Team Lonely Planet at the Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge
In 1000 Ultimate Adventures, Lonely Planet’s third book in the 1000 Ultimate… series, we list the Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge in Australia as one of the world’s best adventure races. This epic, multi-day, multi-discipline race is Aussie Formula 1 driver Mark Webber’s major fundraising event for the year, and takes place in one of the most beautiful corners of the world: Australia’s island-state of Tasmania.
Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. Image c/o Tourism Tasmania & Andrew McIntosh, Ocean Photography.
Competitors in teams of two or three cover more than 350km during the five-day course, by mountain bike, kayak and foot – and, just in case anyone’s feeling a little too relaxed, ‘special disciplines’ are thrown at the teams to take them out of their comfort zones, such as white-water rafting and abseiling. So, when the opportunity arose for Lonely Planet staff to really bring 1000 Ultimate Adventures to life, we couldn’t wait to step into the breach. We’ve each been to Tassie before, and experienced a little of what it has to offer – from trekking the Overland Track, to flying in a sea plane down the Franklin River – but this new adventure is going to be a different experience entirely.
Although we’re both life-long sports lovers, this is going to be our first adventure race.
Georgie and David training in You Yangs National Park, Victoria. Image c/o Georgie Leslie / Lonely Planet.
It’s quickly become apparent that reading blogs from previous years’ Webber Challenges, as well as interviews with our future race rivals, isn’t the best way to instil confidence in two newbies. Comments from professional (read: Olympic) athletes along the lines of ‘it’s going to hurt but I just want to complete it’ spurred us into a six-days-a-week training regime of running, cycling and kayaking, with gym sessions and crash-courses in navigation thrown in for good measure. And we’ve each eaten a large amount of food. An embarrassingly large amount of food.
Strahan village and waterfront, Tasmania. Image c/o Tourism Tasmania & Dan Fellow.
Now it’s crunch-time. We fly to Launceston today (Tuesday 26 November), and tomorrow the racing commences. Over the next five days we’ll be covering approximately 70-80km a day (that’s assuming we don’t get lost…) around areas like Strahan and Cradle Mountain, with the final day taking place in the vicinity of Hobart. One of Tasmania’s local beers at the iconic Henry Jones Art Hotel is definitely going to be needed by the time we cross the finish line on Sunday! Check in to this blog to see our updates and photos as we complete the challenge, and if you’re in Hobart on Sunday, please come along and cheer us down the home-straight.
David Gorvett and Georgie Leslie work in Lonely Planet’s Asia Pacific Sales & Marketing team.
To follow Georgie and David’s progress minute by minute, check out lptasmaniachallenge.tumblr.com.
Team update #4: challenges and the home straight
Day four was one of our toughest days yet. Its first two legs were a relentless 16km mountain bike ascent to the (almost) top of Mount Field, and navigating an 18km Alpine run among the clouds. We couldn’t help but occasionally pause to admire the panoramic views of stunning tarns and lakes dotted around the National Park, and to take in the local flora and fauna.
If we wanted to make the 4pm cut-off for the day’s kayak leg, we had to get back down the mountain (much more fun than going up), find and collect five checkpoints in a five-km sprint-orienteering leg, and then hightail it 14km to the kayak transition area along one of the few tarmac roads we’d enjoyed all week. The initial bike ascent took a lot out of all of us, and a dehydration scare for Georgie around 7km into the run left us wondering if we were going to need to call in the chopper. Thankfully she caught the signs relatively early, and we managed to push through the next couple of legs. The descent from Mount Field and orienteering leg went well, but we still arrived eight minutes late, and disappointingly had to miss the last leg of the day – a paddle through the River Derwent’s rapids.
The fifth and final day of the challenge started at the top of chilly Mount Wellington. At least the picture-perfect views over Hobart and the surrounding waterways distracted us from the icy temperatures. Over the next few legs we boulder-hopped, sprinted and rode narrow trails before descending for the final 12km paddle of the event. As we rounded the corner into Long Beach and heard some cheers from sun-bakers, our hearts leapt a little as we realised we only had one final 5km run to go. We were euphoric as we came down from Battery Point, through the location of Hobart’s famous Salamanca markets, and onto the harbourfront. Crossing the line outside the Henry Jones Art Hotel was spine-tingling.
The event is over, our bodies have survived, and we’ve been fortunate enough to explore one of the world’s most beautiful corners. A huge thank you to everyone who made this possible.
That’s one of our 1000 Ultimate Adventures ticked off…just 999 to go!
Team update #3: wet on Tassie’s west coast
The third day of competition began with all 70 competitors lining up on the side of a cruise ship in picturesque Strahan Harbour, before jumping into the 12ºC water and swimming to shore. The day ahead of us included six transitions, with three kayak legs, two mountain bike legs and one run, covering around 70km in total (assuming no wrong turns…). We weren’t looking forward to two of the kayak legs, which were to take us through Hell’s Gates, a notorious channel between two headlands where eddies and whirlpools form.
The run leg saw us hunting for checkpoints in sand, mud and thick scrub, and stumbling across the occasional whale bone whitewashed by the elements. Unfortunately, our navigation let us down and we ended up accidentally picking up an optional checkpoint, thinking we were on the opposite side of the island. We later discovered that the hill that flummoxed us was ironically called Mount Obvious.
The final bike leg took us along trails of deep sand, with occasional flashes of beautiful coastline.
All up, nine-and-a-half hours on the go!
Team update #2
Our second day saw us lining up for the starting klaxon at 7am, gearing up for a short, but hilly, 10km mountain bike ride to Dove Lake, which stretches north from the base of Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain.
After kayaking on Dove Lake, we changed into dry shoes and socks for an 8km run, during which we decided to pick up our first optional check point (CP) for a 70-minute time credit.
After a 4km sprint orienteering section and a mountain bike trail ride, we crossed the finish line and transferred to Strahan, where we’ll be tackling Hell’s Gate in one of our kayak legs tomorrow. Hell’s Gate is a notorious section of water full of whirlpools and eddies. As kayaking is our weakest discipline, our nerves are high at the moment…
Team update #1
We were told that the day’s first activity would be a ‘mystery event’ – and no one guessed it would be wood cutting! After a quick lesson, we had to cut through two trunks of Tasmanian pine before jumping on our bikes and starting the course for day one.
Thanks to a couple of navigational errors around Mole Creek and the surrounding National Parks, we saw parts of the State Forest that other teams didn’t get near. We covered more than 55km by mountain bike and a further 11km trail running, ascending and descending some of the steepest hills we’ve ever tackled, finishing with a 14km paddle.
Today’s highlights were spotting an echidna; David nearly fainting on the physio table; and spying some of the elite teams only a few hundred metres ahead of us after a hill-run (they soon left us for dust though). We crossed the finish line in a little over nine hours, and after we finish marking up our maps for day two, we plan to hit the sack ahead of a 5am wake-up tomorrow. Cradle Mountain, here we come!