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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.


Race Report Team Terra Mater

Race Report Team Terra Mater

After waiting a few years for the “stars to align”. For the right timing. For all four team members to be available and keen to race. In September 2021, when Zane and Brundle (Rob) were chatting about how much they miss racing together, they reached out to the other two – all four were in, the time was right, the stars had aligned - and Team Terra Mater was born.

Consisting of four like-minded Humans exploring Mother Earth: Robert Le Brun, Andrew King, Carine Gagiano and Zane Schmahl. Even though each member in the team has raced with two or more members in the past, Expedition Africa Lesotho was our first time on the start-line all together. Additionally, we had the privilege to have our fifth team member, Laggie (Lize-Marie Engelbrecht), Roberts’ fiancé, onboard as our team media; she was instrumental, as she went above her call of duty to keep us covered during the race.

Naturally, with little expedition racing on the African continent and a two-year gap from the previous similar race, there was heaps of excitement leading up to EA Lesotho. We set off on our journey together as a team from George on 30 March and arrived at Afriski in Lesotho on 31 March 2022. The air was thin and we were not sure whether it was excitement, the beauty of Lesotho or the altitude that took our breath away. As we spent the next few days acclimatizing, packing, organizing and speculating about routes, it felt REAL. EA was finally here and we could not wait!

After an eventful 8-hour bus ride, and bus-pushing warm-up (This is Africa after all!), from Afriski to Semonkong on 3 April, we were warmly welcomed and had the honor of the Queen of Lesotho opening the start of the race with a speech.

The start-line was a random soccer field in the town of Semonkong where we would embark on our first leg, a 4km Donkey trek. Our donkey, nicknamed Gironkey after our team captain, Andrew, was from a strong bloodline of athletic prowess and was not an apple eater as we had hoped. Gironkey was initially shy to perform, but once he felt the love of Team Terra Mater, and Zane’s donkey whispering skills, he very quickly exceeded our expectations. After a typical chaotic and fast start, with donkeys and their teams running everywhere, before we could blink, leg 1 was complete and our passports were in hand. We then proceeded down towards the Maletsunyane falls and onwards down this enormous beautiful gorge for our 70km trek, leg 2.

Donkey

Leg 2 brings many words to mind, but “wet”, “mud”, “majestic” and “long” are the ones that jump out in hindsight. Our excellent navigator followed the road less traveled, which made it possible for us to gain good ground, with a trot along a contour path before dark on the first day. Then it rained… thunder and lightning all over… and then, some more rain. A deserted hut in the hills provided some shelter from the storm for a while. As the sun rose on day 2, we felt spoilt by views of the mighty Orange River. We met up with, and travelled with, Team Merrell and Addicted to adventure until T1. A warm cup of tea and Forever Fresh meal hit the spot, provided a much-needed lift of the spirits, and we were ready to take on the mountain bike leg, totaling 214km with 6500m ascent!

“Terra Mudder” was an inside joke during the race, and especially during this leg. It was a brutal 33-hour battle. I have NEVER pushed my bike this much, NEVER experienced mud this bad and NEVER used as much chamois cream while riding, BUT I have also NEVER seen such beauty and so many happy people. The fields of “kosmos” and sunflowers all over were magical. The sunsets (yes there were more than one!) and sunrise blew our minds.

Ferry

A ride of new experiences. We particularly enjoyed the ferry crossings and visits to the spaza shops. Funny how a coke can taste so much better on an adventure race!

Spaza

We indulged in Amagwenya (an African bread deep-fried in oil-see picture), oily Russians and heaps of cheap chips.

Amagwenya

After a very chilly two hours of sleep on a shop porch, we made decent progress through the day and we expected to end this long bike leg before midnight, but this famed bike leg had other ideas. The “sting in the tail”, a gradual 6km uphill that took two hours, struck the team to an all-time low. All four of us were shattered, hallucinating and sleep monsters were showing us their teeth. Again, Coke came to our rescue when Rob still had a can in his bag. The sugar rush was just enough to get us to T2. When we eventually arrived at T2 we were very relieved to be off our bikes. We must add that as we arrived in cheerful spirits to the hall where our transition boxes were, we received a 1-hour penalty for having custard in our box, more about this later. We slept an amazing 4 hours in soft, warm beds at the Guest House.

Hike

We woke up recharged and started Leg 4 (Mountain trek) at 7am. Glorious. Again, our two navigating members were spot on. Andrew suffered some nausea issues and was given a tablet by the team doctor. As murphy has it, he developed an allergic reaction to the nausea tablet and finished the rest of the leg with Angelina Jolie lips. We spent a while hiking, in the high mountains, with team Jabberwock who had their own health issues. It became apparent that more and more teams, including us, developed diarrhea, most likely from contaminated water.

Team Terra Mater Mountain

After trekking through the beautiful high mountains of Lesotho, we reached our highest altitude in the race and made our way, relatively easily in the dark, off the mountain. We hit a navigational snag at 1am in a village near T3 (the kayak put in). We knocked at a door for directions, but very soon realized that we are not getting very far due to the language barrier. We thought it would be perfect to sleep a few hours in a hut and try to find our way when it is light the next morning. At one point, the entire village was awake at 2am, ready to help with translations and negotiations. We were grateful when the village chief offered us his kitchen floor and an old mattress. To us, they were the equivalent of Sealy-Posturepedic quality! Together with two of the softest Basotho blankets ever produced we were assured the best DOS!! At 6am, at dawn, we managed to find the road we were looking for, and headed for T3, and onto the Kayak.

The Katse dam again blew our minds and it became apparent that this was incredible to do in the daylight, but would have certainly have been a lot tougher at night. We had a good paddle with a sneaky portage and entered T4 with a French team, Addicted to Adventure and Team Jabberwock. Unfortunately, two of our members become even more ill throughout the race and phrases like “Oeps, daar kak ek in my broek” or “let me just quickly take a dump” were not abnormal during the last three legs of the race. Additionally, custard is, unfortunately, a liquid (much to our Whatsapp supporter’s group disagreement. Funny!), and we had an hour penalty to sit out at T4, the end of the Kayak.

Robert was the brave naked swimmer and we were off on the final leg - the Village trek. Many friendly children were dancing and singing with us, it was almost as though they were giving us a little “send off” into our last night. Facts have it that Lesotho has the highest literacy rate in Africa, and the kids impressed us with sparse clothes walking to school from as early as 5am!

There were two river crossings of note during this last night of EA. At the first crossing, we knew that the water was very strong, it was a gamble and crossing rivers in the dark is significantly more daunting. That said, crossing would save us a huge amount of time. Luckily, with good teamwork, we crossed successfully and stayed relatively dry. This was the coldest evening. Frost was forming on our backpacks as we kept moving to stay warm. We kept pushing until the sun was up and we had found the last checkpoint, Eureka!

At the last village we stopped for breakfast. After the long, cold night, we had warm mieliepap in mind, but the kind lady offered us a bowl of cold fermented sorghum porridge. This is a traditional Sotho dish called Motoho. It is apparently very nutritious and an excellent source of energy. It carried us for the last stretch to Afriski, so it must be good!

As we approached Afriski, we reflected and were amazed at how a lifetime can pass in 5 days. We had seen and experienced so much. It was overwhelming. We were welcomed with blankets, massive cheers and Maluti beer. Terra Mater had completed Expedition Africa Lesotho!

Team Terra Mater finished as the ninth team overall and the third South African Team over the finish line.

We are grateful to be able to use our bodies to complete something so awesome, become even closer as a team, we sustained no serious injuries, finished tired and worn but in incredibly high spirits.

Although we are immensely proud of our achievement as a team, it is the life lessons learned, friendships made, team camaraderie and mind-blowing beauty we experienced that made this race so special. We matured as a team and learned to utilize each members strengths and special contribution to optimize this team as a well-oiled machine.

Team Terra Mater looks forward to the next adventure!

Race Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVGRLq0LeCQ&t=2s




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