25/6/13: Wellington to Hermon; how much to eat and drink, what to wear, caring for your Seconds.
We have now done the Hermon to Gouda race and that section is sorted for the Berg. This week’s race is Wellington to Hermon. This is another section that you need to know well for the Berg – see attached Map plus Directions. Please also remember that the finish is at Hermon Farm and not at the Hermon bridge. This finish is about 1Km upstream of the bridge. Make the most of this race as it is the last official race before the Berg so you can use next weekend for tripping the section you are not too happy about. We often end up doing the Gouda to Bridgetown section as it is a long paddle and can be quite tricky. Please remember that with a bit of rain the river can change quite dramatically so all that knowledge you have built up can literally go down the drain and all that is left is your fitness. That is when you ask the long time (I don’t like the term “old timers”) paddlers what to do and where to go before you get on the water. Then when you are on the water you follow one of these paddlers like a lost sheep. Looking at water levels – they are about the same as last week’s race level. With more rain predicted for tonight it could push the level up a bit. Listen carefully to the Safety Briefing before the race to hear what to do at Skooltjie Bridge and Klei Rapid. The rest of the race is made easier with a full river but watch out for the trees at all times.
I hope you get your Berg Marathon entry in by the 26th June (at 5pm) or you will have to pay the Late Entry penalty to enter. Regarding the Berg you can do one of three things – stay in the barns at each overnight stop, drive back to Cape Town or book into a B&B close to each day’s finish. B&B booking might be a difficult option at this stage!!
I’m always asked how much one needs to drink on the Berg. DO NOT TRY A NEW DRINK NOW. Drink what you have been using on the day races and you will need 4 litres for the long days and 2 litres for the second day. I also take something to eat as your stomach will tell you when it’s lunchtime. A type of GU is also good for that extra energy over that last hour of a long day. Remember a GU takes about 10mins to become effective and you must take it with juice. Have your second meet you about an hour from the end of each day with juice and food (banana or Barone – out the wrapper). So for Berg good places would be: Day 1 at Hermon Bridge, Day 2 at Trainbridge, Day 3 at Tuin Drift and Day 4 at OordraPlek (Carry over Place – but nobody calls it that!!!).
What to wear is always a difficult question as it depends on you as to how much heat you generate when paddling. Here are some pointers – top to bottom. I always wear a cap (follically challenged) and put on sunscreen. Use a non-greasy type that does not leave your hands slippery. The paddling top I use will be long sleeved as it also protects your arms from sunburn and keeps you warm on those cold morning starts. If it is cold and rainy you can also wear a waterproof top but be prepared to take it off later if it warms up and stow it in the boat – tied in. Wear paddling shorts that allow you to move around a bit on your seat – wetsuit pants do not allow enough movement. Your splashcover must be waterproof as a lot of water can get into your boat over the four days. For your feet I use booties as your feet are in contact with the COLD hull of your boat.
After Saturday’s race have a good look at your boat and fix it ASAP – don’t leave it until the night before the Berg. I’ll talk more about this early next week.
Make sure you get hold of some good maps for your second so they know where they are going and that they get to you at the arranged spot of any day. It might be something that seems trivial but make sure your vehicle is serviced and running well. When you hand the keys over to your second in Paarl make sure the fuel tank is full and that they know where to go or who to follow. Also try to give them some idea of how long you will be paddling for on each day. Ask one of the long time paddlers – they can usually just look at the water level/flow and tell you how long the day will take.
Next week we will discuss arriving in Paarl and what conditions to expect when you get there.
Good luck with your preparations and see you on the water this weekend.
19/6/13: Hermon to Gouda Section
Looking at the rainfall for this week it seems as if the river will be at a medium level so tree climbing skills will be put to the test!!!!!
Now for a little history of the “old” Berg River. The first European record of the Berg River was by bailiff Abraham Gabbema in 1657. He was setting up trade with the Khoekhoe for meat. I’m not sure he ever thought that later people would paddle from the area he saw all the way to the sea. Anyway the first European settlers on the Berg were the Free Burgers and they settled in the Paarl area in 1687. Wellington, Franschoek and Tulbagh were established shortly afterwards. These towns were home to the Huguenots and they brought wine making skills with them. So began the origins of the KWV Berg Marathon way back in 1886. It was around this time that the first table grapes were exported to London and so began our fruit export industry. More history next week!!!!
27/5/13: Gouda to Bridgetown Section.
We were very lucky over last weekend with the little rain that fell in the Paarl area which was just enough to push the level up from scratchy(1.5Cumegs) to bearable(5Cumegs). Let’s hope the rain falling now will fill the river up for the Gouda to Bidgetown race. The Voelvlei dam is still supplementing the flow from below Zonquasdrif. I have attached the map Gouda to Bridgetown and description Gouda to Bridgetown map description for Saturday’s Gouda to Bridgetown race. Gives you time to memorise it or cut it out and stick it to your front deck!!!! It is a very nice piece of the Berg, my favourite actually, and is worth getting to know well as many enjoyable Bergs have been spoiled by having a “mare” on this day. So do your homework and ask lots of questions the what, where and how to do this section successfully. Enjoy the race and look at it as a trial run for the Swartland and Berg Marathons.
Now let me tell you about Bridgetown where you will find no bridge and definitely no town. Many years ago when the British were putting in the road from Cape Town up to Namibia (SW Africa in those days) they had to put a bridge across the Berg River. They chose the site of Bridgetown for the bridge. The span across the Berg was measured and these measurements were sent back to England and the steel bridge was constructed. This was then transported by ship to Cape Town. When the bridge arrived at the Cape Town harbour it was transported up to the Berg River. In the mean time it was discovered that the bridge was not long enough to span the chosen site. So a new site for the bridge had to be found – about 20 minutes paddle down stream from the Misverstand Dam wall. Now that is how Bridgetown became the place with no bridge or town but it is a great place to finish a race, be it a day race or the Swartland and Day 2 of the Berg Marathon.
All the best. See you on the river.