GodZone 2019 in Words and Pictures


GodZone 2019, ‘Chapter Eight’ of the major expedition-length adventure race set in New Zealand, was based in the town of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular, close to the city of Christchurch. The race lasts non-stop for a week and ten days and covers around 600 kilometres through the exceptional terrain of South Island, and in 2019 involved sports including hiking, mountain-biking, caving and paddling in pack-rafts and kayaks. And, crucially, navigation; teams must find routes successfully through challenging terrain. Sixty-three mixed teams of four racers started the race, at 9am on Sunday morning, 10th March. Teams can be followed through Live Tracking at the GodZone website.

Photos courtesy GODZone and often Alexandre Socci. To see how the race developed read from the bottom of the page.

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Final Day: At the Banks Peninsular teams were almost home. There remained a final section of pack-rafting, across Takamatua and Lushington Bay, which took them back into Akaroa and to the finish line.

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Day 5: The final legs of GODZone 2019 included a pack-rafting section along the Upper Rakaia River before teams kayaked to the coast on the lower Rakaia. Thereafter they mountain biked to the Banks Peninsular.

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The winning team, Perpetual Guardian, covered the 600 kilometres of GODZone 2019 in 4 days, 8 hours and 30 minutes. It was led by the formidable navigator Chris Forne and was interesting in its composition of two women and two men.


Teams must keep mentally sharp through the non-stop activity and exhaustion, organizing equipment quickly in transitions, navigating crefully and of course remembering to punch their cards at checkpoints

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Day 4: Teams came off the mountains to TA 4 at Glenfalloch, bringing them to the Upper Rakaia River and the start of another pack-rafting river descent.

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Day 3: At TA3 began an 84km hike into the Palmer Range, where checkpoints were located on valley floors and ridgelines, involving huge climbing and some high contouring through rocky high mountain stretches.


Day 4: Even in the daytime, it’s not plain sailing. Clever route selection through the braids of New Zealand’s rivers helps maintain speed and team momentum. TA5 at Montrose saw teams change from pack-rafts into kayaks for the lower Rakaia River.

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Day 3: The competition for the lead was intense. Expert navigator Chris Forne of Team Perpetual Guardian executed a canny route choice, bringing his team off the mountain an hour ahead of their nearest rival.

Photo - GODZone, Alexandre Socci

Photo - GODZone, Alexandre Socci

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Day 3: After picking up their mountain bikes at TA 2 around dusk, teams rode 160km into the night from Castle Hill to Lake Clearwater, through farmland and the spectacular foothills of the Southern Alps.

Day 2 : Negotiating Cave Stream, towards the end of Stage 2, photo Alexandre Socci

Day 2: Negotiating Cave Stream, towards the end of Stage 2, photo Alexandre Socci

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Day 3: The lead teams raced through the darkness and made it to Transition Area 3 at Lake Clearwater shortly after dawn.

Day 2 : Paddling the Poulter River - photo GODZone, Alexandre Socci

Day 2: Paddling the Poulter River - photo GODZone, Alexandre Socci

Restart, into the Torlesse range - photo Alexandre Socci

Restart, into the Torlesse range - photo Alexandre Socci

Day 2: Teams set off on the second stage of GODZone 2019 at 5am, just before dawn. It began with a hike into the Torlesse Mountains, after which they descended to the Poulter River and inflated the packrafts which they had carried with them. Teams followed the Poulter River downstream for approximately 30km before turning upstream into the Waimakiriri River.

Biking over the Banks Peninsular - photo Aexandre Socci

Biking over the Banks Peninsular - photo Aexandre Socci

Pause: At Christchurch Adventure Park teams paused. The rest of the race was revealed and teams received the maps and instructions for the full course. After a meal and planning, teams were bussed to the start of Stage 2, at Mt White Station inland. GODZone 2019 restarted at 5am on Monday morning 11th March, with a trekking and pack-rafting leg that takes teams some 73 kilometres along the Poulter and Waimakariri Rivers.

Akaroa Coastline - photo Alexandre Socci

Akaroa Coastline - photo Alexandre Socci

Descending the Poulter River - photo Alexandre Socci

Descending the Poulter River - photo Alexandre Socci

Shortly before the end of Stage 2, teams entered Cave Stream, a 360 metre caving section, where they negotiated caves along an underground stream, including waterfalls. As night descended, the leading teams began Stage 3 of the event, a 160km mountain biking ride into the Black Hill mountain range

Coasteering - photo Alexandre Socci

Coasteering - photo Alexandre Socci

Day 1: The prologue to GODZone 2019, a quick-change series of sports, began with a coasteering section. Teams scrambled and swam the shoreline for seven kilometres out of Akaroa before grabbing their mountain bikes for a 40km ride over the Banks Peninsular and then inflating pack-rafts to paddle from Diamond Harbour to Governor’s Bay. There they began a 10km hiking and orienteering leg that brought them to Christchurch Adventure Park.

Kit boxes at the ready - photo GodZone

Kit boxes at the ready - photo GodZone

For the first day of racing, teams undertook a series of sports – coasteering, mtb, paddling, trekking over the Port Hills and some orienteering – leading them from Akaroa to Christchurch Adventure Park to the south of Christchurch, where they will pause. They are expected to complete this first section in something between eight and twelve hours. Thereafter they will be bussed inland to the continuation of the race in the early hours of Monday morning. 

Before the start of GodZone 2019: Teams gathered in the town of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular just south-east of Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island. Unusually the first section of the GodZone Chapter 8 declared in advance; it was a sort of prologue or showcase of the multisport event. Teams set off from Akaroa at 9am on Sunday 10th March.