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Discussion: Expedition Africa - Lesotho

in: Adventure Racing; News

Apr 2, 2022 7:25 PM # 
Conman:
One of the best race organizations on the planet is hosting their premier event starting tomorrow at about 5am ET here in the US. Should be a great competition with a highly skilled field from all over the world...except, most notably, New Zealand and Australia as well as Central and South America. Follow along on FB or Insta as well as at the live tracking site (up in a few more hours) and let's have a lively discussion here. Who's going to win? Who else will be on the podium? Top Ten?
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Apr 2, 2022 11:30 PM # 
Conman:
Not much detailed thought about the top teams, but I'm going go out on a limb to predict Estonia ACE across the line first because they deserve a win after many ARWS near-misses over the last several years and they are a highly skilled, exemplary team. I'll give second to The Originals due to an excess of experience as well as nearly home-field advantage (which really just amounts to less time dealing with international travel). Third...400 Team Naturex due to experience with everything and their winning pedigree.
Apr 3, 2022 2:39 AM # 
Bash:
I'm cheering for Estonia too!
Apr 3, 2022 5:59 AM # 
Conman:
Teams are due to arrive into the start area at Semonkong Village in roughly two hours, per Chip Dodd on one of the buses en route. The news I've heard is that there will be a significant amount of ceremony with dignitaries and other festivities (as is typical of Heidi's amazing event planning) before teams start the donkey trek about town. If you're still awake in N.A. (it'll be after midnight for us all by the time this comes to pass), I suspect there will be some live streaming, but haven't heard or seen confirmation that this is planned. If not, there will almost certainly be video footage posted after things get underway.
Apr 3, 2022 6:44 AM # 
Conman:
Little hints dropped about dignitaries likely at the start make it seem like it might include someone pretty important...perhaps the King? We'll find out eventually, eh? The media team has also confirmed that they will try to run live FB feeds when possible, but that the cellular signals are spotty.
Apr 3, 2022 1:35 PM # 
abiperk:
Looks like the queen of Lesotho!
Apr 3, 2022 1:54 PM # 
Stijn:
I've shared the first set of maps that the teams are using on the EXP Africa Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/expafrica.net) - pretty old-school, having been last surveyed 20 years ago I think. Stephan (the RD) has made some annotations to indicate new roads etc.
Apr 3, 2022 1:55 PM # 
Stijn:
Probably no major route choices available for teams in this first leg, being hemmed in by the gorge and all, but plenty of micro-nav options in terms of taking the most efficient line down the canyon, with unmarked local path (and donkey/sheep track) options all over the place.
Apr 3, 2022 11:53 PM # 
Conman:
Well, night has fallen on the first day and it was quite a day: weather that varied from nearly perfect early on to wet and rainy as the day came to a close; a visit from the Queen of Lesotho followed by a local village prologue accompanied by the local trucks, also known as donkeys; an unbelievably beautiful waterfall and canyon descent (don't believe me? find a video or two on ExpAfrica FB page); superb media coverage from many fronts...race media with photos, videos, & live streaming as well as team media in several languages doing similar; very complex travel down a river gorge that led to all sorts of variation in route choice; and certainly more that I can't recall at the moment.

The race itself is shaping up as expected: the two top ranked teams (ARWS) are out front (Estonian ACE and 400 Team Naturex of France) along with a two other teams (Seiklushunt of Estonia and Songlines of South Africa), with roughly a 3-4 hour gap back to the chasers. The only surprise in this lead group is the young guns from Estonia, although given their home competition, it's not entirely unexpected to see them pushing at the front. The mammoth bike leg to come will kick off in a few more hours and this, I believe, is where we will start to see more separation in the field due to the huge length of the leg and the anticipated complexity of route finding.
Apr 4, 2022 12:08 AM # 
Conman:
Within the lead group, it appears that the two Estonian teams have located a track that is allowing them to move more quickly than the two others, who are lower on the slope, perhaps with a less defined and more rugged path. We'll see how it plays out over the next several tracking updates.
Apr 4, 2022 1:23 AM # 
Work4justice:
Read on FB that the mid to back of the pack teams had a big thunderstorm in the canyon which may had some teams seeking higher ground.
Apr 4, 2022 1:36 AM # 
Conman:
Has anyone seen a route book posted anywhere? Looking for details on each leg including which CPs, out of bounds areas, special instructions, etc.
Apr 4, 2022 1:38 AM # 
Conman:
Just saw a post from Heidi, who is trying to sleep along with Stefan at TA2, but apparently has been awakened by the rain coming down in "buckets". So, I suspect the rain is falling on everyone.
Apr 4, 2022 5:38 AM # 
Stijn:
Next set of 11 maps just uploaded to the EXP Africa FB page.
Apr 4, 2022 9:57 AM # 
Work4justice:
Saw the report that the bike leg is slower than normal because of the rain. Looks like the weather might improve by later Tuesday, but wonder about drainage.
Apr 4, 2022 4:15 PM # 
silkychrome:
gah i am so jealous of the donkey trek leg. i would have loved that!!!!!!
Apr 4, 2022 5:00 PM # 
silkychrome:
www.expafrica.live OR https://kinetic-events.azurewebsites.net/

(the .live site just directs to the 2nd one)
Apr 5, 2022 10:11 AM # 
Work4justice:
Oof just noticed Naturex got ahead of Estonia!
Apr 7, 2022 1:00 PM # 
glewis:
Anyone happen to catch how much sleep Estonia ended up with? They passed a sleeping Naturex in the paddle TA and never looked back, putting in a massive gap while Naturex struggled with the nighttime paddle. They made it until the next night, seemingly without any more sleep.

I enjoyed trying to follow this race, but I struggled with the tracker - anyone else? The maps looked absolutely wild, with some sections seemingly hand-drawn!
Apr 8, 2022 7:32 PM # 
Stijn:
They claimed 1h20m total in their finish line interview! All taken at T3 after the long bike leg.
Apr 8, 2022 7:40 PM # 
Stijn:
And had an impressively-clean nighttime paddle leg given the troubles Naturex had with navigation just behind them. The sleepmonsters must have been lurking...
Apr 9, 2022 1:18 AM # 
Conman:
Heya, folks. I started this thread and was watching the race closely for the first 2 stages, but have been ill for the rest of the time. Sorry to those who missed the race and won't be able to relive some of the nav. blunders and relocates via this thread in the future. Twas a splendid race with fantastic media coverage.
Apr 13, 2022 9:06 AM # 
GD44:
I participated in the race (#36 Team Endurancelife UK) and can confirm it was a brilliant one. We finished in joint fifth with Team Merrell in the end but were very close to fourth! I'd be happy to answer questions that other APers may have about the race.
Apr 13, 2022 3:46 PM # 
StrongMachine:
Congrats GD44! What was the first stage like? Terrain, navigation, weather?
Apr 18, 2022 1:32 PM # 
GD44:
Note - race maps available on www.expafrica.live. Goto to the information symbol and download maps (JPGs).

Leg 1 was the donkey trek and Leg 2 was the Canyon Trek. Leg 1 was a little bit of fun to be honest! We had to pull/persuade/push/encourage a donkey around the rural village to collect bottles of beer. We had a slow time on Leg 1 because our donkey wasn't that interested!
Apr 18, 2022 1:48 PM # 
GD44:
Leg 2
Discipline: Canyon Trek
Distance: 70km
Ascent: + 1301 M
Descent: – 1854 M

Start: T1 Semonkong soccer field
CP1: Semonkong Lodge
CP2: Start of canyon path
CP3: Bottom of waterfall
CP4: River bend edge
CP5: Inside bush – river edge
CP6: Start of small canyon
Finish: T2 Clinic

Tourist activity in the area centres on Semonkong Lodge, which boasts an attractive rural location on the leafy banks of the Maletsunyane River within easy walking distance of the main viewpoint over the waterfall. The surrounding area offers some great hiking and pony trekking opportunities, most notably the steep footpath that leads to the base of the gorge below the falls. Semonkong Lodge operates the world’s longest commercial single-drop abseil, a thrilling 204-metre descent alongside Maletsunyane Falls, offering sensational views through the spray over the gorge below. Though not an activity for the faint of heart, no experience is required as advance training is given to all abseilers on a smaller cliff close to the lodge. The single best-known natural feature in Lesotho, Maletsunyane falls is one of Africa’s tallest single-drop waterfalls, plummeting a full 192 metres over a sheer basaltic ledge into a narrow gorge hemmed in by steep green slopes and sandstone cliffs. In addition to throwing up a dramatic misty plume during the height of the rainy season, the plunging water creates a loud reverberation claimed by local legend to be the wailing cry of the souls of those who have drowned there. More sedately, the Maletsunyane River also offers some superb fly-fishing opportunities. The stretch above the falls was stocked with brown trout in the 1950s and specimens weighing 5kg are regularly snagged. Below the waterfall, the stretch of river above its confluence with the Senqu (Orange) also contains brown trout along with trophy-sized rainbow trout and yellow fish.
The remainder of the trek followed the general direction of the Maletsunyane River until we reached the confluence of the Senqu (Orange) river and we then headed upriver until we reached T2.

Leg 2 was spectacular and had some route choices which was great. The first few kilometres were on the side of a steep-sided canyon (after the amazing waterfall) and was technical. A few teams drew some blood from falling on this section. After that, it opened up a little and had route options on either bank or in the river bed.


Besides the minor route choices to CP4, the main route choice was from CP4 to CP5 (maps 1 to 3). We decided to cross from the west side of the river to the east side as we thought this would be: more direct; enable use of tracks between villages; reduce the risk of getting bluffed out at the river level; reduce number of potential river crossings. This seemed to work out for us as we popped out in fifth position (unexpectantly) at the end of this leg. We were with a large group of other teams when we crossed to the east side but they either didn't cross or fell behind.

The log from my Garmin Enduro (AR Mode) can be found here.
Apr 19, 2022 2:06 AM # 
StrongMachine:
Thanks for the beta! How come the abseil wasn't used for the race?
Apr 19, 2022 4:46 PM # 
GD44:
Nothing was said about that so I don’t know.

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