De teams krijgen het flink voor hun kiezen als ze door de dichtbegroeide bush en het steile terrein van Leven Canyon en Reynolds falls moeten. De teams vechten tegen de kou als zij paden langs glibberige rotsen trotseren, door diep water moeten zwemmen en abseilen langs een waterval. Daarna Leg 6: een 60KM trek richting Lake Mackintosh, gevolgd door Leg 7: 8KM in een 4 persoonskajak. Peddelen over het meer met een schitterend uitzicht en dan Leg 8: nog eens 20KM in een kajak. Heftig!
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Dit verslag, geschreven door Rob op 4 november om 13:10 lokale tijd, is geplaatst op de XPD website:
The race is now really spread out, and getting more so by the hour. On the third night of the race about 10 teams remain above Reynolds Falls and have been advised to camp for the night and descend in the morning. Among them are BART, the Belgian team, who rang the organisers to say they had gone off route into deep bush. They just wanted to let them know they were OK, but that it might take a day or so to get themselves out!
Teams who had completed that first trek and the following paddle stage, moved onto the next MTB ride, and after the rigours of the previous stages this one put smiles on some faces as it had a lot of highlights. In the early stages there was a sweeping single track descent and teams then found themselves on the old tram railway line which passed the islands highest waterfall, Montezuma Falls.
This track (The North East Dundas Tramway) was built in the 1890’s when the area they were riding through was mined for tin, gold, lead and zinc which was transported to Zeehan some 15 kilometres away. To maintain an even gradient the track is 3 times this length with 60 bends and it was a considerable construction feat at the time. For the teams today it was a joy to ride with its even and level gradient contouring through the rainforest. With no route choice worries they could enjoy the ride and the view of the 300m high falls … and the crossing of the new suspended footbridge below them. This was very narrow, so teams had to push their bikes raised up on the back wheel, and as they crossed it swung alarmingly from side to side!
After this excitement there was more even gradient on another disused railway line into Zeehan, and then a faster road ride down to the mid-camp at Strahan. (Pronounced ‘Strawn’.) This was set up on the local sports field with transition once again in the sports hall and the checkpoint in the cricket pavilion. Tents were set up for the teams to sleep during their mandatory 6 hour stop, and these were right across the far side of the field … because the rest of it was too soggy. (It’s a carpet of waterlogged moss so I’ve no idea how they play sport on it!) There was also a hot meal here for all teams (a big breakfast fry up) and they had to wash off their bikes and rucksacks … and hand in their socks! During the day teams spread their kit out on the grass to dry in the sun, and even slept outside as it was so hot in the tents. By nightfall however it was still chilly, though nothing like as cold as previous nights.
After resting the leaders left Strahan around midday at a fast pace, running strongly up the beach at the start of the next trekking stage, which begins with a run along the coast. They are now racing towards the dark zone on the long paddling stage, and don’t want to arrive there in the middle of the night, only to see the chasing teams catch up with them while they sit out the dark zone until daylight. To get there in daylight tomorrow evening is a tough challenge, which may not be achievable … but they have set off at pace to try and make it.
Australian team Blackheart came into Strahan and before they checking in they realised they had passed the last two CP’s on the ride! They turned back to get them, which cost them an extra hour … and this had implications for later in the night. There were more bike troubles to come for some teams as well. Both the lead teams have derailleur problems and Silva’s is currently fixed by a free toothbrush given out on their flight here! Another Swedish team, FJS, have a broken derailleur and worse have cracked the frame – they were looking for some glue/tape to try and fix it.
Both Thule(3rd) and adidas Terrex (4th) hurried to reach the navigation challenge at Henty Dunes before darkness fell. Here the teams use a satellite map to find CP’s in the huge dunes and Tom Gibbs the navigator for adidas Terrex knew this would be much harder after dark, so he was hustling his team to race there. They succeeded, and it was a good tactic. The teams who followed, including the luckless Blackheart, spent a long time searching in the dunes. They were with Buff Thermocool and were later joined by AXA Sport and Quechua.Tomorrow once again promises fine weather, which will help all the teams, from those making their way down to Reynolds Falls, through to those racing to beat the dark zone on the final paddling stage.