While race calendars are filling up with more mass participation events, some endurance junkies might prefer a change of pace (and fewer people) as the global pandemic rages on.

If extreme endurance challenges like the Salomon Skyrun, Absa Cape Epic, or Comrades Marathon don’t feature on your radar in 2022, consider one of these alternative tests of endurance.

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The Otter Trail

Hardcore trail runners know it as the “Grail of Trail” – a marathon distance coastal trail run that traverses South Africa’s iconic Otter Trail in just one day.

But the roughly 45km Otter Trail itself is actually a five-day, four-night hiking adventure through the Garden Route National Park in the Western Cape. The self-supported and unguided hike is billed as South Africa’s oldest and most iconic hiking route.

Named after the shy Cape Clawless Otter that inhabits the area, the trail runs along the spectacular coastline between the Storms River mouth and Natures Valley.

The hike offers breathtaking views, white sand beaches, dramatic cliffs and endless coastline but hikers need to carry their own food and equipment over some technical terrain that encompasses mountain, coastal and forest trails.

Visit afritrails.com for info or to book.

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The Freedom Challenge

The Freedom Trail was established in 2003 as a fully-serviced mountain bike trail across the South African interior. The full Freedom Challenge is a non-stop 2150km ride along the length of that trail.

The trail utilises local accommodation and services, which allows participants to ride between stops without carrying their own food, water and overnight gear.

The trail passes through wilderness areas, nature reserves, and public and private land, showcasing the country’s diverse landscapes, different cultures, and fauna and flora along the way.

There are also additional route options that encompass parts of the Freedom Trail and collectively fall under the banner of the Freedom Challenge for those riders who don’t want to tackle the full distance. The other events include:

  1. Freedom Challenge Race to Rhodes: 480km non-stop from Pietermaritzburg to Rhodes
  2. Freedom Challenge Race to Cradock: 580km non-stop from Rhodes to Cradock
  3. Freedom Challenge Race to Willowmore: 530km non-stop from Cradock to Willowmore
  4. Freedom Challenge Race to Paarl: 600km non-stop from Willowmore to Paarl

Visit www.freedomchallenge.org.za for more info or to enter.

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Expedition Africa

This adventure race takes place in the picturesque mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Adventure racing is a multi-disciplinary event that covers a significant distance – 500km in total for this event.

Teams of four navigate using a map and landmarks from control point to control point via different modes of transport, including horse riding, mountain biking, trekking, kayaking and orienteering.

Teams are required to travel throughout the night and in any conditions, using their own discretion about when, where and how long to rest. The first team to complete the course after visiting all the control points, wins. The adventure can take between 72 hours to six days to complete.

The Expedition Africa 120km Adventure Races offer a less daunting option. Teams of two or four can tackle these shorter events.

Visit www.expafrica.net or www.addicted2adventure.co.za for more info or to enter.

9 Peaks Challenge

Combine your wanderlust with your need for adventure by tackling the 9 Peaks Challenge. You’ll need to summit the highest peak in each of South Africa’s nine provinces to complete the challenge and have your name added to the Wall of Honour.

The peaks include:

  1. Mafadi Peak, KwaZulu-Natal (3,451m)
  2. Namahadi, Free State (3,291m)
  3. Kwaduma, Eastern Cape (3,019m)
  4. De Berg Peak, Mpumalanga (2,331m)
  5. Seweweekspoort Peak, Western Cape (2,325m)
  6. Murch Point, Northern Cape (2,156m)
  7. Iron Crown, Limpopo (2,126m)
  8. Toringkop, Gauteng (1,913m)
  9. Nooitgedacht-Wes, North West (1,816m)

The peaks are connected by road and makes for a beautiful adventure challenge and a unique way to explore the country. The 9 Peaks Challenge is open to all and offers various categories.

To compete for a Fastest Known Time (FKT) in any category, all the challenge rules apply. The clock starts at the foot of the first peak and stops on the summit of the last peak.

Alternatively, you can set out to simply do it for fun and at your own pace, which is what most people do, in which case all the “common sense” rules apply.

Visit www.ninepeaks.co.za for rules, travel plans and guidelines.

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3-day Orange River canoe and raft expedition

Looking for an adventure the whole family can enjoy? A 3-day canoe and rafting expedition along the Orange River offers an ideal option. Children as young as five can join the rafting adventure (kids aged six or older can canoe).

The Bundi 3-day tour traverses the Richtersveldt region, starting approximately 680km north of Cape Town. Rafters stay at a private base camp on the first night, with options available to also upgrade the last night to en-suite rooms. Otherwise, it’s camping alongside the river.

Rafters will experience the spectacular wilderness as you travel along the breathtakingly beautiful Richtersveldt desert mountain range. The trip includes friendly guides, exciting rapids, and full catering.

Visit bundi.co.za for more info or to book.