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Expedition Africa - Blog

Expedition Africa - Blog

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For the Love and development of Adventure Racing. Expedition Africa established in 2006 and has organised over 150 adventure races in Africa and Internationally. This blog is about our story over the years and our personal views.


Magical Lesotho. Story of Team Endurance life.

TEAM ENDURANCELIFE UK BLOG

 

13 minute team video: https://youtu.be/MLigzJciGag

 

Team Endurancelife UK registered for Expedition Africa Lesotho 2020 in 2019 following previous races in Swaziland 2015 and Namaqua 2018. The team thoroughly enjoyed the previous races and wanted to experience the unique country of Lesotho through Heidi and Stephan's Adventure Racing lenses! The Covid pandemic hit the world and whilst the Mullers weren't able to hold the event as planned in 2020 (nor 2021), the international AR community was delighted that the famous duo put the race on in April 2022.

 

Team Endurancelife (as did many other teams) experienced significant challenges in fielding a team for the race due to the pandemic. Three of the original team were unable to participate in 2022 but team captain Gary was able to convince previous Exped Africa teammates Natalie Taylor and Phil Scarf to join him for the Lesotho experience; it wasn't difficult! Finding a fourth teammate proved to be more difficult but Ian Furlong responded positively to a message from Gary two weeks before the race! 

 

Leg 1 donkey

Team Endurancelife had finished in seventh position overall in their previous two Exped Africa races and were hoping to do better in 2022. This was put to the test when their allocated donkey didn't appear to have the same goals in Leg 1. The locals kept saying on the 3-4km Leg 1 donkey trek that our animal was 'lazy'! 

 

Leg 2 trek Ian

The Leg 2 Canyon Trek presented several challenges including navigation, terrain, torrential rain and of course nightfall. The team made some wise route choices on this leg and managed to pop out the other end in fifth position. This was difficult for us to comprehend at first because we thought that we'd made a few navigational errors.

 

Team interview with Craig Giese at the end of Leg 2: https://fb.watch/cNlO-ISTew/

 

TA1 map marking

The Leg 3 MTB leg was LONG! It was billed by Stephan as 214km but it was more than 240km with more than 6500m ascent. The team took ~33hrs on this leg which was probably the longest ever MTB leg that they'd done in their Adventure Racing careers. We decided to sleep early during this leg as Phil and Ian were struggling a little having contracted COVID shortly prior to the race and (whilst testing negatively) perhaps were not 100%. One memorable moment from this leg included an intense cloudburst shortly before the river ferry crossing, where the boatman had to empty his boat of water prior to the crossing. Another memorable moment was a gravel/dirt track which seemed to descend FOREVER and was a joy to ride as the sun was rising. Stunning! Another memorable moment was when a group of school children insisted on pushing our bikes up one steep hill. One child asked Gary if he could buy his bike. Gary replied with, "How would you buy my bike?" The primary school child said that he would exchange his (imaginary) car for his bike. 🙂 

 

Leg 3 MTB group

The weather conditions on Leg 3 were particularly challenging as the team members were overheating and being burnt by the direct sunlight during the day and it got very cold in the evenings. [All team members with the exception of Natalie had failed to bring suncream for this race!] The short periods of intense rainfall also turned the dirt to mud and required a few kilometres of hike-a-bike as the mud prevented riding. The mud subsequently dried into a concrete-like substance in the sun which caked itself to the bikes and was very difficult to remove. The team slept for approximately two hours at the end of Leg 3. 

 

The Leg 4 Mountain Trek was anticipated to be the most challenging in terms of navigation. Although far from perfect, this leg went reasonably for the team and they recorded the fourth-fastest time on this leg. The team was frustrated by not being able to checkpoint #14 (flagpole at kraal) for what seemed to be an eternity but otherwise it went reasonably well; particularly as the majority of the more difficult navigation was through the night. The team slept for less than half an hour at the end of this leg and got onto the Leg 5 paddle with two hours of daylight prior to nightfall. 

 

Paddle end TA Ian

Leg 5 proved to be the most challenging for the team as they did the majority of the paddle in the dark and were struggling with a combination of: sleep deprivation & hallucinations; the cold; the dark; and navigation. The team went up a few 'blind alleys' in the form of reservoir side inlets; one of which had bright lights being pointed at us.  The team members thought we were hallucinating (we were!) but soon discovered that the lights were being shone on us by fish farm security guards shining bright lights at us! Whilst we were in dire need of sleep, there was little opportunity for sheltered sleep on the bank and it was very cold; we later discovered from the race volunteer that there was ice on the car windscreens! We managed to get through this stage (somehow) but had lost an hour or two on the leading teams due to our state of fatigue and the night sky.

 

We arrived in the transition at the end of Leg 5 in various states of hypothermia and managed to change into warm dry clothes and get approximately two hours sleep. 

 

Leg 6 start

We awoke at sunrise for the final Leg 6 Village Trek. Team Merrell was in the transition area at the same time as us at this point and both teams were competing for fifth place. Merrell decided to swim across the reservoir to reduce the overall leg distance whilst we decided to hike the additional 6-7km to avoid the cold water! There were some subtle route choices on Leg 6, for example, follow the river valley floor between checkpoints or, ascend into the hill villages and along the tracks and subsequently descend back into the valley floor. Our strategy was mixed for the different sublegs. Approximately halfway through Leg 6, we passed by a large school at what appeared to be the end of their school day. Dozens of children ran and trekked with us from the school towards their homes along the dirt track. Many asked for sweets and others asked where we were going. Natalie discovered that it was one of their birthdays and started singing "Happy Birthday" with them! Gary was experiencing mixed emotions of happiness and annoyance at this point! The team had somehow managed to make up time and pass Team Merrell and they had appeared behind us. Gary was enjoying the singalong but wanted the team to increase their pace to avoid Team Merrell from catching up. However, after a short period of cat and mouse, both team captains (Gary and Graham) decided to shake hands and agreed to trek the remaining leg together. Both teams enjoyed getting to know each other in the last ~10km and crossed the finish line to rapturous celebrations and were greeted by the wonderful Heidi and her team. 

 

 

Pre-race

 

Finishline video: https://fb.watch/cNoWOHqG_K/

 

Team Endurancelife celebrated their highest ever overseas position in an Adventure Racing World Series event by finishing joint fifth with Team Merell. 

 

A big thank you to our title sponsor Endurancelife for supporting us over the years and to Heidi and Stephan for continuing to put on exceptional races for the AR community. A big special thank you to all the volunteers and Kinetic Events staff too who were amazing. Last but not least, a big thank you to the people of Lesotho who welcomed us with open arms and allowed us to experience their amazing country.

 

Team Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TeamEndurancelife




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