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From the diamond trail

From the diamond trail

Words: Melanie Ho

Team Swana takes RacingThePlanet

diamond hunting.


Not many competitors have a built-in excuse for slowing their pace along the trail.  Then again, most competitors aren’t part of Team Swana (Israel), the four-man team of competitors who work for Dalumi, a large Israeli diamond manufacturer. 


RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 finishes in the town of Luderitz, but before the final finish line is crossed, the competitors go through about 10 km of terrain along what has been named “the Diamond Trail:”.  Special permission had to be received from the Namibian government to even be able to camp and race through the protected area and right before coming into the protected area, there are signs not only advertising Namibian diamonds but also signs trying to dissuade people from diamond theft.


In any case, there are diamonds to be found and Team Swana, whose four members work for Diamond manufacturer Dalumi, seems to be the people most capable of sifting through the sand and rock to find that sparkling gem.  The team, which leads all six of the teams in the race, laughed as they were asked about the best ways to search for diamonds.


“We are using that as an excuse,” team spokesman Kobi Itzchaki said.  “Whenever we’re slow we say it’s because we are looking for diamonds on the ground.  But seriously, if you have the right ground and the right level of ground, it is possible to maybe find something.  Usually governments won’t let anyone go to an area where there’s diamonds, so I would say no, you wouldn’t find any.  The again, they’re letting us walk around so you never know.”


Dalumi sources diamonds from neighbouring Botswana before sending them to factories in Botswana, China and Israel to cut, polish and then send around the world for distribution.  The team is running under the name “Swana”, a truncated version of Botswana to advertise a special Botswana diamond which is cut to maximize sparkle.   But Swana is also trying to do good – raising funds to help orphaned children in Botswana, specifically in a village close to Gaborone.   


“It’s the first time for me to do one of these races,” Talia Abu Rukun said.  “Kobi is the one to bring us here.  He’s done these races before and then this year he decided to bring some friends, the other three of us.  We’re very pleased with how everything is going, because actually we’re learning.  This first race is a study case for the other races.”


Itzchaki has previously completed the Sahara Race (Egypt) 2007 and the Gobi March (China) 2008.  The other members, Talia Abu Rukun, his brother Alaa, and Israel Moosery are in their first race.


“The chances are very slim,” Moosery said.  “I would say that in every truck of pebbles there is one small diamond.”


Despite the unlikely chance of stumbling upon a hidden gem, it hasn’t stopped people at camp talking about the possibility of finding diamonds.  During one of the early course briefings, competitors were jokingly warned that any diamonds found were to go to the organisers.  Laughter erupted.  Then again, one can always hope to see something special. 


“I think it’s absolutely impossible, unless you go underground,” said Damien Dernoncourt (France) who is the CEO of John Hardy Limited in Hong Kong.  “There is so much extraction involved, so much dirt but the illusion is good.”




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