|By: Clare Morin|
One of the most extraordinary moments of the Sahara Race, comes at the halfway point, as competitors enter one of the planet's most mind-boggling landscapes. Set against the vast, silent expanse of a valley buried deep in the desert, are the unlikely skeletons and fossilized remains of whales. If you take a closer look at these ancient, aquatic creatures placed like huge chess pieces across the valley floor, you may see something surprising: hind legs and fins with fingers.
This is Wadi Al-Hitan, the Valley of the Whales, which lies 150 kilometers Southwest of Cairo and was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Once the ocean floor, this phenomenally well-preserved patch of desert has provided essential proof for scientists on the evolution of whales and evidence of their previous lives as land-based mammals. For competitors who travel into this dazzling landscape, it's a little bit like running into one of the world's largest history museums.
"The valley is an established tourist attraction and it is a privilege to be able to run the entire length of the valley and see some sights off the beaten track," marvels Mark Lindsay, Course Director of the Sahara Race 2012. "Before entering the valley, make sure you look around. The area is scattered with seashells and the occasional shark's tooth!"
The 4 Deserts races are renowned for the way they bring competitors deep into deserts and beyond the frontiers that most tourists witness. Lindsay says he has been careful to include stunning views and compelling routes in this year's course. "It's a combination of breathtaking landscapes from great vantage points and sections of rolling sand dunes that provide that iconic scene of emptiness and adventure," he explains. "The going underfoot will be surprisingly comfortable with the occasional soft section, but it all contributes to the whole nature of the race."
Perhaps the greatest moment awaits competitors in the final stage, with a finish line placed tantalizingly amid the Pyramids of Giza. After pushing one's body to the max on a seven-day, 250-kilometer odyssey, competitors are able to finish like kings as they weave their way through the colossal Pyramids of Giza. Experiencing the mystical presence of these formations while pumped with the adrenaline of completing such an epic challenge is an experience that is rarely forgotten. "The pyramids are awe-inspiring," marvels Lindsay. "It’s not until you reach the plateau overlooking the whole pyramid valley that you appreciate the scale and magnificence of this wonder."
The 8th edition of Sahara Race starts on the 28th of October and along with the Atacama Crossing (Chile), Gobi March (China) and The Last Desert (Antarctica) form the 4 Deserts Series. For more information and to register for any of these events please visit : www.4deserts.com