WWF Desert Challenge Day 5: All roads lead to the river
The Richtersveld has a way of warping your sense of perspective. In the amphitheatre, the cliffs told a story of millions and millions of years of geological upheaval, where a single human life is just a speck of dust in the wind. We were inside the mountain, inside the rocks themselves.
Then, on Thursday, we climbed Tatasberg: a lone inselberg made almost entirely of granite boulders. The higher we scrambled, the better the view became. At the top, the perspective-warping feeling was one of sheer space. There were mountains in every direction, as far as you could see. Range stacked upon range, without a cellphone mast, farm fence or human settlement in sight. At the furthest horizon, you could almost sense the curvature of the earth.
It was a special day, and seriously fun. We set off early from Hakkiesdoring on our mountain bikes and rode a meandering gravel road to the base of Tatasberg. There, the logistics kicked into gear: our bikes were loaded onto a trailer and driven the long way around the mountain, while we took a shortcut on foot over the top.
On the other side, reunited with our bikes, we bombed down a 12km hill called Pypkloof. The “road” was in the middle of a gravel wash and much of it was thick, soft sand. It was easier – and much more satisfying – to find your own way through the sun-baked landscape. It was like snow-skiing on bikes as each of us found a line and slalomed down.
And then, just when the heat was about to become unbearable, the Orange River appeared over a hill: reeds swaying in the breeze, a fish-eagle circling, and cool, clear water reflecting the khaki hills of Namibia on the opposite bank. The sweaty cyclists wasted no time – we jumped right in wearing our cycling gear and only came out when camp wizard Marion Siebrits banged her drum for lunch: tuna mayo wraps and a cold beer in the shade.
What more could you want?
These daily blogs are by Jon Minster, a travel writer and freelance journalist who was invited to join the WWF Desert Challenge.