Earlier this month Steve Black and Clyde Barendse featured in a FEAT ‘talk’. These are the photos they used during the chat about their South African Endurance Adventure:
FEAT – Fascinating Expeditions and Travels recently interviewed and had a public ‘chat with Steve Black and Clyde Barendse about their epic race against each other around the Southern Coast of South Africa. To see the two articles leading up to the public show case please click on the following links:
Beneath are some photos from the event.
KHOTSO ADVENTURE GUEST FARM PRESS KIT
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- HORSE RIDES
- 1-5 Hour Horse Ride
- Lesotho Adventure on Horseback
- Back Packers Lodge
- The Lodge
- ENDURANCE TRAIL RUNNING
- SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
- MEDIA PRESS RELEASES
- ONLINE PRESENCE
- PRICE LIST
- CONTACT DETAILS
- HORSE RIDES
- – 1-5 Hour Horse Ride: The best horse trails in the Southern Drakensberg is what we can offer you. All our horses are well trained so that we can accommodate any level of experience. Your expert guide will take you on a 1 hour horse trail, ideal for beginners, a 2 hour horse trail for intermediate to experienced or 3 to 5 hours with complimentary picnic lunch for a true horse adventure. For all the above options there are plenty of opportunities to take your horse for a ‘run’ or canter if you feel up to it.
- – Lesotho Adventure on Horseback: The best horse trails in the Southern Drakensberg is what we can offer you. All our horses are well trained so that we can accommodate any level of experience.
DAY I – starts at the farm with a full cooked breakfast, sometime between 7 and 8 am. We then
transport the horses and the guests to Bushman’s Nek Pass where we saddle up and hop on the
horses. We ride across the border and start the trail. After a nice easy start ascending the Bushmans Nek Pass up the mountain. We climb 1000 m up the pass and reach a plateau where we have lunch. At this stage you have entered Lesotho. We continue the ride past amazing rock formations and stay at our lodge “the croft” in a town just outside the park call Belabetse. The lodge is relatively plush, though still basic. The lodge is on top of a mountain with a full view of the gorge, just a 5 minute walk there is a huge cave with the most spectacular views available.
DAY II – We have a nice easy start with a full breakfast and continue to ride down to the clear blue river and follow her into the gorge. There are lots of opportunities to see Bushman paintings and beautiful views. Out of the gorge, we go up to the top of the mountain to the secret lake, with a variety of rare birds, such as the crested crane. That night we stay in Ha Semanyane village, where you’ll have the chance to check out the local shop, try some of the local home brew beer and generally experience Basotho village life.
DAY III – Having sampled the amazing Lesotho bread for breakfast, we head out, returning via a
largely different route from the way up. We go through the ‘Valley of the Wild Horses’ (yes, where
there are wild horses!) and stop at the Tsoelikane waterfall. Offering further opportunities for
exhilarating gallops, the day ends around 4 pm back at the farm, where a hot shower and a home
cooked meal await you.
Light rain gear
Good hiking shoes/boots
Warm clothes in winter time (gloves, hats, thermals)
Everything you will take will have to fit in a saddle bag, as well as food for dinner etc. Hence, packing
light is essential. NB: we stay in lodges so all bedding is provided.
- Self-Catering: RONDAWELS Find peace and tranquillity in our rondawels for up to 6 guests. All tastefully furnished they each have a double room, a shower room and toilet, an open plan kitchen and lounge area and a further 4 single beds on the first floor. Each equipped with private braai area, they are ideally suited for families or small groups of friends.
- Back Packers Lodge: Calling all fun / interesting / relaxed / easy / cool / slightly crazy / fully certified people. Get your asses over and come play at Khotso backpackers. We can offer you the most amazing, chilled out spot in the country, if not the Southern Hemisphere, (hence why the staff here showed up some time long ago and never left).
- The Lodge: Our beautiful log cabin sleeps up to 24 guests. Downstairs there is a large open plan kitchen, dining area and lounge. 2 bathrooms and toilets and an outdoor shower for hot days. Outside you will find a large fire pit for braais and campfires.
- ENDURANCE TRAIL RUNNING
With the onset of endurance sports gaining popularity, Lesotho Adventures offers a globally unique opportunity to experience Endurance Trail Running on the mountain trails of Lesotho. Guided by the legendary Steve Black (to view Steve Black’s running pedigree please visit his blog, the link is on the bottom of this page) this experience will see you running an average of 40 km a day, with an option to also run for a third day…if left to Steve you might accidentally run for much longer.
The general trails (as the mountains are riddled with game trails) follow pretty much the same route as the horse trails, but are not limited as a human can clamber inclines a lot faster than a horse can. Weather also plays a very important part in deciding what route / trail to run, and as the weather can be extremely unpredictable it’s never a wise move to settle on one specific route.
Obviously to be able to run an Ultra Marathon over the course of two days in a High Altitude Mountain environment requires a fair amount of experience, and is treated as a serious endeavour. Warm and comfortable sleeping arrangements are taken care of, leaving the runners very little to carry on their persons. Light but warm rain resistant clothes are recommended as is protection from the sun.
- SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Khotso Horse Trails has a long standing relationship with the World Challenge school groups where trekking into the mountains of Lesotho involves improving the lives of many Basotho people. In conjunction with Khotso there have been schools built, educations funded and numerous other infrastructural improvements made in the villages otherwise isolated from civilisation.
- MEDIA PRESS RELEASES
Khotso has been very blessed to regularly get a lot of positive press coverage from various travel publications and national weeklies. For a complete list of updated articles, mentions and guide book inclusions please visit out blog URL: http://lesothotrails.wordpress.com/news-media/
Lesotho Horse Trail Adventure labelled the second best Adventure in Southern Africa by Sunday Times “Wild Weekends” Guide
- ONLINE PRESENCE
Khotso is proud to have two website representing their interests in South Africa as well as Lesotho.
Also there is the blog that is regularly updated with regards to news, articles, and things happening on the farm as well.
We are also represented on:
Facebook (Khotso): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Khotso-Horse-Trails-and-Backpackers/
Facebook (Lesotho Adventure): https://www.facebook.com/LesothoAdventures
Twitter: @Khotso_Trails – https://twitter.com/Khotso_Trails
Log cabin: R 200pp (R 2400 if < 12 pp, children 165)
Rondawel: R 220pp (children 180)
Rondawel 2 PAX: R 650 pn
Backpackers: R 130 pp
Double/Single room: R 380 per room
En Suite: R 480 per room
Camping: R 90 pp
1 hour: R 150
2 hour: (incl. tea/biscuits) R 300
3 hour: (incl. lunch) R 395
Full day: (incl. lunch) R 500
Pony ride: 50 (20 min.) R 60
2 day: R 2800 per person
3 day: R 4200 per person
Longer Trips: R1400pppd
WIFI: R30 per day
Firewood: R50 per bag
Town drops: FREE
From/to Kokstad R300
To Giants Cup R200
To Bushman’s R250
It includes updated photos of all out current activities, our favorites and also photos submitted by our friends.
- CONTACT DETAILS
If you would like to contact us for more information please make use of the following contact details below:
OFFICE: Telephone: 033 701 1502 Mobile: 082 412 5540 Email: email@example.com
Adventure and outdoor magazine “GO” were kind enough to include us in the recent Drakensberg Edition – thanks guys!
2013 was a very good year for Khotso Horse Trails. The trail into Lesotho received two outstanding guide book and newspaper referrals for their Lesotho Horse Trail. The one was included in the “Wild Weekends: Places to go, things to do” book, and also consequently got placed in the Sunday Times as the second best adventure to experience in Southern Africa.
Claire Keeton (Sunday Times Adventure Traveller and writer) and photographer Marianne Schwankhart spent the first two months of 2013 taking part in some of the exciting adventures that South African countries have to offer. It was a matter of days before their book “Wild Weekends” was to be published that they found themselves in the company of Khotso’s guides, heading off for a horseback adventure into Lesotho that they would simply have to include in the book. And so it was that the original edition got recalled to make space for Khotso’s Lesotho Adventure in the front pages of their guide book.
An adventure of this magnitude, entering lands so remote that many villagers have never laid eyes on a white man does not get orchestrated overnight. It takes years. And so it was that Steve Black, owner of Tre-Tower sheep and horse farm, headquarters of Khotso Adventures (complete with self-catering accommodation) first started his journey into the worlds of Ultra-Endurance trail running in 1989. This extreme form of running in the high altitudes of the Southern Drakensberg took Steve to all the corners of Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. It didn’t take long before the village people hidden in remote valleys accessibly only by foot and horse became familiar with Steve. It was this experience of running 40 kilometres a day in the mountains that gave Steve the knowledge to offer guided trails into the wilderness. Steve wouldn’t mind running these trails but for the majority of people going on horseback is a much more viable mode of travel.
In 2002 Steve started promoting his love for Lesotho, starting the adventure from the Bushman’s Nek border post in South Africa and then entering Lesotho into the Sehlabathebe National Park via a winding hardly discernable game track. From there it’s up to what the clients would like. Traditionally Khotso stick to offering two and three day trails, but Lesotho is a very big Kingdom when you’re travelling from one valley to the next, so it really does depend on what the client would like. The tours are very dynamic and can be changed to suit a photographer’s schedule, or that of a fisherman wanting to explore the trout inhabited rivers of Lesotho’s water.
This book was already en route to the publishers by the time Marianne and Claire from the Sunday Times came to do our Lesotho Tour – they immediately called a stop to the publishing so this Lesotho Horse trails adventure could be entered and included in it.
Need to get out of the city? Looking for an exciting weekend adventure? Wild Weekends brings you a collection of 34 weekend destinations where you can try out adventure activities from mountain biking to bungee jumping.
Visit Waterval Boven and try rock climbing, a mountain bike trail or learn to fly fish. Take your children on a hike to explore the pools and sandstone pillars of the Cederberg, or go horse riding in the Drakensberg. You could take to the skies over the Karoo or tackle an urban adventure and bungee jump from a cooling tower or swing above a soccer stadium.
Decide where you want to go and we’ll tell you what adventures are waiting for you; or decide what activity you want to do and we’ll tell you the best places to go. And when you really can’t get away, we’ll give you some new ideas for adventures in the city.
There are weekend destinations from all over South Africa, as well as Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe. You could go rock climbing, cycling, hiking, caving, horse riding, scuba and shark diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking, surfing, sailing, whitewater rafting, croc diving, paragliding, skydiving, microlighting, sandboarding, desert 4x4ing, rollerblading, fishing, snowboarding, skiing and ice climbing.
By Rosh Sewpersad | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.nirvanafynbos.co.za
The Kingdom of Lesotho is a small, mountainous country located in the heights of the Drakensberg mountain range that forms an escarpment dividing the east coast of South Africa from the interior. These majestic rolling hills and mountains reveal varied landscapes from gently-swaying grasslands to rocky cliffs and plateaus to giant boulders and overhangs and, always, the all-encompassing sky.
Winters are bitterly cold, bringing much snow that turn into many water courses, steeps and rivers in summer. At this altitude, the air is bracingly pure, the landscapes loom large, and the feeling is one of wide open space, where time stood still.
Tony and I, both experienced horsemen, first heard of Khotso Horse Trails from our fellow horse lovers Isabel and Lloyd, who successfully undertook a cross-continental horse ride in aid of horse welfare. We mentioned our love of trail riding to them, and that all our holidays, when we can afford to take one, involved horse riding. Lloyd immediately recommended Khotso. This idea was put on hold for at least 2 years due to our own constraints running our nature reserve on the West Coast when, by chance, we came across an article in the Sunday newspaper mentioning Khotso again. Serendipity.
From Cape Town, it’s a 2 hour flight to Durban, and then a straightforward, ever-upward drive to Underberg. At Khotso, we were welcomed by our engaging host – strapping, young English adventurer Adrian, who is brimming with interesting anecdotes and facts. The sense of excitement was palpable as the penny dropped for Tony and me – we were here and we’d be setting off in the morning!
TThe following morning, clear and warm, saw us driving to the South Africa-Lesotho border with Eric, our local guide, and horses in tow. Excited to meet our horses nose-to-nose for the first time, I must admit we were initially a tad disappointed at first sight. But our opinion of these hardy Basotho ponies would soon change. After our passports were stamped, we mounted, secure in trail saddles, with our belongings packed in saddlebags, and off we set.
The change in landscape and sensation was immediate. A paved and fenced off border control point gave way to grass-covered hills ringed by mountains, with no signs of other humans in sight, save for our well-worn footpath. And the horses knew exactly what to do – crossing fast flowing streams strewn with loose boulders and tackling steep ascents and descents. It soon became apparent to us to entrust the decision-making to our sure-footed, hardworking, honest horses.
Our first day saw us following steep trails, hugging mountain contours with sheer drops and, at some points, dismounting to lead the horses over boulders, literally jumping from rock to rock and scrambling over shale paths. Photo opportunities abound, although pictures cannot do justice to the multi-layered, depth of landscapes. We also encountered antelope, baboons and a multitude of birds.
A bracing canter through grassy hills dotted with lunar boulders led us to our beautifully-located home base, Sehlabathebe National Park. Welcomed by a large herd of resident horses, we allowed our horses a well-deserved rest and settled in for a night at the gas-powered king’s chalet, reflecting on an exhilarating day with Eric, our guide. We fell asleep surrounded by the sounds of horses, with our thoughts galloping wildly imagining what the next day held in store. What was to be found on the other side of those beckoning hills?
A few splutters of rain didn’t deter us after a sustaining breakfast of Jungle Oats. A quick fry up of bacon and cheese sandwiches packed into our saddlebags, and we were away. We swopped horses for fun. Myself on Jackie, Tony on Storm and Eric on HP. Vast swathes of burnt veld on either side of the mountain passes had our noses and eyes protesting. Icy wind sweeping up the mountain side carried the smell of burnt earth and a sense of primeval desolation. I found myself in a meditative state, in tune with my horse, and truly felt a connection with generations of Basotho who had worn these trails. Soon the landscape gave way to hair-raising yet spectacular and exhilarating shale ledges, across which our brave steeds skilfully picked our way. The distant lowing of cow bells in the depths below us, finally gave way to natural terraces where, in a pastoral scene, herdsmen clad in traditional blankets, accompanied by their sheepdogs, drove sheep across the river, amongst whom we also crossed.
Breathtaken by the quality of the experience, we arrived at a rock overhang for lunch. Amongst goats and ancient Bushman rock art, accompanied by the sounds of braying goats and bubbling streams, a better repast of bacon and cheese sandwiches, followed by tepid tea, could not be had.
Numerous rock overhangs feature dry stone shelters built and used by shepherds in adverse weather conditions. Unfortunately some of the rock art has been severely damaged by successive generations of fire made in these shelters. Nonetheless, this may truly be the highlight of the trail for me.
Lesotho is a country where herds of Basotho horses roam the landscape, grazing freely along with sheep, donkeys, goats and cattle. Small villages with rock and adobe houses were an opportunity to meet and mingle with locals. Friendly dogs usually heralded our approach. White flags flapping in the breeze indicated the availability of the traditional brew, tasting of fermenting porridge, but packing a lingering kick against the cold and our re-ascent of the ledges. Incongruously, we came across a Chinese shop, the only trader, in the remote village of Mavuka, where Tony distributed lollipops to local schoolchildren.
A welcome coal fire and handmade bread back at the chalet tempered the bitterly cold nights. Joy was lying wrapped in blankets on plush couches contemplating the misty peaks, with book and Old Brown Sherry in hand.
Our final day saw us criss-crossing the landscape at various paces, with numerous river crossings, eventually leading to a spectacular waterfall where we had lunch. A few fast canters over rolling grassy rises, snug in my coat, had me feeling like a Mongolian on the steppes. Passing the abandoned Lesotho border post in the middle of nowhere truly brought the isolation of the area into focus, and the privilege of having been able to traverse this land in such a down-to-earth manner.
What goes up, must come down, and that is what we did – rock-hopping and scrambling in places, as we descended back to the South African border. Troops of baboon hailed our passing – a delightful end to a memorable experience.
– Ensure you have a valid passport.
– Pack a warm, wind-and-waterproof jacket, hat, scarf and gloves.
– A sunhat should have string to prevent it from blowing away.
– Travel light.
– Your riding shoes must have grip.
– Pack munchies – you can always distribute leftovers to children you pass.
– You can stock up beforehand at the Spar in Underberg.
Into a wilderness
By Chris Westphal
Saturday, January 30, 2010
In the back of a pickup truck, with a fully loaded horse trailer rattling behind, we headed from Underburg, South Africa, toward the Lesotho border.
The last 20-some miles were on a well-maintained gravel road that passed a couple of country club-style family resorts replete with putting greens and play areas.
Our destination was Bushman’s Nek — Boesmansnek — the Lesotho border crossing where we would begin a three-day ride into the spectacular Sehlabathebe National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site since the 1970s, owing to the abundant wildlife, the spectacular geology and the presence of some 65 sites where ancient Bushman cave paintings have been discovered.
Lesotho is surrounded entirely by South Africa, though it’s never a part of it. Its lowest point is some 4,593 feet above sea level, and the majority of the population live at nearly 6,000 feet. Appropriately, the constitutional monarchy — among the poorest countries in the world — is known as “The Mountain Kingdom.”
Our guide was Steve Black, 55, owner of the Khotso Ranch in Underberg, and something of a legendary figure in the area. He has a herd of about 100 horses and 300 sheep and, among the Basotho, the tribe that inhabits Lesotho, Black is known as “Mountain Man.”
The title is well-deserved. Black speaks Sasotho, the native language, and has trekked across the country on bicycle, horseback and foot for more than 20 years, often in pursuit of sheep and horse rustlers and almost always successful in retrieving his livestock.
Black is, to put it mildly, an extraordinary athlete. Last year, he completed an 1,100-kilometer cross-country run in 22 days; the equivalent of 26 marathons, the event included swimming across 20 rivers, some of them infested with the vicious Zambezie shark.
And, yes, of course he’s a skilled horseman, too.
Having not been on a horse in three years, I was concerned that someone with such superhuman endurance would leave me, literally, in the dust. But as we saddled up and rode the 200 yards to the border crossing, Black was the soul of patience and humility.
Our party consisted of Steve; his wife, Lulu; one of Khotso’s employees, Cecily; and Anna, who was exploring activities for Outlook Expeditions, a UK organization that leads adventure and service travel for British high school students.
Just yards past the border, we were in pristine wilderness and it was clear why Black loves leading trips here. Flanked by the soaring Thaba Ntsu mountains, the Nuamenkane River meanders through a valley alive with wildflowers. Within a couple of miles, we had forded the river a half-dozen times as we slowly progressed up the valley.
Then we began climbing. Strewn with rocks and boulders, the trail switchbacked perhaps 1,000 vertical feet, a challenging climb at sea level, but this was starting at close to 6,000 feet.
Our horses were unshod — better for them to find purchase on the rugged terrain and a practical consideration, since finding a farrier in such a remote area would be impossible.
Though the horses were amazingly sure-footed — they leaped effortlessly up craggy, rock-carved steps as high as 2 feet — the climb was difficult for them and dangerous for the rider, so we dismounted and led the animals, coaxing them up the steep and sometimes slippery trail for a mile or so, until we reached a grassy plateau.
After a brief lunch, we were on horseback again, soon crossing another meadow dotted with shallow pools and dramatic rock formations.
The elevation increased gradually as we rode through grassy meadows toward the lodge, which finally came into view.
I had expected a rustic retreat but instead saw a modern frame building. It dates from the 1970s, and was originally constructed as a presidential retreat and is now part of the national park.
The lodge, tended by two full-time attendants, was surprisingly luxurious, with large bedrooms and bathrooms, incongruously ornate furniture, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a coal-burning fireplace.
Light was provided by gas fixtures, so despite the bitter cold, I was advised to sleep with a window open in case of gas leaks.
We were on the trail by 9 the next morning, moving over a 7,500-foot pass visible from the lodge.
We rode over rolling hills and as we approached another pass, a young boy sat on a rocky outcropping, watching his family’s small flock of angora goats, whose wool is an important component of the local economy.
The boy was probably about 12 and had only a heavy wool blanket to keep warm. Black said he would probably spend days away from his village tending the flock, and attend school only sporadically.
Soon, the tiny village of Thamathu came into view. It consisted of a few dozen round thatched huts made of stone, one of them under construction, indicating that the village is thriving.
Tidy fields of wheat and maize cover the distant rolling hills. Subsistence farming is a key component of the Lesotho economy, and it is an enterprise little changed over the past few centuries.
Fields are tilled and sown by hand, and the wheat is harvested with scythes and tied into bundles to dry.
Wheat and chaff are separated by beating the stalks and throwing them up into the air so the heavier grain falls to the ground.
Donkeys pack out the grain, and the stalks are used to thatch the roofs.
We stopped at a small store — one of the few buildings with a corrugated metal roof — and bought soft drinks, then continued past more rolling fields toward the Lequo River basin.
Paintings of the Bushmen
Here, giant boulders have fallen from the craggy bluffs, and dozens of caves line the creek. Many caves display ancient paintings by the Bushmen, who for 10,000 years inhabited this and many other areas of Southern Africa before the simultaneous appearance of European settlers and the mass migrations of the Bantu peoples from other parts of Africa.
Painted with pulverized stone mixed with blood, the paintings are a rusty red, and are 2,000 to 4,000 years old, Black said.
They are renditions of ancient hunts, groups of stick-figure men with bows and arrows, stalking antelopes and lions.
Shepherds seek refuge in the caves but are protective of the paintings.
After lunch, we rode through the valley, dodging around the giant boulders and crossing and recrossing the swiftly moving creek.
As we walked, storm clouds gathered. High winds, biting cold and vicious thunderstorms regularly lash the area, and every year dozens of people are killed by lightning.
Coming out of the valley, we moved again toward higher elevations, keeping a steady eye on the sky in case lightning threatened.
End of a long day
Around 4, we returned to the lodge for a hot meal and to share talk of the day’s adventures.
It had been seven hours in the saddle that day, and the next morning as we mounted up for the 15-mile return ride, I began questioning whether I could make it.
My inexperience on horseback led me to making the mistake of holding onto the saddle when the horse trotted or galloped, and as a result, my back was in agony.
The morning was foggy, and I thought naively that we’d move at a slower pace due to the limited visibility.
We took a slightly different route back than we did in, heading uphill and across a meadow.
Finding rhythm to ride
We crossed several creeks, then emerged onto a stream-laced meadow.
As we continued on, my hope of a gentle walk to the trailhead was squashed as we broke into a brisk canter. The bouncing and jostling were too much, and I could no longer hold on to the saddle; I finally let go.
Though it took effort, I found to my surprise that I didn’t fall off. What’s more, I seemed to find the rhythm of the horse’s stride, and managed at least briefly to rise and fall in time to it.
Pain is a good teacher.
Soon, we were again headed down the Nkamenkane River toward the border.
In total, the ride had been 40 to 45 miles over three days, but as we re-entered South Africa and walked our horses on the smooth, gravel-paved road toward the horse trailer, it seemed that we had crossed several centuries as well.
About the author
A writer who creates biographies for storyzon.com (http://www.storyzon.com), Chris Westphal of Ojai did not plan the three-day horseback ride through the remote region of South Africa. Here is how it came to pass, in his own words:
“I was in a little rondavel, and my arrival there had been entirely by chance.
“I had come to the area with Storyzon.com to work on a biography about Sister Abegail Ntleko, known as the Mother Teresa of South Africa. Among other accomplishments, Sr. Abegail, 76, founded Clouds of Hope, an orphanage that cares for some 72 AIDS orphans and is located in Underberg.
“Khotso was a convenient place to stay, and after the work with Sr. Abegail was finished, I had another several days on my own in the country.
“Utterly exceeding my skills and stamina as a horseman by riding some 50 miles in three days — while seeing a unique part of the world — seemed infinitely better than going to a game park or hitting the beaches near Durban.”
About the guide
Westphal elaborates on the life of his remarkable guide, Steve Black, 55:
“Born in Zimbabwe, Black has always been a runner. As a child, he lived some 13 kilometers from his school, and ran or biked there and back every day.
“He moved with his family to South Africa at the age of 11, and expanded his athletic repertoire somewhat: With his brother he was a competitive kayaker, and in his 20s he spent several years living on the coast and surfing every day.
“But distance running has remained his passion, and his Khotso Ranch — located at the foot of the dramatic Drakensberg Mountains some three hours from Durban — is a cross-country runner’s dream, with terrain ranging from gently rolling hills to long meandering riverbeds, and steep craggy mountains.
“The ranch was originally in the family of his late wife, Eve, who passed away in 2003, and Black operates it with his current wife, Lulu.
“Part working ranch, part B&B, Khotso has dorm rooms for travelers of the backpack set, several charming thatched-roof “rondavel” bungalows and a huge log cabin that sleeps 25.”
Saturday 31st of March 2012 will go down as one of the sad days in ultra-running. Losing one of it’s custodians, a man that embodied the free-spirited meaning of why we run, passed away while out running in the forests of New Mexico. Some would say it was a fitting end to the life of a person who spent so much time in the solitude of nature, running free and wild. Others would say it was a tragic loss, an empty void that only a man as bold, yet as understated, as Micah True (AKA Caballo Blanco) could fill.
Few knew of the “white horse” until his character was made public in the now infamous book Born To Run by Christopher MacDougall. For most average runners, it’s hard to completely understand the mind set of an ultra-runner, and more so that of an individual who devoted so much of the second half of his life to exploring the natural world, more often then not, on his own. He became rooted within a community that continue to exist in the remotness of the Sierra Madre, a population grounded by the true meaning of what it takes to lead simplified lives.
They are very real people facing very real problems and issues,
His ways became legendary, often disappearing for days as he ran between villages, connecting with the various friends in the Tarahumara communities he made along the way. He inspired many by his unassuming demeanour, a personality that will continue to ignite the spirit of many who aspire to personal fortitude through their own running. He made time to stop and speak to people, often spending a few days with them sharing his stories – a true free spirit.
Recently, a young South African film maker by the name of Andrew King travelled to the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon to begin work on a documentary he has embarked on about the true spirit of an ultra-runner. To have met Micah True for the first time, and to have been one of the last few people to have seen him alive, we asked him to share a few thoughts about his first, and now lasting, impressions of Caballo Blanco.
Micah True lived by a simple philosophy of caring, peace and honesty that is embodied in his well known motto of Run Free. This is a vision he spread everywhere he went by the person that he was, and the things that he did for the betterment of others.
I had read the literature about the famed mythical person of Caballo Blanco made popular but the Christopher McDougal book Born to Run and attracted to the parallels to the story I am hoping to tell in my as yet unnamed production about South African Ultra Runner and Underberg Horseman, Steve Black.
Steve flies largely under the radar, and has a similar calm and piece around him and at 57 years old is still driven to explore, learn and connect. He was also incidentally instrumental in getting me excited about endurance sports and the mental strengths involved. When I heard Steve was going to run the Copper Canyon Ultra I was astonished that this was common knowledge and negotiated there and then to document the next year of his life which besides Mexico involved running on various continents and ultimately culminating in the 100 mile Iditorun in Alaska this time next year. It was the story of humility, integrity and running for the joy of it in the purest sense that made our trip to the Copper Canyons the perfect fit. A simple email exchange with Micah including a concise summary of the story I was hoping to tell and a PayPal race entry donation that got me in the door. Micah also suggested that I join the Club Mas Loco Google forum which had discussions and information about the race. After submitting my request to the User forum and being accepted by the moderator, Micah himself, I was granted what I consider one of the greatest privileges of my life, as during his disappearance for 5 days and after his passing, I was given a front row seat to the support, tributes and outpourings of emotions from his closest friends and those around the world that shared his beliefs and vision. Many of the personal tributes talk about the complete genuineness of Micah True. There we certainly never any ulterior motives with him and everything he did was for the betterment of others, and I think that is something that this complex world we live in is crying out for.
Micah admired the Tarahumara Indians honest, caring and un-materialistic way of life and he believed that this attitude all stemmed from their simple their joy of running. This respect was quite clearly reciprocated by the Tarahumara for whom Micah had done so much. Although they could speak the same language, they very seldom spoke at length to each other, it was more in the way they carried themselves in each others company. Calm gestures, eye contact and subtle nobs that spoke of their deep gratitude. This attitude of respect was infectious and anyone that takes the time and (considerable) effort to travel to the Copper Canyon Ultra is immediately swept up in it. It is the common bond that links all of the outsiders or Mas Locos as dubbed by Caballo. Many of the heartfelt tributes on the User Group speak about the difference between legend and legacy. The iconic figure of Caballo Blanco will be told for many generations, a status which is deserved, but could just as well have been earned by various ways, by being notorious or similarly by having won a handful of medals and trophies. Legend, however is something entirely different to Legacy, and it is quite clear that Micah True has left behind a legacy that is positive, meaningful and lasting. And what greater privilege can there be than to leave behind such a legacy.
Through the few conversations and time spent running with Micah in the Siera Madre, as well has having been witness to the way he has inspired those around the world, my resolved to produce a meaningful documentary of the integrity and pure values shown by amazing people like Micah True and Steve Black is as strong as ever as I continue this journey.
A fitting quote from Micahs close friend Scott Lease. “Micah Ignited a bon fire and invited everyone to throw their wood on it, to join in the warmth and light…. We will continue this glow into the hearts of everyone that loves to run free….”