Cape Town - Over five days from 13 to 17 June this year, 45 intrepid trail runners braved 200km of the arid Richtersveld, traversing the vast mountain desert wilderness area and crossing the Orange River to complete the first cross-border trail race between South Africa and Namibia through the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.
The first ever Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun race started in the Richtersveld National Park section of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, with the first three days covering ancient iconic landscapes such as the crystal fields near Sendelingsdrif, the massive Vanderster mountain range, the Springbok ‘Vlakte’ or flats, the giant boulder strewn Tatasberg and Helskloof Pass.
Local and international trail runners pitted their technical skills against loose shale, deep sand, boulders and gnarly trails as they climbed in and out of the valleys crossing mountain ranges and river beds along the way.
Top South African runner, Linda Doke said the race was an eye-opener. “Sometimes it takes experiencing places like this to remind us how just how fragile and yet so powerful nature is, and how unbelievably insignificant we are in the bigger scheme of things.”
YOU CAN SEE A FULL GALLERY OF THE RICHTERSVELD TRANSFRONTIER WILDRUN HERE: First-ever Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun shows off SA and Namibia's Arid landscapes
Elisabet Barnes agrees, saying, "We hiked and ran through a remote, arid mountain desert, Martian in character. We followed zebra trails over sharp mountains of volcanic rock, crossed crystal fields and sandy plains, descended into deep canyons, and crossed the Orange River from South Africa into Namibia. We camped in some locations only ever visited by a handful of people...”
Mountain zebra, kudu and wild horses greeted the participants and fresh spoor of wild otter and leopard and other animals indicated an abundance of wildlife in the area.
The last day of the race was a relaxed day with a late start, climbing out of the Fish River Canyon up a slot ravine onto well-worn game trails, and climbing to the peak above the /Ai-/Ais Hot Springs Resort to a magnificent view over the mountain wilderness surrounds.
The daily distances over the five days ranged from 26km to 49 km, and with the challenge of navigating remote areas with compulsory GPS devices, over unmarked territory, the race challenged even the most experienced runners.
Wildrun race director, Owen Middleton said the race had a significant impact on the local communities.
“The race was a great mix of cultures with runners enjoying a taste of Nama culture through dancing, storytelling and singing by community members and Richtersveld Tours created extensive employment opportunities for locals in setting up the complex logistics required to move camp every day and cater for over 70 people in the desert.”
The 45 participants were well supported by the Wildrunner crew throughout, with daily check-points, aid stations, an event sweeper and satellite radio communications.
Runners stayed in individual tented accommodation during the race.
The full campsite was moved each night as the race progressed through the park.
The logistics involved in setting up an event in such a remote location are immense and include transporting 34 tons of water, moving 25 tons of luggage and water equipment throughout the event, setting up, taking down and transporting 400 tents, stretchers, mattresses and bedding; moving and preparing 1 ton of food and carrying 100kg of firewood.
“The support of the local community and related conservation organisations is essential for an event like this to succeed - It’s a small seed of growth in a big area, but it involves the community in the future of conservation and encourages everyone to work together to preserve an amazing heritage," Middleton says.
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