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1999  Elf Authentique Adventure

 

 

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Caterman to Tacloban


 Between April 16th and 28th 1999 David Ogden competed in this fantastic race in the Philippines.
Here is his competitor's diary. For further information contact him at seadogs11@hotmail.com
 
Day 1  | Day 2  | Day 3  | Day 4  | Day 5  | Day 6  | Day 7  | Day 8  | Day 9  | Day 10  | Day 11  |  Day 12

Day 1

Leading up to the start in Caterman on the canoeing stage, Stuart our Leader was concerned that I was very quiet, this was because I was running over in my mind what I thought the next ten day held and how I was going to cope. I knew it was the biggest challenge I had ever undertaken. We were the first team to set up our canoes on the beach and took pole position right by the start flag! The more the tension mounted in fact the more relaxed I became and three minutes before the start the team formed a circle hugging one another in support of what lay ahead. The gun went and we leapt into action carry our canoes across the coral reefs for 400 yards until we could reach the water we then strapped ourselves in with spray decks and were off in the middle of the fleet, the sea was quite rough and before long most of the other teams had passed us, we carried on along the coast before turning up into a river which would lead us eventually to the first checkpoint. On the way up river we spotted a shortcut and left the main river following another team, later on towards the evening we rafted up to have tea and whilst we were doing so, the racing snakes (Team15) passed us (they could not understand how we had got ahead of them) darkness fell and we switched on our lights and continued on towards the checkpoint where we arrived at about 2100 hrs 3 hours ahead of our expected time. We were looking forward to a hot meal and a rest our logistics team had set up a shelter for us, however the organizers had decided that the camp had to be cleared by 2300 so we were forced to continue on our way into the jungle...The first stage of canoeing some 48 km now over and having been feed and watered we set off into the jungle following a path to the main national highway. By the light of our torches we passed Water buffalo and wild pigs, we met another team who said that they could not find a decent path and were returning to the first checkpoint to rest the night... we decided to press on and eventually we heard the sound of disco music the beat pulsating through the night air, we decided to seek out its source and imagine our surprise as suddenly in front of us was a concrete patch some 4ft wide... The National Highway! We followed this into the local village where a party was taking place and we were invited to join in, however as we wished to be on our way we requested a guide. Some guide this fellow turned out to be as he led us in a circle over a period of three hours, crossing marshland with water and mud up to our thighs, not a very good start, we dispensed with his services and spent the night outside the village sleeping on the national highway covered with a plastic sheet to protect us from the rain.
 

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Day 2

In the morning 0500 we set off once again across the marshes via the villages of Taylor and L'Empon where we stopped at a shop to buy sprite and the owner offered to heat up water to prepare a meal of rice and corned beef, this went down a treat and some two hours later we were once more on our way. Arriving at checkpoint 3 Paco, we were surprised to find members of the Philippine Army where searching for us as we had been reported missing (our two hour meal break...oops). We decide that we would stop here for the night even though it was just midday as the marshland had been strength sapping. A local family offered us a room and to cook for us. The main street was a sea of mud, but once up in the hut, which was built of stilts we had a chance to change into dry clothes. We where a source of great curiosity and before long a huge crowd had gathered to watch our every movement, in fact when night fell we had great trouble in closing the shutters as they even wished to watch us as we slept! We all slept on the sleeping mats provided by our hosts sharing a large mosquito net (never been four in a bed before, *laughing* but this was to be the norm for the whole raid.
 

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Day 3

We had a good nights rest and started earlier 0500, not a nice feeling wringing out wet and muddy socks and putting them on. We had arranged a guide for the next stage and set off in good spirits knowing that we should make up time on the other teams, as the guide in question was one who set out the route. The route involved a lot of climbing to reach the village of Tarabocan and we were glad of the services of the guide as at one point we would have missed the right path, in fact two teams ahead of us did take the wrong path, so once again we were beginning to go up the rankings from 19th- 17th position. We rested at the checkpoint over lunchtime and the two teams that got lost arrived. Whilst resting we watched the locals grinding their rice crop, and we were offered roast bananas. After lunch we set off without a guide for the next checkpoint. We mainly were walking/wading along the riverbeds and during the afternoon made a costly mistake, instead of following a river, we left the river and took a path high into the jungle after an hour of walking/climbing the path ended we were lost! I climbed to the summit of a nearby hill to see if I could spot a path but to no avail, so we retraced our steps to the riverbed. On checking our compass we realized that the river was in fact heading in the direction we wanted so we followed it to the next village arriving as night fell. I had been suffering from a cold and sore throat since the beginning of the competition and my shoulder damaged during roller blade training was becoming sore as a result of the weight I was carrying. Team spirits were at an all time low, that evening we decided having washed the mud from our clothes in the street and after been fed on rice and corned beef, to hold a council of war and decided to through in the towel at the next checkpoint in the morning.
 

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Day 4

The morning dawned and I felt very emotional not wishing to face up to the fact that as a team we were going no further. We only had a few miles to go to reach the next checkpoint, Stuart walked ahead and I followed some 50 yards behind with Nita & Callum a further 50 yards behind. No one spoke; in fact I had tears in my eyes from a sense of personal failure. We were a sad sight arriving at the checkpoint. Stuart went to the organizers to say that we could go no further and requested that we abandon the race. A doctor came and checked me over and gave me more antibiotics. Stuart returned in due course to say that even if we abandoned the race we still had to walk out of the jungle some 50KM, as there was no other transport. He also said that the race organizer Gerard Fusil was coming to meet us. So we lay down by the path and waited....... Whilst we were waiting for Gerard Fusil, another team came down from the village where they had been resting, if anything they looked in a worse state than us, the French girl in the team appearing to be absolutely shattered. After a little while they hobbled off once more into the jungle. Some time later with no sign of Gerard we took up our packs and set off once more, just as we were leaving Gerard arrived so we returned and spoke with him for some time, he urged us not to give up and suggested that if we made the decision to take up the Discovery Route, which meant missing out on the first caving section, he would take our heavy caving equipment to the next assistance point for us. We asked if this would give us any penalty and he assured us he made the rules. Gerard also arranged a guide to accompany us to the next checkpoint. In some ways I was sad to continue, because the first cave is very scenic and at the end there are a number of waterfalls to jump down, which I felt would be the highlight of the trip, however at least we would still be in the competition. We set off with renewed vigor our packs seeming almost weightless as in addition to the caving gear we jettisoned our cooking stove, hammocks and unnecessary food!. The trail led to riverbeds which we followed stopping on the way at the villages of Maybayag and Mabuhay before arriving at checkpoint 6 Gayondato at around lunchtime. The press was also at this checkpoint and it was nice to be able to find out news on how the others were faring and to learn that all teams were finding it tough going. The French team who we had seen earlier looked completely exhausted and I believe shortly afterwards that they with drew from the competition. We left this checkpoint now in 21st position in good spirits and began a long climb up a waterfall some 1,500 ft. Near the top the path/riverbed divided, and a group of soldiers was camped, they directed us to take the right fork, however we explained we were not going to the caves and so took the left fork, when we got to the top, a group of 25 armed soldiers overtook us and went on ahead, looking back we noticed that 3 more were following us. This was to be our escort as we were in Guerrilla country on the eastern side of the island. The countryside here was lush and green with rolling hills covered with banana, peanut, and rice plantations, the ground underfoot becoming drier. We eventually passed through an agricultural college in the middle of nowhere, where our army escort stopped for the night, we told them we were going to continue to the next village. They said they would meet us there for a beer. We arrived at the village and looked for somewhere to buy Coke, however none seemed to be available, then the army arrived and next minute the captain had called on the village headman and arranged for us to sleep in his house, in addition Coke and other food miraculously became available, it seems the village headman was an ex soldier. We ate and drank well that night and our host agreed that in the morning his daughter would guide us to our next checkpoint..
 

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Day 5

The day started with a breakfast of rice and corned beef with plenty of sweet coffee. The Headman of the village decided that he would be our guide so we set off on our long walk to the next checkpoint where we would be meeting our logistics team and be changing our mode of transport back to our canoes. The day was fine and warm even at 0600 in the morning and the countryside consisted of rolling hills, the road/path as usually was fit only for buffalo pulling laden sledges, however the mud was mostly dry so that we made good progress to checkpoint 10A Buenos Vista where we arrived at about 0800 and stopped for a coke before crossing the Gandara river to be met by the Logistics team. During the next two hours we had time to relax and swam in the river, then started to prepare our canoes for the next section 100Km of rivers and open sea. By 1000 having eaten an earlier lunch we launched our canoes into the river and set off to the cheers of the local villagers. The day was very hot and we made frequent stops at riverside villages, where we would request Coke or Sprite which was brought down to the waters edge so that we did not need to get out of the canoes! The best way of cooling off appeared to be to dip our caps into the water and then put them on so that the water ran down our necks. We were amazed by the people lining the banks and cheering us on as we sped past saying” MOWPIE” (good day in the local language). As the day drew on we realized that we would not have time to reach the first island off the coast so we stopped early at checkpoint 11. We were the first of seven teams to arrive at the village and so had the pick of the accommodation. This proved to be most palatial and we even had a soft mattress to lie on after being served a sumptuous meal with beer! to celebrate the fact that we were climbing the rankings and now in 17th Place. The French timekeepers remarked to us that the village seemed to burst into life with our arrival and a carnival atmosphere spread to the other teams as they arrived during the evening. We consulted our charts and soon realized that the next part of our journey via the offshore islands to the Calbiga River would need two days to complete so we planned to get as far as we could the following day. We arranged to cash in a 30min time bonus that we had earned at the beginning of the race by lending some spare paddles to other teams. This meant that we could start at 0500 instead of 0530. We went to bed in good spirits (beer) in preparation for the longest day.
 

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Day 6

Bright and early we were up and about, it had been raining during the night so the first job was to empty the canoes, another team was also making an early start and were first into the water and soon disappeared into the early morning gloom. We were not far behind and made our way carefully down river until it met the sea. We had to skirt our way around shallows and fish traps before setting course to the first Island. Our progress was quite slow as the tide was against us and up ahead as the dawn broke we could see the other team. We reached Bangon Island (checkpoint 12). We pulled up on the beach as the other team was departing and before long five other teams that had caught us up joined us. We set off last in this group heading for the next checkpoint, where there was a beach bar run by an Englishman, all the teams stopped here for refreshment before leaving in a group. This next part I will always remember because for the first time in the competition Stuart and I were completely in tune, (in more ways than one) and as we ploughed our way to the next island we pulled past all the other teams including one who was a world class canoeist. As we reached the front we started to sing "Rule Britannia" followed by "Jerusalem" and "Swing Low Sweet chariot" an English Rugby song. The other teams had no answer to our challenge. The only sad part however was that Nita and Callum could not keep up with us either, so before we reached the next Island we had to stop and wait for them and three of the other teams passed us once again! We just could not believe the progress we were making, the weather was being kind with us as the sky was overcast. We began to realize that at the rate we were going it would be possible to complete the sea section before the 1730 curfew, which would result in us completing the canoe stage in two days as opposed to the planned 4 days. This was great news and we kept our stops at checkpoints to a minimum apart from the final Island (checkpoint15) here we rested for 20mins ate bananas and drank sprite. I was beginning to tire at this stage however I knew that we must complete the two hour sea crossing to the entrance of the Calbiga river before 1730. We pulled our canoes across the island and launched for the final time, the wind was rising and white horses were becoming more prominent on the sea. The entrance to the river was meant to be hard to find but thanks to good navigation we hit it on the nose 1 1/2 hours later. The tide was dropping which resulted in us having to battle the currents in order to reach the assistance point 16 where we would meet our logistic team. We moored in the mangroves and ate our tea and were joined shortly afterwards by a French team. We decided that as darkness was falling and I was exhausted that we would tie the two canoes together one behind the other with Callum and Nita leading this meant that I could take occasional rests. We kept to the inside of all the bends in the river as we canoed past villages on the riverbank, all the time being shadowed by the French. At one stage we had to make an emergency stop when a fallen tree blocked our way. We met the Logistics at around 1930 that night (I never wish to see that canoe again!) They led us through a sea of mud through the campsite and up to the Jeepney, where had food had been prepared. After eating we returned to the quagmire of the campsite where we washed off the mud in buckets outside the tents, before stripping off our wet clothes and going to sleep in the tents.
 

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Day 7

We had an early morning start once more donning our damp competition gear and wading across the sea of mud up to the road (yes a proper road) where the Jeepney was parked. The next task was to gather together our essentials (safety equipment) and emergency food together with all our caving gear, so once again we would be well loaded. We then grabbed a quick breakfast and set off for the caving section. The countryside around here was undulating hills with rice fields and banana plantations. The race instructions were not to clear as to which of the many paths we were to take, we spent a lot of time trying different ones which all ran in the general directions of the mountains. The path we chose actually ran out and we were forced to proceed across country, which was quite hard going, eventually we decided to follow the ridges of the hills and were lucky to pick up a new path. As the mountains drew closer we knew we were on the right path because we passed an Army patrol. The path became steeper and steeper until we reached a ridge with a small clearing on it; here there was a choice of paths. There were signs that each of the there alternative routes had been used by others, so each of us started to check along the routes. I chose the path, which descended the steep hillside; this seemed to be a likely candidate as the entrance to the Caves was at the bottom of a sinkhole. Suddenly I met someone from another team coming the opposite way, the path went nowhere. I retraced my steps back to the ridge and we then all set off along another path.  We were skirting a large sinkhole and the path was quite precarious, in many places it was easy to lose ones footing which would result in a fall down the mountainside. We reached a rock outcrop and the path disappeared, we then adopted our usual course of action, spreading out and looking for a new path, after some ten minutes I picked up a new trail (we learnt later that one team spent 33 hrs to cover this stage), which led us downwards to the huge entrance to the cave, which was at the bottom of a limestone cliff, the mouth of the cave was some 200ft high.

  There were three other teams at this checkpoint preparing for the caving and the French marshal offered us some hot coffee which was most appreciated. We donned our caving equipment and once this had been checked set off into the cave- more mud, we could not believe it mixed also with bat dropping, so you can imagine the smell !!!. We made slow progress and ahead of us we could see lights of the other teams. Eventually we came to a section where a rope was provided for us to climb up to a higher gallery. Once at the top we entered a huge cavern, which was filled with Limestone outcrops, which we had to traverse. The organizers had warned us to follow the left hand wall in order to take the correct cave to find the exit, if we took the wrong cave we would be lost (one of the organizers had become lost the previous day!) Remembering the advice we climbed on with Callum leading. We came upon two people from another team who asked us the way back to the rope, as one of their teammates needed assistance. Shortly afterwards we met the first of 5 teams returning, saying that they were lost and there was no way out. We did not believe them, as we were sure we were in the right cave and persuaded each in turn to come with us and try again. Some of the teams had been in the caves since early morning and were short of water and their lamps were running out. We came upon the person who needed a doctor and was suffering from a panic attack. He was unwilling to continue so we left him with water and one of his team and continued on our way. We finally met a German team who said they had reached the end of the cave and there was no way out! We had come so far we were not going to give up now, according to the instruction the way out was on the left hand side, and sure enough we came across a cameraman! (He had been waiting for six hours for our arrival). Beyond him was a small hole, which led into another cave, which was rigged with ropes for us to climb out. The five of six teams that we had guided showed their appreciation by allowing us to leave before them, however the German team pushed ahead of us much to the disgust of all concerned. Once in the fresh air, it was raining so we made our way quickly down the path to meet our logistics team who were going to carry our caving gear back to the next checkpoint. Whilst we were with the Logistics the German Team passed by having taken the wrong way yet again. We set off once more and a bit later on found a rough road, which we decided to follow, instead of jungle paths, the route, was longer but we could move faster as darkness fell. We approached a village and were inquiring in our usual manner for accommodation, when the German team arrived demanding a place to sleep, we gave them short shift and told them in no uncertain terms that they should look elsewhere as there was room only for four. We then settled down for the night content in the fact that when we left the cave we were in SEVENTH place!! Two good days in a row we felt on top of the world!
 

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Day 8

Another early morning start with a breakfast of rice and bread, then we set off towards the next checkpoint beside a river. Before leaving had to attend to calls of nature, as there were no facilities in the house, it was a matter of heading off into the jungle and making use of banana leaves! We had arranged for one of our hosts two children to accompany us to the river. What had been a good road the day before soon turned into the normal quagmire, the road was very busy with groups of people carrying bananas, rice and other essentials on their heads and also on sledges pulled by Buffalo picking their way through the mud. The German Team had left before us, and it was with some amusement that when we turned off the main road onto a smaller path, we could see that the other team had continued straight on. The path led gradually down hill and before long we could see the river valley and the river twisting its way down with waterfalls and rapids. The area became more lush and just before the checkpoint we bade farewell to the two boys. We washed in the river by the checkpoint and whilst doing so checked the depth, a few yards from the shore it was very deep. Not wishing to get wet we approached two small boys who were playing with a dugout canoe and persuaded them to carry us one at a time across the river. Once on the other side we started to follow the river upstream towards a large waterfall (The next checkpoint, sorry forgotten what number). This proved quite difficult as at times we were scrambling along the bank of the fast flowing river. Eventually we reached the next checkpoint and sat down for coffee with a French girl who was manning the checkpoint. After coffee we went to the riverbank to look at the waterfalls and the way in which we were to cross. The river was flowing very fast and at the deepest part a safety rope, which we could hold onto was provided, the water was waist deep, the track that we were to take actually meant crossing the river using the stones at the edge of the waterfall, on a couple of occasions I lost my footing and slipped. We then began some 40KM of climbing through the jungle up to some 500metre in height, this proved to be the most difficult part of the adventure, as we were keeping up with the leading teams many of the paths appeared to be little used and quite often we wondered if we were heading in the right direction. The day was quite hot and much energy was consumed finding our way passed outcrops of rocks, Callum, Nita and Stuart all ran short of water and began to become dehydrated, towards evening we were caught by the Malaysian team, one of the teams we had assisted in the caves. We came upon a shelter and stopped for a meal (The Malaysians heated water for us as our cooker did not work), nearby was a stream so we were able to refill our water bottles .The Malaysians lit a fire (whilst collecting firewood I picked up a piece of wood with a huge Spider on it) and after resting for a while said they intended to continue through the night. We wished them well and settled down for the night (only our second night sleeping rough). Stuart was not well at all and was shivering even when tucked up in a survival bag, it seems the lack of water during the day was the cause of his discomfort. We dosed him up with pills and hoped he would feel better in the morning. I wrapped myself in a mosquito net then covered it with a survival blanket and soon fell asleep.
 

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Day 9

The following morning Stuart seemed to be much better but still a little weak as we prepared to leave camp we heard voices and before long the Malaysian Team returned down the track. It seems that they had got lost and ended up spending the night some 10 minutes away. They also reported that another two teams were also nearby and having difficulty finding out where the path was. All the teams joined together pooling our resources as we attempted to decipher the maps (which did not show all the paths) we tried to use GPS systems, however due to the lack of clear signal it was not very accurate. There was supposed to be only one track through the jungle, so the fact that we had passed a number of temporary shelters led us to believe we were on course. There was a small river marked on the map and when we found this, it was a question of knowing which we should head upstream or downstream, the teams split up searching for clues but could find none! Eventually we decided that the path should not follow the river and attempted to find another path. It took us half an hour to pick up the track again, and then we were all on our way. Throughout the morning we continued to climb along the mountainside and gradually the teams became spaced out again. We began to hear the sounds of helicopters nearby so knew that a checkpoint was nearby and shortly before lunch we emerged into a clearing, which proved to be the checkpoint on Mount Asgard. The organizers provided each of the teams with ingredients for a hot meal. We rested a while and then set off once more to descend the mountain back to the river system. We thought this would be the easy part, however it proved to be quite hazardous as the paths were very slippery and there were a number of vines and trees with sharp hooked thorns and prickly spines. One of the thorns slashed my water bottle like a razor blade, and a number of times I cut my hands as I reached out to steady my self from slipping down the muddy paths. We eventually reached a large river which appeared to be flowing in the direction that we wished to go, we followed this for some time at times wading in the river up to our chests and at other times using paths to avoid deep water sections, there were a number of waterfalls that we had to scramble down which were quite tricky as the rocks were slippery. Suddenly and a little unexpectedly we arrived at the next checkpoint, which had been moved further up the river as a result of the leading teams having difficulties in this part of the jungle which resulted in them setting off their distress flares. It was just after 1530 and we were advised that we could go no further that day as we were to travel by Banca (an outrigger canoe) and due to the rapids on the river this could not be done at night. We were somewhat annoyed as if we had arrived 5 minutes earlier we would have been able to continue, no one had told us of this time constraint! In the village we were provided with a hut for ourselves, this proved to be the poorest of all the villages we had passed through, however we were soon provided with the usual coffee and rice. Before darkness fell we took the opportunity to rinse our clothes in the river before changing into dry clothes for the night. We had enjoyed another good day and were still keeping up with the professional teams!
 

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Day 10

The morning started quite misty and once more we changed back into our damp clothes (no mud on them today). After one false start, we were looking for Banca’s (outrigger canoes) to take us down the river and were wrongly directed to unofficial ones; thankfully a cameraman was filming us and received a radio message asking where we were. Two men who were to paddle and pole us down the river through rapids to the next checkpoint manned the official Banca. We began to feel like holidaymakers, as the only thing to do was to keep bailing the canoe, which had very little freeboard and also assist with pushing when the canoe grounded on rocks! We had two stops on the trip one for Coke and the other for our crew to eat breakfast. We could understand why it would have been dangerous to go down the river in the dark! Our holiday was cut short however as at the next checkpoint we changed into a slightly larger Banca with only one crew and we all had to paddle!  There was me thinking that paddling had finished at the end of the canoeing section. The river became wider and slower flowing as we made our way towards the sea, passing through some wonderful countryside, it really is a beautiful undiscovered country. It did not seem to us that we were racing, it was more like exploring, however we had to keep the Banca moving. We were looking forward to the next section rollerblading and arrived at the checkpoint on the Pacific Ocean Suribao. We arrived during the earlier afternoon to a tremendous welcome; we had dropped down the leader board to 12th place. I paid a precautionary visit to the doctor to have my feet checked, as I was concerned about Athlete's foot infection. We had a hot meal and prepared for the rollerblading. We had decided that we did not wish to stay with our logistics that night, as we preferred the comfort of the local people, so with only an hour to go before the curfew we set off. Looking at the state of the road, our hearts dropped, far from the relative smooth concrete roads of the North of the island the road here was more like gravel set in tar. Keith in our logistics had told us the roads were good apart from a number of hills, however he was traveling in a Jeepney with large tyres not on little wheels! I set off on a down hill slope followed by Nita and Callum (who fell immediately) then a hesitant Stuart. Freewheeling the road felt rough and the shaking made it difficult to clearly see the road ahead in order to avoid potholes. We were all unsteady and as soon as you stopped it was hard to get going again, the trick seemed to be to keep the wheels as flat a possible on the ground, it was made worse by the fact that the road was wet and hence slippery. I was using a bamboo stick to aid my balance and also to act as a break, by jamming it against my knee when in a crouching position I could drag the end against the side of the road. This seemed to work quite well. I tended to be the path finder and when the road began to dip downwards would warn the other, more often than not there were corners on the hills and sometime the hill would get steeper, if I had time I would signal/shout to the others so that they could do a controlled crash, stop or walk down the hill. I can remember getting caught out on one hill which got steeper and steeper and during which I reached a speed of about 40 MPH, I was terrified, because falling at this speed could result in an injury, my legs were shaking, my eyes felt they were being jogged out of their sockets and my brake was just helping me keep control, it was with relief that I sped into a village where the road leveled out! Both Stuart and Nita had many falls in that short hour and it was with some relief that we talked our way into someone's house for the night. Whilst we were settling in the Portuguese Team passed us and we saw they had the same problems as us. Our hosts treated us well, one of the women even washed out Nita's clothes. Stuart was exhausted and fell asleep within seconds. I had numerous cups of coffee. We were offered food, however as we had eaten earlier we declined. We then settled down for the night, being watched by the whole community as usual.
 

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Day 11

We had a good breakfast, bacon & Eggs and fried rice our host provided well for us (little did we know how much we needed it). We set off only some 90KM to go. I resumed my usual position of front-runner with Stuart tucked in behind, followed at a distance by Nita (the slowest blader) and Callum. We made fairly good progress, apart from the hills, which Stuart attempted to Slalom down to, reduce speed and nearly always fell, and Nita who make frequent trips into the vegetation. Before long we passed the Portuguese team, who had abandoned their skates and were walking! Every village and house we passed had people cheering us on, asking our names and where we were from. It was a wonderful feeling. As the morning drew on the Sun became hotter and Stuart began to tire, falling more often. Team 15 (the racing snakes) reduced to three persons as Mark had been forced to give up, soon caught and passed us and appeared to be going well despite looking rather haggard. We made frequent stops to rest in the shade and take on additional fluids (water and Sprite). Around 1100 we stopped in a bus shelter as Stuart was in a bad way, he was unable to keep his fluids balanced and sweat was literally flowing from his body. He stated he could go no further and that he planned to take a bus to the next checkpoint some 70KM away and we should meet him there, hopefully his absence would not be noticed by the officials. We left him with as much water as we could spare. It was with a heavy heart that we continued on as he had led us well. At lunch time we were stopped at a shop and suddenly a bus (Jeepney) reversed back to where we were sitting, inside was Stuart, lying on the floor, he looked very pale but said he would meet up with us later. The afternoon wore on and eventually Nita had enough and removed her Blades and began walking, Callum had also given up, so that I was the only one left. I used to Blade from Village to village and then sit down and rest waiting for them to catch up. During this time the locals provided, food, water both to drink and to pour over myself and also fanned me to keep me cool. I had no choice but to continue with roller blades as sometime during the morning I had lost one of my shoes. Later on I entered a village and met the racing snakes walking towards me, they had thrown in the towel! We waited for Nita and Callum and when they arrived the Portuguese Team was also with them, so the three teams started to walk together. There appeared to be little point in me continuing on my blades, so eventually I purchased a pair of Sandals and took off my blades (a fatal mistake, as during the next couple of miles I developed two huge blisters on the balls of my feet). We continued on until nightfall and at that time the racing snakes stopped in a village, however we were advised that it was dangerous to stay, so decided to walk some 5 KM to the town of General Macarthur. There was no curfew on walking, but as we left the village a truck began to follow us. When we stopped it stopped. We went to investigate and the driver said he has a policeman and would give us a lift to town, we were hesitant, however in the back of the truck were two policemen armed with automatic rifles, so we knew they were genuine. We were dropped outside a restaurant (civilisation!), so decided to go in and have some food. One of the policemen then enquired about what other teams we had seen as apparently they had received a report of a team being involved in an accident. We told them the racing snakes were in the last village and that we had last seen the Portuguese team on the outskirts of the last village, with this information they left and returned sometime later with the two other teams. We all had an impromptu party and discussed the next steps. We had completed some 50+Km so that meant that he had to cover a further 70KM on foot by midday the following day. In order to meet this target we would have to continue walking through the night, I was in no condition to do this and most of the others had bad feet suffering from jungle pox, so the decision was made to give up. We were given blankets by the owner of the hotel and spent the night sleeping in a basketball stadium. (The hotel had a dance on which was planned to continue till the early morning). The stadium was much quieter and during the night we were watched over by armed police and soldiers.
 

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Day 12

Dawn broke, and for the first time in many days there was nothing to do, the Portuguese Team who the night before were keen to continue on foot must have changed their minds as they were sleeping with us. Some joined in with a friendly game of basketball with the locals, but most just rested. The question was how to get to the next checkpoint 50Km away. We went back to the hotel for breakfast, where we met the friendly policeman and arranged to use his truck on the proviso that we filled it with fuel. Problem solved, but no a few minutes later the driver had to rush off as his wife had collapsed! Half an hour later we heard that she had died, however a friend had agreed to drive the truck. It was a sad group that piled into the back of the truck and set off. Sometime later two official cars caught up with us, one carrying our team’s pressman. They had been searching for us! We changed cars and continued on our way passing another Team who were still walking but would not accept a lift. It was intimated to us that even though we were officially out of the race we would be allowed to take part in the final sailing stage. We arrived at the checkpoint which is where Stuart had said he would meet us...but where was he? The Officials then said that as we had run out of time we would not be allowed to commence sailing, we had half expected this and it was a big blow to have come some far and fail so near the end. Our spirits were raised somewhat as Stuart appeared from a house just down the road. He was weak but happy to see us, it transpired that he had been thrown off the Jeepney the previous day when he suffered a fit and was sick and had been rescued by a local woman who had taken him in bathed, fed and watered him and put him to bed. He had been running a high temperature and had not realised he was but a few yards from the checkpoint. From time to time he had been given reports on our progress. We thanked his Hostess profusely. We were a team again! We were driven a further 20KM along a rough track to the final Assistance point on the beach. The logistics team had done a tremendous job preparing the suberans, a pity it was to no avail! We spent half an hour on the beach swimming and relaxing, before boarding a pump boat for the 8 hours trip to the finishing line at the Leyte Park Hotel. We loaded a crate of beer and set off, There was not much wind and we came across a number of suberans which were drifting along. Mid afternoon we ran into a tropical storm and sought shelter at an island, as the heavens opened and the rain lashed down, the wind increased and huge waves formed amid thunder and lightning. We pitied the other teams in their suberans. After about an hour the storm passed and we continued on our way and finally crossed the finishing line by the hotel, where we repaired to the restaurant for a well earned meal before going to bed in a real bed!!!!!! with a proper toilet!!!! and a bath and shower!!!!!!


 

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