SATURDAY 26th NOVEMBER 2022
This is Helderberg’s showpiece, run on a beautiful undulating route through the winelands of Stellenbosch and Somerset West.
On Friday afternoon Paula was good enough to collect each of us from our homes and headed off to Tygervalley for a late collection of Megan’s race number. Once on the road it was a pretty straight forward drive through to Stellenbosch. Paula had very kindly organized our accommodation at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport which offered good safe under cover parking and two apartments for us gals. But after much deliberation we decided to double up in the bedrooms as there were too singles in each room and forfeit the other apartment. Meg and Sue in one, Paula and I in the other. A suitably appointed flat on the 2nd floor overlooking a park inhabited by squirrels, complete with TV in the lounge and a self-catering kitchen. Once unpacked and a walk through the extremely well-manicured grounds, we opted for an early supper in the communal dining room. A meal with ample choices finished off with the almost obligatory cup of tea of course. Back up to the apartment where bubbly was on tap for Sue and Megan whilst morning alarms were set for 05h00 leaving enough time to walk across to the start line which happened to be across the way from our accommodation. Thank you Paula!! In the blink of any eye that confounded alarm went off without any warning. And there it was. Saturday morning 05h00.
Four girls. One bathroom. Busier than Paddington Station of a quiet day. We managed our time well however and walked over to the Eikestad Primary School arriving with just a couple of minutes to spare before the official start of the 21km at 05h50. There was a good crowd. Well supported. Winelands was proving to be popular indeed. And this was just the 21km crowd. The marathon runners had taken off at 05h30 and of course this would be a Comrades and Two Oceans Ultra qualifier. Gee such a pity I didn’t know that up front (Phew – thank the Lord for small mercies!!)
The gun went off and so did we. A beautiful morning filled with men and women alike from every club one could imagine, boasting their club colours all with one intention in mind. To finish. Not to win (that would always be nice) but to finish, and of course in a decent time. Before the sponsors start packing up and/or run out of water/coke. And then to my absolute delight I spotted a pace flag ahead – and no not that of Celia Pienaar offering a bus of 02h15!!! That I’m afraid is a little out of my league. Sad but true. I’m talking about the 02h40 bus, the driver being Rassie Pretorious and ready to take his passengers from start to finish with a good even pace, a little walking, a little talking, a couple of stops to refuel at the refreshment stands and 100% fabulous comradery for 21kms. I didn’t get to see many West Coasters along the way, and no I’m not too surprised either. The route was amazingly beautiful being surrounded by our stunning Cape mountains for most of the way. Undulating hills amongst flats blocked any chance of monotony setting in. Even the dodgy old corrugated dirt road had been tarred which made the run so much more pleasant, but not shorter (tongue in cheek)! Marshals were in abundance. Traffic police were out in force. Every 3kms – a well stocked table of ice cold water and/or coke available. The Helderberg Harriers had certainly pushed the boat out for this one! Well done and thank you peeps x
And you know what, honestly before I knew it, Rassie announced that we had just a couple of km’s to go before entering the school grounds and crossing the finish line. The atmosphere from the crowd was wonderful, and having the West Coast gazebo closest to the field entrance definitely paid off. Such a warm welcome to each and every single WC runner as they left the tar road and headed towards the school grounds. Our club members Jeanette and Phillip Rentschler were kind enough to manage the gazebo – not only manage it, but take it through, erect it and stock it with cold beer and flavoured milk – because anyone that knows anything at all – is aware that the gazebo tends to be a bone of contention. Actually having somebody take the gazebo through to wherever it is needed, appears to be a mission in itself. So HUGE thanks to Jeanette & Phillip for taking it through to Winelands.
Once we were in – us gals I mean – we ventured back over to our digs, showered, ate a little breakfast and headed off back to our city. Except for one thing. And there’s always one thing. Our trip home proved to be a little more eventful than the one through to Stellenbosch. With Paula at the wheel of her Fortuna – gee I love this car – we took the R304 towards the N1 into Sandringham Road through the Bloekombos Township which is situated on the eastern periphery of Cape Town, 2 km from Kraaifontein on both sides of Old Paarl Road in the Oostenberg municipality and was an informal settlement until 1998 when the government started building houses as part of their Reconstruction and Development Programme. On every corner there was not only a barber, a hairdresser, a small convenient store, launderies but also – and probably the most popular of all – a half drum sending out smoke signals of – stop here and taste this boerewors!! Wow talk about innovative. Selling wares of lunch as folk walked by, they certainly weren’t short of customers. Kids dancing and waving as we drove through, It just lent such a community feel to the surrounds, and believe me it took ages to get through this area. Once through however, we were back on the N1 and off at the Milnerton turn off through Paarden Eiland on the R27. And that peeps is our weekend away in a nutshell.
Megan and I had volunteered for the UTCT for later in the afternoon . . . . . but that’s another story.
Thank you so much Paula for driving us through and back home safely. Thank you very much indeed to Jeanette & Phillip – our Westies who delivered so well with the club gazebo. Well done and congratulations to every single Westie who ran the 42 and 21km – it is my hope that you did indeed achieve what you set out for and achieved a qualifying time if necessary. And on a personal note – thank you Rassie Pretorious for being the BEST bus driver!!