A mix of all our India trips in 2017 as we create our first ever Expedition India adventure race. It was most probably the craziest thing to do but a great success!
Confessions from the Heart
It has now been over 3 months since we finished our beloved event, Expedition Africa, which took place along the Garden Route. We spent 1 week per month, prior to our event, in and around this area in preparation.
I have been sitting with this “post-race” write up for a while and just cannot find the words to express what is happening in my heart… it is a mix of emotions.
It was truly a wonderful journey to put something of this scale together and to spend a few months in this wonderful part of South Africa. The moment that will never be forgotten was when all our teams spread out in front of us on the Knysna Lagoon, as we were standing on the pier in front of the Cruise Café. There was lots of excitement with photographers pushing each other to get the best shot and some of them were even on the boats to follow the teams. The horn blew and off they went. The wheel was rolling and you could not stop it.
While it is a non-stop race for our teams, it is a non-stop race for us, until the last team crosses that finish line. It is a year’s work culminating in the final stretch and afterwards the only memories you have left are the images and the videos. Sadly, this year I walked away empty. You know when a tap runs dry……. my tap ran out this year.
I function on love and I give love unconditionally. That is my thing. It is like adventure racing, its non-stop, and my river of love can never dry up (that is what I thought). Nevertheless, this year I walked home after prize-giving, looking at my husband and my heart was broken. We packed in silence, said our goodbye’s, farewells and thank-you’s, collected CP points. We were still sleep deprived, but tackled the 15-hour trip back to JHB, most of which was done again in silence and I can just remember the tears rolling down my cheeks. I could not stop thinking, why am I doing this? Why am I giving my soul to this? Why am I putting myself out there?
I had no words, nothing. I was just in turmoil with my thoughts and myself.
Now as I sit and open the photo galleries and the videos; my heart swells up with emotion… emotions of happiness, of sadness, of pride and utmost respect of the team of people who went out of their way and worked through-out the night with us to create and capture this “masterpiece”. The most amazing people who just gave it their all!
I mean where in the world do you find people working throughout the night? In the cold, fighting the sleep monsters, trying to keep it all together. Letting us know when the truck leaves, when it arrives, what boxes are short, which teams are close, how far the truck is along. They get worried… the gear does not arrive, the cups run out; we need more milk, then toilet paper. What next??
How can we help? the logistics car has broken down, how can we make plans? We need wood here, we need a marshal there, and we need a gate unlocked but cannot find the farmer, and then most important of all, WE ALL NEED SLEEP… How, just how, can I ever explain this world of intensity, responsibility, problem and crisis management to any person? You cannot prepare for it. You cannot just go and sleep and leave it to someone else to sort out. Once that wheel is rolling you cannot stop it!!
It is the one week in your life where you cannot think of anything else. Its 200% focused energy. Once you have all the balls in the air, you have to remember when was the last post made about this sponsor and a tweet about that sponsor? Did this happen and then that? When last did Stephan sleep? Or eat? Or does anyone know where he is? And where is Ian? And Jose? And there it goes again...
Finally, I move to the finish and our teams start pouring in… I wait for them, all of them. In the beginning, there is lots of excitement as the first teams arrive, with lots of supporters. Then the night becomes lonely and I stand mostly alone with one brave volunteer who is standing half asleep with me. Standing under the stars with a blanket wrapped around my body looking into the silence of the night. How beautiful is this?
I can hear the strokes of the blades as a team is nearing the finish line and then I can see them … Hopefully I am standing with the right country’s flag in hand, music pumping in the background and it is tears of achievement, of greatness, of proudness and just LOVE. Love for people and love for the incredible sport that pushes every person further than the body can do… it pushes your mind and shapes you as a person. It makes you think about yourself, your life, and the things that are really important in life.
I look at every person and I see their pain and smiles, I see, for that few minutes, emotions which not a lot of people have ever seen. I see and understand what they feel and I can see the “change” … it is a pure raw emotion and my privilege to share those first moments.
It is a humbling experience to know that we created an event/experience and that I know will be part of someone’s life forever. We create memories. What is life without memories?
I knew we had to get away after this magnificent event…
Time heals most things. Only time and as our event was on the one hand a massive success and we had massive reach and ratings, it was sadly overshadowed by things we had to address that were out of our control. We had to enforce penalties, upset friends and handle conflict which I Hate!! You can only learn from it. In the end, you still walk away with an empty soul. I was instead of celebrating sad. So sad, emotionally drained and tired.
Our event touched lives. We got so many emails afterwards from volunteers, participants and marshals who told us how expedition had changed their lives and enriched their soul.
I came to the conclusion after some “time out”…. I have put a year of love into this event and my heart walked out empty. Nevertheless, I have a lifetime of memories, memories that nobody can take away from me. Memories filled with time with my children on the beach, kayaking with Stephan on the rivers and hiking along the most beautiful coastline ever. Memories of challenges to get approvals and then amazing memories of discussing our Community Project where we made the Mosaic Landmark and donated the money to the Masithandane Bursary Fund. I gave an afternoon to the young girls at the Kranskop community showing them the finer things in life and helped to build their confidence. We raised money for children who do not have food or transport to go to school. Nobody can take any of those memories away from me. I gave it my all.
A mom who is a friend of mine on Facebook (our children used to be in the same school), came to me and said: “Wow I saw your event and had a look into it and now I see why you are always so busy….”
“It must be so amazing to be the creator of something so special and amazing!” she said.
I closed my eyes ... it hit me… Thank you! Thank you God! Thank you for putting me in a position where I can create something where people can go and “explore”, find themselves, push themselves and feel FREE!! Her words are humbling; sometimes a few words like this from a stranger can change your whole perspective of how you look at things.
I started reading the race reports, and it was a healing process for me. We went away, I switched my phone off, laptop off, I started dancing again, laughing, and running in the rain… I found my “Mojo” again… I looked at my husband with a heart full of admiration and love! I am so proud of him and the man he is and that we can share this love together.
I look back and only see the beautiful things… we made special friends and had the most amazing crew around us who worked their asses off to get the best images, video moments, transport boxes/boats etc. They worked through the day and night not for money but – for us Heidi and Stephan Muller. No money will ever be enough to pay them. They do it from the heart and that is what Expedition Africa is all about. It is more than only a race… its Love!
To every person who was part of the event it does not matter how big or small, you gave in time and in love, we do see it and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts!! Thank you for giving your time and for working so hard at an event where most of you hardly know me and Stephan. Thank you for sharing our love and for the sacrifices you have made for Expedition Africa!! May this event be in your life and heart for all the years to come and hope to see you again at the Start of Expedition Africa 2017? I extend this Thank you to every sponsor, venue and institution who were involved and supported us. Thank you for believing in us and making our event just better and better!! Lastly the thank you to our family who is our greatest supporters in love and time where our whole family was there this year to come and help us. Isn't that just so amazing to have this support system!! I am truly the luckiest girl!!
Yes, soon we will announce the Host venue for 2017. If we inspired you this year, book your dates for 12 May – 21 May 2017 and we will meet again! I am excited as my heart is filled with love and energy. To go out and to put together another World Class event that will give you memories for Life!
I am in the business where I give love unconditionally, I will always believe in love and I will always organise our business with love #itsallaboutlove “loving life with abundance”
Otherwise, we waste each other’s time…
As nothing else matters to me…
(I tried to get a photo of most of the people who were involved this year but could not get from all, but just know that I love all of you. See more pictures in the "confessions from the heart" photo album)
until we meet again..
Expedition Africa has always been for the athlete, for the teams. No surprise since, well, it’s a race raced by racers. I know right, mind blown! But over the past two years, however, the Kinetic Events team have changed that. Meet, what they are calling, Team Media. A relatively new concept in Adventure Racing is where each team brings a media representative to blog, photograph, tweet, video, etc etc about their team. Essentially, these guys and girls become the eyes and ears for family, friends, sponsors and just interested parties for those back home.
It goes without saying that AR offers very little “spectator value”, but with modern tech and media people on the ground, Kinetic has changed this to a point where they are reaching hundreds and thousands of people within the event they put on. It is thanks to these media persons reporting on their respective teams that “bring the game home”.
But this blog is not about endless possibilities of bringing AR to your glowing screen, but rather for those who are preparing to document their teams. With 50 teams entered into Expedition Africa: Namaqua, there will be close to the same amount of media on route, many of them popping their adventure media cherry on Expedition Africa. “It’s remote and there is no popping into the local Wimpy for a coffee, you on your own out there”, shares Race Director, Stephan Muller. This is your own adventure, so document the hell out of it!
So, in saying all that, below are 5 tips and tricks that I have learnt over the past 6 years that will make it a little easier for those documenting their teams at this year’s EA.
Yip, you are not the only one out there burning calaries. Sure, it’s not at the same rate as your team members, but working close up to 24 hours a day, for 3-7 days will eventually catch up. Make sure you have easy to make food, available water and a few treats for when you’re moeg. Future Life in a zip lock bag is a good option for breakfast, or a simple snack, so are cup a soups or pretty much anything you can heat on the side of the road with your mini gas cooker. Keep fuelled and that will help you to plan and work clearly. Supporting local restaurants is a fantastic way to report from featuring the added bonus of food you didn’t have to heat or prepare yourself!
The more you plan, the luckier you will get. Coming up with a plan to meet your team is one thing but timing it with a setting sun, mid abseil is another animal all together. Stephan Muller from Kinetic Events, puts together an incredible media plan that allows us media to barely use a brain cell when it comes to planning your day. But mix it up with one of the many map apps, 1:50 000 map and you’re on your way to getting the shot. Team Media are usually only allowed in designated areas for good reason, but within your means, there is nothing stopping you from thinking outside the box and nailing those shots you planned in your head. In saying all this, be flexible. Your team could easy pick up a problem and you could miss that glorious sunrise.
3) Be careful
Ah man! As a photographer, I have put myself in many dangerous situations that probably could have been by passed but resulted in EPIC photographs and some of the best memories. But in no way is a photo worth your life or equipment. Be constantly aware of your surroundings and the area you are in. In the end this is an adventure race and your safety falls firmly on your own shoulders.
4) Be on it!
As I mentioned above, we become the eyes and ears to the followers back home. Get the news and photographs out to the public as quick as possible. This will result in better, more quality views and interactions with your audience. Include the Kinetic Events ‘tag’ into your post which will then be shared by the page, which will generate more views for your content.
5) Have a Jol!
Some of my best friendships have been created with a camera in my hands. Some of my best memories have been on some or other route in Expedition Africa. Take the time to get to know your fellow media and work with them, in the end your best work is usually a team effort so branch out and work together instead of against each other. Finally, I can promise you that once you head home after all this adventure, you will have post-race blues – and for good reason, this was an adventure of a life time!
The majority of the Expedition Africa pack have completed the first 120km of the 544km course, with multiple teams currently cycling through the heart of the Knysna Forest and onto the world famous pioneering Harkerville single track. Athletes will venture from the heights of the forest and cycle down towards the coastline for 84km reaching transition six in Plettenberg Bay.
Leading the pack this year; team Featherbed Painted Wolf have maintained their lead throughout day two, however teammate Jeanie Bomford is suffering from a swollen ankle after she rolled it earlier today. "Bomford is hurting and looking tired along with the rest of her team. I'm sure they are beginning to feel the pressure" shares photographer Bruce Viaene after capturing the team along the course.
Local team, the Merrell Adventure Addicts are currently fighting for second place along with team Sweco Adventure (SWD). The team and looking to catch Featherbed Painted Wolf within the next 24hours, however were not expecting to race such a fast first half of the 544km. "A couple of us are having a rough time with the speed, and its proving to be quite taxing on the team" shares Grant Ross of the Merrell Adventure Addicts.
Teams will venture through the picturesque Robberg coastal Corridor collecting checkpoints along route before reaching transition seven. This section of land is a pristine 18km eco corridor within the Cape Floral Kingdom that connects the Robberg Nature Reserve with the Garden Route National Park in Harkerville. It's preservation has been secured by local landowners whose objective is to conserve the botanical, marine and human treasure this unique stretch of coastline hosts" shares Marcelo Rangel Valenzuela.
With just over 30 hours into this gruelling, yet stunning adventure race, excitement has hyped up the Garden Route extensively. "Productivity in Knysna has ground to a halt as people remain glued to their computers dot watching. WhatsApp groups are a hive of activity with comments flying back and forth between those following the race, and those who do not have access to the internet. Speculation is rife on what the strategies are for each team, paired with predictions on routes taken and whether these choices will pay off are flowing from arm chair experts. The bottom line is we are all hooked" shares Greg Vogt of Knysna & Partners.
Amongst all the excitement of day 2, local team Head of Hills have unfortunately pulled out of the World Series adventure race after completing 128km of the route due to two team mates suffering from severe diarrhoea and another team mate injuring his shoulder. "By the early hours of the morning things had started deteriorating. Neill's shoulder had gone downhill after the earlier paddle and sea swim. He couldn't lift it. Andrew had lost all control of his stomach, unable to keep anything down, including water" shares Head over Hills spokesperson Carmen Froneman
Over 50 teams are adventuring through the Garden Route in pursuit of reaching their next transition. Athletes are beginning to look tired as sleep deprivation begins to creep in, awaking the sleepmonsters.
Image: Bruce Viaene
A collection of emotions washed over the Doringbaai shore this morning, where over 200 athletes readied themselves for this year's grueling adventure race, Expedition Africa. The 560km event featured on the Adventure Racing World Series circuit officially commenced at 09h00 this morning from the local fishing beach.
Supporters and locals cheered in support from the Doringbaai pier, as teams gathered along the shoreline. Local fisherman chartered their fishing boats and transported team captains to a marshal based at sea, where they were able to collect their team trackers.
The excitement upon the beach was electric; emotions were heightened and nerves had set in. Once all 52 team captains had retrieved their tracker and reunited with their team mates, they prepared for the official start, which kicked off with a 19km trekking leg.
The first leg of the eight, will explore athletes along the beautiful coastline well known as the Namaqua West Coast, collecting 14 checkpoints. A 50km paddle leg will follow venturing teams along the 'not-so-wet' Olifants River, colleting an addition three checkpoints before reaching Transition Area 2.
"Our region has gone through an incredibly difficult time with the recent drought, sucking so much energy and hope from our communities. Expedition Africa has truly given our region hope again, watching the 'sea of pink' in the form of this year's race bibs consume our little town of Vanrhynsdorp has been magic, and to top it all off the rain began falling all over our region yesterday" shares Monika De Jager of the Namaqua West Coast tourism.
"After dreaming of hosting Expedition Africa for the past two years, I cannot believe this day has finally arrived. Heidi & Stephan's dedication and passion for this sport and what they do is incredible to witness. The dedication and resilience from every single team taking part in this magnificent event is both heart warming and inspiring - there are so many stories to tell. Words cannot describe how much this event has moved me, and we have only just begun" further expresses De Jager.
Leading teams are expected to reach TA 2 by days end, where they will rest, refuel and get ready to tackle this year's 'monster leg' - a gruelling 198km cycle leg. A new set of maps will be handed out at Transition Area 3, where navigators will be required to plot and plan their way forward.
Jabberwock, East Wind and Merrell Mentored are amongst the teams to watch out for at this year's race, however it is said that this year's Expedition Africa is going to be exceptionally close between the top 10 ranked teams.
Activity on the www.expafrica.live site has increased since 08h00 this morning as dot watchers began tracking their favourite teams from the comfort of their home. Follow the excitement and stay up to date with the social media updates, video uploads and daily press releases that will also feature on this site.
Photo: Bruce Viaene
It's that time of year again, where athletes from all over the globe ready themselves for Africa's grueling Adventure Racing World Series 500km event - Expedition Africa, commencing this Sunday, 20 May 2018.
Power Duo; Stephan and Heidi Muller have ventured through the Namaqua West Coast area since July last year discovering the perfect places that will showcase this spectacular yet arid land to all 52 teams taking part.
The route has been carefully designed to incorporate all the beautiful aspects of this magnificent area; not only exposing teams to such beauty but creating experiences that teams will unite over and develop the most memorable expedition. According to Heidi Muller "our goal for each Expedition Africa is to create life changing moments; this event takes heart and soul and if this event doesn't change you to some degree; then we have lost the plot".
Expected distances and disciplines have officially been released to teams, who are conducting their final mental and physical preparations. The estimated 556km race will challenge teams as they tackle the 8 leg event over a maximum of seven consecutive days. This hefty course will include a 50km paddle, 198km cycle and 59km trek/abseil to name a few.
According to athletes and repeat service providers, this year's Expedition Africa is a "going back to basics" race due to the remoteness of the event, large legs and desolate terrain. Athletes will need to prepare well to ensure dehydration is kept under control within the team, and navigation is spot on.
The small town of VanRhynsdorp will create the perfect race village, hosting all 52 teams and support crew over the next two weeks. Host venue; Letsatsi Lodge is already setup and ready to welcome each team as they arrive, register and attend all official pre-race procedures commencing from Thursday this week.
As part of the Northern Cape Famous Lodges; a collection of pristine Kalahari lodges that are ideally situated en route the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Letsatsi Lodge of VanRhynsdorp is the ideal stopover on along the N7 between Cape Town, Springbok, Upington and Namibia. This stunning venue will also feature as race Head Quarters, where organisers, crew, supporters and photographers will welcome each team as they cross the finish line which has been setup at Letsatsi.
Excitement is truly brewing all over the globe, as teams travel towards Namaqua West Coast over the next couple of days and anticipation for this adventure race of a life time. Follow this incredible event and witness your favourite teams chase down the winning title of thus year's Expedition Africa via the Live Tracking available from the comfort of your couch - http://live.arworldseries.com/africa18/. This site conveniently features all race media content, social media highlights and so much more, so get ready to sit back, relax and dot-watch your way through Expedition Africa 2019.
Over 200 Expedition Africa athletes cycled along South Africa's National Road; The N2 towards the Sedgefield Mosaic & Outdoor Market, waving their countries flags with pride. Each team taking part in this year's gruelling 544km Adventure Race was paired with children from the Masithandane Bursary Fun for Children to create a unique element of a Mosaic Masterpiece that will live in the market for years and years to come.
The Knynsa Lourie, Seahorse and local fynbos including the respective teams country flags were mosaic'd in the market earlier this afternoon. Each team's name and sponsor of the mosaic'd piece will be featured in the 'masterpiece' at the Sedgefield Mosaic & Outdoor Market in appreciation for their support. Funds raised from this community project will go towards the Masithandane Bursary Fund for Children.
This registered local NPO has been working in the Sedgefield area for 10 years, where the fund is utilized to assist families in need with transport costs to school, school fees and uniforms.
According to Jacky Weaver of the Masithandane Fund, "there are no High Schools in the area, and no public transport systems in place for children living in Sedgefield and its outlying rural area."
The majority of the Greater Sedgefield Area's population is located in formal and informal settlements away from infrastructure, services and employment opportunities. "The Bursary fund is a preventive measure needed to prevent high school drop-outs, teenage pregnancy, crime, drug abuse and the dangers associated with hitch-hiking" shares Weaver.
"Today was such a lovely day, teams were able to create something beautiful for a worthy cause, and we are so appreciative of Chris Elion for hosting our massive group this afternoon" shares co-race organiser; Heidi Muller.
The market was buzzing this afternoon as teams enjoyed the 'giving back' element of this race. "It was fun to step out of race mode and appreciate where you are, the people and the community, especially when this where we will be racing for the next 6 days" shares Australian athlete, Samantha Gash from DASH x RSS Expedition Africa after this afternoons community project experience.
According to Greg Vogt of Knysna & Partners, the organisation is encouraged that the event includes the Garden Route as a whole. "This experience was awesome! It was lekker to leave something behind in a place where we will be for the next couple of days" excitedly expresses Jesse Ternent of the duo Team Atlas.
Although the project was a great success, organisers Heidi and Stephan Muller would like to invite supports (local and abroad), members of the public and family members to support the initiative by donating to the Masithandane Bursary Fund before Friday, 20 May 2016. All those who financially contribute towards the cause before this date will have their names incorporated into the Mosaic'd Masterpiece in appreciation.
Masithandane Bursary Fund for Children - Banking Details:
Absa’s SWIFT code: ABSAZAJJ
Branch/clearing code: 632005
Branch Name: Knysna
Account Name: Masithandane
Account Number: 4067253575
Bank address: ABSA, Corner of Grey and Main Street Knysna RSA 6571
Beneficiary address: Masithandane Wellness Centre, Milkwood Road, Sedgefield RSA 6573
Reference: ExpAfrica/contributor name
(The Contributor/sponsors name will be engraved into the Expedition Africa Mosaic Landmark)
Please email proof of payment to firstname.lastname@example.org. RSA Companies will receive a BBBEE Tax benefit certificate for their contributions.)
Expedition Africa will officially start at the Cruise Cafe in Knysna at 08h00 tomorrow morning, where teams will take on their first wet leg towards the Knysna Heads. Track your teams progress throughout the 544km adventure race via www.expafrica.live
The final countdown for Africa's biggest adventure race; Expedition Africa, has begun. Athletes from all over the world are arriving in the Garden Route to accept the challenge of the gruelling and exciting 500km adventure race. The race starts this Sunday: 15th May 2016.
Over 50 teams will arrive at Pine Lake Marina, host venue to this year's multi-disciplined international event that will play out in the Garden Route, recently labelled; 'the Home of Adventure’.
"We are excited to welcome teams taking part in Expedition Africa 2016", shares Greg Vogt; CEO of Knysna & Partners who approached Kinetic Events to hold the event in the Garden Route.
Members of the Australian team Dash x RSS Expedition Africa, and team That's Cray explored the beautiful wanders the Garden Route has to offer by exploring the mystical West Head of the Knysna lagoon Mouth; Featherbed Nature Reserve, a rich and stunning piece of land offering the most magnificent views and experiences just before pre-race excitement hits.
The organisers, Stephan & Heidi Muller have once again kept the start and all other locations a secret. Media, supporters and athletes will only receive communication regarding the route, disciplines and transitions incorporated in this year's race at the opening ceremony taking place at Pine Lake Marina on Friday evening, 13 May 2016.
Expedition Africa has always kept the local communities at heart and the 2016 edition is no different. Leading up to the race, teams will be partnering with the local Knysna & Partners Tourism office, Sedgefield and Masithandane Bursary Fund for Children to leave a legacy of a creative mosaic masterpiece, a Sedgefield trademark.
Members of the public, supporters and media are welcome to attend the community project which will take place at the Mosaic Village & Outdoor Market on the Saturday at 12h00. “The Mosaic Village & Outdoor Market is proud to host the Expedition Africa 2016 participants. We are honoured to be chosen to provide the backdrop for the mosaic masterpiece that will be crafted as a memory for the community project” shares Cliff Elion.
Once this daunting yet exciting adventure race kicks off this Sunday, families and supporters can cheer on their teams via the live tracking feed which will feature a leader board, transitions and checkpoints along the route. Witness your favourite teams progress on www.expafrica.live as they endure a race of a lifetime.
As Teams gear up for their final preparation, messages from all over the world are pouring in with encouragement from their supporters. This race will not only be a physical struggle, but a mental one, so have your positive messages heard and cheer on your team by utilizing the official #expafrica2016 hash tags and message board posts featured on www.expafrica.live