With the bulk of the beach behind you, it’s time to put your head down and focus on the final 15km of the Merrell Whale of Trail. Expect a welcome change in the terrain, a kit check, some tasty treats and the final finish line in between Lekkerwater and Koppie Alleen.
CP 4 Lekkerwater – Vaalkrans | 8km
To get to Lekkerwater, the second and last water point on the route, you’ve got to cross the infamous beach section, and it’s because of this that the WP feels like it never actually gets any closer. Spend the first few minutes when you arrive relocating your sense of humour and personality. This is often much easier than you think thanks to the happy folk manning the water point, the icy cold Nuun and the tasty treats. Empty your shoes of beach sand and give yourself a pat on the back. If you’ve got any blisters, tape them up. There is still 15km to go and the soft beach sand isn’t over, although the bulk of it is!
The coastal paths to follow, and for the duration of the rest of the route, offer spectacular scenery and birdlife to keep you distracted. Think beautiful, sparkling rock pools, countless whales, shy oystercatchers, white-breasted cormorants and jaw-dropping geographical features, like the incredible calcrete rock formations (that we’d like you to stay clear of, as they’re super sensitive). Pace yourself for this section, as you’re not on the home stretch just yet and enjoy some ‘harder’ terrain for a change!
CP 5 Vaalkrans – Finish Koppie Alleen | 7km
Vaalkrans, another one of the hiking huts on the Whale Trail five-day hiking route, is a welcome sight and marks the fifth and final check point. The Mountain Runner Events crew typically do a kit check at CP5, so be sure to have all the compulsory gear in your backpack before you start to avoid penalties.
From Vaalkrans to the finish, the terrain is a combination of hard-packed coastal paths and short beach crossings (usually on soft sand – so be prepared). The features are pretty similar to the previous 10km section, although by this stage you might be less interested in spotting an oystercatcher and more interested in getting home. By the time you’re into this final section, your legs are cooked, your mind is ready to check out on a tropical beach somewhere and the only thing you can think about is not running anymore. Despite all the challenges, you are officially on the home stretch and the only think between you and that medal (and cold beer) is 7km.
The final sting is the last few hundred (uphill) meters to the finish line, but hearing Tatum Prins’ voice on the mic is encouragement enough to keep your legs moving. Get your medal, hug everybody and put your feet up! The incredible crew will bring you your kit bag (that you left on the bus earlier that morning) and point you in the direction of the hot showers if that’s a priority. If food is more important, trade if your lunch token for an enormous plate of nourishing goodness cooked for you by the staff at De Hoop Collection. Congrats – you’re officially a Whale of Trail finisher!
For more route info, download the route map off the Whale of Trail website here.