Words: Lisa de Speville
Adventure racing is a bit Survivor does Amazing Race; but no-one gets voted off the island, competitors participate in teams of four and they don't get to travel on planes or in cars. Feet, mountain bikes and kayaks will transport these rugged competitors over 500 kilometres of South Africa's South Coast during the 2014 edition of Expedition Africa.
Next week, 40 teams of four from 17 countries arrive in South Africa and begin making their way to the Port Edward Holiday Resort on the South Coast. They're here for the 500-kilometre Expedition Africa multi-day adventure race, which starts on Sunday, 25 May 2014.
Adventure racing is an outdoor sport that sees teams navigating by means of map-and-compass to defined checkpoints and transition areas. It's incorporates multiple sports where each transition area marks a discipline change, say from trekking to mountain biking or paddling. These are the sport's three main disciplines; there's usually a rope section too where participants go up, down, or across a steep and challenging section.
Expedition Africa is a non-stop, multi-day organised by Heidi and Stephan Muller. This husband-and-wife pair raced together for a decade, competing in expedition-length races locally and abroad. They presented their first Expedition Africa event in the Port Alfred area in 2012; in 2013 the event took place in the Drakensberg.
"The South Coast has so many elements that the teams will appreciate. The coastline is dramatic, there are dozens of rivers, hundreds of animal and foot paths and it is definitely not flat," says Stephan.
"We think that the foreign teams will especially enjoy the rural aspect and passing through small villages. This is something that they just don't have in their countries."
Friends, family and adventure racers around the World will closely follow the race online. Teams carry tracking devices - their blips can be followed day and night. Attention will certainly fall on the New Zealand team, Seagate. They're ranked second in the Adventure Racing World Series and they have extensive experience.
Winners of the 2013 edition of Expedition Africa, Haglofs Silva (Sweden), return to the race again; as does the American team, Tecnu.
They'll be up against highly competitive and proficient South African teams. Both Merrell Adventure Addicts and Team Cyanosis have competed - with excellent results - in other Adventure Racing World Series events abroad, including World Championship events. Also keep an eye on teams Black Diamond, Castle Lite, Olympus, Jabberwock, PennyPinchers and Warriors. They're sure to have a good showing.
The wolf among the sheep may indeed be Team Painted Wolf. The Collins brothers, John and Mark, haven't raced for many years but they're made of the right stuff and back in the early 2000s they competed abroad - most notably in the 2002 edition of Eco Challenge, which was held in Fiji. Their team finished fifth. The guys are event organisers themselves; they're behind the well-known The Otter African Trail Run.
Their lack of current adventure racing experience may be the only thing against them. Teams now are fitter, faster, stronger and smarter than they were in the mid-2000s.
The Russian team NoNameSport.ru will be the first team to arrive; they check in this Sunday. Throughout the week teams will gather in Port Edward, eagerly awaiting the Friday night Opening Ceremony, where they'll receive their maps and race instructions.
With sunrise just before 07h00 and sunset around 17h00 the teams are in for short days and long nights. But, on the bright side, the weather should be sunny with highs in the mid-to-low 20s and lows in the mid-teens. Light showers could be on the cards.
Expedition Africa can be followed online through insightful race reporting, Twitter feeds and Facebook posts. Live satellite tracking brings the teams into your living room and the race organisers, Heidi and Stephan Muller, request that they're not held responsible for diminished productivity at work and extremely late nights during the week of the event.
Expedition Africa makes its base in the town on Port Edward with teams staying before and after the race at the Port Edward Holiday Resort. The event has been warmly welcomed by Tourism South Coast.
• Event: Expedition Africa
• Location: Port Edward, Kwa-Zulu Natal. SOUTH AFRICA
• Distance: 500 kilometres
• Duration: around four days for winners; eight days for backmarkers
• Dates & times: Opening ceremony and official team introduction: Friday, 23 May 2014, 19h00
• Community project: Saturday, 24 May 2014, 08h00-10h00
• Start: Sunday, 25 May 2014, 07h00
• Prize giving and dinner: Saturday, 31 May 2014 at 19h00
• Final cut-off: Saturday, 31 May 2014 at midnight (161 hours)
• Teams: 40 four-person, mixed-gender teams
• Countries: 17 countries represented. Participants from South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Ireland, Namibia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and USA.
• Visiting media: South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Portugal and Sweden.
• Follow online: Live tracking, team information, feeds, leader board, photographs, daily videos: www.kineticgear.org
Event Organisers: Stephan and Heidi Muller. Kinetic. www.kineticgear.co.za.
Adventure Racing World Series: www.arworldseries.com
Media enquiries can be directed to Lisa de Speville, , 082 936-2509.