By Marita van Rooyen
Photographs: Mountain Extreme Events
The Aussenkehr Desert Extreme is held from 20–22 June this year.
River runners and foot-race fanatics take note; the Aussenkehr Desert Extreme is the ultimate challenge for those wanting to sink their trainers into the soft river sands on the banks of the Orange, and beyond!
Testing your endurance through the soles of your feet, the race traverses the vast plains, negotiates the challenging mountain terrain, crosses the forbidding plateaus and navigates the ancient and enchanting canyons that make up the rough terrain of the Aussenkehr environs. Run over three days, the route covers 100 kilometres and is a great way to explore the southernmost corners of Namibia on foot. Unfortunately this is not a leisure-and-relax option; it’s more like the closest you’ll get to some of the less-visited destinations of creation: ever heard of Pebble Bed, King Kong Canyon, Koppie Alleen and Dik Neus?
The stark beauty of the natural environment (and strangely-named dots on the map) adds to the challenge, with runners kicking day one off after being warned that the terrain in this section is extremely rugged and rocky, and urging athletes to be cautious and protect their ankles. As a bonus motivator, the first man and woman to reach the top of Pot Hole Canyon’s ridge will earn the King and Queen of the Mountain prize. This is for good reason, as this stretch of the trail is the toughest to conquer, requiring a great deal of effort and self-motivation to keep the spirits high.
Characterised by open spaces with endless horizons and a good running surface – except for the technical Meteorite Ridge – day two is more of a breeze. “This stretch is all about mental stamina, internal dialogue and cool tunes on your iPod, as you are challenged against what the desert is all about,” explain the event organisers of Mountain Extreme Events.
The final day of the race offers a good mix of canyons, open flats and technically challenging rock hopping that will eventually bring tired feet back to the soft river sands where the best feeling in the world awaits: that of having just conquered an ultra trail-running race!
“The Aussenkehr Desert Extreme is about open spaces, the delicate beauty of a harsh environment, and physical and mental endurance. Athletes will be treated to a unique experience of sleeping under the great desert sky, as they connect to an ancient space and way of life far removed from modern stresses. The route will take the athletes through the very special biomes of the desert that can only truly be experienced on foot. From the mighty Orange River through the vast plains to the heights of the Aussenkehr Mountains, runners will be tested.”