KalahariChallenge 2017 Day 3 ~ Riders of the Thorn

Welcome to #Day3 of the annual #KalahariChallenge in Botswana, as seen over the handle bars of your bike as you bomb this beaut of an African Stage Race. Or maybe we should say #BUTSWANA, as in ‘BUT not quite as you know it’, because the ride through this incredible country will surely deliver way more than you expected.

Yup, there are the odd patches of sand (it’s the desert after all, so WTF exactly did you expect, bud)? The locals call these ‘Kalahari Mountains’, as you need to put in that extra bit of crank power, but that’s #Africa for you: to get to the beauty, you sometimes have to dig a little bit deeper.

And believe me, there is beauty beyond compare here … Riders from all over southern Africa (and some from way further across the oceans) came in full force to experience a combo of endlessly swooping savanna single-track and that legendary, warm-hearted Botswana hospitality. The route incorporates full-on, friendly village vibes as you pedal the rural hinterland, with new surprises waiting around every corner.

Slick-rock outcrops rear up from thorn veldt valleys; a rugged ‘waterfall’ drop-off lurks along a rock-strewn gulley on Day 2; ess-bending trails whip amidst desert aloes; and gritty ascents along fist-sized rock fields make you work for your medal (and that ice-cold #StLouis draught beer calling your name at the finish line).

Speaking of cold beers and associated kiffness … this year, #Avani Resorts pulled out all the stops in taking the catering and accommodation experience at #KalahariChallenge to new levels. Stunning VIP tents allowed those accustomed to comfort to lounge on sturdy beds with crisp linen sheets, and with coffee stations, bedside lamps, electricity and a whole bunch of the other mod-cons on hand. And yes, the food was superb, to such an extent that I think I now need to go and cycle the route again to reduce the size of my personal little muffin roll …

Bottom line, if you’re keen on a serious session of #Adventure#mountainbiking stoke, add the @kalchallmtb Stage Race to your not-to-be-missed 2018 MTB Do-List right away. Trippy single-track, windy-windy savannah trails, mother-cruncher climbs, endo-enducing sandy slipways, errant kamikaze donkeys, canis africanis sniper dogs … this is truly a ride of bucket-list brilliance.

A tip of the helmet to the inimitable Matthew Gibson, Seamus O’NeillGarth ArmstrongKelly Fraser (aka Little Miss Onesie), the #ORRU guys Gideon Petrus Bekker & Hendrik Grobbelaar) and the rest of the amazing #KalChall crew (too many to mention) … you guys flippen rock. In my mind, that was a proper African MTB event, created by real mountain bikers, and for real mountain bikers. Viva Botswana, Viva!

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