Two inspirational BEYOND EXPEDITIONS adventures in the bag, with three more to go! Following on from their BEYOND THE DESERT EDGE (2017) and BEYOND THE RIFT VALLEY (2018) Expeditions, Peter Van Kets and Jacques Marais have their sights set on something brand new and close to their hearts …
“Every year we set of on incredible journeys into far-flung corners of the Mother Continent and the world, but it isn’t often that we get to share these experiences with those closest to us”, explains Van Kets. The two BEYOND EXPEDITION partners both share close bonds with their families, and on both the previous expeditions, they tried very hard to get their partners and children to join them, but logistics and finances made it difficult.
“This year, we made it our priority, and fortunately it plays right into the marketing focus of our key sponsor, ISUZU (SA)”, says Jacques Marais, taking up the story. “Their vehicles, especially the new m-UX and DMAX models, are specifically created to take you safely and efficiently into the great outdoors, and this is where our families come into their own” …
Our XRIDER bakkies – Treva and Noah – underscore a key ISUZU Tag Line: ‘With You For The Long Run’, and as such we can utterly trust them to get us to our destination after two previous successful trips. These trips include their original mission - conjured up over a few beers around a bush fire – BEYOND THE DESERT EDGE.
This world-first desert crank saw the inspirational Van Kets mountain bike all the way from the Angolan border to Swakopmund in Namibia, with adventure photo-journalist Marais joining him on much of the ride while documenting some of Africa’s most remote places.
Their route crossed the uncharted wilderness between the Cunene River up against Angola and the Namibian coast, and they used both fat-bikes and GIANT mountain bikes on their pedal via the inhospitable Skeleton Coast, Kaokoland and Damaraland regions.
Continued sponsorship from DUNLOP and ISUZU – as well as a range of respected outdoor brands – saw them take on BEYOND THE RIFT VALLEY in 2018. This second expedition – in a five-part series of African adventures aimed at highlighting remote African regions under environmental threat took them on a 16 000km road trip into deepest Africa.
Untamed roads and hectic traffic tested their trusty Isuzu X-riders along the edge of Lake Tanganyika and the DRC border, before the ‘Beyond Expeditions’ team took on a number of adventures in remarkable Rwanda. In Nyungwe Forest National Park’s ancient rainforest they tracked chimpanzees and summitted Bigugu Peak, the highest point in the park.
This montane rainforest - set within the watershed between the basins of two river giants - the Nile to the east and the Congo to the west, proved an adventure playground of note. Van Kets bagged a tough 300km MTB ride along the Nile-Congo Trail, conquering steep ascents via the ‘Thousand Hills’ region of Rwanda, before they set course for the renowned Volcanoes National Park, also the setting for the imposing Virunga Mountain ranges. From the park HQ, #BTRV Team set off to summit two volcanic peaks: Bisoke (a caldera peak at 3, 711 m) and Karisimbi (the highest of the Virunga volcanoes at 4,507m.
The latter peak marks the intersection of the border with Democratic Republic of Congo, with legendary views across still active volcanoes bristling within Virunga Nation Park. Severe altitude headaches meant only Van Kets and Marais managed the ascent via the other-worldly giant lobelia forests of Karisimbi and to the inhospitable peak.
Three days of aqua adventure awaited on Kivu, a pristine indigo lake separating Rwanda from the DRC, with the two adventurers paddling the bulk of the 150km shores, rated as one of the ten deepest lakes in the world, all while camping wild on remote islands and surviving epic lightning storms threatening to drive them into dangerous Congo waters.
The final ‘cherry on top’ was an unforgettable trek to interact with the endangered gorillas in northern Rwanda, indeed a Bucket List adventure if ever there was one. The land-locked country of Rwanda proved a revelation to the BEYOND EXPEDITIONS Team. “It’s without a doubt the country with the least crime or corruption anywhere in Africa” ...
All of this may be pretty tough to top, but there is a region in southern Africa that rates as one of the continent’s most exhilarating adventure playgrounds, and this is where the third expeditions will head. The journey will once again take the ISUZU Xriders into challenging desert terrain, but this time, there will be five deserts for the price of one!
That’s not technically true, but here’s the first peek at our BEYOND AUKOEREBIS plan … The Marais and Van Kets clans will meet on the Namaqua West Coast on June 18th, in the process ticking of their first arid paradise. A meandering trip up the coast from Koiingnaas will take them to Port Nolloth for an icy surf before they mission into Richtersveld Proper.
This SANparks national park rates as the oldest mountain desert on the planet, and for the next six days, the two families will set off in search of some of the exhilarating adventures on offer in Desert #2. Fly-fishing for giant yellows, scaling the remote Vandersterr Peak, SUPing the ‘Great River’, white-water kayaking, and billion-star MTB rides under the desert night sky are just a few of the activities lined up.
The Namib-Naukluft (Desert #3) is next on the cards as the BEYOND EXPEDITIONS team travels into Namibia for a few days. A quick trip to the Kolmanskop ghost town and quirky Luderitz Bay is on the itinerary, as is the Fish River Canyon, before the convoy rolls up to Mata-Mata and the vast Kgalagadi National Park.
This ‘Place of Great Thirst’ makes up part of the expansive Kalahari Basin, and will be our ‘4th Desert. Our key destination is the incredible !Xaus Lodge, home to a large swathe of land belonging to the Khomani San people. At !Xaus, we will get to interact with these ancient hunter-gatherer people, tracking the dunescapes, finding medicinal plants, and camping wild on vast desert pans.
Desert #5 is Augrabies, again one of the SANparks Arid Parks’ premier destinations, also known as ‘Aukoerebis’ – or the ‘Place of Great Noise’ – in the Khoi language. One of our key adventures will take place here as we abseil into the granite gorge, and then descend the thundering white-water below South Africa’s biggest waterfall.
The ISUZU Vehicles will once again be equipped by FRONTRUNNER, one of the leading outdoor outfitters, with a full range of vehicle fittings. “We’ve been using FRONTRUNNER tents, hammocks, awnings and #Slimline roof-racks, together with a full range of bomb-proof fittings since our “Beyond the Rift Valley’ Expedition, and nothing comes close to their equipment when you need peace of mind on an adventure into the world’s wildest places”, says Marais, a FRONTRUNNER Ambassador.
Both Kim Van Kets and Karyn Marais are adventurers in their own right, as well, and this adds a fantastic dimension to the BEYOND AUKOEREBIS Expedition. “The fact that they – and of course Beth, Hannah, Robert and Grace - will be able to share in this adventure, really is a dream come true for us”. Feel free to follow the adventures of the Van Kets and Marais families as they set off from the wild Namaqua West Coast on June 18th. They will be tracked by expedition partner SPOT AFRICA, with Live Tracking on their web site www.beyondexpeditions.co.za