I’ve spent 5 nights in the last 14 at the venue as we now move into the final phase of preparations for the 2017 Rhino Charge – we’re focusing on the public infrastructure to accommodate the approximately 3,000 people who will be at this year’s Rhino Charge.
I finally got to see for myself the “upside down venue” and two things – the sunsets and the thunderstorms, awed me. The sunsets put a backdrop to landscapes that are so different to what I have become used to. And the thunderstorms are so heavy that you can ignore the bucket shower and just do your thing in the rain! I’d been paying little attention towards the wildlife until we had an encounter… a snake, probably 6 or 7 inches in diameter and about 2 metres long had been with us in camp until we found it, or rather it found us. It disappeared UP a tree and was never seen again. HQ Operations manager, Devina managed to take a blurry photo of it and out of anxiety spent hours identifying it only to realize that it was a black mamba. Not exactly the bicycle brand that I am now far more content to see!
Being less than 3ft away from what is the most venomous snake in this part of the world puts things into perspective. But it gives charm to the Rhino Charge’s reputation of being in some of the most remote and wild areas of Kenya. It gives me something to write about and for those of you who compete, you can say you survived in black mamba land (of course as long as you didn’t get bitten).
Our first day driving in the venue was exhausting and yet thrilling. There were times when it felt like we were driving on the moon defying gravity and others when I felt like I was in a miniature LEGO car on Ngong Road. There was a particular section that needed a lot of hand and finger signals to help the driver navigate over rocks that looked like they fell out of space. I spent many moments waiting for the bottom of the car to go over me and hilariously all I would say to myself with no inclination of any fear, “bottoms up”! Every time it didn’t happen, David Lowe would realign his shorts and move on to the next rock.
This year is the responsible spectator’s Rhino Charge and I’d encourage you to come see for yourselves. The gauntlet lends itself to a mix of intimate views and action in the distance (take a pair of binoculars!), while many of the spectator accessible checkpoints (and it’s a good number this year) will give you memories for life – make sure you take a video capable camera so that you can capture the battle of machine versus Africa!
Having driven and walked around the venue I have some tips to offer the competitors:
1. Eye protection. You’d be wise to keep your eyes covered at all times.
2. Head protection. The bush in this venue is surprisingly hard! And get something with a chin guard, mostly to keep the helmet on your head. You’ll be upside down quite a lot.
3. Wear trousers, or gaiters at the very least. I have been asked if my legs are going to be amputated with all the puncture wounds from poisonous thorns. You may not feel anything on Charge day but believe me those wounds make their presence felt in the days that follow.
4. Boots with ankle support. Ankle injuries are going to be more common on this venue than any other I can remember.
5. Roll-cage. You’re going to need it so make sure it’s safe and secure. (some sections on the course may be easier done rolling the vehicle)
6. And like most other Rhino Charges, the ones who do well have team harmony. Make sure you know each other well and you can play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Team Captain, trust your team, especially the runners – you’ll thank me later 🙂