South African team Merrell continues to rile the dot watching audience of the Adventure Racing World Championship. The course has definitely turned out to be the most brutal yet, the winners now expected in at least one and a half days later than anticipated, and less than a third of teams possibly finishing the full route.
The team fell behind yesterday in the kayak leg and then pulled back to second place. Pictures will show that this is not due to lack of paddling talent – they tactically used this 50km section as the Sleeping Leg, taking it in turns to rest on the boats while continuing to move as a team at a pace assisted by the 4km/h river.
Following the torturous 30hour trek leg over the mountains bordering Bolivia, this rest was necessary to ease the strain on their feet and bodies, which are also swollen and blistered from the unavoidable insect onslaught. Refreshed, they quickly made the transition back to trekking gear and marched through the night with their backpacks and paddles to pick up the pack rafts for what is predicted to be the most difficult section with tricky navigation through 56km of featureless swamps.
They should be enjoying an incredible array of animal sightings, as the area is densely populated with the exotic inhabitants of the region. It is inaccessible by any manner other than the way in which they are doing it – part of the allure of adventure racing. All the teams have been plagued by excessive insect bites and stings, resulting infections, badly blistered feet and hands, sunburn and dehydration. So far, the race has been one of survival with competitors engaging a low gear to move consistently rather than with speed that is impossible in the sweltering heat.
Merrell’s experience and tenacity should keep them up as strong contenders to claim a podium position for the third time this year at international events.
The Facebook page of Merrell Adventure Addicts has updates. Pictures are limited as upload from the Pantanal, when possible, moves at the speed of a sleeping sloth. More will be published when available in the next few days.