Now that summer is coming to an end, the harvest season here is about to begin.  Wait a minute, wait a minute, let me start over.  I completely forget that most of you reading this are in the northern hemisphere, unlike Yoshimi and I who are now traveling south of the equator in Africa.  We were both able to get leaves of absence from our jobs this winter and are currently on a multi-month trip through South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique.

We’re lucky to have jobs that allow us to take long periods of time off.  However, it’s a challenge to save up the money to pay for these extended trips.  Before leaving, we both picked up extra shifts at work and spent the last few months living on an extreme austerity plan.  We didn’t turn on the heat in our apartment at all this winter and quit eating out at restaurants.  We used frequent flier miles to pay for our flights to Africa and were able to sublet our apartment while away.  The final step to allow us to afford this trip was to become members of WWOOF.

WWOOF(World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) was created 40 years ago as a way for London city slickers to get a taste of life in the British countryside.  It has since spread to 99 countries and allows participants to work on farms in exchange for room and board.  It’s a great way to connect with locals, experience rural living, learn more about organic farming and travel on the cheap.

Before I arrived Yoshimi spent two weeks working on a small family farm near Knysna, South Africa.  Together we just finished up ten days of work at an organic winery in near Wellington.  Our days would begin at 6am with the crowing of roosters, the chirping of birds and the barking of dogs.  During our time there we picked olives, made fence posts, cleaned fermentation tanks, dried fruit, packed cases of wine and cleared brush.  The work was extremely physical and challenging for a cubical dweller such as myself.  But it was also satisfying and surprisingly enjoyable.  Everyday we worked up huge appetites and were deep asleep each night before 10pm.

On Wednesdays all of us volunteers would eat with Edmund and Elsie, the owners of the Fisantekuil farm and Upland Organic Estate winery.  They cooked up traditional South African meals like babootie, a dish that combines the flavors of Europe, Asia and Africa.  Many of the things we ate were produced on the farm including the delicious wine, brandy and grappa that perfectly complemented each meal.

Every evening after work I’d lace up my running shoes and attack the hilly dirt roads surrounding the farm.  Even though I was usually exhausted after a long days work, I was also inspired to push hard knowing that I was training on the same type of terrain as those Kenyan and Ethiopian champions.  The farm work and the rural running put the finishing touches on my preparation for this weekend’s 35 mile Two Oceans Marathon, one of the largest ultramarathons in the world.