16 Sep 2021
By Annelien Murray
"It's not a race - it's an epic adventure."
Seven marathons in seven days. Seven different Gondwana lodges in seven landscapes. The ‘Gondwana 7’ is a mental and physical challenge amongst diverse landscapes and each one's mosaic of topographic features.
In April 2021, runners travelled across Namibia and ran approximately 300 kilometres in total. In comparison, the Burchell's zebra migration from Chobe to the Nyae Nyae Pans takes place over the course of two months and covers about 250 kilometres. When comparing the two completely different situations, I come to a conclusion: homo sapiens are quite the interesting species! But I'm all for it – the mental test, the physical endurance... but mostly, the breath-taking landscapes and warm Namibian hospitality.
Runner Kirsty Brits had a dream of running seven marathons in seven days on different continents. When the pandemic hit the globe, it put her dream on hold. After four years of dreaming out loud with her running partner Keletso Nyathi, they decided to put it into motion in their home country Namibia. She published it on Facebook, in search of people with the same guts and grit.
Several local runners signed up for the 'Gondwana 7' test run, which will be advertised as an official event for running enthusiasts in 2022. A unique opportunity to experience Namibia's fascinating nature and landscapes up close!
With its red sand dunes and golden patches of grass, the Kalahari Desert is the largest uninterrupted stretch of sand on earth. Nothing beats the feeling of the softness underfoot. Although classified as a desert, the Kalahari is home to at least 500 plant and animal species. Runners kept their eyes open for springbok, zebra, eland, giraffe and wildebeest during their first marathon, which took them along winding trails of the Gondwana Kalahari Park. The nature-inspired flagship lodge, Kalahari Anib was their refuge for the night.
FISH RIVER CANYON
Canyon Roadhouse is situated amongst highly diverse landscapes and climatic extremes in the Gondwana Canyon Park, one of the largest private nature reserves in southern Africa. At this point, everyone realised... ain’t no peak high enough (Namuskluft Peak at 1,654m above mean sea level), ain’t no valley low enough (the incised Orange River below 100 m)…to keep these runners from achieving their goals.
On the way to a hiker’s paradise, the Fish River Canyon, Canyon Roadhouse is a quirky, creative and playful stop. It’s a must on any itinerary, especially when you’re running almost 300 kilometres in 7 days.
Staff were extremely supportive of the runners, and some of them even threw on their trainers to join in the running.
Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park borders the Tsau//Khaeb (Sperrgebiet) National Park, well known for its diamond delirium of the past. This historic snippet led to its closure to the public since 1908. One of the area’s lesser-known traits is its richness in flora and fauna that runners were able to enjoy. Although, the term “enjoy” is relative in view of the rugged, yet magnificent landscape.
This ecosystem called the Succulent Karoo, one of 25 biodiversity hotspots world-wide, boasts the most biodiverse desert on earth with its granite mountains, dry riverbeds and boundless plains. It has the Nama Karoo on its eastern border, and the Namib towards the northern border.
Klein-Aus Vista was their safe haven for the night, following their adventurous third marathon in the Aus Mountains.
Getting up every day and mentally restarting the challenge was the hardest part. The running, according to the runners, wasn’t that tough. They didn’t race to the finish line; they enjoyed the scenery.
Home to some of the tallest dunes on earth, the Namib Desert was a favourite amongst many runners. The Namib Sand Sea was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. Despite the illusion that the desert is just composed of sand, plenty of fascinating creatures and plant life make up this ecosystem. Running through these landscapes in the Gondwana Namib Park, which borders the Namib Sand Sea was an otherworldly experience. Namib Desert Lodge, at the foot of ancient fossilised dunes provided a comfortable home for the night.
With the desert on one side and the crashing waves of the Atlantic on the other, the participants were able to fill their lungs with the fresh Atlantic breeze in the coastal town of Swakopmund.
In contrasting modern to the traditional-style town, The Delight Swakopmund is a whiff of fresh ocean air, and a base to restore before the last stretch of the adventure.
After an abundant rainy season, the standard red, rocky terrain that characterises the area was covered in grass, which meant that trails were overgrown. Mentally, it was a tough one! But the scenery sure made up for it.
Damaraland is known for its arid conditions, and is probably, in my opinion, one of southern Africa’s most underrated wildlife locations. An abundance of Namibian “specialties” live here, including desert-adapted elephant, rhino and lion, as well as giraffe, gemsbok, zebra and spotted hyena. With a wealth of geological sites, it’s also rich in history thanks to preserved rock engravings. Twyfelfontein, amongst other sites, sculpts a story of the first people who set foot here.
The participants were on their penultimate marathon in the safe surroundings of Damara Mopane Lodge, where they had the opportunity to rest and recharge.
Due to unnegotiable safety reasons, this section of the run was partly on tar road. Of course, running took place outside of the legendary Etosha National Park, but due to tall grass in the surrounding area after abundant rains, a safer solution was needed.
On safari in Etosha National Park, surprises await around every corner. Park your car at a waterhole and wait to be wowed by all the different animals you can imagine on a Namibian safari.
Participants ran the last leg of the Gondwana 7 just outside Etosha, starting at Etosha Safari Camp, a lodge vibrating with culture, colour and humour.
Do you find joy in running?
Do you find joy in travelling?
Would you undertake a Gondwana 7 adventure?
Follow the run-bow and make your dreams come true!
The next Gondwana 7 will take place from 14 to 22 March 2022. Further info will be available here soon.
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