You’ve heard this before, and you’ll hear it again, KAEM is all about the place and the people, and it gets under your skin.
Here is a lovely winding tale from a man we will just call Fergus, for today. He has the Kalahari embedded in his skin and it runs through these lines. Enjoy and embrace.
Musical musings on KAEM
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
While you do run down a few park roads, sadly there is no cool wind, I have no memories of any smells or at least none that I can associate with the Kalahari and I haven’t the foggiest idea what colitas is.
From eight thirty on Saturday morning it’s a case of raise your feet, lift your eyes & face the desert ahead, all the while drinking copious amounts of tepid water cause there’s a wilderness, It’s a no man’s land beyond Quiver Tree in Augrabies National Park, one hundred and fifty miles of burning sand and a silken thread keeps a hold on you when the emptiness like a potion, tends to fray your reason strand by strand.
At eye level it is relatively straight forward endeavour. For one week in October a 250 km self-sufficient foot race across the green Kalahari Desert, camping for six nights, only eating what fits in your backpack and sleeping in what you are willing to carry. Early to bed, early to rise, life stripped back to the bare necessities: eat, sleep, run, repeat enough to turn a fatboy slim.
David Gates must have participated in an earlier KAEM penning these immortal words after two days
“Kalahari, when my love for life is running dry, you come and pour yourself on me.”
By day three he must have contemplated rewriting those lyrics “and KAEM shat all over me”
Poets, romantics, even opticians enter this pilgrimage believing it a house of fun, only to discover a house of pain. Emerging from Death Valley softly whisper “I burn, I pine, I perish,” but not too loudly as everything you say on that trail will be taken down and used as evidence against you on Friday night and again Saturday (beware the Irish-South African, because he hears everything).
At a deeper level it is piling stress upon stress when you least need it, enter the sandman (race director) to find a way of adding even more. Pain is always nearby with fellow bedfellows of despair and suffering not far behind, up ahead a fellow runner with kind words (sometimes a grunt, but a grunt is as good as a smile to a weary man). The medical team will nurse your bruised body, for they are the very wind beneath your wings who, every eight kilometres or so, are a band of water-bearing angels coming for to help you home . We struggle with our demons throughout, however on the Sunday morning when you run past the farm labourers sitting in front of their chalets casting a cold eye on runners passing by, you quickly realise these demons turn out middle class and lame.
Over the first four days a progression of ever longer runs culminate in the Big Daddy’s long day, 80 km of fun in the sun progressing into the long night for the soul. Yes, a fabulous night for a Moondance with stars up above and blistered feet below. Now is not the time to question why you signed up, but you will do this, at least twenty times before the next water stop. Day weaves into night and when the morning light comes streaming in you get up and do again turning KAEM into a pilgrimage, a voyage of discovery, a week like no other, where everybody hurts sometimes, even Bennie. By Day Six you know you’re not in Kansas anymore and it’s a long long way to Tipperary, but the back is broken on the beast and a sense of giddy excitement permeates because we ‘only’ have 25 km to go.
Final day dawns, running on empty you descend Moonrock with a whiff of alcohol in the air, possibly a mirage, but who cares because every step brings you closer to the realisation you love the smell of napalm/beer in the morning.
Whether you emerge broken or stronger, be assured all will change, change utterly, a terrible beauty is born within you. Food, drink and walking without a bag on your back never felt so good, that comfortable bed can wait, because an appreciation for the simple things in life now is firmly embedded in what’s left of your frayed frazzled brain and the Faustian pact agreed with yourself on Wednesday evening that promise to kill off those few vital remaining brain cells in Peties bar.
However, there is a sting in the tail (momma Nadia won’t warn you till it’s too late baby) cause just like that hotel in California,
“KAEM is programmed to receive; you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”
(P.S for Big Lebowski fans, when it comes to the Eagles, I’m in full agreement with the Dude).