Zipline ride: ‘My 91st birthday wish’

2011-12-28 00:00

AT 91 Daphne Borchers has seen it all. Yet to celebrate her birthday yesterday the gutsy great-grandmother took on the longest zipline of its kind in Africa at Lake Eland near Port Shepstone.

Sitting on the edge of the first base with four generations of family members, Borchers looked impatient and was raring to go. “Do I have to go with someone?” she asked, looking up at her tandem partner. “I don’t like admitting defeat, but I suppose we’d better be sensible about this.”

With a sense of youthful enthusiasm, Borchers took to the skies, zooming along the 3,3 kilometre tour. The “supergran” embraced the magnificence of the Oribi Gorge as she soared across the 700 metre section that connects the two cliff edges. “I don’t have words to explain how happy I feel right now,” she said after skimming the edge of the lake’s surface on the last zipline section. “It was an unbelievable experience. The guides treated me with such care. Each time I stopped at a base they sang happy birthday to me. It was truly astonishing.”

Lake Eland owner and zipline engineer Trevor Dunstone was in awe at Borchers.

“It has been a privilege treating Daphne to this experience,” he said. “She wanted to do the ride like everyone else and didn’t want to even catch a ride up a hill when she had to walk …”

Borchers, who has three sons, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, decided to brave the extreme ride to celebrate her life. “As a cancer survivor I also wanted to raise awareness about the illness and encourage everyone to live life no matter what tragedies or illnesses may come their way,” she said.

“I also wanted to help my dear friends, the Dunstones, who have created this magnificent experience. They deserve huge recognition for what they have achieved here.”

Borchers has endured much hardship in her life, but said a healthy lifestyle, hard work and living each day with passion helped her to keep fit in body and mind.

She was born in Johannesburg in 1920 to a father who had just returned from duty in WW1 and who had to keep the family afloat as the Great Depression struck. “Our family survived that time because we were resourceful and we never wasted,” she said. “I remember seeing very important and wealthy people lining up in soup kitchens during that time. It was tough!”

Borchers married her first husband, Jack Evans, during WW2,just as he was shipped off to serve in the South African campaign.

On his return in 1945 the couple settled in the Eastern Cape and started their dream farm in Komgha in 1963. Then her first tragedy struck. “My husband died at 60, but I didn’t want to go anywhere. I don’t give up that easily,” she said. “I continued farming by myself for another 11 years.”

Life as a farmer shaped Borchers into a tough woman with a wry sense of humour. Laughing, she recalls a flood that brought a river through her house. Then, when robbers burnt down her house, Borchers simply built a hut to live in.

Borchers married her second husband, Alfred Borchers, in 1983 and moved to his farm in Paddock. After he died in 1990 she continued to live there, only to be attacked viciously by five armed men in 1995. “I don’t run away,” she said. “I stayed there a little while longer before moving to Sunwich Port when I was 75.”

The hardy farmer lost all her savings when an investment scheme went bust, so she had to pay off her mortgage slowly. “I sold vegetables that I grew in my garden to help pay it back, which I managed to do,” she said, again laughing.

Borchers was in the newspapers in 2007 when her poodle, Archibald, attacked a robber who had grabbed her while she was asleep. “It was all over the news,” she said: “’Poodle saves granny’s life!’”

Describing the zipline ride as the craziest thing she had ever done, Borchers was ready to do it again. “I wonder what I will do when I turn 92?” she puzzled.

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