iSimangaliso 2017 ~ Just Being at Beautiful RockTail Beach Camp

It seems the weather gods ruling the #iSimangaliso roost have a rather warped sense of humour. I mean, why the heck else would they strafe us with 150mm of rain on our first two days up here on the KZN coast? In the greater scheme of things, the region did need the rain, and I’ve never seen quite as lush and alive as this year.

The beauty here in this incomparable #WorldHeritage Wetlands Park is that the weather does not really matter. There’s an underlying energy in this place that makes it bigger than the climatic conditions and you can be in the moment, even in the most tempestuous of downpours.

An elegantly rustic central dining and bar lounge – with access to a tropical garden and pool area – welcome you upon arrival at this classy @wearewilderness lodge. From this ambient open-plan centre, meandering pathways traipse into the surrounding sand forest to where your hideaway luxury tents await.

This is arguably one of #iSimangaliso’s most ‘secret’ establishments, and it comes packaged with a sense of utter peace and tranquillity. Even the vervet monkey chatter here seems subdued, and at night an aural blanket of insect- and other night noises surges in a many-layered symphony of sounds through your subconscious as you waver upon the edge of dreamland.

It is impossible to capture every brilliant moment that we had here as a family, but these are five of the experiences that are sure to remain in our collective memories for many years to come -:

1) Swimming in the wild roil of the Indian Ocean upon an absolutely deserted beach, with cyclonic rain sheeting in from the horizon while the kids buckaroo’d about in the crash of white-water waves.

2) Watching two osprey fishing hawks engage in an aerial ballet over a fish, high above the wide and whipped-up Sibaya Lake, while a woolly-necked stork strutted about the water’s edge.

3) The Forest Walk with Gibson, who showed the kids how to make tooth brushes from palm twigs, while he shared his encyclopaedic bush wisdom in his trademark, measured way.

4) The fabulous food and impeccable level of service from every staff member at #RockTailBay; this is a truly content and well-managed establishment, and this contributes hugely to the energy and equilibrium one finds here.

5) Trail running along a bush tunnel network of forest trails, amidst a myriad of indigenous trees and surrounded by bird- and wild life. Occasional glimpses of iGwalaGwala touracos, shy red duikers and bounding monkeys make for a stunning run, eventually popping out onto the windswept beach where stalk-eyed ghost crabs scuttle away at your approach.

The exhilarating drive back along the sand road blasts you through metre-deep pools, and I’m only sad that we did not get to experience the snorkelling, scuba, ocean outings and turtle drives that are the signature activities at #RockTailBay.

A huge ‘Thank You’ to Russel Friedman and his wonderful staff for making this such a memorable stay. All imagery shot on PENTAX SOUTH AFRICA #PentaxKSeries Cameras and #TomTomBandit Action Cam.

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TransCape – The People Album

No man is an island, and no event can ever be an absolute success without passionate people behind it. #TransCape is a case in point – the crew, organisers, marshalls, sponsors such as #ASGsport and #VolvoSA, and most importantly, the riders – make this event one of the truly unique #MTB Stage Races out there. If you want to be a part of the #TransCape Family, go and check out www.transcapemtb.co.za

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Transcape – The Volvo SA Album

The annual #TransCape #MTB Stage Race may be a beautiful #CrankAcrossTheCape, but if I had to do it in a car, I could think of no more luxurious way than behind the wheel of a #VolvoXC90. Endless plains of shale, Karoo dust storms, the slip-sliding clay by-ways of Grootvadersbosch, and the steepening track up and over #RustyGate … not a single moment of mistrust in this incredible vehicle. Thank you for entrusting your beautifully understated beast to me and co-pilot Peter KirkMichelle Naude

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TransCape MTB Stage Race – Day 6

Mountain-biking days do not come much better than #Stage6 at the annual #TransCapeMTB Stage Race from Knysna to Franschhoek. Imagine pedalling up #Bakenskop with the sunrise at your back, missioning up the side-winding #singletrack with the village of #Greyton still slumbering way below.

Even better, once you plateau just beyond the summit fence stile, you realise the local Winelands #TrailFairies have been hard at work creating brand new routes. Instead of your normal left-hander loop, you split right into #Enduro Heaven, with just on 5kays of fresh track crackalacking along the steep edges of the grassland slopes.

It’s gritty and rambunctious and if you don’t focus, chances are it may savage you like a rabid pit bull, but it is utterly rideable and oh-so-sublime. Sure, the camber is edgy in places, and the wrong line will see you on a an off-piste trajectory to a spectacular face-plant, but it is mountain biking after all, so what did you expect?

What follows is the stuff of legends … trip through the Water Point at Genadendal; up the cadence through the farm lands; and slay some serious gradient dragons (up to 24 Degrees, I believe!) up the dastardly Rusty Gate climb. It will never be easy, but it will be the kind of cranking day you will remember for ever.

Teams #EllsworthASGRacing and #SPARladies are still ruling the roost … For full results, check out www.transcapemtb.co.za or www.spectrumsport.co.za

PS: All photos on the PENTAX SOUTH AFRICA #Kseries cameras. As today was shot mostly off the bike along the morning stage, I only took the #PentaxK70, and I’m blown away by how it handled the shifting morning light, mist, shadows and contrast, especially when the contrast gets seriously stark. Brett Skolmen, can’t wait to see how the new #PentaxKP will improve on this!

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TransCape MTB Stage Race – Day 3

After a mammoth Stage 2, this is pretty much a day of ‘mind over matter’, with around 70km-plus of gavel and stone linking you from the sublime Rooiberglodge all the way to the town of Riversdale.

That sounds pretty do-able if you’re an MTB god and Stage Racers do it every day, but hell, with 140km in your legs from yesterday – and 1500m of ascent in the mix – it definitely makes for a harsh grind.

Assorted calf-crusher climbs and proper Klein Karoo terrain added exhilaration to this stage, especially the gravel-grinder undulations through the never-ending Badlands on the approach to Garcia Pass. At least the tarmac is a missile-chute all the way home, where cold beers and luxury accommodation awaits in this quaint little town.

Respect to all the riders who keep chasing Pieter Seyffert and Travis Walker of TEAM ASG Ellesworth Racing, and the ever-green Hannele Steyn and her pocket rocket partner, Catherine Williamson.

Super event, excellent organization, and luxury travel in those amaxine Volvo XC90 vehicles. All images shot on Pentax K-Series cameras.

Click here to view the pics (Contributors: Jacques Marais and John Asg)

TransCape MTB Stage Race 2017 – Brand New Vibe

TransCape Take III … now with added ‘ASG’ and ‘VXC’! Folks, if you thought you could not step up the level at this annual #TransCape event, you had better think again!

Yup, both ASG Events and Volvo Cars (South Africa) have come on board for #2017, and this has been the proverbial cherry on top. (I mean, who would not want to zip around the #gardenroute gravel roads in the immaculate luxury of a #VolvoXC90? (That is, if you cannot ride your bike)!

#Day1 used to be a nightmare of a day, but it has been considerable toned down, with competitors facing off to a still tough – but utterly do-able – 80km of riding. And with a lot of mud, I think there were some happy customers out there on the route.

The third itiniration of this exhilarating MTB #StageRace is made up of seven days of gritty riding, with competitors taking on 700km-odd of gravel road, jeep track and single-track as they journey from the Garden Route all the way to far-off Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands.

Registration was once again a buzzy affair at Mitchells’ Breweries in Knysna, but despite the bonhomie, in their hearts the riders knew this would not be an easy journey. There would be pain. There would be blood. There would be dust, saddle-sores, tears., gnashing of teeth … And a lot of swearing at the sky.

But the flipside of #TransCape is the utter joy of free-riding within primal forests and passing through breathtaking lansdscapes as you journey across the ever-changing environs of the Cape, waitng to experience that final elation of crossing the finish line.

But before you can do that, you need to tame a route that is ‘part beast, and part beauty’, in the words of Route Director Andrew White. As mentioned, the route has been ‘tamed’ slightly, but starting at the coast still means there is only one way to go, and that’s up.

The full complement of 130 riders – each and every one fully catered for in premium guest houses, hotels or B&Bs – knew what lay ahead, and there was much trepidation amongst the Stage Race newbies at the 5AM call at Knysna Waterfront.

Flat went to steep immediately after the neutral zone along the Main Street as the riders grunted up Phantom Pass and into the forest, cranking hard as soft rain soaked in from across the Outeniqua Peaks. Unlike previous years, there was a lot of cloud cover, with temperatures in the low 20s (rather than the high 30s as in 2015).

The riders hung tough, eventually looping onto the 7 Passes road and then through Beervlei and Bergplaas Plantations. Superb forest riding added an edge to the high-speed gravel chase, spreading the field as they blasted amidst the fragrant pines.

Individually dominating the Men’s and Women’s field from the front today was Pieter Seyffert and Travis Walker (Team Ellsworth ASG Racing) and Catherine Williamson, riding with stalwart Hannele Steyn (the girls are TOP 10 contenders, so watch this space)!

As in 2016, this amazing #Transcape event can’t be faulted so far, with everything running beyond smooth. New partners #ASGevents and original organisers Wayne and Lenore Collett – together with their ever-professional team – can once again stand proud!

Click here to view the pics (contributors: Jacques Marais & John Asg)