Rhodes Trail Running EventEnquire Now
52km, 5 - 9hours, Intermediate - Hard
+27 41 581 6307 www.rhodesrun.za.net
Configuration: This is a circular route. It is a stand-alone event.
General Information: Gravel roads, footpaths, cattle and sheep trails, river crossings, rough uneven terrain, snow and mud. The trail route is marked with flags. The distance is 52km but will vary from year to year, as the route depends on prevailing conditions. There is a 4½ hour time cut-off at the Mavis Bank checkpoint (approximately 21km into the race) and an overall time limit of 9 hours to qualify as a finis. The event takes place in mid-July.
Depending on the weather conditions, the feeding stations can be up to 10km apart. There is no cell phone reception.
Named after Cecil John Rhodes, the historic Victorian village of Rhodes was established in 1891 and proclaimed a ‘Conservation Area’ in 1997. In the Eastern Cape Highlands near the escarpment, Rhodes sits on the southernmost end of the mighty Drakensberg. Set at 1 832m above sea level it is only 16km due south of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. Pristine rivers and magnificent mountains surround the timeless charm and beauty of Rhodes. It is the ideal getaway for adventure-lovers and those seeking a break from the stresses of big city life.
The Rhodes Trail Run, one of South Africa's iconic trail runs, takes runners into the southern Drakensberg on the Lesotho border in the remote and rugged far north-eastern Cape. Sections of the route are through private property and there is no access outside of race day. The trail starts at 1 800m, reaches its highest point at 2 680m and has an average ‘on top’ of 2 560m. The race sets off from Rhodes along the Bell River and then heads into the Kloppershoek Valley. You will be running along footpaths, and cattle and sheep trails, and through river crossings marked with flags.
To reach ‘the top’, Mavis Bank must first be conquered. It’s either an easy walk or a lung-searing clamber as the vertical climb is higher than Johannesburg's Sentech Tower. At 2 680m, Lesotho View is the highest point on the route. Snow, mud and strong head winds are common. The next section of the trail along the ridgeline requires extreme caution as the route covers terrain that is exceptionally uneven and rough underfoot, with hidden rocks and holes. Finally, a 12km steep descent drops you into Carlisleshoek Valley and back to Rhodes.
It is common for the temperature at the start to be below zero, usually around -10 degrees Celsius. The race is not recommended for unfit runners or for those who are not prepared to cover rough terrain. Competitors must expect to walk through icy mountain streams and may have to contend with snow, icy conditions, wet roads and strong winds. The race has a limited field of about 300 runners. Entry is by invitation only with an effective substitution facility.
Getting to Rhodes is half the fun. The trick is to find your way to Barkly East and then take the R396 gravel road (a good 60km) through the mountains. Rhodes is at least an hour's drive from Barkly East, which is the closest town, on a poorly maintained gravel road that is narrow, winding and must be driven with care. Entrants must give themselves adequate time to reach the start!
The Friendly N6 route runs between Bloemfontein and East London, connecting the provinces of the Free State and the Eastern Cape. Aliwal North is at the border of the 2 provinces.
South Africa is famous for horizons that stretch for kilometres, so wide open spaces and endless skies are a traveller’s constant companions on the N6. The route takes one through about 600km of peaceful, diverse and beautiful land, giving one a sense of just how vast the country really is.
The N6’s attractions include everything from sea to snow, interspersed with charming towns. These are only slightly off the beaten highway, and are intriguing and pleasant places to explore. In the Free State, Bethulie and Zastron are within easy travelling distance of the N6, while Reddersburg, Smithfield and Rouxville are main stops along the route.
In the Eastern Cape the towns of Dordrecht, Molteno, Elliot, Rhodes, Burgersdorp, Barkly East and Lady Grey are all worthwhile diversions for curious travellers with time on their hands. For those sticking to the highway, Aliwal North, Jamestown, Queenstown, Cathcart and Stutterheim are along the route. These provide a sufficient diversity of interests and activities for guests. The highway is also relatively close to the Gariep Dam, Oviston and Hogsback Nature Reserves.
Sprawling sheep farms are probably the most obvious and frequent feature of the landscape, but the area is rich in cultural significance and interest.
Apart from San (or Bushman) history and rock art, there are also interesting museums and art galleries, and fine local arts and crafts. The route’s proximity to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho means that Basotho culture is an important and unique influence on the culture of the area. Xhosa culture is proudly and strongly entrenched in the Eastern Cape.
The hills and towns of this area were witness to the Great Trek. This was the migration of the ‘Trekboers’ from the Eastern Cape across the Gariep River, (previously the Orange River) further into the central interior. It is often mentioned as an example of Afrikaner rebellion, perseverance and endurance.
This same Afrikaner resilience cost Britain an unanticipated £190 million in the South African (or Anglo-Boer) War, which is commemorated at many sites and towns along the N6 route.
Travelling south to East London from Aliwal North, tourists are afforded a majestic view of the Maluti mountains of Lesotho, as well as a sample of the Great Karoo in Stutterheim and Queenstown. East London itself is a lovely city which really lives up to the ‘friendly’ N6 brand. It has some interesting tangible links to prehistory: the East London Museum displays the last remaining dodo egg, as well as the body of a coelacanth, one of the oldest species on the planet. This fish was thought to be extinct until one was found alive on a fishing boat in the East London harbour in 1938.
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Relax and rejuvenate in Aliwal North’s hot springs and appreciate its beautiful old buildings.
The Kologha Forest and the Kubisi Indigenous State Forests are less than 10km from Stutterheim. Large swathes of ancient indigenous forest are home to yellowwoods, ironwoods, white stinkwoods, Cape holly and Cape chestnuts with montane grassland cresting the slopes. Six well-marked forest trails, from 3-17km long, start and end at the Kologha Picnic site. They lead to waterfalls and good trout fishing and birdwatching spots. Rare birds found here include the endangered Cape parrot, grey-crowned crane and white-starred robin. Mountain biking and horse riding are allowed on certain trails. Maps are available at the forest kiosk.
The Thomas River Historical Village is in the Amathole mountain region on the 31 000ha Thomas River Conservancy between Stutterheim and Cathcart on the N6 highway. The area was named after Thomas Bentley, a deserter from the Van Der Kemps Missionary who was shot dead with an arrow while crossing the river. The conservancy offers a variety of outdoor activities including hunting, hiking, rock art talks and trails, fishing, birding, and paintball. The village dates back to the 1870s, has a popular restaurant and houses museums themed on wagons, rock art, pubs and vintage motor cars.
Mgwali Cultural Village near Stutterheim showcases Xhosa culture, with crafts and traditional food on sale.
Tiffindell Ski and Alpine Resortnear the picturesque village of Rhodes is South Africa’s only ski resort. It offers snow adventures on the slopes of Ben McDhui, the tallest mountain in the Eastern Cape.
Lady Grey and Cathcart are quaint, peaceful towns to visit. There is a Cape vulture sanctuary 12km from Lady Grey at the Karringmelkspruit gorge. Cathcart is known for its wildflowers, San rock art, excellent hang-gliding launch sites, fishing, birdwatching and adventure activities.
Malaria-free game viewing is possible at the Lawrence De Lange Nature and the Longhill Nature Reserve near Queenstown, as well as at Tsolwana Game Reserve near Tarkastad. Big 5 game viewing is possible at the Mpongo and Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserves, both within 35km of East London.
At the N6 route’s end, East London, visit the Python Park and Lion Park, the Queen’s Park Zoo, the East London museum and the aquarium. Enjoy the shopping, restaurants and, of course, surf the waves. The Calgary Transport Museum (5km north of East London on the N6) has a quaint collection of carts, wagons and buggies. It is open daily from 09h00 to 16h30.