Why do we go to extremes, push the limits, explore the unknown?

MTB Western Cape Hermanus

Not too young to start seeking adventure (Above: Hermanus MTB trails)


Some of us seem hard-wired to test the limits of our risk-taking ability and endurance, while others push the boundaries in other ways, such as facing up to challenging phobias like public speaking. Whichever way this desire to experience life manifests, we can be sure that all of us have a seed of adventure nestling within us.

Our lives are frantic with attention grabbing stimuli, and coupled with the everyday practical demands, we are left swamped at the end of the day and just want to collapse on the couch. But at some point, we get fed up. We are not satisfied. We get bored. And so we respond to the call for something more.

Is this search for the “More” part of our human DNA? If we weren’t genetically made to discover new things and “just try and see”, would we still be hunter-gatherers living in caves? The story of humankind is a story of pioneering, whether this be out of necessity such as looking for food, or just out of a pure sense of curiosity.

Nowadays, most of us don’t have the opportunity to push through a scientific discovery or find a lost land, but we still have a primal urge to break through to the unknown. In recent times, many people are using endurance sports like mountain biking and ultra trail running as an outlet or a way to test their potential.

The top-end endurance freaks run for ridiculous lengths, race up mountains or suffer through extreme weather conditions – voluntarily! Is this a personality trait of just the so-called adrenaline junkies? On the contrary, it seems we can all face obstacles which at one point seemed impossible to overcome. Take, for example, how popular marathons have become. People who couldn’t even walk across the carpark without panting are now finishing 42,2km. Admittedly, they may do it in six hours, but they are still doing it.

Perhaps this quest for adventure is actually a deeper search for meaning. We want there to be a reason for our lives, and if the mundane doesn’t satisfy, maybe an extreme challenge will. It taps into the roots of human courage which we see in wartime or large-scale disasters and it echoes the grand themes of triumph, sacrifice, overcoming fear and boldness.

Pushing ourselves to the limit also helps some to overcome addictions or traumas. The adrenaline and endorphins associated with risk become like a fix. Our brains crave it. We feel good doing it. These moments of pushing ourselves help us to forget, even for a moment, the chaos that awaits us in our “normal” lives.

Endurance sport can become more than just a habit:  it becomes an identity: “I am an ultra runner.” “I am a mountain biker”. We gain self-respect and admiration from others by achieving these goals through pain, sacrifice and pure grit. Beyond giving us an identity as an individual, we gain membership to a community. Mountain biking or ultra-running may look like individual sports, but you actually can’t tackle such a huge task on your own – you need to become part of something bigger than yourself. A perfect example of this is the aptly named Comrades Marathon where you get the feeling as a runner that you are all in this together and the runners really do help each other make the distance.

For those not wanting to blast the limits, experiencing something like a mountain bike tour in a new country or area is adventure enough. Mountain biking is both an extreme sport like in the Cape Epic-type races, and a family holiday option in places like the Western Cape’s Overberg/Hermanus region where many new MTB tours and trails are springing up.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we all have a pioneer within, even if it is dormant at the moment. Embracing a new challenge may be just the thing to shake life into your world.

Paardenberg Farm outside Stanford in the Overberg is not just the venue of Country Bike Tours & Trails MTB routes, trail running tracks and hiking paths, it is also a beautiful place to go birdwatching. There is a wealth of bird life to be found in this fynbos region and a number of bird clubs have stayed at the Paardenberg Cottages for  a birding getaway.

Below is a list compiled by the Cape Town Bird Club and the Tygerberg Bird Club of the birds spotted round Paardenberg during 2014 and 2015.

  1. Apalis, Bar-throated
  2. Batis, Cape
  3. Bishop, Southern Red
  4. Bishop, Yellow
  5. Bokmakierie, Bokmakierie
  6. Boubou, Southern
  7. Bulbul, Cape
  8. Bunting, Cape
  9. Bustard, Denham’s
  10. Buzzard, Jackal
  11. Buzzard, Steppe
  12. Canary, Brimstone
  13. Canary, Cape
  14. Canary, White-throated
  15. Chat, Familiar
  16. Cisticola, Grey-backed
  17. Cisticola, Zitting
  18. Coot, Red-knotted
  19. Cormarant, Reed
  20. Coucal, Burchell’s
  21. Crake, Black
  22. Crane, Blue
  23. Crow, Cape
  24. Crow, Pied
  25. Cuckoo, Klaas’s
  26. Cuckoo, Red-chested
  27. Darter, African
  28. Dove, Laughing
  29. Dove, Red-eyed
  30. Dove, Tambourine
  31. Drongo, Fork-tailed
  32. Duck, Yellow-billed
  33. Eagle-owl, Spotted
  34. Eagle, Verreaux’s
  35. Egret, Cattle
  36. Fiscal, Common
  37. Fish-Eagle, African
  38. Flufftail, Red-chested
  39. Flycatcher, African, Dusky
  40. Flycatcher, Fiscal
  41. Grassbird, Cape
  42. Grebe, Little
  43. Greenbull, Sombre
  44. Goose, Egyptian
  45. Goose, Spur-winged
  46. Goshawk, African
  47. Guineafowl, Helmeted
  48. Gull, Kelp
  49. Hamerkop, Hamerkop
  50. Harrier, Black
  51. Heron, Black-headed
  52. Heron, Grey
  53. Honeyguide, Lesser
  54. Ibis, African Sacred
  55. Ibis, Hadeda
  56. Kestrel, Rock
  57. Kingfisher, Brown-hooded
  58. Kite, Black-shouldered
  59. Kite, Yellow-billed
  60. Lapwing, Blacksmith
  61. Lapwing, Crowned
  62. Lark, Cape Clapper
  63. Lark, Large-billed
  64. Lark, Red-capped
  65. Lark, Spike-heeled
  66. Martin, Brown-throated
  67. Marsh-Harrier, African
  68. Martin, Rock
  69. Masked-Weaver, Southern
  70. Moorhen, Common
  71. Mousebird, Speckled
  72. Neddicky, Neddicky
  73. Nightjar, Fiery-Necked
  74. Olive-pigeon, African
  75. Ostrich, Common
  76. Paradise-Flycatcher, African
  77. Pigeon, Speckled
  78. Pipit, African
  79. Pipit, Long-billed
  80. Plover, Three-rumped
  81. Prinia, Karoo
  82. Quail, Common
  83. Raven, White-necked
  84. Robin-Chat, Cape
  85. Rock-jumper, Cape
  86. Rock-trush, Cape
  87. Rush-Warbler, Little
  88. Saw-wing, Black (Soutern race)
  89. Secratarybird, Secretarybird
  90. Seedeater, Streaky-headed
  91. Shoveler, Cape
  92. Sparrow, Cape
  93. Sparrowhawk, black
  94. Sparrow, House
  95. Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed
  96. Spurfowl, Cape
  97. Starling, Common
  98. Starling, Pied
  99. Starling, Red-winged
  100. Stonechat, African
  101. Sugarbird, Cape
  102. Sunbird, Amethyst
  103. Sunbird, Malachite
  104. Sunbird, Southern Double-collared
  105. Sunbird, Orange breasted
  106. Swallow, Barn
  107. Swallow, Greater Striped
  108. Swallow, Pearl-Breasted
  109. Swallow, White-throated
  110. Swamp-Warbler, Lesser
  111. Swift, African Black
  112. Swift, Alpine
  113. Swift, White-Rumped
  114. Teal, Red-billed
  115. Thrush, Olive
  116. Turtel-dove, Cape
  117. Wagtail, Cape
  118. Warbler, Victorin’s
  119. Waxbill, Common
  120. Waxbill, Swee
  121. Weaver, Cape
  122. Wheatear, Capped
  123. White-eye, Cape
  124. Whydah, Pin-tailed
  125. Woodpecker, Cardinal
  126. Woodpecker, Ground
  127. Woodpecker, Knysna

First Paardenberg Trails Charity Race collects almost R8 000 for the Stanford Hostel

By Dirk De Vynck

Stanford. – The inaugural Paardenberg Trails Charity Race was held this past weekend in aid of the Stanford Hostel and succeeded in collecting R7 740 for their Learner Fund.

The race, consisting of a 5 km fun / MTB event, a 10 km trail run, and a 15km and 25 km MTB event, was held at the picturesque Paardenberg Farm, known for its beautiful setting under the oak trees.

The charity race is going to become an annual affair and aims to assist the Stanford Hostel at Okkie Smuts Primary School. Most of the hostel children are from a single parent background with poor surroundings.

Close to 80 people entered the days race activities with the 5 km event being the most popular.

The winner of the gruelling 25 km MTB race, which consisted of some serious climbing, was Johan Malan from Stanford. The first woman over the line in the 25km race was Jenny Hayes from Stanford.

The inaugural race also served as the opening of the new Paardenberg Trails, which features a 5km, 10km, 15km, 20km and a 25km. Plans are also in the making for a longer route that will stretch across the hill to the Stanford Valley Guest farm property.

A permit of R100 per person is available to use the trails for the rest of 2016. Otherwise daily permits for mountain biking, trail running and hiking are available at R40 per adult and R25 per child.

Country Bike Tours & Trails, the organisers of the event, would like to thank the sponsors that made the day’s event possible. These include Amanda Geldenhuys from Keller Williams Realty, Stanford Valley Guest Farm, Klein River Cheese, Euodia Cycles, Stanford Motors, Kiwinet, Raka Wines, Birkenhead Brewery, Stanford Spar, Square One Restaurant, Stuffed Creations, Antjies, Overberg Agri, and Overberg Honey Co.

The best of Hermanus cuisine recently featured in The Inside Guide with restaurant reviewer, Matthew Flax, picking his top twenty restaurants in the greater Hermanus area which also includes the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley and Stanford.

“Hermanus now boasts a plethora of good restaurants,” said Flax in his article “Our Favourite Hermanus Restaurants”.

The Manor House at Stanford Valley Guest Farm came out tops, with 19 other exceptional restaurants joining the list.

Jackie Lange, another food critic for The Inside Guide, said Manor House Restaurant was the “Jewel of the Overberg” and that “fabulous food, glorious scenic landscapes and fresh country air are food for the mind, body and soul.” The restaurant’s consultant chef, Madré Malan, is known for her superb country cuisine. “It’s soul food,” said co-owner of Stanford Valley Guest Farm, Elsabe Nauta.

Stanford Valley Guest Farm is a popular conference venue, and delegates can also enjoy all that the Hermanus/Stanford area has to offer when it comes to experiencing the wonderful fynbos and marine life in the surrounds, such as whale watching, shark cage diving, hiking and mountain biking.

The guest farm is also in close proximity to Paardenberg Farm from where Country Bike Tours & Trails operates it’s MTB tours and Paardenberg Trails for mountain biking, trail running and hiking. Bikers can ride from Stanford Valley to the Paardenberg Trails and back and can stop to enjoy the hospitality – and excellent coffee – of the farm owners.

Flax’s top twenty choice is as follows:

  1. Manor House Restaurant
  2. Creation Wines Tasting Room
  3. The Restaurant at Newton Johnson
  4. Springfontein Eats
  5. Seafood at the Marine
  6. Marianas at Owl’s Barn
  7. La Pentola
  8. The Pear Tree
  9. Gabriëlskloof
  10. The Source
  11. Fishermans Cottage
  12. Fusion Café
  13. The Barefoot Cook
  14. The Harbour Rock
  15. Mogg’s Country Cookhouse
  16. The Cuckoo Tree
  17. B’s Steakhouse
  18. The Eatery
  19. Rossi’s Italian Restaurant
  20. Just Pure Bistro