Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 165 February 2024 | Page 56

( MIS ) ADVENTURES trail ( mis ) adventures by CARLA LEA FARINA


( MIS ) ADVENTURES trail ( mis ) adventures by CARLA LEA FARINA

A New Old Favourite

As you probably also know , in my ( very clumsy ) life , I have had many misadventures in this place , from falling off the jetty , fully clothed , in the middle of winter , to getting hooked up in every tree when learning to fly fish ( don ’ t worry , I am pretty decent at it now ), to learning about all sorts of snakes ( often the hard way ), to learning to swim super-fast because something slimy stroked my leg while swimming … You name it , I have ( accidentally ) done it ! However , there is one new element I have recently discovered at Gubu Dam , and that is that it , too , is a trail runner ’ s paradise .

Bull By the Horns
There is an absolutely spectacular 10.5km loop around the dam , which takes you around the outskirts of the dam , up into pine forest for a bit , and then back around the dam . On hot days you can take a dip , and may even see an otter or two , and you will enjoy beautiful views of the dam for around 8.5 of those 10km , as well as beautiful views of the surrounding mountain ranges . You are really spoilt for choice in terms of views .
I had such a magical time running here in December , but I also learnt ( again , the hard way ) that Eastern Cape cows can be rather aggressive and not altogether that friendly . I ‘ ran into ’ various herds of cattle that included big , grumpy bulls , with horns that would definitely leave a mark , and it seems they prefer to chase you when there is no actual clear getaway path . When I say this happed more than five times this holiday , I am not exaggerating . I seem to be a bit of a bull magnet .
Take for example the one day , when I came around a bend , moving speedily as ever , and just as quickly I had to turn around and run away from a charging bull . Luckily ,
If you ’ ve been reading my column for a while , you may have heard me speak before about running in Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape , and more specifically , the mountains of the Amatola Rainforest , but Stutterheim boasts another hidden gem , the Gubu Dam , which I ‘ rediscovered ’ in December .
Lesson 1 : Don ’ t make eye contact with the bull
I saw that there was a pretty steep bank nearby , so I promptly ran up it , getting away from the bull . With my arms raised in victory , I celebrated my narrow escape , only to realise I had stepped in a cow poop ‘ landmine ’ bigger than the Kimberly hole ! Just my luck . So , what did I decide to do ? The only logical thing I could : Change the route and find a detour , to go around the herd .
Now , for most people , this plan would have worked , but for Carla , this was a very , very sh … sorry , really bad idea . Because within 10 minutes , I definitely had no idea where I was . So , I did the next logical thing … No , I didn ’ t back-track , brave the mad cows ( and the poop ), and continue my loop . I headed straight for the dam , because my logic said that if I could find the dam again , then it would be a straightforward run back . Well , let ’ s just say that this strategy took bundu-bashing to a whole new level , and I did eventually end up back at the dam , covered in scrapes and scratches , but I have a brand-new misadventure to share with you !
Lesson 2 : After the cows have crossed , watch for cow landmines !
Making New Memories
I have been visiting Gubu Dam since before I could walk , but this December , I saw its true potential for the first time , because I was looking at it with a different perspective . I have always loved fishing , swimming and having a braai with my cousins at the dam , but now I love it for a whole different reason . It is now a place I can go and run up an adventure , doing what makes me happy , in a place that has always been very special to me . Oh , and I have acquired a new skill by learning how to handle grumpy bulls .
As I always say , you should go out running in your favourite areas , but at least now and then try to explore that little bit further than you usually do , because there is always more magic to find . So , please go out and re-explore those places you love most ! And if you are ever near Stutterheim , please go and try this run . You won ’ t be sorry . ( Just avoid the cows !)
Carla and Aero during another run near the dam
ISSUE 165 | www . modernathlete . co . za Carla taking a cow-less selfie
next to the Gubu Dam