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
The Thadlado Marimba Band festively welcomed all 39 Expedition Africa teams to the Cape St Francis Resort where they received their first set of maps before attending the event's opening ceremony.
After receiving the vital information regarding this year's exciting 500km adventure race at last night's race briefing, teams completed their compulsory gear check this morning. They were required to report to various stations providing their helmet, whistle, headlight, space blanket, waterproof jacket, life jacket, sleeping bag/bivvy bag, kayak glow stick, rope work equipment, medical kit and compass before meeting up for the flag parade.
The Cape St Francis beach was festively decorated by an array of international teams waving their respective countries flags all the way through to the Cape St Francis lighthouse. The local community cheered on participants and their families as they walked leisurely along the beach from the Cape St Francis Resort.
Keeping local communities at heart, race organisers Heidi and Stephan Muller selected SANCCOB as 2017's community project beneficiary. Cape St Francis is home to the Eastern Cape's Southern African Foundation for the Conservation and Coastal Birds, and specialise in building a better future for the endangered African penguin and other sea birds the organisation cares for.
A member representing each competing team placed a plaque upon the Expedition Africa landmark that will remain in the lighthouse grounds for years to come. Athletes and their families where then welcomed to visit the SANCCOB sanctuary where they had the opportunity of adopting a penguin in support of SANCCOB's work in the area.
Athletes and their families were able to enjoy their final Saturday afternoon before the chaos of this year's 500km adventure race hits the Cape St Francis Resort. Team captains have now had the opportunity to copy the control points off the master map and question any concerns that could arise along the route.
All 39 teams will meet on the Cape St Francis beach tomorrow morning ready for their beach start at 07h00. Teams will trek through to Port St Francis where they will then endure a sea kayak through to the Kromme River. There are many participating teams competing for a podium finish, which will account for an exciting dot watching experience for all supporters following the event via the live tracking site; www. expafrica.live. Supporters will also have the opportunity of watching the exciting start live via the Kinetic Event Africa Facebook page from 06h45.
Teams are in for an rugged yet beautiful race, bringing adventure racing back to its roots. "Teams will trek, kayak and cycle through extremely remote areas, venturing where few humans have set foot before. Expedition Africa 2017’s teams will explore through magnificent mountain ranges and onto beautiful coastlines of the Eastern Cape," said race organiser, Stephan Muller.
A very chilly yet absolutely stunning canyon greeted the tired and the already cold this morning. Many teams raced through the night to reach Transition 5 late last night in order to tackle the dark zone leg at 04h00 this morning.
The top five teams reached Transition 6 with plenty of time to refuel and rest before their early start. Skylotec Adventure and East Wind were the first teams in the canyon this morning closely followed by Thunderbolt AR.
Team Nevarest Jabberwock have raced extremely well after yesterdays slight set back with CP 13. The team left Transition 5 and continued to race particularly well, moving from 9th place to 4th place by the time they reached Transition 6.
East Wind is currently doing their best to regain their placing after backtracking to collect CP 20. The team are currently racing the 97km cycle alongside Nevarest Jabberwock, both in pursuit of reaching the two leading teams; Thunderbolt AR and Skylotec.
More than half the field managed to race through the buffalo 'dark zone' before the zones shutdown commenced at 18h00 this evening. All teams between CP 17 and CP 21 must make camp at their exact spot, and are not allowed to move until 06h00 tomorrow morning.
The Merrell Mentored Adventure Racing team, lead by Donovan Sims had to unfortunately setup camp in the middle of the Buffalo area. According to their team media; Kirsten Oliver, the team were on the move to hopefully reach CP 21 before 18h00, however were unable to do so.
To ensure the safety of all teams racing Expedition Africa, race organiser; Stephan Muller created the dark zone as a safety precaution, as athletes racing at night will not be able to see the buffalo in the area, which could create an extremely hazardous situation.
Team Skylotec Adventure were charged by buffalo earlier today when passing through the same area. The marshals and ECPTA were roaming the area, and managed to intercept the chase with their vehicle, ensuring the safety of the team.
Marshals are on course patrolling the area, providing an element of safety to all teams within the zone. The team are in good hands however, with seven Expedition Africa's under his belt with the Merrell Adventure Addicts; Donovan Sims, team captain of the Merrell Mentors has the experience and training to lead this team out of any potential danger.
Michelle Powell, Troy Sims and Dean Findley have yet to race an expedition event until this very year. In preparation for Expedition Africa, the team have been training since last year, and have expressed that supporters will definitely hear their team before they are seen.
The remaining teams within the dark zone have camped out of dangers way and should have a fairly good night's rest despite the cold. "We wish all teams within the dark zone area the sweetest dreams and a good night's rest" shares co-race organiser Heidi Muller.
Team Blizzard proved themselves as champions crossing the finish line at 07h50 this morning, completing the gruelling 560km adventure race in 94h55m. The Russian team showcased their worth, racing incredibly well over the past 4 days. A combination of brilliant navigation and perseverance on their final legs helped retain their growing lead on teams Sani/Best 4 Sport (RSA) and Omjakon (FIN)
The African component of the Adventure Racing World Series; Expedition Africa commenced on Sunday morning along the Namaqua West Coast. 52 teams took to the start line prepared for a challenging 'wilderness' race that would navigate them through an arid and desolate terrain like no other.
From the onset, South African team; Jabberwock set off at a furious pace, pulling away from the majority within the first leg, however they renounced their lead when Sani/Best 4 Sports showed their strength on the 50km paddle leg, and overtook the team, whilst Omjakon (FIN) followed closely behind them.
The newly crowned champions; Blizzard (RUS) continued to push themselves up the leaderboard after day one's 37km trekking leg, essentially playing 'cat and mouse' with teams Sani/Best 4 Sports (RSA) and Omjakon (FIN).
All three top teams selected to retrieve CP 22 A and endured the difficult bike hike section, a choice Sani/Best 4 Sports regretted, according to sources. During the course of day three, a heavy mist set in, creating incredibly difficult conditions for navigators, especially those who were sleep deprived. Team Blizzard collected each check point in good time, and relentlessly continued to race with minimal sleep.
"The misty and wet conditions the region experienced over the past 36 hours, made for a slow moving race, however these conditions did not take away from the 'race element' between the top 10 teams. In the 7 years Expedition Africa has been running, I don't think we have ever had such a competitive race, which has made the past few days very exciting" shares race organiser Heidi Muller.
Omjakon overtook the team and sped through TA 5 as night fell on day three. The Finnish team were hoping to keep their lead on the Russians, however were caught and overtaken during the challenging 59km trekking leg.
With the end nearing, team Blizzard continued to push through, reaching their final transition area at 23h09 last night. The team gained good time on their final leg, leaving Sani/Best 4 Sports and Omjakon in the dust as they tackled their last 57km cycle to the finish.
Organisers, supporters, media and sponsors welcomed the winning team as they crossed the finish line at Letsatsi Lodge. "The team truly gave the best performance! Their navigation was spot on, the team was fast through every transition and continued to race professionally and brilliantly throughout the 560km course" expresses Heidi Muller.
"We felt quite a bit of pressure to perform at this race, and upon arrival were unaware of the type of competition we were up against. After the very long paddle leg, we felt we weren't doing too well until the fourth leg, when we realised we could actually do this. We were passing teams and pushing ourselves, and so we pushed it to the end" shares Blizzard team captain; Evgeny Pochaev.
An exhilarating dot watching experience is expected throughout the morning as teams, Sani/Best 4 Sports and Omjakon race their way through to the finish line closely followed by Jabberwock (RSA) and Agde Raid Aventure (FRA).
51 teams remain on course, each challenging themselves to obtain every check point before reaching the next transition area. Steak n Kidney, Sleepy Dragons, Rogue and Keyhealth Nevarest Origin are expected to reach Transition Area 5 during the course of this morning, whilst others make their way to TA 6 and TA 7 throughout the day. This year's adventure playground; Namaqua West Coast has truly challenged all 52 teams competing in 2018's Expedition Africa, which has proved to be an adventure race of a lifetime.
Follow the excitement via www.expafrica.live as the remaining teams make their way to the finish in Vanrhynsdorp.
Photo: Bruce Viaene
The weeks excitement is coming to a serious halt with final preparations coming in play as teams ready themselves for tomorrow's Expedition Africa 2018 start. Doringbaai will host all 52 teams ashore before the Team Captains are escorted across the bay to collect their tracker. Local fisherman chartering their fishing boats will transport 6 team representatives at a time to a marshal based out at sea.
Once all 52 teams have received their tracker, Heidi and Stephan Muller will trigger the start and teams will officially take on their first 19km trekking leg of the estimated 560km course. Local media, community members and supporters are able to witness this excitement from 08h00 from the Doringbaai pier tomorrow morning.
14 checkpoints are to be collected within the first leg, followed by a 50km paddle and 37km trek, bringing them to transition three. On receipt of their first set of maps, navigators were only able to plot the first three legs of the 8 legged event, ensuring the element of mystery is kept intact.
"We are very excited about tomorrow's start, but are expecting it to be quite fast paced however, due to the larger legs later in the race, we need to consider racing conservatively, especially considering the water levels seem low for the 50km paddle leg which will result in an extremely tough leg followed by the 198km cycle" shares Adrian Saffy of team Castle Lite.
According to Dalton Burton, media person of team Slummies, nerves have begun to set in for the team and the atmosphere changed from giddy to serious around 11h00 this morning. "The team are meticulously conducting their final checks on kit and equipment" further shares Burton.
Families, friends and supporters alike are able to track each team as they tackle Stephan Muller's masterpiece of a course. Teams can be 'dot watched' via the live tracking link: www.expafrica.live throughout the course of the event, which proves to become an addictive experience for many. This software allows supporters to track each teams footprint within the race, showcasing any navigational route choices, errors and comparisons to other teams and so much more.
Get ready to experience an array of emotions as these teams tackle this adventure race of a lifetime; a 560km soulful and physical journey like no other, which perfectly aligns with the Local Tourisms slogan: #findyourself.
“Our wish is that all teams have an experience of a lifetime. That they get to share in the experience and appreciate the wonder of all things beautiful and small” shares race organiser Heidi Muller.
Image: Bruce Viaene
As the sun set on day 3 of Expedition Africa, clouds rolled in, threatening to storm over a very dry Namaqua West Coast. Temperatures have dropped throughout the day and are expected to continue throughout the night, reaching a chilly 14°C tomorrow. The region has experienced months of drought and with predicted storms taking place further up the coast, flash floods have become a concern for race organisers; Heidi and Stephan Muller.
Due to the wintery weather setting in, the 198km cycle leg(4) became a bit of a misty bike push near the end for teams. The leaders of Expedition Africa are currently running 10 hours behind schedule as a result of the misty conditions within the region, and according to race organisers, the most difficult leg of the 560km adventure race is still to come.
Teams are expected to filter through TA 4 and 5 throughout the course of the night, completing their 198km cycle leg and 47km trek through the Cederberg. A 92km (6) cycle will then follow, leading teams to TA 6, where they will then tackle the daunting 59km trekking leg (7) and finish off the 560km course with a final 57km cycle(8).
Team Omjakon of Finland are currently leading the pack of 52 teams, after reaching TA 5 first this afternoon. "This is anyone's race, I don't think we have ever had such a competitive race, with so many potential winners in a top 10, which is incredibly exciting" shares Heidi Muller. According to sources the Finnish team moved quickly through transition in order to keep their lead, however are closely followed by Agde Raid Aventure of France.
The 59km trekking leg (7) will navigate teams through the beautiful Zandspruit Nature Reserve, home to the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world. Quiver trees, massive granite outcrops, and quartz patches are amongst the small Namaqualand wonders teams can expect to come across. According to Heidi Muller, this will be the most difficult leg of the entire course. Front runners will navigate their way through the night, which will be slow moving; climbing over boulders and searching for animals paths that will help guide them forward. eventually reaching the 100m abseil. The Africanyon crew are ready and waiting upon the first teams arrival, where a 'first to arrive, first to abseil' rule will be enforced featuring two lines for teams to descend with.
"The front teams have also endured minimal sleep throughout the race thus far and with the finish nearing, the question is: will these teams have the stamina to push through?" poses Heidi Muller
The Doringrivier snakes its way through the Zandspruit Nature Reserve, a river that teams will be expected to cross during leg 7. The possibility of a flash flood, particularly upon the Doringrivier has become a growing concern for Heidi and Stephan Muller as the source of the river is found further up country where heavy rains are falling. According the adventure photographer; Bruce Viaene, the water level had risen 30cm within a 2 hour time frame, when crossing the river this afternoon.
Organisers and Marshalls are all hands on deck, preparing the final three Transition Areas for teams. Whilst TA 6 marshals are prepped and ready for a busy night ahead, Letsatsi Lodge are tending to their final touches at the finish line, with the anticipation of the winning team completing this year's Expedition Africa course tomorrow.
The main question remains - who will finish first? With such an exciting finish anticipated by dot watchers and supporters alike, and all-nighter in front of flickering screens is expected from many. All 52 teams can be tracked via www.expafrica.live, showcasing their route choice, check in times at check points and transition areas, team information and so much more.
Expedition Africa officially kicked off this morning, 52 teams venturing along the coastline from the shores of Doringbaai onto Transition Area 1, found at the mouth of the Olifants River. The 19km trekking leg proved to be an interesting start, featuring 14 check points for teams to collect, which kept the athletes hugging this pristine coastline. Many teams were fast off the block, racing to get ahead of the majority, whilst others planned to conserve energy on the first leg, considering the lengthy legs up ahead.
Jabberwock (RSA) managed to reach TA 1 first, closely followed by Omjakon of Finland and South African rookie team; Keyhealth Nevarest. The 50km paddle proved to be the true game changer for Day 1 of Expedition Africa, with a game of cat and mouse between South African teams Merrell Mentored and Best 4 Sports as they overtook the above mentioned leading teams.
Currently leading the pack, team Best 4 Sports reached Transition Area 2, completing the 50km paddle in 07h32. The team, considering their strengths, apparently expected to have a great paddles. They also suspected another team was following close behind, however were unsure how far behind them they truly were. According to race photographer; Bruce Viaene, although Best 4 Sports planned to do well on the paddle leg, their strategy is to race slow and steady in order to limit any mistakes, especially considering the night navigation ahead.
Following this lengthily paddle leg is the gruelling 198km cycle leg. Although this leg may seem easy for those dot watching, the terrain does not feature very prominent landmarks which will make for a difficult navigation throughout the 560km race.
Graham Bird of Merrell Mentored, currently in third place and Darren Berry of King Price, currently in fourth place are both known well for their navigational skills, making these two teams the ones to watch out for during leg 3's mighty challenge.
Sponsors and volunteers have ensured a festive and vibrant atmosphere welcomes teams as they complete their paddle leg. Warm fires, rooster brood, snoek and wine are available for teams to enjoy, whilst their navigators plot and plan their route to TA 3 on a new set of maps.
All 52 participating teams obtain a SPOT Gen3 satellite tracking system, which features satellite tracking, an SOS button and emergency messaging which in turn enhances each team’s safety and makes the dot-watching element of adventure racing more efficient and reliable.
Follow the live tracking contingent www.expafrica.live, and observe the added features of social media updates, daily video's and press releases providing convenience for supporters of Expedition Africa - Namaqua West Coast.
Images: Bruce Viaene