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
An adventure race is not, in simple terms; a race from a start line to a finish line, no, it's a journey. A journey that unites a group of four and sends them on an adventure, that provides the perfect platform for the discovery of new strengths and weaknesses, both physically and mentally.
Over the past five days, 52 teams have navigated their way through a wilderness like no other, forced to explore a terrain that is arid, desolate and in its own right absolutely exquisite. The Namaqua West Coast made for a brilliant yet truly challenging playground for 2018's Expedition Africa. Dry, dusty legs have ventured teams along a rugged coast line, up rocky mountains, through waterless canyons; an environment that has truly tested an adventure racing unit.
Aching muscles, tired limbs, blistered feet and a lack of sleep are amongst the physical torments that 560km's of non-stop racing can bring. No amount of training can prevent these 'battle wounds' from challenging one's mind into continuing. A mental stealth is required if you're going to take on the honour of adventure racing; your team mates depend on it.
Transition areas have welcomed broken yet elated teams over the past five days, providing a haven that will allow these teams to physically and mentally reboot; readying themselves for the following leg. Race director, Stephan Muller created quite a monster course, featuring large legs that have truly challenged every single team thus far.
The craziness however, is that every single athlete taking part in this gruelling adventure race, loves it. War cry's, sing-a-long songs and laughter are amongst the jovial sounds heard throughout the course. Unique memories are made and bonds of 'brother hood' are developed when taking on an adventure race with team mates that you have entrusted to collectively reach that finish line.
According to sources, members of Team Slummies (RSA) have been struggling with aching, blistered feet, testing their mental strength of plodding along. A misty and cold day four made for an incredibly challenging day for the team, however ended incredibly well when they came across a group of locals who invited the team to braai with them. Team Slummies apparently attacked today's 59km trekking leg with smiling faces and were ready for the final challenges they are required to face, in order to reach the finish tomorrow.
The leading team of this year's Expedition Africa; team Blizzard completed the course in 94h55m, 24 hours longer than the estimated finishing time. Miserable weather conditions added to this delay, when a lingering mist rolled in on day three.
"When our first teams begin crossing the finish line, there is a feeling of relief and pride in the teams achievements, but when the back teams start crossing the finish line a couple of days later, that is when the true admiration takes over, as those are the teams that have really pushed themselves further" shares race organiser, Heidi Muller.
An adventure racing 'heartbeat' will take over Expedition Africa's race village, as tired and broken athletes cheer on their fellow adventure racers and welcome them with open arms, as they complete this mighty 560km challenge. Continue to watch the dots via the live tracking site: www.expafrica.live as these teams make their way to finish in Vanrhynsdorp over the next two days.
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