Saturday 16th March I took part in the first Deep South Trail Run also dubbed the Peak to Point run hosted byTrail Junkee. Trail Junkee’s Jackie Exton organised The Peak to Point run as a training run over a 46km course taking in the trails from the ‘Deep South’ or rather Beautiful South (as I call it) in the southern part of the Cape Peninsula. As the Deep South Run was given PUFfeR qualifying status it showed that it was going to be a challenging run with plenty of time on feet.
So Saturday arrived and @beanker dropped me at the start point on Jan Smuts Drive above Seaforth. We all assembled in the dark catching up with old friends and making introductions with new ones. The assembly in the dark gave us time to check our head torches, make some final equipment checks and share our thoughts of the trails and day ahead of us. Before long we were underway with a brisk ascent up Simonstown Mountain and our first major climb of the day.
We ascended into darkness and the rain laden mist that helped keep us cool in the humid conditions. The single track was overgrown in many places indicative of the rare use of the trails. We hugged the trail below Simonsberg Peak and continued on up to Swartkop Peak. The trail became very rocky as we ascended towards the beacon at 670m above sea level. From there we regrouped and then continued onwards towards the Cape of Good Hope National Park gate. It was great to chat with @robburgoyne and @ghaleednortje The trail meandered across the spine of the Swartkop mountains through a lot of burned fynbos which certainly left their mark on many of us.We finally got to the descent point above Smitswinkel Bay and took a breather to admire the magnificent views on offer out towards Cape Point.
The mist had finally lifted and the landscape below and beyond was bathed in sunshine. We descended down the rather steep and in some places sketchy path without incident until we got to a lay-by on the road near the Old Forest Station for our first water point. We had only done 10kms but had been going for nearly 3 hours. I spotted @beanker who was out on a long training ride with a fellow triathlete and had a quick chat.
We headed into the Cape of Good Hope National Park where we all either presented our Wild Cards or paid the admission fee. We ran single file up the t@r road until we got back onto the trail to Judas peak that was quite pebbly. The morning was starting to warm up and it was great to get into a bit of rythmm as we took the coastal path above the crystal clear waters of the False Bay and Indian Ocean. On the other side looking inland was the flat fynbos terrain that we would be covering later in the day.
The group slowly started to break up into two noticeable paces as we headed towards the Buffelsfontein Visitors Centre. Once there we stopped briefly in the car park to regroup, adjust clothing and apply sunblock. A decision was made to split into 2 groups of close to a dozen runners each with Jackie taking the lead group and Dirk McIntosh taking the other half. It was beginning to get warm and there was no coastal breeze on offer as we started again on the leg to Cape Point.
At the start of this leg we passed a large number of Eland grazing close to the Buffeslfontein Centre. Some of our group had not spent much time in the reserve and were surprised to see such large animals there and I mentioned that if we were lucky we may even see one of the Zebra that also called the reserve home though I wasn’t sure if they believed me. We continued on quickly on the very runnable trail and then soon ascended slightly up to Vasco Da Gama Peak.
Once at the top we ran along the spine for a short distance before taking the rocky trail down to the car park near Cape Point. After a quick regroup we pushed on along the boardwalks above Dias Beach towards the Cape of Good Hope. It was a glorious day and I looked down at the corner of Dias to see a couple of surfers enjoying the clean swell on offer. We soon reached the Cape of Good Hope and our next planned water point. We joined the mass of tourists gathered there and after waiting for some time we eventually found out that our second was in a queue to get into the reserve. Clearly we were not the only people in Cape Town making the most of a glorious day on the Peninsula.
We decided to keep moving and run onto the junction where the road picked up the coastal path. We waited there for a time having a chuckle at the troop of Baboons harassing the visitors and posing for photos. I was glad to see Jacky’s sister (the second) arrive in her car with some water, coke and a large container of sandwiches and snacks. I had almost used the 1.5l of water during the 7 hours and 30km we had been going for and I decided against my better nature to indulge in a coke also. It seemed that our small fest had not gone unnoticed as @robburgoyne was ‘robbed’ of his banana and sandwich by a rather large Baboon who was then in turn chased after by the alpha male of the Baboon troop. After refuelling we hit the coastal path towards Platboom in the now searing heat.
The path was sandy but pristine and after navigating a short dunes section at Platboom we continued on towards Groot Blauuwberg and our next planned stop. Along the way we spotted a number of Bontebok that often roam between Olifantsbos and Platboom for grazing.
I took the time to have a glass of coke, a sandwich and a chat with our second Di before heading after the first group that had quickly moved on. I headed back onto the trail and across the rocky ridge that led back down to the flats below and the trail that would take us back towards the main gate.
We ran over the slightly undulating terrain towards Sirkelsvlei and kept a good pace going. We were now 40kms in and fatigue was starting to settle into many of the runners legs including my own. Some were already feeling the heat and collective time on feet with either cramping or slight heat exhaustion.
The temperature was in the mid to upper 20’s C range but with the high humidity and no breeze the fynbos plain we were on felt like a furnace with no shade in sight. The natural beauty of the reserve continued to provide a distraction from the tiredness and kept our spirits high.
As we approached Sirkelsvlei I spotted a number of Bontebok cooling off at the dam and then as luck would have one of the elusive Zebra I had been promising for most of the day. I was so stoked that we happened upon the chance encounter and evidently so were the others.
Rooihoogte (Red Heights) should rather be renamed Red Devils to reflect the difficulty level when taking this trail on after 47kms and a day of running in the legs. Although only an elevation of 275m at its first peak and then 280m at its second peak it was a rocky ascent with lots of little peaks and troughs in between. I was thankful to be doing this final section with @robburgoyne and Waldo (whom I had run with before) as the conversation and light hearted banter kept my spirit high and made me forget about the cramping in my hamstring that was starting to bother me. I was quite tired at this stage and had just ran out of water also as we got halfway to the first peak. I tried a short run to what I thought was the beacon before our descent to the finish only to realise that it was the start of a descent to the next peak. I decided to catch my breath and open up some sugar dusted dried fruit pieces to share out. Rob had pushed on slightly ahead and showed no signs of fatigue as he comfortably descended into the valley below whilst Waldo, myself and our Belgian trail runner (name eludes me) shared some food and a quick chat. We were now within touching distance of our finishing point and a cold drink that had been discussed on many an occasion over the previous several hours.
We finally ascended the second peak and then descended towards the t@r road that would take us the final couple of hundred metres to the entrance and those waiting for us. I was glad to see @beanker there waiting patiently for us and we chatted about the day whilst we waited for the other runners to come in. We didn’t have to wait too long before everyone made it safely to the cars and we regrouped to enjoy a cold drink and share a few laughs before having to head off as the reserve was about to close.
The Deep South Run was an incredible day out. It was an opportunity to run some new trails, get to know other trail runners better, share running experiences and adventures, enjoy the beauty of our beautiful Cape Peninsula without pressure of cut offs or race times. I would highly recommend this run to anyone!
Just remember to wear sunscreen if it’s hot! I forgot
To find out more about the Deep South Run or hear about other group runs they organise check www.trailjunkee.co.za
To check my run, the route and the elevations check my garminconnect record here