There's Still Time For Dance
Registration took place at 12 o’clock today at the Women and Family Centre (Youth) of Anse aux Anglais, a few hundred metres from race HQ, after the schedule was changed to accommodate the delays in baggage delivery. The morning was spent with teams doing last minute shopping in town, greeting old faces, and relaxing in the sun, though the heat was mitigated by the ever-present breeze.
Mid-morning an open truck rolled into the centre loaded with bags, and grateful teams snatched up their missing gear, especially those who had been wearing their original underwear every which way. Apparently.
In an orderly queue, teams registered, signed medical waivers, underwent basic kit inspection, and received their bibs which all must wear until the end of the race. The only exception will be the Saturday flag parade, with all teams sporting their white Air Mauritius T-shirts.
Once the dust had settled, teams made their way into town, mostly on foot, to collect their bike boxes from T10, in the very picturesque grounds of an old villa. The colourful bibs livened the entire scene, as bikes were assembled between flower beds and ancient trees, the locals peering on in curiosity with phones aloft.
Rodrigues has a rustic African feel, so while it’s the typical tropical island paradise on the surface, it doesn’t have the commercial slickness of somewhere like Mauritius proper, and therein lies its appeal. Afrikaners would describe it as ‘rustig’. There are plenty of fresh markets, corner shops, small traders of every description, but I haven’t been pestered once by people keen to part me from my cash. Instead, they are proud of their traditions, of their culture, and just get on with their business. It’s obvious there’s some excitement about the race, but no crowds of onlookers or little children asking for sweets or money. I asked this question of other race crew, and the response was the same. Someone wondered whether it would change over time, and I can’t imagine that’s avoidable, especially if tourism becomes the dominant generator of income, but so far, so good.
Most the bikes arrived on the cargo ship into port at 8:30am, but critically some bikes are still misplaced, together with the custom carbon paddles ordered by many of the top teams. Backup paddles have been sourced, so it won’t hinder the start of the race, and Merrell’s bikes arrived this evening, but two bike boxes are still outstanding.
Logistically this has been a challenging event so far, compounded by language barriers, but the locals couldn’t be more enthusiastic or welcoming in their embrace of Expedition Africa. This evening we have even had the local TV channel agree on the spur of the moment to shift their regular programming, in order to screen the nightly live show on the following morning TV.
Excitement is building, the wind abating, the sunset breath-taking. The race is coming, the questions ever pressing, but the Mullers seemingly waltz through it all. Heidi just popped through the media room door, asking who wanted to dance to the jazzy tunes flowing across the terrace, such is the island vibe. Me? I’d be losing my cool.
And no mistake, no detail is slipping past unseen, no team shenanigans unnoticed. Behind the group camaraderie, a decade of race organising makes the daunting achievable, and the mood light. And there is still time for dance.
To follow the race live from Sunday, visit http://expafrica.live