December 2019 – Sky high in Zimbabwe
Amongst Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highland wilderness last weekend, a few dozen runners gathered for Sky Run Zimbabwe.
Taking place in the Nyanga National Park, amongst the thick mist and mention of the six inches of rain that had been dumped over the previous couple of days, we gathered at Sky Deck Lodge and briefed about the pending mountain running adventure.
“Now, for those of you doing the 56km Ultra tomorrow, I suggest that if you can’t swim, you reconsider running, because the Pungwe River you have to cross will be high. And you will probably be swimming.”
A few people shuffled their feet and a nervous laughter filtered the room.
“Oh, and if you get lost, use your whistle, and DO NOT MOVE OFF THE TRACK. If you move off the track, and it’s misty, you WILL NOT BE FOUND by the rescue team.”
More feet shuffling and nervous laughter.
“Welcome to Sky Run Zimbabwe, have a great day, it’s awesome out there!”
In fact, the mist was minimal and the river was about waist high. But the bit about being an awesome day – that was absolutely true, ten fold.
Well – race day was the following morning and we set off from our wooden lodges at Far and Wide Outdoor Education Centre at a shade after 4am.
The first section of the Turaco trail meandered us through forest, followed by a morning sunrise over communal farmland that almost stopped us in our tracks – we were above the clouds.
For 13 hours I just loved running those farm tracks, grasslands, rocky slopes, and valleys, hiking the never ending but awesome Pungwe Gorge, summiting the 2592 peak of Mt Inyangi; Zimbabwe’s highest mountain, seeing the Nyamkombe and Nyazengu waterfalls, and replenishing with river water so pure and untouched it could only have been delivered by Poseidon himself.
Up on those brilliantly exposed ridge lines with the Chimanimani Mountains nearby, Mozambique just a skip and a hop away; it was a good day for mind wandering – the history of this place and what Zimbabwe has been through the past few decades.. if these mountains could talk.
But for this day, the current hardships of this beautiful nation had been put to the side and we are all there for one reason – to cherish those mountains, and run in the sky.
The beat of the drums at Aberfoyle Lodge marked the finish line of this incredible day, which could be heard for the final couple of kilometres.
Hands down one of the most beautiful, friendly and warm finish lines in the world.
What a day, what a place, what a race, and what great people.
Sky Run Zimbabwe, thanks heaps, you’ve got a wonderfully bright future.