CANDICE BRADFIELD and ROB KNOWLES
PUSHING their endurance to the limit, and following two and a half days racing, Team Merrell Adventure Addicts were almost seven hours ahead of their nearest rivals, and clear favourites to win the Expedition Africa extreme challenge by Wednesday afternoon.
With 11 South African teams, and one each from Russia and Paraguay, the Halyards Hotel in Port Alfred on Saturday evening saw competitors nervously anticipating the start of the 500km Expedition Africa extreme challenge which was to begin on Monday morning.
Teams were introduced to the press and given their first chance to see the route the organisers had set up for them all around Ndlambe. With the benefit of a Google Maps "fly-through” presentation they learned the route, starting at the Bathurst Toposcope and including trekking, rope-work, kayaking and cycling all around the Ndlambe district.
Each team of four has at least one female member, and all must cross the finishing line to be deemed to have completed the course. The course was laid out by event organisers Stefan and Heidi Muller, themselves keen adventure racers.
The Muller’s introduced the Australian TV crew who, along with another from South Africa, will cover the event and create a documentary to be broadcast internationally later this year.
Port Alfred’s own Team Husqvarna, made up of Neil Curry, Kerry Longhurst, Rick Betts and Richard Legg, said they were looking forward to the challenge in this, their first adventure race together.
Mayor Sipho Tandani attended the start of the race at the Toposcope at 7am on Monday morning and welcomed the teams to Ndlambe.
The race began in overcast conditions with a helicopter circling the skies for the perfect shot as the teams set off. Most headed for the road but Team Husqvarna, with their local knowledge, went in the opposite direction to take the planned route through the bush.
DOING WELL: Expedition Africa participants had a gruelling time undertaking the 500km adventure race this week. Team Capestorm WCAD is pictured at Brenthoek farm where they had to abseil off Blaaukrans Bridge. Team members (from left) are Chris Fisher, Grant Ross, Quintin Smith and Julia Thomas Picture: SUPPLIED
The first leg of the race consisted of a 17km trek through Bathurst. The teams then changed to Kayaks and followed the Kowie River 23km to Port Alfred and on to Kelly’s Beach. Once out the water a 23km trek followed over the beach into the forest and farms and back again to the beach. The route took teams past Ship Rock and Kasouga all the way to Kenton-on-Sea.
From there teams kayaked 17km up the Kariega River to a tidal marsh in Sibuya Game Reserve followed by an 18km trek taking teams to a tributary of the Bushmans River to the next transition point at the town hall.
Teams then took an 80km cycle route through farming areas back towards Bathurst to reach Brenthoek farm. At this point the teams did rope-work and abseiled 60m from the tragically historic Bloukrans Bridge. Teams then trekked down the gorge and up to the top of a mountain to reach a control point, and then back down to the farm.
After a 47km cycle to camp Glen Boyd, the midway point, teams had a compulsory five-hour stop and a chance to sleep. They then headed off on an epic 128km cycle crossing the Fish River into the Ciskei. At the next transition point in Hamburg, only the two strongest members of each team were required to do the 20km kayak to fetch two check points.
The longest trek of 58km was saved for the second last leg of the race. Teams had to trek along the beach and then move inland before heading back to the beach again. The leg ended at the Fish River Sun, the last transition point. Team Merrell Adventure Addicts had almost completed the penultimate section by the time of going to press, with second place Team Red Ants almost seven hours behind them.
The final leg of the race was a 43km cycle back to Port Alfred to finish under the arch in front of Halyards Hotel.