Expedition Africa 120km Adventure Race - Wakkerstroom

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Slowvelders at Wakkerstroom

Harry Wiltshire / 19.05.2022See All Event Posts Follow Event
Team Slowvelders at Wakkerstroom
Team Slowvelders at Wakkerstroom

Wakkerstroom impressed as we arrived at the spectacular race venue of the Wetlands game lodge where there were lakes, waterfalls, wildlife and birds all visible from luxury accommodation.

The Slowvelders had one team member change from Expedition Africa Lesotho 500km, with Wihan Jacobs being unavailable, we pulled in Craig Metherell of Team Jabberwock.

The Team then: Harry Wiltshire Navigator (Drama Lama ), Stephan Pinker (Wine {whine} Lama), Megan Anderson (Barbie Lama) and Craig Metherell (imported Lama)

Race time started at 9am in Wakkerstroom Main Street with a swift jog out of town and a furious 350m elevation gain scramble up to CP1 on Ossewakop. Trails were immediately ignored and the direct tiger line ruled supreme. 

Slowvelders .taking their time to warm up. summited in 5th position as Harry battled with wardrobe issues.

The hunt for CP 2 began with a ridgeline descent eastwards, a fence jump, a river wade and another sharp climb up into the mountains. This initial 11km trekking leg took us through CP2 and CP3 in close quarters with Team A2A. Down the last hill it became a full on sprint but suddenly, “poof” Stephan disappears into a Warthog hole! Slowvelders almost lost a team member on the first leg! 

We descended into T1 in 3rd position, as the leaders. Team Songlines. were exiting for the 2nd, 30km bike leg. 

Known for our long picnics at transition, we realised that with several transitions happening in this particular race, we would have to cut the woolies meal time drastically … and against every fibre in our eating, drinking, sleeping transition protocol … we transitioned in minutes, shortly after A2A.

The second leg cycle took us up and out of the game farm to the south east and quickly we were hoisting our bikes over a 2 meter game fence near CP4. I was momentarily distracted by the fabulous birding opportunities, but my team mates managed to draw my attention back to the map, and the task at hand.

Then disaster struck.I foolishly decided to swop over the map on my mapboard while still cycling and I took out Stephan and myself (with visions of Lesotho’s fall flashing before my eyes.)  We luckily came away with no serious injuries, and fuming at my own incompetence, we raced off in search of T2 and Team A2A.

In the last straight before T2 we snuck past A2A and checked in moments before them. 

Leg 3 was a 16km paddle with 2 CPs ... and fabulous water birds.

A2A exited T2 before us, and the chase was on. We linked up the boats and took on the chilly waters of Zaaihoek Dam. A2A hugged the southern shore and seemed to be on route to make a longer paddle for themselves, until it dawned on me that with the high water levels a portage was on the cards across the peninsula (thank you Dave for the guidance.) 

Through the next 2 CPs we remained fairly evenly balanced, but as we turned North East for the last 7km we linked up the boats again and soldiered onwards. Dam paddling isn’t exactly the most riveting of pasttimes, but with the super-entertaining Stephan in the boat with me, a decent amount of water birds to look at, a few 60km race participants to converse with, and A2A snapping at our heels, we managed to gain an advantage meter by meter en route to T3.  The echoes of Megan and Craig informing us that we should have done more paddle training fell onto deaf ears.

T3 was straight forward, and after a paddle bag pack and kayak load we took off into the mountains on an epic 6km trek with two river crossings and a few fun climbs. A swim short-cut option was available, but with the sun setting, frigid water temperatures and the efficiency of my water thrashing swim technique all being in question, we stuck to the land routes and ran it into T3 to prep for the next 20km bike leg. 

It was fantastic to be at transition amongst some of the 60km racers, and we had a little bit of a picnic, but we were quickly motivated onwards by A2A’s arrival. 

Leaving T3 for the second time into a spectacular setting sun we put in a few hard kilometres in the last daylight we had available! 

On the way to CP 9 we played a little game of chicken with some cows, climbed another fence with our bikes, and stopped at CP9 for warm gear and light checks. As inevitably happens one bike light was out of order and after a bit of bush mechanics we could head on out, hurried once again by the lights of the ever approaching A2A. 

There’s nothing quite like riding at night, through mud and cow poop, along what could only hint at being a long ago trail.  We eventually, gratefully emerged onto a more significant track and powered off to T4.

Tucking into our next 10km trekking leg, we went in search of CPs 11,12 and 13. 

Our first bit of fence climbing, bundu bashing and bushwhacking led us to the most amazing hidden gorge with its own fairly aggressive guardian of the CP porcupine protecting the impressive CP11 waterfall.

Once all porcupine protocols had been observed, we descended the river to CP12 and from there opted for the straight line option to CP13. This proved interesting as we regularly entered into what can only be described as 2m high blackjack forests. Here a light mist started to move in and after veering a little left and right we stomped and sloshed and beat our way through the terrain to CP13. (Gosh, the kms can go by slowly at night.)

The obvious choice from there was to hit the dirt road that we cycled in on and ‘marble rule’ it back to T4. (Marble Rule: Run only if the terrain you’re on would allow a marble to roll forward.)

Thick mist engulfed us approaching T4 and visibility became mere meters. 

Leaving T4 at 21h00 we headed out into the freezing mist and soft rain to tick off the last 35km cycle to the finish line. Cycling on tired legs towards a fairly daunting storm, lighting up the misty skies, we went in search of one more CP next to the road and one more CP outside Wakkerstroom. 

Wet, tired, cold and in need of beer we entered the Wetlands Game Lodge and were second to cross the finish line at 00h00, 15 hours after the start and sneaking in a mere 3 hours behind Team Songlines.

What a legendary race!

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