By Lisa de Speville
In a jam-packed hall at the Port Edward Holiday Resort, 40 teams and loads of crew and volunteers were warmly welcomed to the 2014 edition of Expedition Africa by race organisers Heidi and Stephan Muller on Friday.
The evening opened with singing and dancing by local performers – a taste of traditional culture from the South Coast.
Heidi, always warm and sensitive, asked racers participating in their first 500-kilometre adventure race to raise their hands. There are many of them this year.
She encourages them all to keep going and to get to the finish.
“And during the race, maybe you know where you are, maybe you don’t… Look up at the stars. I want you to feel adventure racing in your heart.”
Heidi and Stephan have both done many expedition-length adventure races; they have experienced what the teams will go through.
“Anyone doing 500 kilometres out in the wild like this… You are special. It’s not normal,” she continues, still speaking to the first-timers. The teams laugh – a bit nervously.
“After the race when you go back to work and your friends and your family, they won’t understand. But every other person here… they know.”
And that’s the essence of this family called adventure racing – including those of you following this race online. You know too.
The CEO of South Coast Tourism, Justin Mackory, stood up to say a few words and welcomed the teams not just to the South Coast, but the Greater South Coast region.
“We’re not just the coast. Our hinterland is as gruelling and challenging and just as exquisite – as you’ll see.”
Stephan then took over, calling up each team to walk across the stage and to pose for an official photograph.
The teams thoroughly enjoyed their introduction to Xhosa, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages.
These phrases deemed ‘useful to adventure racers’ were pronounced for the teams by Richmond, a Xhosa-speaking South African. He works with Heidi and Stephan in Johannesburg. The teams understandably had difficulty with some…errr…most of the words.
Teams were given their race books, which have distances, disciplines and instructions for each leg. They have to pack their bike boxes tonight to have them ready for loading at 06h00. From 08h00 to 10h00 the teams will be involved with a community project where they’ll teach children from a local school how to paddle.
Even though South Africa has entered its winter season, the South Coast is warm and mild. We’re expecting sunny conditions (it was raining before today) with highs in the mid-20s (Celcius) and lows in the mid to upper teens. The Mocambique Current warms the Indian Ocean on this coast so even in winter the water is pleasant.
After this community project the international teams that still need to get food will have the opportunity to clear the shelves in the local supermarket and from 12h00 teams will register.
Then, from 17h00 on Saturday teams will have equipment check and only once they’ve passed through the check will they receive maps for Legs one, two and three.