"More than an endurance mountain bike race, the FNB Desert Dash is a wild beast that lures you, challenges you and allows only a few to stay on its back. It's a 369km, 24 hour fight between human and nature, body and mind." - www.desertdashnamibia.com
Photo from Desert Dash
Tomorrow, 14th December, around 450 hardcore cyclists will be strapping on helmets, stretching calves and pumping up tires in preapration for Namibia's eighth annual Desert Dash - one of Namibia's most intense mountain biking events.
Desert Dash covers 369km on a mainly gravel road between Windhoek and Swakopmund, and must be completed within 24 hours. It starts at 3pm on Friday, and the cut-off time is at 3pm on Saturday. The race is covered in six stages, and riders can participate in teams of two or four. The first and final stages must be cycled by all team members, while the teams take it in turns to cycle the middle four stages. There is also a tandem category. But all eyes are on another, much tougher category - the individuals. These reckless racers cover all six stages alone, and astonishingly the current record across all categories is held by a solo cyclist, Namibian Mannie Heymans, who completed the race in just 12 hours 13 minutes!
Photo from Desert Dash
So whose crazy idea was it? Some years ago, a group of friends including founder Aidan Delange decided to cycle from Windhoek to Swakopmund for fun. They made the journey over a couple of days, camping along the way, and on their return had the idea of turning it into a 24 hour race to be completed in teams. When the idea of solo racers was initially proposed, they were told it was impossible - but there is nothing that Namibians like more than an endurance challenge - and Desert Dash was born. There were so many applications from solo cyclists that the number had to be limited to 100, and this year's online bookings sold out in just 38 seconds!
Money raised by Desert Dash participants goes to support Children in the Wilderness, a Wilderness Safaris initiative that sends rural children to Wilderness Safaris camps for the week, to teach them about the bush, the environment and wildlife; as well as health and sanitation issues. The children are able to play, learn and discover the possibilities of life outside their villages. The experience has been described as life-changing.
Children in the Wilderness takes over Andersson's Camp, near Etosha National Park