Words and images by Jacques Marais
The icy Atlantic air which flows into the Richtersveld, and condenses to soupy fog, is what sustains life in this arid wilderness which joins Namibia and South Africa. The locals call the fog “Malmokkies”, though the word sure as hell resonates as a description for the 100 or so riders on the mountain bikes strung out on the region’s sandy tracks. It’s a classic 4×4 destination, but I’m among the riders, thinking that a bike is (undoubtedly) one of the best ways of passing through a landscape. Fresh air, no noise, your blood pumping, gasping for breath, your calves starting to spasm…
The reason I’m up here at Hobas in Namibia is to cover the Desert Knights event: a six-day mountain-biking tour with a solid white-water paddle thrown in for good measure. For the first three days, the riders crank via the /Ai/ Ais section of the Transfrontier Park, starting at Hobas right next to the Fish River Canyon. A couple of big days in the saddle follow, as they face off against the desert sand via /Ai/Ais Rest Camp and on into the wonderfully wild Gamkab Canyon.
From here, a white-water kayak mission navigates the Orange River rapids onwards to De Hoop (and SA soil), where you cross into the Richtersveld proper. Two more days of riding – via Hakkiesdoring Hiking camp and the infamous Helskloof Pass – will eventually get you to the finish line at Sendelingsdrif, and I can promise that you’ll be suitably knackered and gasping for a cold beer. I know I was, and I did not get even close to riding the whole of the Desert Knights route.