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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.


Mandatory equipment & DOT watching

Mandatory equipment & DOT watching

From dreams as a 14-year-old girl watching Camel adventures on TV, to completing 500km Expedition Africa Lesotho…where do I start?

I have always been involved in a variety of sports from a young age. For many years I dreamed of participating in a multi-sport adventure race. I found that you needed a foot in the door to join the amazing elite sports men and women and of course, confidence. Around 6 years ago I was very fortunate when an old school and highly experienced adventure racer, Piers Pirow was looking for people to form a team and compete in a 120km adventure race – Sadly, I couldn’t attend but realised that here was the opportunity to gain some insight into how to tackle an adventure race!! Without hesitation I signed my husband Richard up and a friend Ronel Wallis to go along. Thankfully they both endured and loved it – besides being exhausted by the task at hand. Experienced racers Piers and David Barkhuizen (the 4th team member) passed on some extremely valuable advice and insight! The door was open….

And of course, I haven’t looked back, my amazing husband has been my unwavering support and confidence builder. We have been privileged to race as a pair – as the intrepid team Winging It. I have raced with 7 various amazing navigators and other team members – teams Truffle Hunters, Gimlet Eyed Dorks, Addicted 2 Adventure, Sleepy Dragons etc.

I have been blessed to have participated in the previous pre-COVID days, Expedition Rodrigues with Richard, my brother-in-law Michael Brown and great friend and coach Phil van der Leeuw, which resulted in an adventure racing dream, with the highs outweighing any lows and just a mind-blowing and unforgettable race. Another brilliantly designed adventure race by Stephan and Heidi Muller in 2019.

Most recently I have been so unbelievably fortunate to have participated in the Expedition Africa Lesotho 500km monster of a race. Late November 2021, Damon de Boer from the Truffle Hunters team gave me a call to offer the “mandatory equipment” position for the upcoming race (it being a requirement to have at least one female in the team of four in the Adventure Racing World Series) With a little trepidation and a lot of support from Richard and my amazing children Liam and Kelly (and extended family), I jumped in with an undoubting yes and committed to joining the Truffle Hunters Team, Damon on Lead and Navigation (Dear Leader); Clive the Irish protector and workhorse (Clivesdale) and the young spirited and energy filled Franco Olivier (Squirrel)!!

Team Truffle Hunters – ready to go -2am start – Day 1 – Bus departure

Team Truffle Hunters – ready to go -2am start – Day 1 – Bus departure

(From left to right – Franco, Damon, Kim and Clive)

Heidi and Stephan Muller (Expedition Africa Adventure Race Directors) have been an additional support and continuous believers in my abilities, and I must confess, before committing to the team I did chat to them to get their input on the team and their thoughts as to whether I would be able to tackle the adventure – self-belief not my strong point!! They gave me a definite “yes” and I commenced training with my Coach Phil, adjusting my program to accommodate the next 3 months of focussed and structured (read brutal and intense!) training.

Having two coaches (Phil and hubby Richard) and friends to train with to get me to the start line was super important. Consistency was king with this goal in mind! Many hours of long quality rides, runs, swims and paddles. Far too many friends to mention who supported me along the way!

A foot injury during training had me concerned, but I had to believe it would work out and all would be fine. I had decided not to overthink and trust the journey to get to Lesotho! I must confess I underestimated the magnitude of the task and the adventure that awaited us as a team.

140 hours of adventure; placed 16th out of 33 amazing teams and slept 10.5 hours! How? - you might ask.

Teamwork and the belief that we can keep moving forward, the unwavering spirit to laugh and be in the moment! Lesotho and its people amazed us and their smiles and spirit will remain with us for years to come. And of course, our DOT watchers – our families, friends and supporters – whose energy fills the night sky and encourages you to keep going – that is how! To all the crazy DOT watchers – never underestimate how much difference you make whilst we race, to know you are being tracked by the GPS and followed on a screen is incredible – I think DOT watching could be a sport on its own!

Quick synopsis of the adventure:

Race arrival of Damon (UK) and Clive (Ireland), formal meeting of team, including super supporter Eric (Damon’s Dad) on the Wednesday. This is always a little intimidating – teammates assessing teammates and wondering if they have made the right choice in asking me to join them – bearing in mind that the three lads have raced together previously as a team. Teammates are everything in adventure racing and something you do not want is to make a wrong decision in selecting the wrong person.

Crazy shopping for team food supplies in SA the day before to depart for Lesotho. I was relieved to see that this team likes to laugh, and this quality would continue throughout our crazy Lesotho adventure!

Early departure on Thursday 31st March with vehicles and trailers loaded; safe road trip with the smoothest and friendliest border crossing got the team into Lesotho. And wow, did the Lesotho landscape impress us all from point go! The sight of the massive mountain passes overwhelmed me and I had to work hard to keep the nerves at bay. We all checked into our lovely accommodation at Afriski Lodge and race final prep commenced. Frenzied packing and re-packing of food, race fuel, equipment and clothing and ensuring our team will have what we needed! The last few days before a race can be very overwhelming regardless of how many times you have raced – you are always learning something new and find yourself trying to gain any knowledge from all the teams around you. Damon has completed over 10 adventure races and told me how he is always learning something new! With Expedition Africa being an international event, you feel both excited and privileged to be around many people from all over the globe!! Experienced and inexperienced find themselves seated next to one another – just such an exciting experience to be able to participate in.

Friday 1st April – race registration, equipment checks and formal race briefing – nerves on edge hoping the team is prepped and ready to go. A great and exciting race briefing got everyone hyped for what was to come.

Team arrival at the lovely Afriski – excitement!!

Team arrival at the lovely Afriski – excitement!!

Race briefing team shenanigans – never a quiet moment for the “noisy team” (Kirsten Oliver)

Race briefing team shenanigans – never a quiet moment for the “noisy team” (Kirsten Oliver)

Saturday 2nd April – first time ever, so I am told, the teams had a rest day after all the prep and before the start in which to acclimatize – what a treat to just hang out and take it all in. I found myself relaxing, letting myself enjoy the moment, getting to know my teammates and forge great friendships.

Day of rest and acclimatization with friends David and Tanya

Day of rest and acclimatization with friends David and Tanya

Sunday 3rd April – Race Day. Very early start - 2am wake up call, followed by a 3am bus boarding and a long bus journey (with bus breakdown included) to the Semonkong start point. No rest for me on the bus as those Lesotho passes did not allow for the brain to quieten down. I am not sure how those bus drivers managed with the rain and crazy road passes. A frenzied and thrilling race start with the amazing donkey and beer crate 5km loop after the opening ceremony by the Queen of Lesotho. Map and local breads collection, onward for first big leg. You had to pinch yourself to realise it was all real.

First big leg – Canyon Trek – 70km

Canyoning through the Maletunyane canyon with electric rainstorms, dark nights, crazy flooded river crossings made us all realise this expedition was going to be epic. Teammates positively tackled this challenge and completed Leg 1 fatigued, cold, but elated in 25hrs. Longer than anticipated, but safety had been a priority for our team and those river crossings were challenging.

Canyoning leg almost complete – Team with Eric – race media and supporter

Canyoning leg almost complete – Team with Eric – race media and supporter

Best feeling finding race crew and director – Heidi, Kirsten & Craig – it always lifts team spirits

Best feeling finding race crew and director – Heidi, Kirsten & Craig – it always lifts team spirits

Transition 1 – Bike build and resupply – local clinic

Franco not feeling so well quick change followed with a sleep; Clive built our bikes; Damon studied the numerous and extensive maps to ensure Leg 2 would go as smoothly as possible (considering 1980 maps) and I kept teammates fed and resupplied food stocks; repacking and supported Clive.

Team decision was made to keep moving rather (sleep more later), meant Franco had shorter sleep than planned (later learned that he actually had bronchitis at this stage). Noisy and busy transitions are not always the best place to rest during adventure races.

Cycle leg – approximately 220km with 7000m elevation

I was trying not to over think the next leg – monster cycle leg with at least 7000m elevation. Wow did this leg take your breath away. Challenges were presented early with big electrical rainstorms, mud, mud and more mud. Early navigation detour in the cycle quickly illustrated to the team what a tough “hike a bike” was and what this leg could turn into. So much can be said about this leg, but ultimately the team tackled this well, besides a few vomiting sessions, tumbles, freezing snoozes, ferry crossings and one of the best chip sandwiches and Coca-Cola refuels with a local café host – the team even grabbed a beautiful river swim (after much convincing by me) – resulted in a mammoth 45 hours amongst the remarkable and endless hills. Finally completing this leg at 14h15pm. Our fervent supporter Eric found us with about 15kms to go and provided the last cheer and encouragement to get to the next transition. The most insane wind caught me off guard at the end of the cycle and the boys got me through, the team weary and tired, but ready to tackle the next leg. The ride demanded full concentration day and night and team support was thankfully plentiful.

Transition 2 – great facilities and a well-run transition meant a good rest, refuel and a quick shower for me allowed for a mental gear shift to keep going onto Leg 3. No adventure racer takes for granted a hot cup of tea and an opportunity to put on a clean, dry pair of socks! A big hug and reassurance from Race Director Stephan ensured I could keep going.

The best lunch ever!!  - Chip sarmies and a Coke with the most amazing local shop attendant

The best lunch ever!! - Chip sarmies and a Coke with the most amazing local shop attendant

Incredible images captured by Kirsten Oliver – Damon and Clive last cycle stretch – look at the view!

Incredible images captured by Kirsten Oliver – Damon and Clive last cycle stretch – look at the view!

The Mountain Trek – 50km.

Teams were cautioned that this leg would have challenging navigation. We decided to make use of what daylight was left and head out quickly. I unfortunately had the onset of a gastro tummy (many teams were experiencing this and not well after chatting in transition). I administered medication quickly to try avoid being hindered whilst racing, I checked in with my team if they wanted me to continue or maybe pull out of the race – to find out they had decided they would not leave me and would only continue as a full team! I must say this leg was a true highlight for me! My navigators absolutely nailed this leg, we avoided not being eaten by some local dogs, and it was just so unbelievably beautiful. Summiting at sunrise in freezing conditions to eat our breakfast snack together with views for days, we realised our team was living the dream.

Bikes packed – Mountain leg next up – Team all smiles and ready for the trek

Bikes packed – Mountain leg next up – Team all smiles and ready for the trek

Transition 3 – preparation for paddle leg – chasing the sun

Coming in from the mountain hike our team was fatigued – we were chasing the sun. Whilst in transition the word on the ground was that many teams were struggling with the paddle leg and finding the navigation a huge struggle due to the dam having an extremely high-water level. I was extremely concerned at this point and didn’t enjoy the thought of a 12hour paddle!

The Paddle – 45km.

We managed to start quickly and paddle in about 1hr30mins of daylight and seeing those cliff faces was out of this world. Nightfall provided a whole new degree of challenges. The first being freezing cold temperatures! I was promptly wrapped up into my survival Rad Bag with any item of clothing found in Clive’s backpack packed into it, not realising how quickly hyperthermia may have set in!! I passed out (the only instructions I received was to stay down and not drop my paddle 😊) resulting in a good sleep for me while the 3 lads proceeded to paddle like beasts!! I awoke later to discover the team was almost delirious and unaware of our actual location! We regrouped and then paddled for hours to complete the leg. In hindsight, it was the craziest leg I have ever experienced, and our team did so well – completing this leg in about 8hrs30minutes!! Not much time was available for eating or rest as you could not stop during this leg – no land points available to hop out of the kayak – some of the most extreme “sleep monsters” kept us company!

Transition 4

I will never forget us trying to get out of those kayaks after sitting in them for so many hours, it was a new challenge and it led to belly filled laughs at 2am! Freezing (Franco hyperthermic), hungry and shattered we managed to get ourselves organised, pack up gear and have a quick sleep in the transition with our ever-present supporter Eric – 1 hour rest with friends Rob and Terrence (Adventure Life teammates).

The Final leg to complete! - Village Trek – 53km over 4000m elevation

We elected to take the suggested “shortcut” and paddle across to the first check point, leaving young Franco our exuberant squirrel to paddle the empty kayaks back to the transition and then swim across back to where we all were, in very chilly conditions. After Franco’s successful skinny-dipping swim and change into dry clothes, the team then spent the morning trekking whilst reminiscing over our days of shared adventure!! It turned into a day of stories, laughs and celebration, we were on the home stretch!!

Trufflers enjoying our final day – laughs and the most amazing Lesotho scenery (Kirsten Oliver)

Trufflers enjoying our final day – laughs and the most amazing Lesotho scenery (Kirsten Oliver)

Unbeknown to us at this stage we were to face a team challenge which we least expected!

Extreme fatigue unfortunately extended our adventure – the team decided not to sleep at all on this leg and we were under fuelled as well at this stage. We passed through many stunning, friendly villages with steep terrain, mostly covered during the day. Finally finding ourselves in a position thinking we were nearly on the home stretch; we were unable to find a small pass out of a grand amphitheatre in the late hours of the night. Many hours searching in the dark and cold was a moment I will not forget. As a team we hoped to climb up a mountain to possibly find a way out, but this was just too steep and we were “cliffed out”. My concern for the team’s safety compounded by the extreme fatigue and emotions led to my lowest point in the race. This is where your adventure racing teammates are so important- the lads dug deep and did not hesitate for a second to support me. Once daylight came again our navigation error was corrected and a path home was selected – I am forever grateful to Franco who guided me off an extremely high mountain in a freezing storm with high winds, Clive the beast who kept me warm at all points and our intrepid navigator Damon who took time to assess (and reassess) and find our way home under extreme fatigue, stress and freezing conditions! I would follow these lads into any adventure race again – what a great team!

Being the “mandatory equipment” comes with its own challenges; and the feeling of being measured continuously by the male teammates can be mentally taxing.   Looking back, I have been lucky and privileged to have raced with several amazing men – each very different with their own strengths, who continuously encourage me and believe in me when I don’t – never underestimate the team dynamic – choose wisely and have fun!!

We finally crossed the finish line in the morning – with the most amazing welcome party for friends, most important my husband who had run out to meet us on the final path – sleet and rain our team exuberant we had finished the race!

I am told that Expedition Africa Lesotho was one of the most brutal races in its 10-year history, but I have to say it has been the most rewarding.   I cannot begin to highlight all areas of this race. I find myself still unpacking after coming out of the adventure racing bubble.  I can only hope I have managed to share some of the magic elements of adventure racing for a moment.  Thank you to Stephan, Heidi, the volunteers, and their incredible team – you are loved and appreciated – your events are out of this world!!

Thank you to the people of Lesotho and all the other adventure racing teams – shared courage and smiles (and a hug or two) in this adventure race – which was beyond our wildest imaginations!    From the master teams who showed us how it is done to take the win or get on the podium, the teams who just had the courage to start, and the teams who pushed through the highs and lows, we hope to see you on the next adventure racing start line – stay safe and thank you sharing this unbelievable adventure.  Congratulations to all – may your courage stay with you always.

Final stretch in very cold weather – high emotion and tears!! – Living the dream (Kirsten Oliver)

Final stretch in very cold weather – high emotion and tears!! – Living the dream (Kirsten Oliver)

Adventure complete – hugs from my husband – my homing beacon!

Adventure complete – hugs from my husband – my homing beacon!

Before and after images of the team

Before and after images of the team

Joy – Team Truffle Hunters race finish – with Jabu and team supporters

Joy – Team Truffle Hunters race finish – with Jabu and team supporters

An amazing quote of words of wisdom to remember to all prospective races:

“Surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming; 2 – slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be and 3 – the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing! – Andre De Shileds” - not bad advice to anyone looking to start adventure racing with a team – get your adventure on and jump in!!!




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