Race Report: Jacques Buys – Nevarest 24 hour

A1 Nevarest 24hr Adventure Race

Quite an eventful weekend at the third adventure race of the A1 series, hosted by Nevarest. Not only because of the racing and challenging route but also proceedings before the race even started. 

The A1 Nevarest 24hr challenge takes us to Loskopdam forever resort and surrounding farms. With a 7am start, race briefing is held the night before and I am sure this caused for some restless sleep amongst the athletes competing. It was announced that the area covering the whole race route is rated as having the highest density of leopards in the world and as if this was not enough to get the hearts pounding, the race organizer, Greg Avierinos, casually instructed us to make sure one of the gates on route is properly closed and secured with a steel pole as the rhinos are able to open the gate. Needless to say, briefing caused some chatter at the dinner tables.

After briefing and a pasta meal, we set off to drop our bikes at transition 1. This is where the weekend’s chaos kicked off. As we entered the farm of transition 1, we completely forgot about the bikes fixed to the roof of the car and heard a crackling sound as we went through the entrance. Both mine and Malcolm Dunkeld’s bikes hit the roof of the entrance. Hoping for the best we immediately flew out of the vehicle to assess the damage done to the bikes. Malcolm’s frame completely snapped under the seatpost and my seatpost luckily gave in before the frame took heavy damage. These non-ideal circumstances called for some intense crisis management the night before the race. We managed to arrange a replacement bike to come through from Pretoria for Malcolm and used the seatpost of Malcolm’s ex-bike to replace my snapped seatpost. We had to get some sleep before the race so unfortunately we weren’t able to assess the bikes with the new modifications and Malcolm was to meet his replacement bike for the first time at transition during the race. 

The race set off with a trekking leg with a few checkpoints (CP’s) scattered in and around the Loskopdam Forever Resort on their hiking trails after which we set off onto the kayaks for a paddle straight across the dam to a kloofing section. We are quite a strong running team and managed to create a bit of a lead up to this point. We made our way through the kloof to find a spectacular waterfall at the end surrounded by cliffs ensuring a one way route to and from the waterfall. A team selfie with the waterfall in the background acted as the CP and we made our way back out of the kloof. There was a section in the kloof where we had to go through a hip height pool, Michael carried Emily on his back trying not to get her shoes wet and they both ended up taking a dip as Michael lost his footing in the water. We met team Jabberwock on our way out of the kloof and could get an idea of the gap we pulled on them. Thanks to some nifty navigation by Malcolm we took a way faster route out of the kloof to the next CP compared to Jabberwock and substantially increased our lead. The instruction of our next CP was to take a selfie of the whole team on a waterslide. The slide was not very slippery and we found it much faster to run down the slide. Emily found out the hard way that waterslides are designed for sitting down as she took a hard knock to the head coming down. After the blue waterslide CP we made our way to transition 1.

After a quick introduction between Malcolm and his new bike, tyre pressures were checked, we restocked on some High5 nutrition and we were off on the first biking leg. This leg took us through some game farms where we got to see giraffes, wildebeest and zebras along the way. Also got some upper body workouts carrying our bikes over 2m game fences and over some unrideable terrain, after all, it’s not an adventure race without a hike-a-bike section. The cycling checkpoint was situated at a viewpoint overlooking Loskop dam and the waterfall of the kloofing section. This is one of the main reasons why we do these adventures, for the views.

From the viewpoint CP it was quite a long cycle to the next CP. Thanks to some more on-point navigation by Malcolm we took a fast and flat route to the next CP and I think we made up some more time on team Jabberwock. At race briefing we were told that there would be a surprise task at this CP and we were instructed to guide a horse along with us as we searched for it. We got along quite well with our new temporary teammate and made quick work of finding the CP. From there we were off to transition 2.

A trekking leg awaited us after transition 2 containing another technical kloofing section. This was personally my favorite leg of the race allowing for some rock skipping and awesome scenery. The leopards in the area made their presence noticed as we found a relatively fresh kudu carcass on our route just keeping things interesting. After a loop of collecting CP’s it was back to transition to fetch our bikes for the next cycling leg. As we entered transition we saw Jabberwock only starting with the trekking leg. We had almost an hour lead on them at that point giving quite a confidence boost. 

 

The next cycling leg consisted of long, corrugated, sandy roads. This was a horrible section where a strong mind is needed to endure. Not really much to say about this leg…

Chaos struck again at the next transition as our map for the next trekking leg hasn’t arrived at transition yet. Our race time was stopped as we entered transition and we were forced to wait for our map to be delivered, in the process we lost the last bit of daylight. On the plus side we got to rest a bit and have a drink of hot chocolate as we entered into the night. 

CP 18… this checkpoint will stick in my mind for a long time. This was the first checkpoint of the next trekking leg. We went up and down the mountain 2 to 3 times trying to find this CP in the dark when Jabberwock caught up to us and then up again searching for the CP along with Jabberwock. Contemplating with Jabberwock, we almost got to the decision for both teams to skip this CP when someone cried out to have found it. Turns out CP 18 was about 70m off the position it was indicated on the map given to us. 

Having a 45min lead on Jabberwock because of our “time bonus” at the previous transition, we decided to work with Jabberwock to find the next few CP’s on the trekking leg. From CP20 the trekking started getting technical again with 2 CP’s against a cliff face where we had to make use of a chain to get to one of the CP’s causing some fear of height as the shear drop disappears in the darkness below us. Walking in the edge of the cliff we heard the shouting of baboons being chased by the growls of what could only have been a leopard. It sounded nerve-wreckingly close and the trekking tempo of the group increased a bit to get off that mountain. We made our way back to the bikes at transition for the last cycling leg.

The last cycling leg took us to the gate with the steel pole securing it, dubbed the ‘rhino gate’. The checkpoint within this gate was an out and back CP with the description ‘Lion Enclosure’. We didn’t find a CP board so both us and Jabberwock took a picture next to an enclosure containing white lions assuming this was the CP. We found out after the race that the white lion enclosure was not the official CP, but seeing as we were the only two teams that completed the entire route, the race organizers let it slide. The last CP on the cycling leg took us to a chalet after which we hit a very steep concrete climb on our way back to the last transition. This is where Emily shamed us all by riding past everyone pushing their bikes up the climb. We were able to make another gap on Jabberwock on the last cycling leg just before the transition and were not rushed to start with the last trekking leg back to the kayaks. Just as we wanted to leave transition for the final push to the finish, Jabberwock arrived and we were given the choice to shorten the last paddling leg from 24km to a 5km paddle. To everyone’s relief everyone agreed to shorten the paddle. To be honest, that last paddling leg was in the back of my mind throughout the whole race and I didn’t know how I was going to get through it.

We got out of transition before Jabberwock who had to do a compulsory kit inspection but shortly thereafter we met up again and navigated the last leg together to the kayaks. This was my low point of the race and I’m sure some of the other athletes would agree. This was the point where I was seriously questioning why we were putting ourselves through this suffering as we did some proper bundu bashing down to the dam through thorn bushes, stumbling over rocks and roots in the darkness, trying to find a way down. It didn’t seem like either teams’ navigators were sure of where we were supposed to be going. To top it all off, my headlight’s battery was completely drained making visibility even more of a challenge. I never thought I would ever be so happy to see a kayak in my life (seriously despise rowing).

Jabberwock, being the stronger paddling team, immediately rowed away from us towards the last CP. Michael and Malcolm towed me and Emily and we struggled to get into a rowing rhythm until the last kilometer before the finish where we caught Jabberwock off guard as they were probably falling asleep on their kayaks. When they realized we were catching up to them, the sprint for finish line honors was on. An exciting finish to a long day (and night) of racing. We were greeted at the finish line with warm blankets, beer and a boerewors roll between 5 and 6am (around 22hours of racing). I am not even going to try to describe the finish line satisfaction. If you want to experience it, go do an adventure race yourself. 

Thanks to Nevarest for an awesome event and beautiful route. Special thanks to Antonie Joubert, Alec Avierinos and Iain Peterkin for driving in the middle of the night to get our bike problem sorted before the race. And finally the team: Michael Joubert, Malcolm Dunkeld and Emily Clarke. It was awesome racing with you guys you are all machines, massive respect.