The South African View
On the morning of day 2 of the race I caught up with the Olympus Red Ants team from South Africa and briefly with the Merrell Adventure Addicts team. Both were leaving CP4 in Ciloas and they will be trekking fairly close together as the climb Piton des Neiges this morning.
Red Ants were sat outside the pool on the grass drying out some kit and attending to their feet, checking the map and fetching water. Nicky Booyens told me. “Man was that tough. It is such an incredible place, so many ups and downs and it’s hot and humid. The sweat is literally pouring off you when you are climbing. You are soaking wet all the time.” She told me an Afrikaans word for how tough it was, then said I probably should not print it!
Leo Sorensen was studying the map intently, looking at where they might find water on the next part of the trek and at the pack raft stage. “This pack raft is complicated,” he said, “it’s hard to get a grip of and they’ve said the water is low so we might be trekking a fair big carrying the rafts.” Booyens added, “With a 13 hour fastest time on the stage we might end up with 2 dark zones there. It’s tricky for us.”
She was busy putting lubrication cream on sore feet, and said, “This is Squirrel Nut Butter – the happiest squirrels are those who butter their nuts!” Product placement in adventure racing!
Tim Deane was counting off the time for their stop but they were delayed as Alex Wagner went off to the shops to buy bags of fruit. They told me they has seen small shops in Mafate and they will likely see many more as the move around the course, so there may be chances to buy food and drink in unlikely spots here on Reunion.
The teams have quickly come to terms with a few of the day to day realities of Reunion, like the cloud quickly building on the mountains after clear mornings (so far anyway), and the heavy fog in the evenings and dew in the mornings. Several of the teams sleeping out this morning had covers for their sleeping bags as a result of this. Most are saying they are finding water on the course, but Tim Deane said, “You can get complacent and then not find any for a few hours, so still need to be careful.”
Merrell Adventure Addicts followed Red Ants out of the CP soon after and they told me, “Reunion is living up to expectations!” Grant Ross said, “That last rope descent was the best I’ve done in any race. You started down between two huge leaning slabs of rock and then it just opened up below you for 90m. It was awesome.”
Hanno Smit just said, “It’s dramatic.” He was struggling to find an adjective to sum up Reunion and a bit lost for words, but then it is a place which defies description, and one which teams are now just starting to come to terms with.