Mountain-biking in the desert sounds like a crazy idea. But when done at night, in the luminosity of the full moon, it becomes a surrealistically pleasurable experience. The five-day Desert Knights Mountain-biking Tour takes place in the spectacular ruggedness of the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.

King Arthur may have explored his rolling green countryside on horseback, but only mighty mountain-biking knights can conquer a demanding desertscape in all its distance!

Hosted by Namibia Wildlife Resorts, this year’s Desert Knights Mountain-biking Tour took place at the end of October. Starting at the impressive Fish River Canyon View Point in Namibia, the five-day mountain-biking trip crossed the border and ended at Sendelingsdrift in South Africa, covering a total distance of 275km by bike.

Ai-Ais Welcome. Picture by FranSiebrits-Dec2012

Picture by Fran Siebrits

Ai-Ais Organiser Francois Snyders-Picture by Fran Siebrits-Dec2012

Event organiser Francois Snyders kept the snacks, appreciation and humour flowing throughout the mountain-biking event. Picture by Fran Siebrits

Experiencing the desert environment of the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park from the saddle of a mountain bike is quite spectacular. The sense of freedom that constantly accompanied me in such a vast, open landscape surfaced simultaneously with a humbling respect for the power of nature.

AI-AisFullMoonRising-Roland Vorwerk-Dec2012

Cyclists escape the heat of the day by cycling in the late afternoon and evening. The full moon provides ample light for navigating in desert. Picture by Roland Vorwerk

What is unique about this mountain biking event is the fact that it is executed over the phase of full moon, which allowed us the unique opportunity to cycle at night by the generous amount of lunar light. The multi-stage event also included 34,5km of canoeing on the Orange River, a welcome break from the bicycle seat after cruel corrugations have had their fun.

Forming part of the cross-border conservation programme, Desert Knights is a collaboration between South African National Parks, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, the Peace Parks Foundation, Namibia Wildlife Resorts and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Namibia. The main idea of the event is to have an experience that is truly boundless, where border posts and boundaries don’t interfere with the freedom to roam. “An event of this nature always allows us to test these ideas, and to see where things can run better,” explains Roland Vorwerk from the Department of Environmental Affairs who also took part in the event.

Richtersveld Camping. Picture by Fran Siebrits - Dec2012

The arid landscape of the Richtersveld is both surreal and captivatingly magical. Picture by Fran Siebrits

Richtersveld Desert Landscape. Picture by Frans Siebrits - Dec2012

Richtersveld desert landscape by Fran Siebrits


The dramatic Richtersveld landscape makes for beautiful photographs and surprisingly comfortable sleep. Picture by Fran Siebrits

I dosed myself daily in the romance of being a cycling knight, mounting my trusty two-wheeled steed equipped for an adventure. We headed off in the late afternoon with the promising coolness come sunset as reward for the first few hours of moisture loss. Each day was perfected by watching the sun sink into a quivering horizon, followed by the full moon taking its place in the sky. I’m sure many will agree that some of the most memorable moments are those born in the breathtaking experience of the dying day.

Mountain-biking by the light of the full moon is not an activity that presents itself every day. Add the open solitude of the desert environment to the equation and it’s an opportunity not to be missed!

Richtersveld Transport.Picture by Fran Siebrits-Dec2012

You need a rugged 4×4 vehicle to explore the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, or you could do it by mountain bike during the Desert Knights tour. Which would you choose?