Like a kid I was fighting the sleep, I wanted more time to experience the present and not miss out. Even though I was lying in my sleeping-bag, my surroundings, my situation, it was all just too precious to drift-off and fall asleep. My body had other plans, living at altitude for the past six days and averaging around 7+ hours of running each day for the last week, I started to drift into the best sleep I had since arriving in Lesotho seven days prior. The last thing I recalled was pondering over the words from a quote in Sterling Hayden’s autobiography written in 1963 “which shall it be, bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”
The following day we arrived at our final destination, Malealea Lodge, it was Friday afternoon around 13:30, we just finished running the last 40km of our 250-odd km mission through the central part of Lesotho. For the first time since entering Lesotho we did more than just the obligatory ‘I am still alive’ messages to loved ones, we read the news… Covid-19 has gripped the world, stock-markets worldwide on the brink of crashing and some fires created havoc in and around Cape Town where I stay.
Here we sat, it felt like we were on a different planet, four friends enjoying some well-deserved cold beer on an ‘ordinary’ Friday afternoon, we just ran 252km across the central part of Lesotho. I was feeling pretty content about the adventure we just experienced, however I could not shake the uneasy feeling that this might well be the last trip like this for a while, this adventure came at just the right time…
“I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it. What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security.” and in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.” – Sterling Hayden.
This adventure started 4 years earlier when I got a random phone call from Christiaan Greyling. He and his wife, Landie had a dream to run across the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, to establish a route that will traverse the entire kingdom on foot. Some months prior to the call I completed a multi-sport traverse of Lesotho and Christiaan wanted to get some info about Lesotho. I bought into the idea with the first mention of Lesotho. A real no brainer if you ask me. Wiesman Nel, endurance horse rider and farmer had the same desire, to establish a route across Lesotho in order to provide experienced horse-riders with the adventure of a lifetime. The perfect match in these mountains, man and horse, 6 days to traverse some spectacular mountains, cross unexplored valleys, crystal clear rivers and experience breath-taking waterfalls. To essentially immerse ourselves into the mountain life, the simple life…
“What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.” – Sterling Hayden.
Each day we woke up with a sheer expectation of exploring the unknown. Each night we fell asleep content and inspired. Seven days we lived the ultimate simple life, a world away from our normal routine, our normal complex lives with everything fighting for our attention. Our only real need being clean water, some calories, direction to run in and a place to lay our sleeping-bags at night.
‘Mountain Kingdom in the Sky’- It is only when you stand at 3000+m above sea level with mountains surrounding you from horizon to horizon that one truly grasps this notion. Lesotho, in humble opinion (with agreed consensus from my running partners, Dirk, Landie and Christiaan) has the ultimate free-running setup. No fences, local herd trails for picking the best lines and super friendly locals. Not to mention the abundance of the sweetest tasting- crystal clear- high mountain- water (which obviously translates into some spectacular local beer).
The addition of horses gave a mystical, a somewhat romantic flavour to this adventure. Running alongside these magnificent beasts somehow felt spiritual. Seeing them in their primal element, working hard on the climbs, seeing them run wild on the flats. Looking at their mesmerizing eyes I got the sense that they experienced the same sense of emotions I was; both fatigued and sweating while working hard, both looking forward to the next cold water stream for some respite, yet invigorated by the mountains, driven by running free and experiencing raw adventure.
“the years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.” – Sterling Hayden.
Here is the thing about adventure. More often than not, adventure is uncomfortable, a proper adventure will always take you out of you comfort zone, it will cost you time, it will most likely cost you money and it takes physical commitment. Siting in ‘lock-down’ while I am writing this, surrounded by everything I need and almost everything I own. I reminisce about the simple life, I reminisce about adventures I have been privileged to experience, like this one. I am haunted by adventure…
Where then, lies the answer?
Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?