to pick up Mei-Ee for her new car awaits.

Rhino and Lion Park...

A short run in the evening and for the first time, I struggled on a short 6KM run. Despite being sleepy, it was the altitude and dry air. But this run was needed to be run to acclimatise myself.

Car collection, evening run and dinner...

Dinner was nearby at a Brazilian churasuria restaurant with some fellow Malaysian friends working in South Africa being Peter, Seah and Shu Lin. Didn't really enjoy the dinner though was I was bonking out. It has been hours since I last slept.

31 May 2012
A visit to poorer side of Johannesburg at Soweto. A historical side where Nelson Mandela's use to live at, and also the memorial for Hector Peterson.

The Hector Peterson Memorial...


From Soweto, we continued on to the Apartheid Museum. A lot of the South Africa history is being shown here, and one can actually stay up to hours to actually study through everything. Well, I personally just zoom pass. And before leaving, we had quite a lousy lunch at the cafe there.

The Apartheid Museum...

Shopping mall or Chinatown? I opt for the latter instead although being told that it is nothing spectacular. But its a must visit if you ask me as we are Chinese after all. Indeed nothing to shout about, as it was just a short street.

We returned back home later as Chee Kong had an appointment with his Fourway Running Club runners for a time trial session. All of them ran but I did not despite just being a short one. Dinner was pizza bought from a local eatery and after that, I bonk out again early, still feeling tired.

01 June 2012
The 600KM plus long drive to Durban and the free way has nothing to see except for animals and plenty of mountains. But still, amazing view. Halfway through, we stopped by the small town of Harrismith for some very English breakfast I had pancake with savoury mince and it was simply delicious. Bought some ginger cookies too and they simply taste awesome too.

En route Durban stopping by Harrismith...

Continuing with our journey, we soon arrived at he legendary town of Pietermaritzburg, and soon found the original first starting line of the very first Comrades Marathon back in 1921. We then proceeded to the Comrades Marathon House was simply blown away by the exhibition there! The stories, legendary runners and the medals and trophies were all shown here.

The Comrades Marathon House...

We drove along the race route and even paid an early visit to the Wall of Honor. And from there, we drove till Botha's Hill before turning off on to the free way as it was getting late. Arriving at Durban, it was straight to the Race Expo at the convention centre. It was huge but we did not start our shopping today. We just collected our race pack and met up with some friends. I met up with Kelly from Singapore to pass her some stuff and off we went to check into our hotel by the seaside, Belaire Suites.

Pietermaritzburg and the Wall of Honour...

Dinner later was with some other Comrades runners at a pasta restaurant call Spiga. New friends like Karsten, Caroline and Susan were made. Didn't really enjoy the dinner though as the taste wasn't impressive. But probably I was cold and tired too.

02 June 2012
Woke up rather early and just roll around on the bed before going down to the cafe for breakfast. Pretty good breakfast I will say before we all proceeded to the Youth Run just around the corner. Mei-Ee was taking part in this 10KM run and I witness the strong African runners in action. Indeed an eye opener for me. Wrong shoes, torn shoes or even no shoes at all, they can really run!

10KM Youth Run...

Mei-Ee completing her Youth Run...

After cleaning up, its back to the expo for some shopping. Things were really expensive compared to Malaysia but at times like this, I just have to buy some of them as they served as important mementos for the run. Spent quite a long day here before going back.

Comrades Marathon race expo...

And in the evening, a quick visit to the seaside to catch the lighthouse before dinner at Ocean's Basket. Good dinner but race mood is kicking in. And after dinner, its back to the hotel and its rest for the big run awaits!

03 June 2012

04 June 2012
A long drive back from Durban to Johannesburg. Stopping by halfway along the freeway at Harrismith for lunch at Nando's, we spotted lots of Comrades runners clad in the official yellow tee limping around. As I was limping around too, we all smile and even joked at each other. Even the store manager and waiter and waitresses at Nando's saluted each of us for participating in the run.

Upon reaching Johannesburg, we proceeded to the nearby supermarket to buy some food for braai (barbeque) later back at home as part of our celebration together with our Malaysian friends Peter, Seah and Shu Lin.

05 June 2012
An early climb out of bed to catch a flight to George, we also going to miss Wong as he will be leaving back home to Malaysia on this same day. The flight to George was on board Kulula, and I was quite surprised at how good it was compared to our local low budget airlines. The only complain was the super hard landing at George some close to 2 hours later.

Upon arrival at the small airport, we soon got our rented car, the Nissan X-Trail Gear. Pretty comfy car and we soon zoomed off into the mountain enjoying the scenery while on the way to ostrich town, Oudtsshoorn. Upon arrival at the Safari, we had lunch there and I had a SUPERBLY DELICIOUS ostrich kebab.

Ostrich Safari at Oudtsshoorn...

And at the stroke of noon, we began our tour with a short video presentation before heading out to the farm. The ostriches were huge but they do look stupid. And once the tour of the farm is done, it came the moment of true where I was suppose to ride an ostrich. Sucky the ostrich was chosen to be my ride. With my legs still sore after the Comrades Marathon, I can't really cross my legs below the belly properly. And before I can sit properly on it, off came the face mask and off he went. After 2 small loops around, I fell off the big bird! I wasn't injured except for some scratches on my arm and was just glad that his big feet did not stamp on me! However, it was still an experience.

And before leaving the safari, we then proceeded to witness ostrich racing with "Jenson Button" taking on "Fernando Alonso". It was rather an amusing race where Jenson won!

It was all the way to Mosselbay later and we finally arrived at our hostel, the Santos Express Train. A very unique hostel in the shape of a decommissioned train by the beach, we spent most of our time at the cafe while enjoying the sea breeze and also the flight of seagulls before calling it a day after a long drive.


06 June 2012
It was a terrible morning to start with. As the hot shower facilities at the Santos Express Train is run on geysers, the high possibility of the fire being blown off by the strong wind is there. And this is what exactly happened to me during shower. The water just turn ice cold!

After a very nice breakfast, we continued our road trip journey to the southern most tip of South Africa, Cape Alguhas. Taking a break halfway at Albertinia, we visited a local wine shop there. The lady owner was super friendly and even asked for our autographs as myself and Chee Kong ran the Comrades Marathon. We eventually wrote or wishes in her log book. And next to the wine shop was this stall selling roosterkoek, some sort of sandwich which was very TASTY! 

We soon arrived at Cape Alguhas Backpackers Inn. 2 very friendly dogs being Milo and Coco welcomed us as we checked into our respective chalets. It certainly was comfy looking and most important, it came with powered showered facilities! After checking in, we checked out the beautiful beach hoping to see some stingrays but failed to do so.

Cape Alguhas...

Then it was to Cape Alguhas, where the 2 oceans Indian and Atlantic meets. It was simply magnificent and I think I can actually stay at this small town. Just love the peaceful environment here. 

A short stop at the local supermarket to buy some food for dinner before returning back to the hostel to clean ourselves up. But dinner did not turn out to be as the food we bought was too little and by the time Chee Kong found out, the supermarket is already close at 7pm. Therefore, we had dinner at a small restaurant where my dinner turned out to be pork knuckle without realising it!

Further up from Cape Alguhas was the ship wreck. Sunset taken back at hostel...

Back at the hostel, it was some hanging out at the bar area while updating and updating photos on to our Facebook with Chee Kong. It was a chilly night but I was glad that the room has a heater and I quickly called it a night

07 June 2012
I simply adore this small town that I decided to go out for a short morning run with Chee Kong. Very cold morning with reasonably strong wind, I was struggling with every steps as my legs is still painful from my big run. After hitting 3KM, I asked Chee Kong to go ahead while I ran walk while taking videos and photos of the nice waves. And back at the hostel, I had trouble opening my room's door as my fingers were too cold to actually turn the door knot. Waited for Chee kong to return before I managed to enter.

Yesterday;s dinner became our breakfast this morning and thanks to Mei-Ee for preparing it. We left this fabulous town on route to Cape Town. It started pouring soon and the wind was so strong that the car was shaking.

We stopped by at Hermanus, the place known the best to spot whales. We had an early lunch at a cafe by the seaside and sat for quite a while hoping that the whales will appear. Sadly, none came. But at least lunch was good and service was super friendly. This small but yet modern town is also very nice to live in too. Perhaps another visit next year.


Continued our journey to Cape Town and it rained the entire journey. And when we finally got there, we checked in to the Green Elephant Backpackers. Kind of run down and my room themed Dolphin is actually pretty scary with a huge painting of a mermaid on the wall! I slept with the washroom lights on for the next 2 nights!

We then finally met our Singaporean Phil who is actually staying very nearby. We all drove to Hout Bay for the Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge race pack collection and briefing. Nothing much there and after all is done, we ended up at a small cosy Thailand restaurant for dinner after avoiding being "cut throat" at some rather expensive seafood restaurant by the wharf. This is the start of our oriental dinner now after having meat and seafood the previous days. And the quality of the food here is actually very good too.

Then it was back to the hostel for some photo uploading again before calling it a night.

08 June 2012
Probably one the most beautiful drive around South Africa along the coastal roads of Cape Town. Picked up Phil and while just exiting the town, I spotted some fins out of the water, There were dolphins! Out of excitement, Chee Kong drove our vehicle up the curb to park along the road and we got down the car to have some photo shoots. Despite being far from us, it was still a very good experience to see a school of them.

Simon Town...

We then ended up at Simon's Town, the town where Able Seaman Just Nuisance lived and served the Navy. He is actually a dog, a Great Dane in fact. We had breakfast at yet another cosy seafood restaurant call Salty Dog which is absolutely fantastic. And after a satisfying breakfast, we carried on to Boulder National Park to witness penguins. Cute birds, it was rather amusing see them walk as we do walk like them now after running the Comrades Marathon.

Penguins of Boulder National Park...

Next stop was the big one within Table Mountain National Park visiting Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, the western most tip of South Africa. The weather played a fool with myself and Phil every time we wanted to walk up to the light house at Cape Point. Every time we spotted the rainbow which means rain halfway walking up, we turned back. And after 2 efforts, we decided to take the cable car instead. However, the view at the top was simply beautiful. Back at the bottom, while opening the car door, my pizza lunch after flew off my hand and onto the car's mat. Imagine how strong the wind is? Cape of Good Hope was just along the sea. Witnessing strong waves, I still prefer Cape Alguhas.

At Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope...

Next was a coastal drive up to Chapman's Peak cruising along the running route for the Two Oceans Marathon. Spectacular view indeed. We then returned to Hout Bay and stopped by the fisherman's wharf to witness some really fat seals. Then it was snack time before continuing our journey to Signal Hill hoping to catch a glimpse of Table Mountain. It was really cold there and it rained. I hid in the car with Mei-Ee while Chee Kong and Phil went out adventuring in the cold. And thankfully, the cloud manage to stir away and we caught the glorious view of Table Mountain. And from there, we proceeded to a shopping mall by the seaside to check it out before returning to the hostel to clean ourselves up. Everyone was beat to the max.

Dinner was Chinese this time as Phil recommended a pretty good restaurant owned by mainland Chinese. It was probably so good that Phil ate 5 bowls of rice!

An early night after dinner as it was race day again the next morning.

09 June 2012

After completing the race, together with Phil, we returned to the China Mainland Restaurant for dim sum buffet which was actually pretty good. Had a good meal there before we proceeded to Rhodes Memorial not too far away. Just a short visit there before we bid farewell to Phil and then returned back to the hostel as Chee Kong needed to pack up for his flight tonight to the Texas. And in a rush, he though he has lost his newly bought mobile phone to the hostel's cleaner which then Mei-Ee lodge a complain the next day (phone was found in Chee Koon'g luggage when he arrived at Texas).

Rhoedes Memorial...

We then proceeded to the airport in the evening. It was my first time to Cape Town International Airport. huge and spacious but kind of quiet. A simple dinner at Ocean Basket before we say goodbye to Chee Kong. I then proceeded for some light shopping and finally bought a few Vuvuzelas before going back to the hostel to rest.

10 June 2012
A really tough day as this will be the day that I will bid farewell to South Africa after having so much fun. Flight was at 11.35am with Mei-Ee's flight to Johannesburg a few minutes later. As we are earlier, we had an easy breakfast at Wimpy before bidding farewell to each other.

I was on the flight to Johannessburg and it was pretty empty. After laying off for about an hour there, more passengers boarded the plane and it soon filled up. As I only had the middle seat empty this time, I could't get myself to sleep hence I started drafting out my Comrades Marathon event report till the battery of my notebook went flat. And after 12 hours of flying, I finally landed at Changi Airport and quickly transited for my next flight back to Kuala Lumpur an hour later.

Upon retrieving my main luggage back at Kuala Lumpur, I realised that it was wet. Immediately I know that my wine bottle broke and I just can't wait to get back home hoping all my important stuff especially those from Comrades Marathon are not soaked. And once everything was unpacked, it was back to reality where I went back to work. 

Till my next South Africa adventure...

Good things always come to an end fast without realising when we are having fun. And I would like to take this opportunity to THANK my very good friend Chee Kong and Mei-Ee for their excellent planning and hospitality. And to those friends that I met along my trip, it was really great to have met all of you. I'm really awed by the awesome friendliness of your country. Till my next South African trip and I can't wait for it!

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