The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 Oct 2022
The rugged mountains of the Richtersveld National Park proved to be the perfect backdrop for the 57 trail runners who set out on the inaugural 150 kms Richtersveld Wildrun™ which was held over four days in June this year. Some of South Africa’s top trail runners lined up at the start in Sendelingsdrift on 4 June alongside trail running enthusiasts from around the country and as far afield as Egypt, Mauritius, the United States and neighbouring Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The Richtersveld Wildrun™ was organised by Cape Town-based Wildrunner, a premier trail running event organiser in South Africa. Wildrunner’s experience in running over 120 trail running events since it started operating in 2007, was complemented by a hard working camp set-up and catering team coordinated by locally-based Richtersveld Tours and supported by SANParks staff of the Richtersveld National Park in the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.
Wildrunner’s Owen Middleton carefully crafted a tough trail that was designed to showcase a magnificent cross section of the mountainous desert landscapes of the Richtersveld. The 3 000m vertical height gain over the four days included a run up Helskloof pass, a difficult navigation over the huge granite boulders at the top of Tatasberg and the gentle ascent from the De Hoop campsite on the Orange River to the top of Akkedis Pass.
A Richtersveld park ranger, Koos Josob, also participated in the entire event and was cheered home by colleagues and friends when he crossed the finish line on the final day in Sendelingsdrift. His intimate knowledge of the park was recognised by fellow runners, who often followed his running line between camps. As Oom Koos got to Sendelingsdrift on the fourth day, he recalled that he had started work as a ranger in the Richtersveld National Park exactly 21 years previously. A double noteworthy accomplishment!
For most participants the event was much more than a race – but ended up being a life enriching experience. “It’s hard to really pinpoint what the very best thing about the Richtersveld Wildrun™ was for me. One would think the amazing, breathtaking rough beauty of the area would win hands-down… but on second thoughts, I think the warmth of the hosts and the people of the area, and the camaraderie of the fellow runners might just have snuck in and taken first place in my heart,” said Melanie Nijland, the female runner who came second overall.
An unforgettable moment during the event was a 3h00 evacuation call to all staff and runners as the persistent rain throughout the night at the ‘Die Koei’ campsite led to the river starting to run, flowing through the kitchen gazebo and along the one side of the tent village. After a relocation of the communal gazebos, kitchen and personal belongings, many runners nodded off again to get a bit more rest before the start of another arduous day on their feet.
The unique botanical features of the Richtersveld were brought to life by Pieter van Wyk when he gave an inspiring presentation on the third night of the race at the de Hoop campsite. Pieter had the entire audience spell-bound by his intimate knowledge of the local flora, effortlessly listing countless botanical names, providing insight into traditional Nama uses of plants and challenging each runner to be much more aware of the very unique environment through which they were traversing.
This event was supported of Boundless Southern Africa, SANParks and numerous other partners and sponsors – including the Northern Cape Tourism Authority.
“We are confident that, with the right support, this event will only grow in coming years and in doing so boost tourism and job creation in the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and surrounding area – a real hidden gem on the South African tourist track,”said Middleton. “It has been a dream for a long time to present a Wildrun™ in the Richtersveld and I’m really pleased that the first one went so well. We’ve received amazing feedback and we will be working hard to make this event even better going forward.”
Click here for more about the run and to see photos and videos of the 2014 race.
The 2015 event will be held from 2 – 5 June. Bookings open on 3 July. It is expected that the 80 spots will be quickly taken up. Click here for details.
Story by: Roland Vorwerk
Boundless Southern Africa
Tel: +27 (0)82 466 1251