RACE REPORT: A1 Adventure Race Series South Africa [RACE #2] – KeyHealth Nevarest 36HR

“A journey of discovery and exploration.”

Pilgrims Rest was the Race Venue for the second race of the Adventure 1 Series. Set in the majestic Mpumalanga Region and nestled in the expanse of the Blyde River Canyon and surrounds, the challenging course highlighted the diverse terrain and tested the strength and endurance of the 11 participating Teams.

The historical mining town was a melting pot of activities during the Gold Rush in the late 1800’s and certainly has a treasure of hidden secrets for adventure lovers. The prospect of discovering new opportunities and having new stories to share about this region drew a strong parallel to the history of the area. This had teams both excited and overwhelmed at the start line at 05:00am (SAST)

The course layout provided the opportunity for teams to discover unique landmarks and unexplored territory. Race Director Ruan van der Merwe said. “This region special. Teams will see the incredible mountains, valleys and plains each providing amazing views. We have only scraped the surface of this area – there is so much more out there.”

The course showcased each of these particular sections over a distance of approximately 185 km divided into 8 Legs. Disciplines were evenly balanced with a total of 62 km trekking/canyoning, 110 km mountain biking and 14km kayaking.

The Teams were given many route choices in their navigation and planning which made for interesting dot watching. With over 5300m of climbing and some technical trekking/caving sections in the mountain bike legs, it certainly required focus and determination over the 36 hours.

Teams moved well on the course in close to perfect racing conditions and were on target to complete the predicted times set out by the Race Directors. The night navigation and technical sections through the canyon (LEG 5) slowed down the teams which resulted in many teams falling behind the anticipated race times.

Race Director Greg Avierinos suggested that – “Another factor which slowed teams down was the lower water levels in some sections on the kayak leg with teams having to portage many more times along the river”

The Orienteering section (Leg 6) had teams collect CP’s around Pilgrims Rest – most of which were historical landmarks allowing the athletes to gain some insight into the history of this famous town. CP33 was placed in the local famous watering hole, Johnny’s Pub,  whilst another placed in a cemetery at the site of Robbers Grave. It was also an opportunity for the local residents to engage with the concept of Adventure Racing and they were fascinated by the Teams running around in the town.

Another highlight was CP10 set at the foot of Lisbon Falls and the Blyde River valley and required teams to navigate a 30 m cave section in order to reach it successfully.

Special moments in the canyon section (Leg 4) would have seen teams enjoy views from the Famous ‘Gods Window’ and ‘Window Rock’ – sought after viewpoints by many adventurers.

This was a journey of discovery and exploration for all the teams and many teams shared detailed experiences of the race.

“This was an amazing course and we loved every minute. What a fantastic adventure” said Team Jabberwock’s world-class ultra-distance trail running star Ryno Griesel.

Congratulations to the winners KeyHealth Nevarest Team on their well-executed race strategy earning them 1st Place and valuable series points.

First time Race Directors and experienced Adventure Racer Ruan van der Merwe and OCR Elite athlete Greg Avierinos put together a very well organized and challenging event. They certainly encompassed the spirit of adventure and delivered a top class event.

Visit The Adventure 1 Webpage for additional series information and current points standings.

Race #3 in the Adventure 1 Series sees the venue move to the picturesque region of Kwazulu Natal and will be hosted by Cyanosis Adventure Racing Team.

The event will take place from 4-5 August. Entry details can be found here Cyanosis Midlands AR  

Craig Giese is an Outdoor Adventure Photographer and Media Content Developer from the Eastern Cape, South Africa