x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Biking through the desert

This much I know Minky Botha will be racing a quad bike in the 2008 Dubai Desert Challenge this month.

The bike racer Minky Botha is part of a growing community of female quad bikers.
The bike racer Minky Botha is part of a growing community of female quad bikers.

Minky Botha will be racing a quad bike in the 2008 Dubai Desert Challenge this month. I have fond memories of my early years. I grew up on a farm about 25km from Heilbron in South Africa. As far back as I can remember, I spent every school holiday with my grandparents on their farm. In total, there were six grandchildren and every day we were fortunate enough to be out and about playing in the haystacks, swimming at the dam, climbing trees, riding horses and fishing for frogs.

I was quite a tomboy and, I suppose, a bit of a wild child, which meant I was also happy extending our adventures to riding young bulls, riding bikes and driving tractors. And yes, I have a number of scars to prove all of our adventures. Typically, after an action-packed day, we would gather around grandpa to hear stories of his hunting trips and the "good old days". Having said that, I did also enjoy playing with dolls like any other child.

After I left school, I started my apprenticeship as a goldsmith and diamond setter. I worked in a factory where I was trained by one of the best diamond setters and goldsmiths. I was passionate about my job as the process of creating a ring or a fine piece of jewellery never ceased to amaze me, from the melting of the metal to the cleaning and final polish. The best reward I got from that job was the smiles on my customers faces, especially when they waved at me like queens to show off their new rings. I joined my husband in Dubai in 2000 and started my first office role.

I met my husband during a water sport weekend at a dam in South Africa with friends. My husband was there with other friends and he offered to teach me to waterski. At the end of the weekend, he asked if he could see me again. Our first date was his father's wedding and we have been together ever since. I started riding quad bikes seven years ago with my husband and friends. It was nothing competitive, just fun rides enjoying the wonderful desert terrain. After a few years, I looked for a little bit more from riding - I guess I was looking for the adrenalin rush - the tomboy in me again. I have helped in the Desert Challenge for a number of years, in awe of the event. One day, I said I would like to have a go. I then took my riding a lot more seriously, watching bike DVDs to improve and talking to riders. I started racing in the (Californian off-road race) Baja. This was a great opportunity to develop my skills in a racing environment, experience the nerve and excitement just before the race and the overwhelming enjoyment of completing the race. Midway through the Baja's season, I met with the Gecko-Honda riders, who have since helped me improve my riding.

The female biking community is getting bigger each year and the desert is not only a boys' play area now. With the likes of myself and Vicky White, we are going to give the boys a run for their money. I'm proud of the fact that I have come this far and that my riding skills have drastically improved. I'm also proud to ride an amazing quad bike, the mighty TRX700. It can be tough to work all day and then have to push yourself in the gym every evening, when sometimes all you want to do is relax at home. Winter riding is not so bad but in the summer I have to be up at 3.30am every Friday and Saturday to go riding as the sun comes up. But it is all worth it.

I believe if you keep your eyes fixed on your goals, the details will fall into place, but if you worry too much about the details, you will forget about your goals.