Day 6, 30th May
Final day… saved the best to last 👌
As usual we started our final day in the dark, not the only darkness we would experience in our final day of running and riding through the desert.
However, there was a special moment with majority of the group, warming their tired painfully traumatised and completed broken muscles around the campfire.
We set off from the rhino camp to start another day of two half’s…Up first was the small half marathon.
During the half marathon we shared a silent 7km where we all took the opportunity to take in the final sunrise and the scale of the achievements we’ve made as a group. Our first encounter with wildlife off the day was when Phill pointed out rhino tracks in the sand, thankfully no rhino. Finally, everyone was let loose to run across the desert for the final time and what for what felt like and turned out to be the longest 2km of the trip…
Lunch and a costume change we then set off for a measly 65km bike ride through the desert. On route we thought Fergus had stormed ahead however it turned out to be a wild giraffe🦒 Thankfully it blocked the path and gave us a welcomed break for 25 mins.
Everyone as a team rose to the challenge, the last 20km was tough but certain individuals showed just how far they have progressed this last week as we regrouped to ride to the finish line led by Captain Megan who carried the team home.
Although the last 6 days have been gruelling, the friendship, support and memories are all unforgettable.
Biggest thanks to Phill, Jane, Lloyd, Patrick, Sam and Frank and his team for getting us through it in one piece with the tremendous support they provided.
Bram, Gary, Lawrence, Taylor, Fran
Day 5, 29th May
After the long descent of the Brandberg mountain EVERYBODY was too tired to snore tonight (including Lawrence!) so we all had a good night’s sleep.
We were running as one, keeping the pace when Phill suddenly shouted “All stop now!”. Some of us were scared what danger was front of us (poisonous snake, leopard ready to pounce or something even more sinister) and we froze, until Phill pointed at a narrow and relatively straight line in the sand. It was a path made by thousands of ants! That has been the wildlife we had seen so far, other than the jackals on the first day.
Luckily nature treated us by revealing a beautiful male springbok on the horizon who was keeping an eye on us. And our fast Jaro apparently even saw a “very fast” snake while supporting the others just at the last stretch before the finish! What a safari experience we had during our marathon!
Phill with his ‘don’t break the boat strategy’ brought the largest group to the finish safe and sound, with the other camp leaders assisting the other groups in the same fashion. ALL of us finished the marathon at great time and thanks to a refreshing breeze and apparently coldest weather ever we still had surprisingly enough energy for the second half of the day. By the way, Filipe was named the hero of the marathon after he finished the whole distance despite his VERY naughty knee!
What seemed impossible at the beginning of this challenge became reality. After a delicious lunch we got on the bikes and started our 30km ride to our last camp. Sam and Fran set a lightning speed whilst riding downhill over rocks small and large. Coming to the end of the cycle, Jaro decided to greet the locals with a wave, resulting in a fall from his bike. We all arrived at the Save the Rhino Trust camp when the sun was still at its best. We were welcomed by our amazing camp crew offering us ice cold beverages. One of the crew further expanded our local wildlife experiences by showing a scorpion creeping around the camp, which apparently grows to nine inches as an adult.
Our brilliant Jane helped us stretch all the weary muscles during our regular yoga session and we were again treated with a Michelin star level dinner made by our kitchen magicians. One last day of challenge is ahead of us…
Blair, Filipe, Tim and Nikola
Day 4, 28th May
The first evening on the mountain brought the entire team under the stars together, mostly unaffected by the nighttime vocalizations of the common unnamed individual (Lawrence). A bright moonlit sky and high winds hindered most efforts at rest.
The sleepless night appeared to affect some members’ eyesight as a “leopard” (house cat) was spotted as we got ready to rise to the summit.
We ascended in the dark, witnessed a glorious sunrise amidst gale-force winds whilst Taylor remained insistent on getting photo content for his fans.
Following pack up of summit camp; the fast first half of the climb back down was carried out at a decent pace, lulling everyone into a false sense of security. Everything went downhill (in all manners) once we got to the lookout and saw base camp. The mountain took literal blood, sweat and tears but everyone made it down (mostly) in tact. Conversations were focused on ice creams and first foods on return. For the first time ever, the Brandberg “stock exchange” took place, with Matty eventually holding a monopoly on the fast moving boiled egg commodity.
We finally got to the bottom of the hill, where everyone was greeting by the amazing mountain crew that saw everyone up and down safely, as well as the attentive camp staff. The following hour resulted in queues for showers, freezing yoga and blister triage carried out by Pat. Time to tend to tattered toes and Taffel’s…
Ben, Donald, Greg, Kerry and Stuart
Day 3, 27th May
A notable improvement was seen from certain unnamed individuals in the snoring department (Lawrence) however the rest of the camp were kept up by other snorers and shouting in the night from Fergus before another 4am start. The team were led at a blazing pace by Captain Dave B out of camp to the first of MANY false summits navigating rocky paths and steep climbs.
Spirits were kept high from the Texan twosome Alex and Aaron with climbing country karaoke serenading the troops on their way past 3000 year cave paintings, geckos and leopard prints. The leopard print and reports of previous mice infestation forced the final camp for the day to be pushed higher up the mountain resulting in an extra hike much to the grads dismay. All the team made their way to the camp below the summit unscathed minus a climbing pole which Taylor launched unprovoked down the mountain side.
After 11 hrs walk in the sun and 2000 meters scaled, we sit here writing this with Bob Marley on, a campfire and some cold beverages before sleeping under the stars.
Anupriya, Fergus, Vicky, Matty
Day 2, 26th May
The team woke up at 4.30am in the Messum crater. Some may not have got to sleep in the 1st place due to the superhuman snoring ability of an unnamed individual (Lawrence).
Set off for a Half Marathon in the pitch black with headtorches and a starlit sky. Around 6k in sunrise peeked over the mountains. You could see the dark silhouette of the Messum Crater. The race against the sun had begun!
The team all successfully reached the half marathon in close proximity, all choosing their own path through the arid plains. Some wider than others (Jaro) who actually appeared from behind the finish line. Obviously 21k is not enough for this guy!
Next challenge was a 30k cycle through deep sandpits and rocky climbs towards the looming Brandberg mountain. There were first sightings of some of the sparce wildlife across the Namib desert. We may have seen more if there werent so many pileups in the deep sandpits. At its peak, temperatures reached roughly 30C, making the last 10k to the finish line a real challenge.
All cyclists crossed the finish line, greeted by a welcome party, cold beers and the stunning backdrop of the Brandberg.
Camp as per usual is superb. Lawrence may have indirectly evicted half of the team from the sleeping quarters, who are willing to take their chances sleeping with the snakes and other African wildlife instead!
Tomorrow……. 2000m elevation hike up the Brandbeg! Bring it on!
David, Alex, Kieran and Jaro
Group 3, Day 1, 25th May
The journey to get here can be described as treacherous and sleep deprived, with some traveling 40+ hours. We even learned some things, such as – babies can cry for 9+ hours haha.
Day 0: Beautiful!
Despite being sleep deprived, we were all so grateful to have made it, and meet the amazing crew.
Day 1 Ride: More difficult than anticipated…
We set out on our 65km into the desert, with the threat of getting left if we were a minute late. The weather was great once the sun came out. Visibility was amazing and the views of the mountains were spectacular. The ride started out pretty smooth, similar to most gravel rides back at our respected home. With a big climb to get to the top. After trial by fire, the group started to slowly adjust to during in sand. There were definitely a few tumbles and tired legs. However, everyone was on cloud 9 arriving into our first desert camp!
We were able to hang out at camp, and have a good stretch session by Jane. Now off to dinner and bed- an early night for most.
Overall this has been a great start to the trip of a lifetime and we’re ready to chase that feeling of elation after finishing each of the days to come.
Megan, James, Aaron and Christian
Day 6, 18 May
After a cold and damp night in the Rhino Trust we kicked off the day with a short and snappy half-marathon through the mist.
Legs heavy but spirit still high we finally saw the sun peak through the clouds revealing a valley expanding into the African plains.
We were stopped by Phill to appreciate a pile of rhino droppings and the absolute silence of the desert.
We ran in step for 14km, after which the hounds were let loose – sprinting towards a well deserved brunch.
After refueling we set off on our fourth, final and farthest ride through undulating hills towards the Twyfelfontein lodge.
After what felt like an eternity and after every match had been well and truly burnt, the team finished as one courageous group.
We are now sitting around the bar sharing stories and sipping on a well deserved beer!
A massive thanks to all the support staff involved, and especially to Phill, Lloyd, Jane and Sam for getting us through every km as a group!
What an amazing experience that we will all remember for a lifetime!
Nina, Charlie, Greg and Ewan
Day 5, 17 May
The day that everybody had been dreading arrived – marathon day. The group had largely flown through the week but after yesterday’s descent, legs were beginning to feel heavy. Even so, the group pressed on into the darkness.
The first 21km were run together in two rows. After each kilometer, the leading two would rotate to the back of the pack keeping the pace. The group were treated to an incredible sunrise that gradually lit up the plain and, whilst beautiful, the heat was on.
After 21km the reigns were cut loose and everybody continued at their own natural pace. Pods formed keeping spirits high regardless of speed. Unfortunately, a few navigationally challenged runners took a wrong turn and ended up doing the INNAM day 5 ultra marathon.
After a delicious meal, the vast majority of the group transitioned onto the bikes before immediately getting back off again to walk up the first steep hill (minus a few adrenaline charged individuals).
Our “climb” was rewarded with the first prolonged fast, flowy and fun downhill section with an amazing view of the valley. Refreshed after a drinks stop, we were faced with a relentless, energy-sapping headwind, so the group formed a peloton. Lloyd towed a few stragglers back into the main group, their excitement at rejoining the group almost broke the peloton!
With grit, rigour and humour, the group negotiated the final perilous downhill stretch into the Save the Rhino Trust.
Whilst the group is proud with the achievements of the day, there is an element of sadness. This is the last night that we will fall asleep underneath the Milky Way.
Carlo, Conor, Matthias, Tega
Day 4, 16 May
After a surprisingly fresh and cleaning night with a few hail and rain showers under the stars we were woken by Phill’s Coffee Shop. Luckily no further rodent incidents had taken place throughout the night. Since we had already summited yesterday evening, we were ready to tackle the descent of the day and this time (John M. ;)) it was really mostly only downhill from there. We made good progress and the first rays of sunshine caught us at Langley Pools for a second breakfast and at 12pm we reached the viewpoint for a strengthening lunch before the real challenge of the day – the descent back to home to the desert. Close to the foot of Brandberg Mountain, we were ambushed by a couple of Baboons but thanks to our lightning speed we escaped and made it down in one piece but with sore knees. Like the previous days, we mastered the day and crossed the finish line as one big team! Thanks to the great progress yesterday to the summit we were back at base camp before 2pm and could get plenty of recovery and good food for tomorrow’s big marathon day.
P.S. Luckily the great base camp team checked the sleeping bags before our return, else someone would have had an interesting encounter with a Horned Adder.
Garrett, Sam, Declan, Jeroen & Camilla
Day 3, 15 May
After a great team effort the previous day which got us to camp in plenty of time for relaxation and recovery, we were ready to battle the Brandberg. The first alarms of the Grads went off at 4:30 and we all got fuelled up for 6 o’clock sharp and were ready to commence the burning mountain. Struggling under the stars before sunrise with the looming steep hills ahead of us, we thought the climb was becoming an endless challenge, however, the more metres we climbed and the greater elevation we got, our pace and grit pushed us up the mountain in record time. With plenty of short breaks in between, supported by Lloyds history lessons on prehistoric mountain art, we followed leopard prints up the mountain and arrived at base camp by the early afternoon. After getting some well-needed rest and putting our 15kg rucksacks down, we once again pushed ourselves just a little bit further to summit before sunset – a massive achievement for the group.
We descended to base camp accompanied by a beautiful sunset ready to enjoy the evening with our beers in front of the fire, sharing stories and laughter. A huge thank you goes out to all of our guides, who supported us through the journey and brought us safely up the Brandberg. We’re now underneath the stars with lots of memories and excitement for the day ahead and we’ll snuggle up in our sleeping bags.
Kevin, Fabian, Brandon, Sarah
Day 2, 14 May
Night fell on the first day of in nam 23 group 2 and spirits were high after the inspiring messages from friends and family left on the In nam blog page. The group went to bed wondering if Tega really lost the secret to teleportation and who is this mysterious Dana?
An early wake up at 4.30am allowed time for a hearty breakfast to settle before the hard work began. Inspired by the beautiful sunrise during the half marathon the 21km seemed to pass by almost effortlessly. The group did a great job to stick together for the whole run, even with Phil trying to form a splinter group from the front.
A quick brunch and a kit change later, the group was ready to take to the bikes. All the time the temperature continued to rise. It was well hot, maybe too hot. With a 30km bike ride ahead and inspired by the Louie adage of ” chin up and crack on” the group took off. With some deep deep sand ahead the group had clearly taken to heart their training, remembering that slow is smooth and smooth is fast and negotiated everything that was thrown at them. With the grads starting to wither under the midday sun, the flies spotted a chance for an easy meal. Thankfully everyone rolled into camp triumphant and no grads were lost to the swarms of flies. Special mention goes out to Grant Scott for his domestique work, delivering chilled drinks to the weary riders as they rolled the the last kms into camp. He also maintains his 100% no dab record.
As the sun sets behind the mountains on day two of the in nam 23 group two epic adventure the grads march on. United through adversity and their strong bonds of friendship.
Tomorrow we take on the Brandberg. And the verdict is still out between the Americans and the Europeans. Is it all downhill from here?
Sam CK, Brandon, Chris C and Joris
Group 2, Day 1, 13 May
After three planes and a long drive (a journey totalling more than 24 hours for some), the group arrived at the Cape Cross Lodge on the Skeleton Coast.
All anyone wanted to do was get straight into the ocean, but Phill insisted on a thorough sand terrain mountain bike training on the beach to prepare us for the days ahead.
After everybody passed the test, into the refreshing waves we went (accompanied by some of the locals – a family of seals).
After a much-needed night’s sleep with the calming rumble of the ocean closeby, we started our first day on the bikes.
The conditions went from mist, to fog, to sunshine. And from dirt tracks, to gravel, to deep sand pits.
Some people were fooled by “shortcuts”, ending up in even deeper sand pits and resulting in the first gentle falls of the trip (but probably not the last). Lessons learned.
As we approached our camp, we caught our first glimse of the Brandberg Mountain, a distant silhouette on the horizon. Reaching the summit will be our challenge for day 3.
After completing our 65km ride through the unforgiving desert landscape, we arrived at our camp for the night – ice cold drinks waiting for us. After sunset, we spent the evening together around the campfire.
Day one done, five more to go.
Louie, Andreas, Chris, Lidia and Hans-Jurgen
Day 6, 6 May 2023
The final day has arrived! Everyone is feeling the marathon in their legs but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have all mastered the morning routine by now, so Phill did not have to shout at us anymore. After breakfast, we got the half marathon out of the way and thankfully the running did not feel excruciating after a few minutes. It was then that we saw the first traces of the Big Five, a huge pile of rhino excrement.
After a quick brunch, we got started on the final 65km bike ride with a much appreciated tail wind. At this point everyone is feeling like an expert on the mountain bike and riding through deep sand, sharp rocks and sketchy downhills. This was definitely the most beautiful ride of the whole trip, with lots of hills and fast descents. Giraffe and rhino tracks could be seen on several sections of the route but unfortunately, none were spotted.
As we were nearing the camp in peloton formation, we finally got to see some of the wildlife when a herd of springboks galloped alongside us. Entering the camp, we started singing “We Are The Champions” and we could all feel an immense sense of accomplishment for what we have done this week. We are all extremely happy to end this incredible journey we have taken and are all looking forward to seeing our loved ones again to tell them all about this crazy challenge. Huge thanks to INEOS, the INNAM organizers and the Namibia support group for giving us the opportunity to participate in this event of a lifetime. It was truly extraordinary. Good luck and god speed to Groups 2 and 3!
Stephanie, Louis, Pieter-Jan, Wout
Day 5, 5 May 2023
This day felt like the hardest thing we’ve ever done in our lives, however we’ve said that for five days in a row now. But it WAS the hardest thing we’ve ever done.
We were woken early in the morning by our sore thighs, making the task ahead seem even bigger than it already was. Tension was high within the group before the start, everyone flitting between anxiety and excitement about what lay ahead.
We took off in the dark, our head torches and the full moon illuminating the first 7km until the sun started her duty. From then on, the clock was ticking, and the graduates were running, each finding their own way to cope with the distance in front of them – some had a happy hardcore party, some ran as lone wolves, some just stopped being sad and put one foot in front of the other.
Clouds were providing some well-needed shade for the first half, but towards the end the desert revealed its true burning face, and the sun showed no mercy. With the home stretch being an uphill battle through sand and gravel, the toughest challenge waited for us at the end of the run – especially because little villages in the desert look an awful lot like the finish line from afar. We learned that the hard way, but luckily the town folk cheered on every fighter passing by.
Marathon done, lunch and cold drinks were served – but then the bikes waited for another 30km ride. We felt like fish stranded on the beach, but every one of us geared up and braved the challenge ahead.
As it turned out, pushing on after a marathon is more of a challenge for the mind rather than for the body, and after two hours of heat and dust, all graduates arrived at “Save the Rhino Trust Camp”.
Now we’re all tired, dirty, exhausted, sweaty, and sharing a laugh in a unique camp site with a much-craved cold drink in hand.
To the next and last day – off we go!
Lea, Patrick, Sebastian G, Valentin
Day 4, 4 May, 2023
We all had a good night’s sleep under the stars at the top of the Brandberg last night. We had great weather as it wasn’t too warm or cold. The amazing weather continued when we summited before sunrise. The photos and views at sunrise were unbelievable. The Brandberg decent was challenging but very rewarding as we could soak in the amazing views from the mountain as we descended. There were a few slips, trips, and falls but nothing serious and everyone made it down in one piece even making it past the wild beehive with only a few victims. We all made it back to camp in good timing with a few cold beers waiting for us. The day is now over and we are all taking a chance to relax… Even Phil…
Henrik, Michael, Sebastian B, Ross and Xavi
Day 3, 3 May 2023
Marvin, Tobias, Paul, Sander
Day 2, 2 May 2023
The grads found themselves in bed early, many opting to sleep under the stars to avoid the loud snoring from others in the tent. Unfortunately for them, many snorers also opted to sleep outside as well.
Before the first daylight, an early coffee at 4:30 AM woke the grads to focus on the first 7k March to start day 2. The group got the opportunity to complete some extra K’s as the overly enthusiastic guides may have missed a turn and the challenge was officially underway! After a quick stop, the cohort found themselves running through the beautiful Namib desert and were astonished as the landscape quickly changed the closer they got to their next challenge, the Brandberg. Along the way, we were treated to extraordinary rare light showers and pleasant cloud coverage. After brunch, we transitioned to our bikes for a ride with heavy gravel, sand, sand and more sand. After a couple of falls, we made it to camp at the base of the Brandberg and devoured lunch, the freshly prepared German schnitzels. After preparing our ~15 kg backpacks, we are now sitting here beneath the Brandberg mentally preparing for the ascent tomorrow.
– Florian, Marven, Tine, Tyler
Day 1, 1 May 2023
Finally arrived after a long journey and stayed in a great lodge right on the Skeleton coast. Misty, cold coast! Set off full of nervous excitement with cold weather layers on (glorious) and the first 20km were steady on good terrain…..it didn’t last. Sand, sand, deep sand, sandy hills up, sandy hills down….everywhere sand!! And then the sun!! Safari Day 1 – we saw Jackals and a beautiful chameleon who shared a drink stop with us. Tough going until the end, but what an end riding into a fantastic camp with cold beers, showers and good food. The views are to die for and we’re already looking forward to tomorrow….there’s only one way out!
Alison, Cameron, Mark, Gaby and Thomas