By MARC GREENHILL11:39, May 05 2009
A fear of pirates is an unlikely obstacle for former multisport champion Steve Gurney when he attempts to traverse Africa's Sahara Desert by kite buggy.
The nine-times Coast to Coast winner will team up with Ashburton kite expert Craig Hansen in August to race Australians Geoff Wilson and Garth Freeman 2500 kilometres from Morocco and Senegal.
With no desert experience, Gurney rated the Saharan expedition his most "scary" adventure.
The two teams will chase the world-record distance for kite buggy travel, which stands at 1000km. They also plan to raise funds for a charity that rescues girls forced into prostitution in Asia.
"From the top to the bottom of the Sahara, no-one's ever done this before and there's probably a reason for that," Gurney said.
The New Zealand-made three-wheel buggies feature large balloon-tyres and are propelled by kites.
Gurney was looking forward to the "survival of the fittest" challenge.
"We don't know what's in the desert; we don't know if we're going to make it and there's a lot we're going to have to be MacGyver-ish about it.
"We actually don't know all the answers, and that's the definition of adventure."
The possibility of ambush by land pirates was Gurney's worst fear.
"We've got four of these colourful kites up in the sky, probably 30m up, so it's like `here we are, come and get us' for all the pirates.
The risk had been researched and a Saharan guide would accompany the party, he said.
They will have to lug the buggies, and 80 kilograms of gear, up sand dunes as high as 180m and in temperatures peaking at 50 degrees Celsius.
"Unfortunately, it's also in the rainy season if there is such a thing in the desert."
The deadline of four weeks was "touch and go", Gurney said.
"The 2500km is measured in a straight line, but we'll be zig-zagging around. We've probably got more like 5000km to cover."
A film crew will cover the journey for a documentary.