The Koës Pan is located in the remote and arid South East of Namibia and is home to one of the strangest and most unique DIY motorsports events on the African continent. In the wet months the pan presents amazing opportunities for nature photography but it is in the dry months that this flat pan in the Kalahari gets really wild.
On the first weekend of July every year motoring enthusiasts come together to compete in the Koës Pan Rally. The rally is a wild and wooly collection of DIY motoring madmen and rapt spectators. Contestants can take part in a 150km five-lap rally, test their skills on an obstacle course or dare to go dune diving in their vehicles. The most popular event, for drivers and spectators alike, is the drag racing. As is the case with all drag racing the only thing that matters is straight-line speed. It is during this high-octane event that the age-old questions of our time can be answered: Can an Isuzu KB 320 outrun a Nissan Patrol? And will a Toyota Hilux best both in a straight race? The appeal of this event is that anyone can bring their own vehicle to take part in the dusty fun out on the pan.
The Koës Pan Rally is not only for amateur car enthusiasts with a need for speed and bragging rights. DIY car enthusiasts who build their own custom models of various off-road vehicles are the rally’s core group of participants. Last year over 65 brave souls raced a combination of Baja Bugs, modified bakkies, Uri’s, quadbikes and off-road motorbikes in a sometimes chaotic but always exciting calendar of events spread out over the weekend. The events are grueling, uncompromising affairs and collisions of various manners are not uncommon. What is common, however, is the spirit of the rally’s participants. The Koës Pan Rally is as much a rally as it is a community of like-minded individuals spending time together and doing what they all love to do. Whether it is a cracked radiator hose or a fractured forearm, help is always on hand.
The town of Koës has motoring in its blood and everyone living there comes out to support and ensure the rally’s continuing success. Without volunteers and the enthusiastic support of the people of Koës the rally could not take place. The rally brings much needed attention to this small town in the middle of nowhere and funds raised from the event are used to help support schools and other public interest projects in the area. The Namibiese Vrouevereniging (Namibian Women’s Society) sells boerewors rolls, vetkoeke, and anything else with enough red meat stuffed inside it to satisfy even the hungriest rally driver. Other locals also set up small shops and concession stands offering a variety of local fare and some tasty traditional Namibian beverages like Windhoek Lager and ice-cold, stomach-warming Jägermeister.
As with all the best adventures this rally is far off the beaten track. Leaving from Keetmanshoop, you will need to take the C17 heading North East. It is a drive which includes over a 100km of dirt road, so it is not a trip for the timid driver.
However, once in Koës there are several places to shower the dust away. Call the Koës Hotel on (+264) 63 252 716 for clean rooms and friendly help. Dune Song Breathers is self-catering accommodation and Elogia Lodge is a game lodge and B&B that offers a quiet place to rest weary limbs and explore the remote outreaches of this faraway desert region.
If you can’t make it to Koës then fear not; Namibia has several rallies and driving challenges throughout the year and all over the country. For biking enthusiasts the Live to Ride Motorcycle Club organizes the annual Big Five Rally and the President’s Run. Those who prefer their motoring adventures on all fours can take part in the Vasbyt 4x4 rally or the Bank Windhoek Namibia Motorsport Federation Enduro Championship Series. If a more relaxed and less competitive rally adventure is what you are looking for than the Namib Desert Run is the event for you. It is a non-competitive and social event for both motorcycles and off-road vehicles.