Behind the railway line: The Garden Route’s best trails

In light of our love for the Garden Route (and South Africa in general), we have taken on a project to interview locals living in this beautiful spot of the world, this is part of a longer and on-going series and I know all you readers are going to love getting to know the people who live in and love South Africa! 

Both South Africa and the Garden Route is an absolute playground for trail runners. It’s almost impossible to take advantage of all the beautiful spots that offer great outdoor experiences, fun, exercise… and a chance to meet other people that are like-minded.

Today is about chatting to a pro runner- and a lover of the nature trails around the Garden Route. Meet Peter Szeili 🙂 

Q: Tell us a bit about you Peter. 

A: I certainly don’t consider myself a “pro-runner” thinking there are many more likely candidates that could be labeled pros…  Anyway, I’m Peter and I used to be German but after 31 years in South Africa I feel more South African. I love most Sports, have tried many and appreciate what it takes to get to the top! Further to this– and more importantly I love what it does for those who try at any age or level as it changes peoples life’s …especially for kids and those battling with addictions, stress, health issues that are so common in the world we’re living in! I am also a proud Father of 3 kids, all involved in sports enjoying a healthy lifestyle! Having been self-employed for 30 years I think I’m the born Entrepreneur, I had a few successful Businesses and am busy building some more…

 What else? I love good food and am a fairly good cook. I also love music but cannot play an instrument… I am inspired by nature and architecture… I love a wide variety of music and cannot imagine a day without it! Above everything though, for me life is about relationships! Success and money mean nothing without relationships… and I’m not only talking about people but all living things that deserve our respect and our protection from a world largely driven by greed… 

Q: Why SA? How did you end up here in the first place? 

A: I knew from the age of 15 that I wanted to escape from what I call “the land of Sauerkrauts”. I was looking for a country that could give me better opportunities, climate and lifestyle… SA was an obvious possibility as I had relatives here… eventually, I scraped my pennies together to afford a 6 week holiday in 1986 when I instantly fell in love with SA. After my return to Germany I gave myself a 3 months “cooling off” period prior to making the decision to leave… I arrived in Jo’burg in January 1988 with a Permanent Residence Permit stamped in my passport and never looked back!

Q: What is the thing that you love the most about South Africa? 

A: Without a second thought, it’s people!! I love the uniquely South African spirit and humour and think we are the warmest and most welcoming nation of them all! In addition it’s the diversity, the vast open landscapes, wildlife, fauna & flora… also the contrasts of vibrant cities and rural areas, a mix of cultures, etc.

Q: What unique experience can South African Trail routes offer, more than any other place in the world? 

A: We have many unique and totally unspoiled trails with too many features to mention… the fauna & flora is certainly different, also hugely so within SA, as it differs from Province to Province, East to West, Coast to Inland, Mountains, etc. One can experience animal encounters and sudden weather/ temperature changes, especially in the mountains. Our sunsets and sunrises are second to none, probably due to the fact of quality of non-polluted air out there… Also, our scents are unique… go out there, feel and smell the difference! I love the scents of coastal fynbos that seems to change from season to season!   

Q: I know that you are a lover of Craft Beer… What are your three best breweries, and how does the standard of smaller breweries in SA compare to those in Europe? What’s your favorite one in South Africa? 

A: Another difficult question to answer… in general I prefer traditional brews that support the simplicity of the German Purity Law (Rheinheitsgebot). There are far too many great ones around and I don’t really want to favour one over the other… I do however love Weissbeer… I remember a small Brewery called Chameleon that I used to stop by in Harties on route to the Pilanesberg that produced a really good but fairly light Weissbier… For me, it’s more about the taste than the amount of alcohol, if it’s light you can enjoy more of it! For the “run of the mill beers,” I have always loved Tafel and hope it will always be around.    

Q: FunkyPants! Tell us a bit about your business. How was the concept of FunkyPants started? What was your intention with starting the business? How does Funkypants contribute to the local community? Where can we find Funkypants and the events that go with the brand? 

A: I had followed FunkyPants on Facebook pretty much since it started about 15 years ago… the initial reason was that the Dad of the Inventor is a friend of mine. We had raced in the National Formula Ford Championships together, going back to the early ’90s… We had lost touch for over 2 decades, bumping into each other during the 2018 Knysna Oyster Festival and we made a hand-shake deal there and then.

I am planning on building a High-Performance Gym/ Wellness Center in Knysna and I had envisaged stocking 5 great Sports brands, covering most Sports. FunkyPants fitted right in… even if I started doing things a little “back to front”. Until such a time of having the new facility, I am selling from my Home office/ Showroom by appointment as well as on Events from Running Events to Oyster Festival, etc.

It is a proudly South African Product and compares favorably to the big brands.. ridiculously funky, changing boredom one pair at the time! There is certainly a big fun aspect and appeal, pictures of athletes wearing our garments speak for themselves  

In addition, I have also started our own “Beer & Burger Runs” where I partner up with a local Eatery that provides a Food/Drinks Special and we combine it with a FREE and untimed fun run followed by a social get together. So far I’ve organized 7 of these runs and even though it happened to rain at 6 of them they were very well supported and received! At these and all Events where I have my gazebo, I’ll sponsor some lucky draw prizes. At a later stage, I will certainly be able to create some job opportunities, especially one we have a new permanent facility.

Q: Recommendations: once again, I don’t want to use “best” or second best… far too many excellent choices! 

Best coastal run? Probably the Otter (of the big prestigious ones)… I’ve done 2 versions of the 11k Dassies at Natures Valley and Storms River, loved them both! I’m looking forward to sweeping the 3-day SOX in August that includes coastal… then, of course, the Robberg X-press and Whale of Trail… For my local practice runs, I love Robberg, Brenton on sea’s Fishermans walk and the Pezula/ Sparrebosch Fishermen’s Trail…

Best Forest run: It has to be the Knysna Forest! … Elephant Trails, Gouna, Terblanse… Houtkappers, Circles in the Forest.

Best hill climb run: Hmmm, those Hills at the Dassie at Natures Valley, Red Men Trail in George, Kingfisher Challenge Wilderness… and I believe the MUT (haven’t done it yet).

Best National running event:  No idea as I would have to do more… probably the Otter? But I’m looking forward to doing the 3 days/ 4 stage Dryland Traverse… very unique and for me probably once in a lifetime…

Best Garden Route event: Phew… Houtkappers, Tsitsikamma, SOX… in no particular order  

Check out Peter’s Facebook page here and feel free to get in touch with him on this email, for some unique places to get outdoors and exercising on our beautiful Garden Route!

And get in touch with us to experience South Africa and the Garden Route in an authentic, awesome, free, local way!

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