Team Uncharted’s Kinetic Double Moon AR report

Team Uncharted’s Free State adventure

by Wiehan van der Merwe

The Kinetic Double Moon 250km Adventure Race, sponsored by Salomon and held over 11 – 12 March engraved some great memories into not only my mind, but I am sure a lot of other adventure seekers’ minds too. Team Uncharted, consisting of Wiehan and Lizelle van der Merwe, Alex Pope and Steven Erasmus took on the race held in the Eastern Free State (Bethlehem, Fouriesburg and Clarens).

Upon arriving at the venue we were handed our two race gear boxes which were full of goodies! This included a great Salomon jacket, some energy food bars and a bunch of other stuff. We were shown to our tents, already pitched and equipped with two mattresses with a little chocolate on. It was like booking into a B&B! After team introductions, a thorough race briefing and plotting of our maps we were off to bed.

We soon found out that the race consisted of the following legs:

  • · Leg 1: Orienteering Run (7 OPs to be collected in any order over approximately 14km)
  • · Leg 2: Orienteering Paddle (4 OPs to be collected in any order over approximately 5km)
  • · Leg 3: MTB Cycle (3 CPs over approximately 65km)
  • · Leg 4: Trek/Abseil (6 CPs over approximately 18km)
  • · Leg 5: MTB Cycle (3 CPs over approximately 67km)
  • · Leg 6: Trek (3 CPs over approximately 10km)
  • · Leg 7: MTB Cycle (2 CPs over approximately 35km)
  • · Leg 8: Kyak (2 CPs over approximately 20km)
  • · Leg 9: MTB Cycle (2 CPs over approximately 17km)

A nice and early start at 5am Friday morning saw at least 58 headlamps taking off in different directions. As Alex’s game is orienteering, we managed to hit all the OP’s in great time on the first hike leg of approximately 14km. The next leg, an orienteering paddle of 5km, also went really well and we managed to have a small lead over the other teams when we got onto the first cycle leg.

After a quick transition we took on the 64km cycle. Alex was reading the map with Lizelle hooked on behind him. As my batteries were a little flat after the first two legs, I was holding on to Steven to get me up the hills. We managed good time on this leg and arrived at Fouriesburg transition area just ahead of the Salomon pair.

It was now about 11am and after a fairly quick transition we were off to the epic hike, a ±18km trek over some mountains. We made a minor mistake heading downstream to CP6 in the kloof. We realised the mistake soon and turned around to go back up stream. (A quick thank you to PS Hawkstone, who also made this small error and retrieved Steven’s sunglasses from that section!) Alex with map and compass in hand almost tiger lined us to both the remaining CPs and back to the abseil.  Before we started with AR you would barely get my wife, Lizelle, up a chain ladder like that in the beginning of the hike, here she did even the abseil on the other side in good form!!

We had a slightly more relaxed transition before getting on the bikes for the next 67km cycle leg. However, we soon picked up the pace as we realised that we needed to use as much of the daylight as possible, as this leg followed the Caledon river on the Lesotho border and over a mountain pass to Clarens. We were trying to be very careful not to miss the mountain pass as we were sharply warned to do.  We did over shoot it but fortunately Alex’s O-instincts warned him after 5min of going past the first turn-off. We turned around and found the grassy turn up to the mountain pass. By now I had my 2nd of 4 flat tyres! Not a single flat on any of the other bikes, just four of them on mine in a space of about 5km! I felt so special.

After carrying on for a while up the pass we met up with Team Jabberwock. Cobus van Zyl was looking for the left turn to switch back up the mountain pass. He and Alex brain stormed a bit and we decided to carry on, shortly after which we managed to find the turn up to the left. What a relief! The hike-a-bike mountain pass took quite some time. The dark was a blessing on the one hand, not being able to see how high we still had to go, but on the other hand it also made coming down on the other side very slow going.

To great relief we reached the lovely guest house in Clarens at about 01:20am and we had a slightly more relaxed transition. We found out that Jabberwock, who arrived here well before us, was taking an hour’s nap at the guest house. However, we felt strong and decided to take on the 10km hike after replenishing with some food and hot tea. We left the guest house at about 2am with the team spirit nice and high. When we came to the split of the two hiking trails, the sign to the right that said “Mountain Hike 2 hours” sort of made sense, however we trusted the sound judgment of our navigator and took the “Hiking trail 1 hour” to the left. We wondered on cracking a few good jokes (which was probably some poor jokes but given the time of night we had a good laugh) only to later realise that we now had to cross the river/stream and find a way up over some daunting cliffs.

A few cliff hanging manoeuvres, some pushes and pulls and nervous moments we were at the top of the mountain, where we wanted to be. It was then that we saw Jabberwock coming strolling along the hiking trail to the right whistling and singing happy songs as they go along. We opted to tell ourselves that we just wanted to take the uncharted route (pun intended). This hike proved to be quite tough with allot of ups and downs. With the three CPs in hand we came down just in time to enjoy a beautiful sunrise over Clarens!

It was now about 06:00 and our transitions became even more relaxed as we found out that we didn’t have another team hot on our heels. However, every time we went out we pushed and gave it our best. We had a great and uneventful 35km cycle to Saulspoort dam outside Bethlehem for the last 20km paddle leg.

It was with disappointment that we realised that none of us packed hats in Gear Box 2. So we slapped on some sun cream and armed ourselves with Buffs to keep the sun off. The highlight of the paddle must have been when a ±4kg carp jumped out of the water and almost knocked Alex of the boat!  Wow was he surprised!  Here Steven became quite witty and chirpy. I think it was his last attempt to try and stay awake. He, in his sleepiness however, showed very good form and paddled like a pro. The paddle was also quite epic, going basically to all three corners of the dam. We were off the dam at about 12:30pm and had a quick transition before heading out on the 17km cycle home.

With high spirits we were off back home, scraping up the last CPs. Team Uncharted were the third team to cross the finish line at 14:15 Saturday afternoon after 33h15min of racing. This gave us a Mixed Team win! We are very happy and grateful for our result.  We were treated to a fantastic breakfast on Sunday morning as all the teams sat and shared their war stories.

Our team worked together perfectly! It was such a pleasure to race with these guys and I would do it again at the drop of a helmet.  Alex was spot on with his navigation and managed time lost due to errors to a minimum. In addition he was such a strong work horse and pulled much more than his own weight. Steven was a ‘Unit to recon with’ and such a good race partner.  He remained positive throughout and worked really hard to contribute to the entire team’s progression. My beautiful wife, Lizelle, was as positive and determined as always! Thank you Lizelle for showing so much vasbyt even when we could tell you were in some pain.

A very big thank you to Stephan and Heidi and all their marshals for a top class event! All the effort you have done does not go unnoticed.  From the tented village (with a little chocolate on our beds!) to the very cool trophies and detailed race book made all the hard work evident. Thank you very much to Salomon for sponsoring our great sport. Very well done and thank you to all the other teams who also support AR!  You’re all legends. I really want to express my sincere gratitude to my Lord and God who has not only given us the opportunity, ability and venue J to do this event, but has also protected us throughout, including in some hair raising situations. No adventure like knowing You!

Race Results:

Official Mixed Teams

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Male Pairs

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Mixed Pairs

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Male Teams

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