It is now confirmed; Jason Bryden was casevac’d out to Springbok late last night with a suspected and later confirmed fracture of his left lower leg. We send our best and trust there’ll be a speedy recovery Jason.

The contest was designed with a day of settling in and finding their feet so to speak. But, today the easy bits were over and they were to be thrown straight into arguably the toughest day of the competition. It is the 136km of incredibly beautiful but seriously testing Namaqua Eco Trail.

There can be few more iconic desert trails, it often features in the top 3 Desert Adventures for both 4×4’s and Dual Sport bikes in South Africa. But because it has serious sand and technical rocky climbs, it doesn’t see nearly as much bike traffic as the 4×4’s. More so, for this reason, far fewer big adventure class bikes take it on.

The morning was a combination of astounding beauty of the stark desert mountains painted in their wealth of shades, and a trail that required full focus as some were being caught out and made an imprint of themselves on the Richtersveld.

The first of the days serious challenge, was just before midday when “Hell’s Cradle” was entered into. A near mile of sandy canyon twisting riverbed trail snakes between lurking rocks and boulders. Ironically, only one rider took a gentle slow tumble whilst in the meat of the canyon, but many had issues with a section directly after the required skills finish line.

Next up was “staircase to heaven”, a rutted narrow loose switchback climb with steep drop-offs for the unwary. The challenge was made more difficult when an Instructors bike picked up a slight case leak from a meeting with a boulder in the trail hitting the crash bar with enough force to bend it into the case. This unexpected issue created a new team test when the recovery and repairing of the bike was made the contestants’ responsibility to be observed under the watchful eyes of the instructors. They pulled it off fantastically.

The last 40km’s the pace picked up markedly as the trail opened up to vast late afternoon vistas as it curled its way around massive piled boulder mountains towards the national road that links Namibia to South Africa.

As if spending 7 hours to do 136km of gruelling desert trails wasn’t nearly enough exercise, whatever the contestants may have held in reserve, was depleted with a short paddle against a howling headwind on the Great Orange River.

There was time for a celebratory beverage before a hearty supper – both not really touching sides – before the evening’s presentations by Nic Rossouw and Andre Bierman. Their topics were on Lake Malawi and the Bongo and Lord Derby Eland.

After a really full day of high adventure, as you would imagine, sleep came very easy after that!

What they don’ know, is that tomorrow they will be riding the Western side of the Richtersveld, an equally tough but far more rockier prospect. It’s definitely not getting any easier.