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Beauty in the desert


Beauty in the desert

Words: Melanie Ho



The women (and men) of RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 take a few measures to save their faces.


Usually it’s essentials only during RacingThePlanet events.  The mandatory list of equipment is sparse and many of the competitors, all who must carry everything they need save a tent and water for a week, decide to opt out on any luxuries or items which are of a cosmetic nature. 


With a record 54 women in RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 and a ladies’ division which is considered the most competitive ever, there are not only incredibly fast women and several former champions, but also some women who have found creative ways of maintaining their femininity.


A toothbrush and toothpaste are a given and while many of the women have brought dental floss, some have forgotten to bring that aspect of dental hygiene. 


Lucy Marriott (Hong Kong), who is here with her husband, Frank (Hong Kong) as well as her sister, Annabelle (United Kingdom) is one of the women who is favoured to place well in the women’s division and in the overall placings.  Having completed the Gobi March (China) 2005 and winning the ladies’ division in the Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2006, Marriott could be considered an expert on what to and what not to bring. 


Marriott said she was sticking to sunscreen. 


“It’s a good sunscreen, Anthelios, so does that count?” Marriott asked.  “I try to wash my face and then at night I have a small tube of Dermalogica cream that I use.  I think it’s actually an eye cream, but I’ve been using it all over my face at night because it gets so dry from all of the sun here.”


Cleo Oliver (United Kingdom) finished third in the Sahara Race (Egypt) 2008 and said that right before that race, she cut her hair short.  A short pixie cut has stayed with her since and Oliver said that she cut her hair before the start of RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009.  For Oliver, this race is much more difficult than her previous RacingThePlanet event. 


“Compared to Namibia, Sahara was a walk in the park,” Oliver said. 


Bond, who is part of Team Good Sport along with Lucy Tang (Great Britain) and Sissel Smaller (Norway), said it was easier to keep feminine in the mountains than out here in the rough country of Namibia. 


“In the mountains you don’t have to carry everything with you and then you also have base camp,” said Bond, who has climbed Mount Everest with Smaller. 


While Smaller admitted that Team Good Sport left the lip gloss at home, Bond elaborated on some of the team’s beauty tips.  “I have wet wipes to clean my face, moisturiser and I bought a lightweight spritzer bottle from Muji and put some white musk oil from the Body Shop.  I also have an eye-liner, a compact and tweezers.”


There were preparatory arrangements as well. 


“Before we left, we sprayed all of our clothes and our sleeping bags with perfume,” said Tang, whose perfume of choice was ClairinsAromatic Elixir. 


Like Marriott, Team Good Sport were using the SPF 50 Anthelios and while Smaller said she wasn’t using perfume, she did say she was changing her socks each day. 


“You know, it’s all a routine and it’s very important to be comfortable right away,” Smaller said.  “You do what you have to do in the bag.”


Many of the women took the opportunity to use the Huns River to take a quick bath and shower after Stage 3: Huns Mountain.  It was a nice break during the half-way point of RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 and though some of the women opted to stick to the even the smallest semblance of their daily beauty routine, others were strict with themselves.


“I brought a comb, but after a few days it doesn’t do much good,” Lia Farley (United States) said.  “I got a haircut right before I came but the only advice I have is to try and wash your face once a day.  I put a few drops of biodegradable soap into a cut up water bottle and do my laundry every day, swishing the socks around in the bottle and then using some safety pins to pin it up to the tent.  It’s dry by morning.”


Nicola Ogilvie (United Kingdom), who is competing in her first RacingThePlanet event, said that she had come just for the experience and the personal challenge. 


“I brought the tiniest of mirrors with me and nothing else other than a little bit of soap,” Ogilvie said.  “I was thinking of bringing other things, like a hairbrush but I was really hard on myself and didn’t.  One of my tentmates has brought hand cream, which I’ve used a little bit.”


It wasn’t just the women who were interested in maintaining hygiene.  Andres Martin Ruz (Spain) said he was able to bathe everyday using sheets of disposable cloth which he wetted with a few drops of water. 


“Spanish men are very clean,” Martin Ruz said smiling. 


Then again, not all of the beauty tips were packed items.  Underneath a wrist band, Bond revealed three Cartier love bangles and a diamond tennis bracelet.  “I do my climbing with these bangles and so it’s like a good luck charm, although it hasn’t prevented the blisters,” Bond said. 




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