Swazi Xtreme ends on a high note

The 9th edition of southern Africa’s longest running adventure race, the Swazi Xtreme, came to a head this week on Monday, April 27th. Twenty five teams of adventure racers took part in the event, and achieved one of the highest finishing rates ever in an AR in Africa.

Once again, this year’s field of Swazi Xtremists got exactly what they bargained for: 60 hours of exhilarating adventure. Dawn on the 24th of April saw an enthusiastic posse of athletes surge from the boma at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, thus signalling the start of Swazi Xtreme 2009. The celebrated multi-sport challenge started off slightly differently this year, with teams running along hippo paths and dirt roads on the first leg, and with no idea of what waited for them beyond the Checkpoint One.

They encountered the first curveball of the event at the Mlilwane gates, where they got their ‘missing’ map and boarded a bus into Mbabane. An urban orienteering segment saw teams scatter throughout the city, but then it was back to basics as the teams trekked into the mountains around the capital. Racing at a blistering pace, the top teams navigated their way via a caving section and onto a pumping rafting leg.

A boat-chomping Grade 4 rapid at the weir caused a fair amount of thrills and spills, and cooled off the competitors before they slogged into a massive mountain trek. The action continued unabated with a lake swim in full kit, plus a furious paddle in search of Optional Points (OPs) along the dam shore. Day One was finished – as were some competitors – on the bikes, with the Pro Teams cycling way into the night before banking a few hours of compulsory sleep in the forests of Mhlambanyatsi.

Although the 250 km route was this year dominated by mountain biking, racers trekked through a combination of luscious middle-veldt, high-lying grassland, savannah woodland and pine forest. A cliff scramble and hikes onto the exposed rock domes overlooking the Usuthu River added to the dramatic race route, while the white-water rafting and caving segments made sure the adrenaline kept pumping for the full 60 hours.

The race format adopted last year saw racers balancing risk and reward as they opted for maximum distance over the race window of 60 hours. This innovative approach shifted the focus from the usual ‘shortest time takes podium’ approach, instead compelling teams to go all out for maximum distance till the clock stops. Route choice, although determined by compulsory Control Points (CPs), were varied by the teams in order to add to their overall distance by gunning for as many optional OPs as possible.

Although it would be no easy task to pick a single highlight from Swazi Xtreme 2009, the finishing stage through the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary must rate high on the emotional radar for the majority of competitors. Breathtaking views from atop towering Nyonyane (or The Rock of Execution); then a gut-thumping downhill onto the grassy plains below and a finally a speedy cruise home amidst zebra, impala and wildebeest – it surely does not get much better than this!

A smaller-than-usual field did not deter from the enthusiasm suffusing this unique event, and it was clear from the word go that the Pro Event would be dominated by a face-off between reigning champs Cyanosis and the McCain Adventure Fanatics. With first-string Adventure Addicts resting for the Bimbache Extreme in Spain, it was up to Bubbles, Cobus, Craig and Donovan to fly the flag, and the certainly did a sterling job.

In the end, however, it was the unerring navigation of Nicholas and the consistency of his team mates, Clint, Ryno and Susan who saw them home with 94 points (out of a possible 95) as the deserved winners. McCain steamed in with 91 points, while Aieesh.com took the Sport Event with 52 points over 2nd-placed Gijima’s 50 points.

Three days and two nights of uninterrupted racing offered an excellent window on the many action options on offer here in ‘The Kingdom’, and this outdoor experience is sure to bring many racers and spectators back for another taste of Swazi. Organiser Darron Raw once again maximised the country’s breathtaking landscape: “We believe strongly in AR being an adventure and not just an endurance slog, and we hope the little twists and turns in this year’s event offered a window on the stunning tourism options the country offers”.

The Swazi Xtreme is organised and underwritten by Swazi Trails, Swaziland’s leading tour operators. The company has been leading the pack locally since 1987, and continues to promote Swaziland’s extraordinary adventure industry to an ever-growing global travel industry. Other sponsors are Airlink Swaziland, http://www.swazi.travel, Times of Swaziland, Swaziland Tourism Authority and http://www.ar.co.za

For info on the Swazi Xtreme and its various sponsors, check out these web sites -:

Event Information – www.swazixtreme.co.sz
Travel Sponsor – www.swazi.travel
Airline sponsor – www.flyswaziland.com
Web sponsor – www.ar.co.za
Media Sponsor – www.times.co.sz

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~ by Lisa de Speville on 30/04/2009.

 
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