Mind Games And Loads of Bull
Navigation is key in AR. We know that. With all the mental pressures in this race due to its complexity, teams are employing whatever means to take a breather.
After the via ferrata, where Blizzard had pipped Greener Adventure Team (GAT) to the cables, GAT decided to take whatever opportunities possible to follow Blizzard, rather than forge ahead on their own. It would help relive mental pressure on themselves, and apply it on Blizzard. This possibly explains why they were so close on subsequent stages, and in a post-race interview, Blizzard actually claimed their navigation was superior.
Cut to the final trekking stage. For 3 CPs, GAT simply followed directly behind Blizzard. They reached a house. Blizzard walked around the house. GAT walked around the house. Blizzard went around a second time. GAT did the same. Blizzard stopped, flummoxed, then sat down to eat. GAT opened their bags, sat just across from them. Both teams eating in silence, staring at each other. Infuriating!
It wasn’t vindictive, of course. As Cecelia said afterwards, the two teams just don’t know each other, as people. That may no longer be the case, as Greener Adventure Team went over to congratulate Blizzard on their second place, after they crossed the finish.
It’s not uncommon for checkpoints to get cancelled midrace, but ever heard of the cause being Mad Cow disease? Team TSU Zotters went for a dib of CP66 but a mighty beast would have none of that. It charged them, they scattered, Nikki Smit fell into thorny bushes. Retief Coetzee tried to distract it, fend it off, literally grabbed it by the horns. The bull tripped, Retief tripped, it fell on him. Injured but luckily no bones broken.
Stephan joked it might be about the red bibs. Imagine having to endure hundreds of ‘matadors’ traipsing across your turf – you’d start raging!
They had to retrieve a fallen helmet. Went one way around a hut, the bull headed them off. Ran around the other way, the bull headed them off. Cat and mouse until they managed to sprint past to grab it.
Merrell Mentored Missiles and Nyamezela were also charged, and it nearly got them.
Retief was x-rayed but only bruising, and he rejoined his team. They chose to miss T8 on Coco island. Feeling bullish, they think they can finish. I saw them on the abseil at dusk today, and Retief looked normal, though his new nickname is Bull’s Eye.
Addicted2Adventure biked into T9 while I was there. They’d had an interesting abseil at CP87. Jolene and Thinus Matthysen have long hair. Jolene has ponytails, Thinus lets his flow free. I think. It was hard to tell, because they both looked recently shorn, and quite a rough job at that.
Here’s what they learnt from the abseil: figure-of-eights and rope don’t gel with hairy people. Abseiling at the same time, somehow they both ended up with hair snarled into the eights, and unable to move up or down. They yelled up at the rope operator, who didn’t speak English, for a knife. Much confusion. Eventually he lowered one down on another rope, which they used to hack themselves free. If they’d dropped another 30cm, the force would have gone directly on to their roots, and it would have been the first time anyone in Expedition Africa had been scalped.
They showed me their retrieved pelts. Thinus said his was enough to make a floor mop. He could be right.
Many teams were preparing for the final paddle, this time T9 to T10, but with the added bonus of taking their bikes with them. Some carried 4 tightly packed midships, upright. Others removed wheels, to maximise space. A few teams went for the stacked pancakes approach. Bloed & Omo G4K4 took the novel idea of two pancakes at each end of the boat. It looked neat, but how do you steer if no-one’s in the stern? I said nothing.
Tomorrow the outlying transitions will be closed, with the 6am cutoff at T10 in Port Mathurin the goal of many teams. If they are too slow, the first option given will simply be to skip the last bike leg, going straight on to the trek. At some point, even the trek CPs will be dropped, with those tail-enders trekking straight to a shortened SUP, so that they can finish on the mellow paddle.
It’s all starting to wind up, teams are keen to be home, the salt and sogginess have taken their toll, but generally teams are stoked with this latest Muller creation. The race has been tougher than most anticipated, but that hasn’t been a bad thing. The bigger the suffering, the better the memory imprint, right? ðŸ˜‰