There are many historical walking trails along the Fish River Canyon, such as the Mule Trail, the Toktokkie Trail, Canyon Hiking Trail and the Veldskoen Trail in the Sperrgebiet National Park, but the Desert Knights Cycling Tour is fast becoming the most popular, as it offers participants an inimitable experience.
From cycling through dry deserts to canoeing down the Orange River this tour symbolises the true spirit of a trans-frontier park, as after two days on water and being reunited with their bicycles cyclists seamlessly crossed the border from Namibia to South Africa.
Since last Monday 80 cyclists from neighbouring South Africa and Namibia converged at Hobas Campsite at the edge of the Fish River Canyon on the Namibian side for an eight-day tour that took the cyclists through some spectacular canyons and mountains passes.
Each race started at 17h00. Day One started at Hobas with a ride through rugged terrain. Day Two was all the way downhill to /Ais /Ais Resort.
The last cyclists arrived 21h00 after riding on different surfaces, which covered 70 km on the second leg. At the end of the 280 km ride cyclists overnight at places, such as Gamkap, De Hoop, Hakkiesdoring, Donkiewadrift and Sendelingsdrift before crossing into the Richtersveld Trans-frontier Park.
The aim of the tour is to contribute towards unlocking the tourism potential of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Trans-frontier Park through staging of a world-class annual event, says Brent Whittington, head of the Richtersveld Trans-frontier Park.
“We used most of the proceeds of the tour to support joint conservation activities and community upliftment along these routes”.
One observed that deserts are spectacular during the day, yet riding under the light of a full moon becomes an unforgettable experience as many of the participants attested to. By cycling during the evening and at night, the challenge of cycling in the heat of the desert is substantially reduced.
Whittington sees the event as a cycle tourism opportunity that can attract enthusiast all year round. He said the local economy would benefit by increased sales revenue and the natural beauty of the surrounding landscapes would be discovered and enjoyed by more visitors.
“Campsites and lodges in the transfrontier parks are becoming aware of the economic potential that bicycle tourism can bring. There are recognisable tourists trails associating the local history, culture and natural landscape with widely marketed names and it can attract thousands national and international tourists each year, bringing money and distinction to these remote places. Boundless Southern Africa is rich in history, culture and natural beauty and has untapped treasures on which to promote bicycle tourism,” he said.
Namibian Johanna Ashimbanga was one of the participants. She works as a manager at NWR at Mile 14 outside Swakopmund. She told New Era she hitchhiked with her bike on three different busses all the way to Hobas Campsite to take part in the eight-day adventure.
“To me it was fun and I enjoyed cycling in the moonlight. It is awesome to ride among so many riders. I will never miss it at any cost,” she said.
Another cycle fanatic is Chrissie Viljoen from Cape Town. She never misses any major cycling event at home, or at any other destination close by. “For me it was an experience that I will always cherish. Riding on the gravel road at late evening with the sun setting was an amazing feeling.
“The road under a full moon is an experience not many have the opportunity to try. Biking at night is one of the best experiences and most beautiful photo scenarios you will live and capture in these two parks. It’s adventurous and daring,” she said.
Due to its popularity the tour takes place twice a year from Hobas through the /Ais /Ais Transfrontier Park to the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Last year the entries reached 130 and organisers had to scale it down to 80 due to logistical challenges.
They now host it twice a year, once in April and again in September each year.
The highly exciting and well-organised tour started in 2012 and is supported by Namibia Wildlife Resorts, on behalf of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, as well as the Department of Environmental Affairs of South Africa and the South African national parks, as well as the Peace Park Foundation and Boundless Southern Africa.