The towering peaks, cliffs and rock towers of the dramatic Mnweni-Drakensberg area will stand sentinel when the first event of the 2023 Adventure Racing World Series (ARWS) Africa Regional Circuit sponsored by Merrell begins on Friday. Expedition Africa – Mnweni is ready to welcome the teams of two and four that will compete in one of the three course distances – 60km, 120km and 200km.
The event’s base is the Mnweni Cultural and Hiking Centre, a community-run tourism project. It is from this Centre that regular visitors depart on multiday hiking routes that ascend the escarpment by any of the numerous impressive passes. With Expedition Africa in residence, this rural settlement will transform into event headquarters and a 24-hour transition area for the participating adventure racing teams.
Expedition Africa – Mnweni incorporates three course distances to accommodate those participants starting out in the sport of adventure racing, those increasing their distance experience and those preparing for the 700-kilometre Expedition Africa 2023 event in October 2023. This four to nine-day, non-stop expedition race, which will be held in the Kouga region of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, is the host of the 2023 Adventure Racing World Championship (ARWC).
At Expedition Africa – Mnweni, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and map-and-compass navigation are incorporated activities where leg distance as well as discipline and navigation difficulty scales with course distance.
This area is a hiking mecca. Teams can expect hiking legs to traverse the lower and higher foothills and, they can assume, a pass or two. An estimated nine hours for the front teams on the 200-kilometre course to complete a 38-kilometre hiking leg is an indication of the difficulty of the terrain and gradient of this area. This is a wilderness area where trails are unmarked, and cattle and foot trails score the foothills. Trails higher up can be indistinct or non-existent.
“Mnweni is such a spectacular area,” says Heidi Muller, Event Director of the Expedition Africa events and CEO of AR World Series. “This is one of those untouched, rural locations, which can be hard to find. Traversing a wilderness area is at the heart of adventure racing.”
“It is a privilege for us to go to a place where we can really challenge those teams preparing for the AR World Championship in October, but also work in other routes and shorter course distances to build the skills and experience of newer teams in the sport of Adventure Racing.”
The adventure of the ARWS Africa Regional Circuit is shared by its sponsors. “Merrell footwear has embarked on a journey with Kinetic Events to sponsor the ARWS Africa series events,” says Liezel Jooste, Marketing Manager at Medicus Shoes, the importer and distributor of Merrell footwear in South Africa.
“We look forward to ‘Share the Simple Power of Being Outside with Everyone’ at Mnweni this coming weekend.”
Teams in the 200-kilometre race will set off at 17h00 on Friday evening. They will push to make as much use of the remaining two hours of daylight on the first hiking leg before cloak of night hides all visual features. Those lining up for the 60km and 120km events will set off at 07h00 on Saturday morning.
Teams carry a SPOT GPS tracking device so that family, friends and interested ‘dot-watchers’ can follow their progress day and night. Note that as the courses have route sections in common, online tracking will only be visible from 05h00 on Saturday morning to prevent the 60/120km teams from seeing where the 200km competitors go. Check the race social media platforms on Friday night for updates on the 200km teams.
To watch the race unfold at Expedition Africa – Mnweni and follow the live tracking at www.expafrica.live and visit Expedition Africa’s Facebook page facebook.com/expafrica.net and Instagram profile @ExpAfrica over the weekend for updates, photos and results from the race.
Expedition Africa – Mnweni is the first of five events in the ARWS Africa Regional Circuit. At the end of March, Expedition Africa hosts another event in Hermanus. After this, event hosting falls to other organisers with events in Port Elizabeth in April, Montagu in mid-June and the Wild Coast in late July.
Expedition Africa 2023, this year’s AR World Championship event, takes place on 16 – 29 October 2023 and is also the Africa Regional Championship for 2023. At all events, teams are awarded points according to their finishing position. These points count towards an ARWS Africa Regional Championship ranking and the opportunity to win an entry to the 2024 AR World Championship in Ecuador.
Event: Expedition Africa – Mnweni
Date: 24-26 February 2023
Location: Mnweni, Drakensberg, South Africa
Course distances: 60km, 120km, 200km
Start times: 200km: Friday, 24 February 2023 at 17h00
60km & 120km: Saturday, 25 February 2023 at 07h00
Team format: pairs and 4s
Live tracking: www.expafrica.liveFacebook: facebook.com/expafrica.net
Schedule of the 2023 ARWS Africa Regional Circuit sponsored by Merrell
24 – 26 Feb 2023: Expedition Africa – Mnweni, Drakensberg expafrica.net
24 – 26 March 2023: Expedition Africa – Hermanus, Western Cape expafrica.net
21 – 23 April 2023: Mammoth Woodridge AR – Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape adventureracing.co.za
16 – 18 June 2023: No Frills, No Fuss – Montagu, Western Cape www.nfnf.co.za/homepage/races
28 – 30 July 2023: Merrell Transkei Tuff, The Haven, Wild Coast www.aloeadventures.co.za
Africa Regional Championship 2023
16 – 29 October 2023: Expedition Africa 2023, host of the Adventure Racing World Championshipexpafrica.net
Learn more about the ARWS Africa Regional Circuit at arworldseries.com/africa