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6 Tips for Expedition Africa Newbies

6 Tips for Expedition Africa Newbies

Regular Country Life contributors Fiona McIntosh (left) and Shaen Adey (right) of the Merrell Mentored Team.

The Baviaans and Kouga region will be hosting Expedition Africa 2017. Shaen Adey was part of the Merrell Mentored Team that completed the 520km Expedition Africa 2016. She reveals what’s in store for 2017…

On 19 September 2016, it was announced that Expedition Africa 2017 will take place in the rugged Baviaans and Kouga regions of the Eastern Cape.

Expedition Africa is part of the Adventure Racing World Series, one of 11 adventure races held around the world. Teams of four, which must include athletes of both genders, will navigate an unmarked 500km route on foot, mountain bike and in kayaks.

In the tradition of adventure racing the route will remain secret until race day, only estimated distances will be released.

The Baviaans Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will be the highlight of the route and Cape St. Francis will be the host town. The Baviaanskloof Mega-Reserve covers 200km of unspoiled, rugged mountainous terrain.


Expedition Africa 2016 was held in the Garden Route with 52 teams from 18 nationalities competing. A number of curve balls were tossed at the athletes, from swimming freezing cold canyons and tidal river mouths to abseiling sheer 50m cliffs – often, since the clock doesn’t stop, in the dark!

Unlike most teams which tended to have three guys and one woman, in the Merrell Mentored Team only our mentor was male. Celebrating at prize giving, Fiona McIntosh, Sarah Hearn, Hanno Smit and Shaen Adey.
Day one, teams navigating along the coastline between Knysna Heads and Buffels Bay.
Mountain biking along a dirt track up to the transition in the late afternoon.
Teams passing a Cape seal on Robberg Nature Reserve with The Island in the background.
The Merrell Adventure Addicts pushing through the night whilst fighting sleep monsters.
The Merrell Mentored team on the AfriCanyon abseil near Plettenberg Bay. Athletes had to cross an intimidating pinnacle before dropping down to the river below.
Silhouette of a team in the caves mouth below “The Castle on the Cliffs”, a totally private nature reserve on the Plettenberg coastline.
The Merrell Adventure Addicts in the freezing cold water of the AfriCanyon near Plettenberg Bay.
Tatum Prins and Graham Bird of the Merrell Adventure Addicts team were one of only 2 boats - out of 104 to successfully surf into the beach at Goukamma. The rest of the fleet all swam.
Grant Ross and Donovan Sims paddling up the Goukamma River.
Tempted? Here are Shaen’s 6 tips for Expedition Africa newbies
  1. Train hard, every drop of sweat now will mean less tears and more fun down the line.
  2. Pack light; super light, you don’t want to be lugging a bag of potatoes over a mountain, either in your pack nor on your waistline.
  3. Make a promise to yourself not to whinge once, it will help you cope if you happen to hit the wall or if a team mate falls apart at the seams.
  4. Do a twenty four hour non-stop race before the big day, push hard, in fact push yourself out of your comfort zone for most of the race. It will give you a good indicator of your strengths in the team and where you still need to focus.
  5. Once the route is released, make a list of exactly what you need to pack into your bag at each transition and stick it inside the boxes lids as your brain will not think clearly after day or two without sleep.
  6. Pack some fruit into the transition boxes. Race food gets tedious after a day or two and you’ll crave something fresh.
Day one, one of the few boats to make it to shore without rolling.
Paddlers hanging onto their paddles after rolling in the massive waves at the Goukamma. This paddling section was soon cancelled by NSRI and any athletes not yet in the water had to run along the beach - and incur a penalty.
A view of competitors on the ridgeline of the AfriCanyon abseil.
Cyclists navigating through long stretches of the Karoo on their mountain bikes.

The Merrell Mentored Team crossing the finish line, Shaen Adey, Fiona McIntosh, Sarah Hearn, Hanno Smit

Words: Shaen Adey

Pictures: Bruce-Viaene, Peter Kirk Media and supplied

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