Race report Expedition Africa
We started the team Skylotec Adventure in the beginning of 2017 and since then we have worked hard to get everything together to be able to perform our very best on the race course. We are very happy to have our partners helping us out and we want to say big thanks! You are all a part of this and the beginning of our journey!
Skylotec, our title sponsor. Hydria Group. Pierre Robert. Kullamannen. Squeezy. MBT. 24h meals. Överlevnadsbutiken. Nordenmark adventure.
Expedition Africa is a race in the ARWS (adventure racing world series) and this time the action took place in the area in the eastern part of South Africa, Cape St Francis. Estimated winning time was a bit above 72h hours. We didn’t know so much about the different legs until 2 days before race start when we got the logistic planner. After that we could pack our gear and energy for the different legs in the boxes and bags provided by the organization. This was the course: Trek, kayak 28km, trek 6km, kayak 15km, MTB 89km, trek 59km, MTB 97km, trek+rope 4km , kayak 25km, trek 18km, MTB 123km, trek 48km. For more information about the course look at this page http://www.expafrica.live/
The race started Sunday morning at 7 am on a windy beach and the sun about to rise. The wind forced the organization to replace the second leg which was seakayaking due to strong wind and huge waves. So instead the first run became a bit longer. We didn’t expect to take the lead in the beginning, we just wanted to go in our own pace but it soon became clear that we had a bit higher speed than the others as we took the lead of the pack right from start.
The first legs of trekking and kayaking went well and we had a good pace without working too hard for it. In adventure race there are often things that you don’t think about and one of those things could be that sometimes the kayak has to be carried to the transition area (TA), and this time it was uphill, about 60 altitude meters up, a pretty taxing effort. After completing the two kayaking legs and the two trekking legs it was time to get on the bike for an 89km ride. The area was agricultural in the beginning and then we reached the mountains and started to climb the 2500 altitude meters before reaching transition area. We did a good leg and got to the TA as the first team.
The next leg was affected by a darkzone which means that during night hours you have to be still. This was due to dangerous buffaloes. We got to TA at about 9 pm and we had to wait until 4 am before we could enter the canyon. We decided to try and sleep at the TA and then take an easy walk the 10km until to the canyon border. Most teams don´t sleep during the first night as the adrenaline of racing is still high and it´s hard to relax but at least two of us managed to get in some precious sleep. We packed the gear and started the walk to the canyon in good time, eating as much as possible. When we arrived at the canyon we had another 45min before 4 am so we huddled up in our 95 gram bivybags. The canyon part was pretty hard, it was wet, slippery and bushy. There was no simple route and you just had to force yourselves through it, we pushed pretty hard, taking turns at the front leading the way, searching for the best path. We got a bit surprised when we suddenly stood within 15meters of a buffalo. It was still dark and we didn’t know if there was just this one or if there was more of them. We took the air horn that the organization supplied us with but it didn´t make much noise, probably because it was soaked in water. Instead Malin gave a ferocious war cry at the buffalo and it ran for cover. An exciting encounter, a bit too exciting perhaps, we continued to blow the air horn from time to time just to make sure.
After a couple of hours the sun was up and warming. We reached more open areas and saw more animals like baboons, gazelles, and trails from a leopard. The last part of the leg was up on a ridge and there we had our second buffalo situation. The buffalo stood in a slope, no vegetation, and we needed to pass it. We could also se cars on the ridge and as we moved closer one car drove down to us asking if we could see that there was a buffalo in front of us. We said yes of course. And moved on. Without reflecting about the question. The buffalo started to move right and then we decide to pass it on the left side instead so we changed our course. The car came back to us, asking again, do you see the buffalo. Yes, of course we said. And continued. Another car started to move created a barrier between us and the buffalo. We should probably had gone much more around it, or just waited until we were a bit further away but then and there we didn’t really understand the danger of the situation. It wasn´t something we reflected over until after the race, we were just happy to see buffalos.
After this spectacular leg we made a fast transition and headed out on an expected hard and tricky navigation mountain bike leg. It was a pretty hard one with a lot of carrying bike and forcing through dense bushes and thorns, ripping legs and arms. We had a major navigation error and lost our lead to team Thunderbolt. The leg became also longer than expected and we were beginning to run out of energy luckily we passed a gas station where we stocked up on sugar and caffeine. We rode the whole second night and at dawn we reached the next TA about 20minutes behind team Thunderbolt.
The next leg was a combined trekking and rope session where we was to repel from a mountain then zipline over a river. We were a bit unlucky/untactical (or something) not reaching the rope section before Thunderbolt that got a “free” 30-40min lead on us when we had to sit and wait. It wasn’t all bad as we could have a break, take care of our feet and fuel up with some solid food. We didn’t worry too much about the chase, it was still plenty of time to race.
On the following paddle leg we pushed a decent pace on and we got visual contact with the leaders halfway in and calculated that their lead was only 20minutes now. But in the last part of the leg, when we reached the sand dunes we had made a mistake, marking two checkpoints as paddle checkpoints but they were supposed to be marked as checkpoint on the following trekking leg. Completely oblivious to this, we spent a good deal of time searching for them, when we got to the TA when where made aware of our big mistake and that we had to pick them up again (of course). The positive thing on the trekking was that we now at least knew exactly where the CPs were and could easily take them and carry on. We ran pretty hard to gain back the time we lost so we made yet another mistake, we forgot to check the roadbook that said we should go on the beach the whole way to TA. We didn’t though, and went up on a road the last kilometer and got 1h penalty. Thunderbolt did the same mistake as us. Reaching the TA we now had about 15 minutes on Thunderbolt.
Next leg was yet another long bike and expected to take all night for us to complete. This far into the race we had a very good feeling. In the earlier legs we didn’t push it too hard and therefor kept our energy at a good level. We were still highly motivated even if we didn’t take much sleep. About an hour into the section it started to get dark so we put out headlights on and continued. We were progressing well and moving forward and a solid pace. After making an alternative route choice (we got to see afterwards) our problems with flat tires started. During the last bike section Simon smashed into a rock hard and broke his tubeless valve and we had to put in a tube. All the bushes with thorns and cactus had penetrated the tire and it was hard to find all of the at once when searching. This resulted in a total of 7 spare tubes and with only one 27,5’’ tube left (from Malins bike) we were all a little worried if the race was to end for us on this stage. So a small prayer and then we carried on. After a while we got some problems finding a road and after searching for it a while we decide to turn back and take another longer way around. Then we meet Thunderbolt. We also felt that we needed some sleep to get the pace up and keep a good navigation level. So we slept 10 minutes on the ground and then continued. After a little while we see headlamps from a team and understand it is Thunderbolt that they had found the road we didn’t. But we also see that we are ahead of them, so our route choice wasn’t too bad after all. After some more navigational difficulties Thunderbolt got back in contact with us and we rode together for a while heading into a situation that would affect the outcome of the race.
We got to a path crossing and started to search for the CP. Everything felt good looking on the map but something was wrong. The CP description said “diggings”, we didn´t know exactly what it meant but both teams does a massive search in the area with no results. A lot of time is wasted here and the area just doesn´t make any sense. All of the sudden leaves and we don´t know if they had found it or not. We decided to backtrack to our last known point and take the entrance to the CP once again. This pays of as we now realize that we had gone searching too far on the path, making a parallel mistake. We find the CP on the ground in a “digging” (Excavation site?), the letter on the checkpoint was missing so we took a photo and rode away. The feelings had now turned from worries about how big a lead Thunderbolt had on us, too a realization that it was us getting the lead on them instead. Still we didn’t know how far behind the other teams were and there were no time to slow down the pace.
We get into the last transition, take our 1h penalty there before heading out on the last leg, a 48km trek along the shoreline. No other team came into the TA before we left and we then knew that the lead was at least 40min, probably more. We felt strong and ran most parts of the leg. After a while we reached a part with sand dunes where we should take two CPs. It was a beautiful and cool area but took some time to push through it. We met media and you can see the result on the video from day 4 (link further down).
The last part on the beach was amazing with all the people cheering and we then knew we were going to be the first team to finish. Jonas son Ture and his friend Pontus meets us running in full speed with the Swedish flag. The last steps on a trail with African song being sang for us and people cheering along the way, and then we reached the finish line. That feeling of emotion, joy and pride of this last part is hard to describe in words. It was pure happiness!
Before the race we had heard a lot of positive things about the Expedition Africa races and we can only confirm that the organization had done a high end job putting it all together. Heidi and Stephan succeeded to create a feeling of professionalism but still personal and with a lot of love and happiness. The media crew has done a great job and you can find the pictures and movies on the links below.
Photos from facebook: https://web.facebook.com/kineticeventsafrica/
Video day 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8ALlbBEd0Q
Video day 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MYQuSOXUlY
Video day 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ok4-d9wHF1A
Video day 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bv2FQTlfV4U&t=2s
Video day 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJhtLTF2mac
Video day 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itcGc8uD0eg
Closing ceremony video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5_2iq9qC-s
Video following another team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjrKlhgotO8
Expedition Africa was the first race together as a team and it has been a great experience for us. This is only the beginning, stay tuned for more!