About us

The Tankwa Karoo is one of the most exciting spaces in South Africa. It is as hot, dry and expansive as only a desert can get. The Tankwa also boasts a rich diversity of fauna and flaura and has the distinction of having the third most endemic bird species in the world. Pictures of the Tankwa Karoo invites you to unplug, to step out of your comfort zone and to step into, to quote Father Dioscuros, a place where you can find yourself.

 

Horizons without limits

 

It was not a surprise that this invitation rang loudly when Hanno Langenhoven saw a picture of cyclists tackling parts of the R355 crossing the Tankwa Karoo. The R355 is the longest uniterupted gravel road between two towns in South Africa and calls out adventure day in and day out, summer and winter. Soon the invitation turned into the crazy concept of a single-stage desert crossing in the middle of summer to have a crack at the title of 'the hottest run in the world'.

 

Hanno Langenhoven is an avid trail runner, birdwatcher, adventure junkie and serial stretcher of his own comfort zone limits. After the seed was planted, well watered and started to grow into a little tree (non of those in the Tankwa) the next step was to convince his friend, Dewald van Niekerk (check out Event81), that the Tankwa should be crossed at the hight of the South African summer and a recce should be run January 2021.

 

The January 2021 delivered with abundance. The distance remains a challenge to be conquered, but the lessons learnt were taken to heart and applied to the inuagural Tankwa Crossing event taking place over the full moon weekend of February 2022.

 

Copyright of Tankwa Crossing belongs to Hanno Langenhoven

31 January - 3 February 2024

 

Tankwa Crossing will take place on the week(end) of the 31st January till the 3rd of February 2024

 

Tankwa Crossing

 

Distance: 207.3 kilometers

Start: R355 - Calvinia

Ascent: 869 meters

Descent: 1029 meters

Maximum height above sea level: 1071 meters

Lowest point above sea level: 292 meters

Cut-off: 50 hours

R8 000 per person

 

Tankwa Half Crossing

 

Distance: 107 kilometers
Start: R355 - Calvinia

Ascent: to be confirmed

Descent: to be confirmed

Maximum height above sea level: 1071 meters

Lowest point above sea level: 292 meters

Cut-off: 24 hours

R4 000 per person

 

Tankwa Team Crossing

 

Tankwa Crossing with team spirit

The full crossing
Start: R355 - Calvinia

2-4 team members

R11 000 per team

 

The Alien 100

 

Distance: 100 miles (163 kilometers)
Start: R355 - Calvinia

Ascent: to be confirmed

Descent: to be confirmed

Maximum height above sea level: 1071 meters

Lowest point above sea level: 292 meters

Cut-off: 36 hours

R5 000 per person

 

Donkey Dash (3 February)

 

Distance: 42.2 kilometers
Start: Zwartkop Guestfarm - Farm Kitchen

Ascent: to be confirmed

Descent: to be confirmed

Maximum height above sea level: to be confirmed

Lowest point above sea level: to be confirmed

Cut-off: 7 hours

R800 per person

 

Baby Donkey (3 February)

 

Distance: 21.1 kilometers
Start: Zwartkop Guestfarm - Farm Kitchen

Ascent: to be confirmed

Descent: to be confirmed

Maximum height above sea level: to be confirmed

Lowest point above sea level: to be confirmed

Cut-off: 7 hours

R400 per person

open spaces and vistas

 

 

The Tankwa Karoo is mesmerizing with a wide variety of textures and colours around every corner.

 

Photographer: The Snoring Naturalist Photography (Gareth Roberts)

Race Reports

Inaugural Tankwa Crossing Race Report - 2022

Tankwa Crossing is a character-defining, paradigm-shift, comfort zone-breaking experience. I should stop here and just post the pictures. The images captured by Gareth Earl Roberts (Gareth Roberts Photography), Geoff Tennant and Kati... erm Eleen Thompson (Semi Soet Fotografie) tells the story far better than any report can.

 

Tankwa Crossing was inspired by a photo of the long, hot, desolate, white road that is the longest uninterupted gravel road between two towns in South Africa, posted by Mountain Passes South Africa almost 2 years ago. A quick whatsapp to friends that this needs to be run, a few replies of saying "you are mad" , a once-in-a-lifetime recce excursion with Dewald Van Niekerk, Ruan van Niekerk, Janno Langenhoven and swiss-army knife photographer, cheerleader, arse-kicker, chef and support vehicle driver Gareth Roberts and 12 months of planning later a small field of bat-shit crazy runners stood on the start line of the inaugural #TankwaCrossing: The Full Moon edition at 16:00 on the 17th of February 2022.

 

A few things were known. How far each runner aimed to go, what they piled on the back of their mule and their initial game plan. We knew it will be hot, but how hot was an open question. We knew someone would make it, but with Jo keppler, Herman Mulder and Johnny Young in the mix we did not know who would make it first. We knew the pace would drop off towards the end, but by how much and what will be the pace up front? In short, what will the Tankwa Karoo offer up and what will the Tankwa Karoo take in return.

 

The braying of a donkey set everyone on their way, to earn the donkey in one of the most beautiful, most fragile, most liminal, most brutal, most unforgiving environments that South Africa has to offer. After a short neutral zone the racing was on. With Anele Bans headlining #TeamTailwindSA, it soon became evident that every suggested fastest time is too slow. Team Tailwind simply blew the field apart. Anele Bans, Adrian Le Roux, Mo Botha and Dirk Cloete completed the Full Crossing flew over the finish line 207.3 kilometers south of the start in an almost unbelievable time of 20 hours and 25 minutes. The A-team (Robyn and Kingsley Butterworth, Mandy Hunt and Steven Clark), all the way from Howick, was the second team to cross the line in 25 hours and 26 minutes (Mixed team record) with Team Desert Madness (Matthew Blackmore, Brad Gauldie, Bryan Lawrence and Paul Stevens) not far behind in 25 hours and 47 minutes.

 

With the same level of grit and determination Amri Williamson took the half Crossing by the scruff of the neck and made it her own. From early on she had only Anele Bans (Team Tailwind SA) and Johnny Young (Full Crossing runner) in front of her. Amri saw the sun set over the Tankwa Karoo, she saw a phenomenal full moon rise but she did not see the sun rise over the Tankwa Karoo. After 11 hours and 49 minutes of running, at 03:49 on the 18th of February 2022, Amri crossed the finish line of the #TankwaHalfCrossing for the overall victory. She was followed home by local runner Nicole Faul who, with determination and single-minded focus, kept collecting kilometer markers. She finished in 15 hours and 52 minutes. Jacques Beukes was the first male and third home overall in the 107km version of the Tankwa Crossing and completed the route in 16 hours and 43 minutes. Adrian Saffy is known to say about the shorter distance at Skyrun; do not underestimate the shorter versions, they are challenging runs in their own right. The maxim holds true for Tankwa Crossing as well. The Tankwa Half Crossing, a 107km desert run is a beast not to be underestimated.

 

As the Tankwa Half Crossing peeps were making their way to their finish line, a small group of runners focussed on the finish line as an important milestone, but just a milestone, not a finish. Right from the get-go Johnny Young surged to the lead never to relinguise it. With only Anele Bans in front of him disappearing into the setting sun, Johnny was left to pave the way for Herman Mulder and Jo Keppler. Before #TankwaCrossing Johnny’s furthest run was around the 100km mark so there where a few questions asked. Can he sustain the amazing pace he started with? Will the sun have the last laugh as Johnny ran without a shirt from the first braying of the donkey? How will his body cope in the unfamiliar territory of 100 miles and beyond? How is he going to manage sleep-deprivation? And, where is that line when female runners over take male runners as favourites for the overall crown.

 

Jo Keppler on the other hand is that female runner. She is quickly building a reputation as a determined and gifted ultra trail athelete that can hold her own and out compete others when the going gets tough and the distances get long. She’s run 170 kilometers before and she is familiar with the podium. Jo came into the race with some serious BMT.

 

Herman Mulder was the dark horse, the leader of the Wolf pack. There is very few runners in South Africa with the steely determination and ingrained grit that Herman calls his own. Is this the race where a little more maturity and life experience will come out trumps?

 

It was fascinating to see the answers to these question unfold over a little more than a days running. The Tankwa Crossing 2022 was a bunch start with everyone on the course at the same time. Thursday afternoon was mild, at least in Tankwa Karoo terms, with the temperature in the low 30s, that is degrees Centigrade, with a very light breeze from the North. After 4 hours of running all the runners were treated to an exquisite sunset, especially those who moved a little slower from the start with the sun settting whilst they were making their way down the Blouberg Pass.

 

As the moon started to rise the #TankwaKaroo gave a little shudder, the wind changed direction and increased its intensity. It was not long before, in the words of Adrian le Roux, the wind started to bully everyone out on the route. Volunteers and support crews alike were torn between taking shelter against the wind and embracing the magic of a full moon rising over a wet and green Tankwa Karoo. Magic allround, if you were not running into the relentless wind from the south that seemed to have no end.

 

At daybreak on Friday morning the wind was still howling making more than Tankwa Crossing running to seriously ponder the decisions they make in life. Fortunately all the runners were given a way out of the frying pan, unfortunately, into the fire. The wind died down but it became evident very quickly that the Tankwa Karoo was ready to dish up a blistering hot day. Depending on where you were on the road on Friday the temperatures in direct sun where measured anywhere between 45 and 50 degrees Centigrade (113 F to 122 F) with not a breeze to give a little relief.

 

During the day Johnny led, gained distance, lost distance but kept on leading the way. Jo lost distance on Johnny, ran with Herman, fell behind, caught up to Herman, passed him and gained on Johnny. Herman ran his own race, wisdom-steady pace, ran with Jo, left her behind, got caught and lost sight of her. Three extraordinary runners battling it out at the front. And this is how it ended.

Before the second setting of the sun all three of them would finish. Johnny Young crossed the line in a phenomenal time of 27 hours and 08 minutes. Jo Keppler 20 minutes behind him in 27 hours and 28 minutes. Both Johnny and Jo setting Fastest Known Times for the route; Johnny for the overall and male FKT and Jo the female FKT. Herman completed the podium and finished in 28 hours and 42 minutes.

 

A bit of moon-light seperated the front three from the rest of the field. Dale Herring (37 hours and 31 minutes) and Sibusiso Vilane (40 hours and 03 minutes) earned their donkeys before the sun rose for a second time. It was not long before Steve Gossman (41 hours and 07 minutes) and Scott McIver (43 hours and 01 minute) joined them.

 

As the sun kept climbing steadily up its ladder all eyes turned to the back of the race. The race was on. Dewald van Niekerk ruefully reflected on how close he came to catching Kyle Evans in the early hours of the morning and how much ground he lost whilst taking a nap. Kyle was suffering, his feet making every step agony, but he was still moving, relentlessly forward. Dewald asked, where is Kyle. Kyle asked, where is Dewald. Dewald caught Kyle with 3 kilometers to go and earned his donkey after 45 hours and 54 minutes. Kyle kept on going, moving forward. No-one said it better than Paul van Wyk. “If determination was a person, Kyle Evans would be it”. After 46 hours and 43 minutes Kyle earned his donkey.

 

The ceremonial last kilometer was torture, it was bliss, it was the start of the reflection on what just happened; a reflection that will take more than just a few weeks. Kyle’s initial response was: “I am not the same person that left the start of Tankwa Crossing on Thursday afternoon”.

 

Thank you Kyle, Johnny and every participant, crew member and volunteer who made Tankwa Crossing the magical experience, adventure it turned out to be.

 

See you next year on the 16th of February at 16:00 on the start line of Tankwa Crossing: The Dark Moon edition.

RACE REPORT - Tankwa Crossing 2023

 

Deserts are unpredictable. Every February we head into the #TankwaKaroo, the driest desert in South Africa, to face and conquer the heat. At least, that is the theory. #TankwaCrossing 2023 dished up something completely different. Heat, but cool in terms of the #Tankwa, clouds, a little smattering of rain and wind. But let’s start at the start and we’ll get to that wind.

 

Tankwa Crossing 2023 introduced a number of new events. Two shorter distances, the #DonkeyDash and the #BabyDonkey, a 100 miler and a 200 miler; turning Tankwa Crossing into a true celebration of desert running.

 

The #Tankwa200miler started on Wednesday, February 15, 09:00, in Vanrhynsdorp at a true oasis, Letsatsi Wedding Venue and Lifestyle Lodge 4 Experienced and well known South African Ultra Runners lined up to tackle the 323 km route. The route was fairly straight forward; run from Vanrhynsdorp to just outside of Calvinia, turn right onto the R355 and continue all the way to where the gravel road stops a smidge outside of Ceres. 


The day started misty an cool with the occasional drop of water and everyone looked forward to the days running. At the stroke of 09:00 Nicky Booyens, Hazel Moller Henk Mulder and Marius van Rensburg set off at a more than decent pace running through town. The first objective was to get to Vanrhyns Pass, a 7.5km climb with just a little less than a 1000m of vert roughly 40 kilometers into the race. Nicky and Henk reached the foot of the pass first and ascended it in approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. Marius running around 3 kilometers back kept pace with the leaders on the pass, Hazel unfortunately ran into some challenges and had to call her race at the bottom of the pass.


Once at the top Nicky and Henk kept blazing the trail with Marius following. It quickly became very clear that all three of them were running way ahead of schedule. After sunset Marius started gaining some ground and finally caught up with Nicky and Henk at the turn-off onto the R355 from the R27. All three runners completing the 122 km tar road section in times that will be good enough for a Comrades finish.

 

From here Marius started opening a lead which grew to around 7 kilometers by daybreak. All three of 200 miler runners way ahead of the schedule and even ahead of the race deployment. 

 

Whilst they were running the participants of the other events started arriving at Calvinia Hotel by Country Hotels for the start on Thursday, 16 February at 15:00. The day was warm but not hot with a smattering of clouds. Registration went smoothly, every one received their medical clearance and set off on the journey as the donkey brayed at 15:00.


From the outset there were a little breeze, pleasant and not hot, and should have been an indication of what is to come. The first 23 kilometers went without hiccups and everyone arrived and passed the 23 kilometer hospitality point with ease. Hence forth this point will be known as the G&P, Gin and Pickles, table. Artisanal Bee Gin was on offer as well as a good supply of Pickles. Less refreshing was the wind. It picked up significantly since the start and looking into the Tankwa a huge sand storm was evident.


The little breeze at the start and the chair toppling wind at the top of Bloukrantz Pass, the 23 kilometer table, turned into something else all together. By the bottom of the Pass the wind turned into a howling tempest from the south, blowing cold air straight into the Tankwa Karoo and into the faces of every participant. At stages through Thursday night the wind was constantly smashing into the runners at 50 kilometers per hour and gushing up to 77 kilometers per hour.


The main target for each and everyone was to simply get to the 107 kilometer checkpoint at Halfway House Tankwa. This was the first big hospitality point with a medic in attendance and the promise of hot food and a bit of shelter from the gale outside. Just before this point that all the ultras came together. The hospitality point opened a few hours before Marius van Rensburg, leader of the 200 miler arrived. He was followed by Henk Mulder and Nicky Booyens, also running the 200 miler, and a tad later by Ryan Pike, running the Tankwa Crossing (207 kilometers). Marius did not spend a lot of time at the aid station and headed out into the wind again. Henk and Nicky opted to sleep for a few hours and started their journey again at 06:00 on Friday morning.

 

Maranda Muller arrived at the #HalfCrossing finish line first in 13 hours 28 minutes taking the overall win for the 107 kilometer race. She was just fast enough to be congratulated by her Mindsetmovementruncrew team mate, Ryan Pike, before he headed out continuing his journey across the Tankwa Karoo desert.
At this point Marius van Rensburg was leading the journey south, Ryan Pike was chasing him down, followed by Nicky and Henk. The rest of the field was still north of Halfway House Padstal. Throughout the morning people trickled in, bruised and battered by the wind, reported a few little snakes and lots of scorpions, grabbed a hot drink, a plate of food and headed out again.

 

For one group of runners the relief was evident. The Half Crossing finished at Halfway House Padstal and it was clear that each one of them was happy to end their battle with the wind. Miranda was followed home by Louise de Jager (15:46) and Shannon Talbot (17:56) completing an all female podium. Chris Underwood (18:28) finished the Half Crossing fourth overall and the first male. Stefan Ulland (22:40) decided it wise to complete the Half Crossing rather than suffer through another section of wind.


The last person to leave the Halfway House Padstal point was Tobie Reyneke on his way to the #Alien100 miler finish line at Tankwa Padstal, another 56 kilometers down the road. The whole race cleared halfway more than two hours before the cut-off time of 24 hours.

 

The day stayed cool, the wind lost a little bit of its menace for a little while blowing constantly around 35 kilometers/hour and time ticked on. But the respite was short-lived and around midday the tempest raised her head again. It is on this section that Ryan Pike took the overall lead of the race from Marius van Rensburg. 


Ryan arrived at Tankwa Padstal first, followed by Marius and then some distance back Nicky and Henk. Tankwa Padstal lived up to its reputation for true Tankwa hospitality in a huge way. Warm food, hot drinks, koeksisters, koekies, rusks, a place to sleep and so much more. One might even say that the hospitality point is a safe haven that might just make it that little more difficult to continue to the finish line another 44 kilometers further south.

The temptation was not strong enough to hold onto Ryan and the 200 mile runners as they made their way out and into the wind once again. 

Arriving at 163 kilometers, Jonathan Melamdowitz took the honours in the inaugural Alien 100 miler in a time of 29 hours and 55 minutes. He was followed home by Neels Janse van Vuuren that downgraded his race to the 10 0 miler. Tobie Reyneke brought up the rear of the race and completed his umpteenth 100 miler in a respectable 34 hours and 55 minutes.


30 Minutes after Jonathan crossed the finish line of the Alien 100 and 44 kilometers further south Ryan crossed the finish line of the Tankwa Crossing in first place with a time of 30 hours and 25 minutes. It would be a long wait at the finish line for the next runner to show up. 

 

Somewhere between the 200 mile runners leaving the Alien 100 miler finish line and checkpoint and before Tobie arrived, the finish line/checkpoint looked more like a World War II field hospital with tired bodies finding any available space to take in some desperately needed rest.

 

However, the Alien 100 miler finish line and Friday night is not the end of the race for many. Saturday morning arrived in splendour. The wind subsided, the cold departed for most of the day and everyone was treated to a spectacular day in the Tankwa Karoo. 

 

With a smattering of ultra runners still out on the route, the first of the short course Donkey runners started arriving at Zwartkop Guestfarm. The day could not have been better for the inaugural Donkey Dash and Baby Donkey. It seemed to be running action all over the southern part of the Tankwa Karoo with Marius finally arriving at the finish line after running for 69 hours and 20 minutes, Henk and Nicky finishing a little more than an hour later and a quick celebration ceremony setting the scene for the Donkey Runners’ race briefing and start at 09:00.

 

The Baby Donkey is a 20km, anti-clockwise loop on Zwartkop Guest Farm (yes, yes, next year we’ll find an extra 1.1km to add). It is a beautiful trail that allows running for most of it. Climbs are generally gentle and Baby Donkey runners are treated to a short technical descent in the middle of the run. The overall winner, Jessica Laing, surprised even herself arriving at the finish line in an excellent 2 hours and 11 minutes. Another highlight was Emuel Lombaard crossing the line at the stroke of 3 hours. What made his run all that more special is what preceded the run. He crewed Marius van Rensburg from Wednesday morning 09:00 and was released from duties due to Marius’ own phenomenal run.


Donkey Dash runners have it all to do again. After they completed the Baby Donkey anti-clockwise loop, they turn around and do the same loop but in a clockwise direction. And that technical downhill? Well that turns into a quad-busting technical ascent at roughly 30 kilometers into the run.

Simon Stofberg kicked the proverbial dust into everyone’s eyes and stormed across the finish line with 4 hours and 8 minutes on the clock. 2 hours and 21 minutes later Abrie Olivier crossed the line to complete his Donkey Dash. Not everyone downgrades! Abrie decided after he completed the Baby Donkey to upgrade and go for a Donkey Dash.


And that was it. All the runners were accounted for with only two DNFs the whole weekend. Thank you to every runner that showed up and made themselves proud. Thank you to all the volunteers and crew! Without you the event is not possible and runners won’t survive. Thank you to every hosting us. Letsatsi Lodge in Vanrhynsdorp, Calvinia Hotel in Calvinia and Zwartkop Guest Farm in Ceres. 

See you on the start line for the 2024 Tankwa Crossing - 31 January - 4 February.
 

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Life Happens

Even with our best laid plans, life happens and it does not always hand you a box of chocolates. Here is the policy that governs Umoya Adventures (Tankwa Crossing is an Umoya Adventures event) when it comes to unforseen which impact your ability to particiapte in an event you registered for.

 

'Normal' Cancelations (Non-covid)

 

Greater than 45 days. - A full refund minus a 5% admin fee.

21-45 days - A 50% refund

Less than 21 or no show - No refund

 

Covid Cancelations

 

A positive test result must be mailed to Umoya Adventures.

The entry will be rolled to the next year - no extra cost

If you opt for a refund:

Greater than 21 days - Full refund minus a 5% admin fee

21 Days or less - Full refund minus a 15% admin fee