Having just returned from another eventful recce trip to Madagascar, I can honestly say, it's not for sissies! The place is the epitome of adventure! Each day had it's surprises and going there in the rainy season ensured a different set of challenges to deal with. The reason - The Red Island Ride, a week of mountain biking adventure in Madagascar. Singletrack, dirt roads, zebu tracks, footpaths, old cobbled roads, mountains, rivers, rain forests, rice paddies - its all there and waiting to be ridden.
Riding motorbikes in the rainy season may not seem very smart but it was the fastest, most efficient way to cover the difficult terrain, where dirt roads became quagmires and 4x4's were quickly reduced to a crawl. While finding the routes for each day wasn't easy in these wet conditions, the bikes allowed us to look at various options in one day and find alternatives if there was just too much water across our intended path. Having the event in the dry season (August) will ensure great riding conditions for mountain biking, with cooler weather and dry tracks.
The country offers spectacular scenery, literally around every bend and amongst all this natural beauty live one of the friendliest nations on earth. From the welcoming smiles and waves of the children as we passed through remote mountain villages, to the easy going nature of our hosts in the cities, Malagasy people were always kind, gentle and friendly (even the police who stopped us at a roadblock were courteous!).
We had the "paparazzi" with us this time, (Andrew King and Kelvin Trautman) to capture the place and it's people and to document some of the adventures behind the scenes. They came away with a few terabytes worth of images and footage which showcase just how special Madagascar is. Look out for the results of their work when the race website launches and the entries open in March. (go to www.redislandride.com for more info.)
If you sign up for this one, you'll need to be fit and ready to spend long days in the saddle but you'll come away with an unforgettable experience - a unique journey through an amazing country and a guaranteed adventure in an magical place.
The Freedom Challenge
The Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa is an "unsupported" non-stage mountain bike race of approximately 2,300 km across South Africa. While recent winners have won in around 11 days, the race cut-off is 26 days. The race starts in Pietermaritzburg in early-to-mid-June, and ends in Paarl near Cape Town. Temperatures are known to drop as low as minus-10 deg. Celsius. While there are periodic "support stations" which will feed and accommodate riders should they require, the race is unsupported in the sense that riders must carry their own clothing and equipment, are responsible for their own maintenance and navigation (without the aid of GPS), and there are no marshalls or safety officials on the course (Race monitoring is done by satellite tracking). Estimates of cumulative ascent are around 37,000 metres, and the highest point on the route is approximately 2,700 metres above sea level. See the following link for an introductory slideshow by Mike Roy - http://mg.co.za/multimedia/2010-02-04-extreme-endurance-the-freedom-challenge