There were multiple teams coming and going, which is a good sign one is in the right area. However as a team you never want to give away the exact location of a CP. By this point the light was fading and while other teams were around you could be right next to it not know. Every point in AR is plotted on the map and is accompanied with a written clue listed in the race notes. CP17 had “20m north or stream confluence” or something similar to that.
Being Fiordland, everything is wet, with thick bush and low visibility therefore the whole landscape looks like a stream or bog…. NOT HELPFUL. We now had our headlamps on and were trying to find stream coming into the main stream to then go 20m north from there. Mix this in with other teams coming and going. Some banter going on with other teams. Then keeping a watchful eye on them, making sure they don’t suddenly disappear a sure sign they have found it and leaving the area. But at the same time not playing follow the leader because they only know as much as you. Add to that we hadn’t slept in close to 24hrs.
For the life of us we couldn’t find 17. We were feeling turned around and even unable to ascertain where we were at that point in time. With thick bush and now post sunset, the river had so many twists and turns that left us thoroughly confused.
After a team meeting we decided to leave the area, go get some sleep and come back in the morning and re-attack. So reluctantly we left there totally demoralized and dejected. We walked/bush whacked back to the trail and back to the hut way back where we had got off the river all the way back around 2or3pm earlier that day. We arrived back at the hut around 2am and therefore had spent about 10-12hrs looking for this one CP.
Not a good feeling!
We slept uncomfortably in the hut with lots of distractions of other team coming and going for about 3hrs. We awoke to be the only team left in the hut and decided to have another team meeting. There was not a consensus of thoughts and feelings about what we should do. We still had a long way to go on this section. Probably about another 48-60hrs left on this section of some very difficult terrain.
This is where it got awkward and difficult, because you always have to go with what the majority decision is for the team. Some wanted to continue others wanted to “Short-Course” ourselves. This would immediately put us essentially out of the race and we would be continuing only as “Unofficial”. This would be a very concrete decision and from which we wouldn’t be able to change. We were effectively skipping about 100km of this trek/pack-raft section to go directly to TA3.
What do you think this did to the morale of the team? There wasn’t a good feeling. While we had daylight and would be able to go back to the area where CP17 was and should have found it relatively quickly and then move on with the rest of the race being still Full Course. This was not the feeling.
I should say at this point for the sake of the recounting this race as a race report there will be more written on this but only in the last chapter, so save your opinions & judgements til then… Keep you reading and interested.
Meanwhile, we decided to pack our stuff and head towards TA3. This still meant a 40+km trek along the Coastal Track to the east of us. This was an all day trek which was done in beautiful sunny weather.
We arrived at TA3 early evening to be eagerly welcomed by a large TA of lots of race volunteers. This didn’t help us feel any better knowing that their applause was not warranted as we had just skipped a big chunk of the course and hardly deserved considering the “choice” we had made. As we punched the CP at the TA we were greeted by race officials who told us they were going to hold us there while the legit leading team came through and we could potentially be there for 36hrs… GULP. That just made us feel worse. Effectively we had arrived there too early and even though now we would be sent of a slightly different course than the full course teams they weren’t prepared to have a short course team arrive there so early.
And so we sat… well and got some well needed sleep. While we didn’t seep well that night we did get some good rest. The next morning saw the leading team (full course) come through. It was hard to watch this and I personally didn’t really hang around to see. We did spend our time in the TA cleaning our bikes and getting them ready for the time when we would be allowed to leave.
After talking with Adam (Race Director) we were told we would be allowed to leave at 6pm. Making it about 22hrs that we had spent in that TA. By this time about 6 or 7 full course teams had come through and about 4 teams that had short coursed themselves with us where all eager to leave by that by 6pm time.
This all meant that now we would be on a different course and that included an approximately 180km MTB ride to Lake Manapouri, we would not get to complete some of the other highlights of the course including Percy Pass (MTB), paddle the western part of Lake Manapouri, trek over the Kepler Mountains and finally a 3?km paddle to the finish line. We would get to MTB the Rowallan Forest, which was the first challenge as we left TA3. This proved to be more difficult than it looked and in the dark presented a lot of challenges. Challenges that we encountered with numerous other teams too. We still had over 24hrs of racing left to complete.