In honour of Women’s Day in South Africa our next field tester feature is a truly inspirational woman who we have had the pleasure of testing out and modeling our gear! We had the chance of asking her about her adventures and share them with you here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m quirky, just a little odd I’d say, and truthfully, I love being that way. I am a cancer and life-threatening blood disorder survivor who has learned to truly embrace life, with all its challenges and joys, in my own special way. I have a deep desire to encourage people to do the same, mainly by being outdoors as I believe it makes everything better. My favourite place to be is on a mountain, or in the sea. I feel a sense of obligation to help younger women, although I have yet to zone in on how exactly I will go about it to truly be of service. 

Above all, I am full of love, for my family and friends, for animals, for nature. For life.

You truly are an inspiration to us at Core Merino, tell us a little bit about what inspired you to do “The Titanium Triathalon”

In January this year, I turned 31. About three weeks before my birthday, I thought to myself, why not do a personal challenge, as a way of celebration. I decided that since I was turning 31, I would do a 3.1-mile swim, a 31-mile cycle, and a 31km run. That indeed would be a challenge for me, I knew. I had never swum more than 2km’s, and am not a strong swimmer, to begin with. I had also never run more than 10km’s at that point. It seemed a bit of a crazy idea considering those factors, and I enjoyed the absurdity of it.

I then thought that it could be an opportunity to raise funds for two charities that are near to my heart. As a cancer survivor who spent a considerable amount of time in and out of hospital as a teenager, I saw so many fellow children suffering. It broke, and it still breaks my heart. Children who are going through treatments that leave you feeling awful, children who are scared. Unfortunately, as we know, there is no quick fix to curing cancer, but there is an organization that assists children throughout their cancer and blood disorder journey, The CHOC Foundation.

The other charity, is the PDSA, The Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals. I spent a few months volunteering at the George PDSA during 2020, as I adore animals. I saw the struggles they face in continuing to keep the welfare organization going. It is vital work as many people can’t afford the cost of private veterinarians, and without places like the PDSA, animals suffer. 

I wasn’t sure that anyone could afford to donate, during an international pandemic, and wondered whether to go ahead with sharing it and asking for donations. I decided that there was nothing to lose, and potentially some money to be raised for two very worthy organizations. It turned out that “some money” exceeded my expectations wildly, with the Titanium Triathlon raising R26 805! I am amazed by the support and humbled by people’s generosity. 

*I named it the “Titanium Triathlon” because I have a titanium humeral head in my left shoulder, after having a partial shoulder replacement due to avascular necrosis. Avascular necrosis means that the blood doesn’t flow to the bone, and the bone dies – this was as a result of having radiation to my chest at 15 for Hodgkins Lymphoma, as well as being put on a high dosage of steroids at 18, for my blood disorder, ITP.

To donate to the cause click here.

What keeps your soul refreshed? Do you have any hobbies outside of your adventures that you latch onto when you have downtime?

The mountains and sea keep me refreshed. To be alone with my thoughts in nature is truly the best thing in the world for me. Sometimes I run downhill really fast, shouting for joy as I do it. Other times I hike slowly, taking it all in. I do whatever I feel like, with no training plan to speak of, just the joy of being one with nature. 

Another passion is watching my dogs sleep, and telling them how very cute they are. It’s a joke but also not, haha. I love reading and writing, although I go through phases of doing and not doing both. My choice of book is generally fiction, Wilbur Smith style books, although as I am getting older, I’m finding true-life adventure stories and autobiographies to be attractive. I loved Chris Bertish’s book, Stoked, which I read years ago, yet one thing in the book has stayed with me since, which I’d like to share. It was the advice given to Chris by another legendary surfer, telling him “When you panic, don’t panic.” I’m not sure that is as profound or makes as much sense to others as it does to me, but it is something I think of whenever I am in a situation whereby panic might arise, it is specifically that moment that you absolutely must not panic. It’s easier said than done, but it’s completely possible when you breathe and are mindful.

What is your favourite part of the Garden Route/Western Cape that you have led tours to?

My favourite part of the Garden Route is Wilderness, with all of its quirky inhabitants and vibey restaurants. Not vibey as in trendy though. It’s not a trend, it’s just a natural vibe, and you feel it when there. During my time as an active tour guide, the highlight of my tours was always the day when we would leave Sedgefield, after staying at my best-loved backpackers, Afrovibe, on Myoli Beach. I’d start the day with a run and sometimes a dip in the ocean, before driving my group to Jeffrey’s Bay. The stops along the way were a delight, seeing monkeys galore at Monkeyland, the most spectacular birds at The World of Birds, and then heading to do the World’s Highest Bungy Jump at Bloukrans bridge. Sometimes the guys would let me jump for free, I’ve done 4 now and am hoping for a 5th at some point!

What’s ahead for you? Do you have any exciting projects or events on the horizon?

Well now, there’s a question that has lit a fire under me! I must admit that I have been focusing all of my attention on my job, which I absolutely love, but as a result, I have neglected some personal projects/ aspirations of my own. Namely, to write a book, my autobiography, and to embark upon another physical challenge. After the last triathlon, I decided I would like to do a full-distance triathlon for my 32nd birthday. While that is still a good few months away – I will definitely have to start training mindfully in order to accomplish it. I hope to raise funds for CHOC and the PDSA once again.

Also, I will be smiling (I hope) and suffering through the Hell and Back Mountain Bike stage race in November. It is South Africa’s oldest mountain bike stage race, and the name says it all – it’s going to be tough… but I like to think I’m tough too 🙂 

This entry is a gift from my boss (who doesn’t like to call himself my boss), Zane Schmahl. We also have some exciting happenings coming up on the work front, which if anyone would like to follow, can be done via our social media pages: 

Instagram – ozone.africa

Facebook – OutdoorZone.Africa

What are your suggestions on the best way for South Africans to support the tourism industry which has been so badly hit by Covid-19?

TRAVEL LOCAL! Man, our country is phenomenal, we have it all. There is such a variety of things to do and places to visit. Visit the wineries, the reserves, the restaurants. Look into what guides are offering in your cities and towns. They are desperate to work, and their knowledge and passion are abundant. I have friends in Cape Town who are offering various services, from walking tours to regular tours or simply chauffeuring, all at an affordable-for-locals rate. 

We have the opportunity to be tourists in our own country, and it’s actually pretty amazing when you allow yourself to experience it like that. 

Give us a peek into your bucket list – what are a few places you want to visit or personal goals you’re striving for?

Although I am not much of a bucket list girl, as I tend to focus all of my energy on the now… There is one dream of mine that remains in my mind, that I would love to fulfill at some point – to take about a year to travel throughout Southern Africa. In a van, in no particular order or hurry, I want to explore Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi. 

I’ll let you know when I go!

 

 

Trail Runner Kim van Kets about being a mom and a hero

Kim van Kets is a trail runner when she isn’t busy with all her other work as a speaker, writer, trainer, and mom. Kim is one of the Core Merino field testers, putting Core Merino wool garments to the test on her outdoor adventures. We had the chance of asking her about her adventures and share them with you here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I grew up in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape, studied law at Stellenbosch University, was admitted as an attorney of the High Court of RSA, and spent many years in legal practice and the corporate world. I am currently self-employed as a legal consultant/ corporate trainer, freelance writer, published author, and inspirational business speaker (well before Covid-19, anyway. Now? Who knows?).

After doing all the usual ultras like Comrades and 2 Oceans 20 years ago, I discovered trail running and became addicted to the solitude and beauty of the sport.  Since then I have taken part in numerous multi-day ultra-distance trail and adventure races all over the world and won some of them. My best-known expedition has been “Tri the Beloved Country” which involved a self-powered 6772 km circumnavigation of South Africa on foot, bike, and kayak in 148 days.

Despite opportunities to have married a sensible person I am (usually) happily married to Adventurer, Peter van Kets (2x Atlantic Rower and one of the few South Africans to have trekked to the South Pole).  I am also mother to Hannah and a Staffy dog-child, Basil.

So far, what have been your most memorable moments as an adventurer?

Jeepers!  That’s hard!  Racing Expedition Africa together with Peter in Namaqualand and Rodrigues, running the Munga, running 600 km between Grahamstown and Knysna with mates on the Pilgrimage Run, being together with Pete and Hannah the whole way round RSA on Tri the Beloved Country, meeting Pete in Antigua at the end of his ocean crossings…

What keeps your soul refreshed? Do you have any hobbies outside of sport that you latch onto when you have downtime?

I love words and I love to write, running and writing are equally important to me. You can read some of my writing here:  http://kimvankets.com/thoughts/ Increasingly sport has become a vehicle for accessing wild and remote places – its more about where you end up than about the sport.

What’s ahead for you? Do you have any exciting projects or events on the horizon?

We have loads of short term adventures planned and many big ones dreamed about…. Pete should have been doing Expedition Africa in Lesotho now, I was hoping to do the 2nd half of the Pilgrimage Run from Knysna to Cape Town in August.

Kim, as you mention in your book, Tri the Beloved Country, as the wife of an adventurer and a mother you are very good with sacrifice and have even had your own doubts about realising your own aspirations because of this, what advice do you have in overcoming this struggle to still carry on and achieve your dreams?

I think I realised that I simply had to demonstrate to my daughter (I mean show her, not just tell her) at a time when she was at her most impressionable, that setting big goals and achieving them is not the exclusive domain of men and fathers. I needed her to grasp at the deepest level that moms can be heroes, too. And that nothing should stop her from doing what she feels compelled to do. Not even motherhood (although it may require putting them on hold for a while).

What’s the most challenging part of preparing for each adventure?

Juggling. Work, home, family responsibility, traveling, and training.  And getting the best house/dog sitter in the world to be available to look after Basil!

You have been on incredible adventures which involved a lot of uncomfortable parts, how have you learned to cope with being uncomfortable while still triumphing to reach your goals?

I think I have a natural ability to endure monotony and discomfort and manage my expectations, maybe it comes from my German peasant ancestors who worked 18 hour days in the fields? I think practice really helps, too.  But ultimately I think it comes down to managing expectations, expecting things to be incredibly hard, and being pleasantly surprised if they are slightly less so. And having a sense of humour. Being able to laugh when everything totally sucks.

Give us a peek into your bucket list – what are a few places you want to visit or personal goals you’re striving for?

My big dream is to run the length of Africa – from Egypt to East London. It would take a year so maybe when Hannah has finished school.

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We recently caught up with avid surfer and trail runner, Rob Tweddle. He is from Cape Town and recently came on board as a Core Merino brand ambassador. Check out our interview here.

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