Magazines and newspapers are filled with incredible and inspiring stories of people who achieved things that others have never done before or even overcome hurdles which were deemed before impossible. As much as this stories inspire us, it also puts a lot of distance between us and those heroes. We read it more as a general inspiration for what mankind is able to do but we would not really consider us trying something similar… maybe in our wildest dreams but not in reality!

The outdoors is filled with; entertaining, educational, interesting and inspiring stories which you can read every month in this magazine. OutdoorUAE is all about these stories and the people behind it. No matter how well written a story is, no matter how amazing the photos are, a written article can never capture the real passion and sparkle in the eyes of the people who tell these stories. To ultimately understand them, their motivation, their hurdles and achievements, you need to meet these people, to truly connect and get inspired. What makes these stories so amazing is not unique and incredible achievements, it is those little personal hurdles we overcome, fears we face and most of the time it is about the very little first step just to start and get a ball rolling. It is exactly the simplicity of it, it is people like you and me and you don’t have to dream it, I can live it!

The Columbia Adventure Academy has the goal to get more people into the outdoors by education and motivation, so it was an obvious move to join forces with the support of the Cycle bistro to facilitate a very informal and personal event to bring people together and share their stories, experiences and knowledge.

Alongside international women’s day in March, we wanted to focus this time on women and underline that the outdoors is not a male domain here in the UAE and that there are adventures for any taste and any women. To be able to show that, we chose four ladies of different ages and covering different activities trying to show just a small piece of the possibilities you have here. If you missed the event, we would like to introduce these ladies to you here and hope their stories inspire you to reach your goals and dreams.

Dana Miskulnig – Adrenaline Junkie, Life Coach, Blogger and Adventurer
Born and raised in Dubai, Dana grew up in the desert and was introduced to motocross as a teenager and has been hooked on adventure and action sports since. She is, not only a petrol-head, but loves her watersports. As a life coach and blogger, she will share how action sports changed her perspective on life, how to get into these sports and how it could benefit you. (read more in the article: How I Grew Up Riding Dirt Bikes)

Helle Bachofen von Echt – Road cycling and Triathlon
Helle started road cycling only when she moved to Dubai 4 years ago, and quickly took up competitive road racing. Helle was used to workouts in the gym but not road cycling but her fitness level directly transformed in the first weeks into top positions in local amateur races. This gave her the motivation to chase after more challenges on a bike. She was, in a very short time, one of the top female amateur riders in the UAE receiving international attention. This led her to join a professional cycling team in the US. Spoiled with success in the local amateur scene she had to learn how to accept defeat on the international and pro level. So Helle story is all about giving your best no matter if you win or if you lose. You need to get on your bike and try. Helle also shared many stories in this magazine about challenges she set for herself. So it is much more about beating yourself then others. In 2017 she decided to enter the world of Triathlons on a competitive level and has qualified for the
2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Can you believe a few months ago she did not even know how to swim?

Helle says”If I can do it you can do it as well. Just connect with a friend or any of the local groups (you find also many women groups) if you want to pick up cycling or triathlon.” Helle also said “Never be afraid to ask. The community is very friendly and supportive.” You can connect with Helle on instagram@thegirlwhocyclesinthedesert

Marina Bruce – Off-Roading Expert
Marina Bruce a.k.a. “The Desert Diva” is one of the best known female off-roaders in the UAE. Originally from Scotland, she is most at home in the Liwa Desert, where she guides expats and tourists on her self-drive adventures, discovering the beauty of the Rub Al Khali’s sands.

Marina has written many stories for Outdoor UAE about driving in the desert for but we never got to know more about her, how she started and what were her motivations and fears, until the event.

Marina was also completing our roundup of ladies and in her own words “I am the wrong side of 50, borderline overweight and some of the other speakers are even younger than my sons! I am living proof that fitness and age should not be a barrier to getting out there and enjoying what this country has to offer”.

It all started when her husband bought her a short wheel base Nissan Patrol in 2010 and Marina began to drive in the dunes, further and further and with every kilometre her experience grew as did her love for the desert.

What started with a small step turned into her calling and she is now most probably the woman in the UAE with the most knowledge and experience of the deserts in the western region and Oman.

Apart from general questions about technical things like what car is best, do I need a diff-lock, did you have any accidents, which were all well answered by her, there were also the women-specific questions: Are you not afraid if you camp alone in a tent in the desert? Marina answered: “I have never met any hostile people in the desert.

One night she was camping alone and one car drove very close to her tent, but she said she was never worried and just annoyed by the noise since she wanted to sleep! She said people are curious and nosey in these deserted areas but they would never interrupt. If you are interested in dune driving or camping in the western region you can follow and get in contact with her on her blog: https://thedesertdiva.com/

Tasha Young – Yoga and Hiking
Tasha is a yogi, hiker, runner, cyclist, surfer, and general aficionado for all things outdoors. She shared the wonders and challenges of hiking in the Hajar mountains and how to get involved. She also shared her motivations for maintaining an active lifestyle and how she prioritises her outdoor passions while juggling a corporate job.

Tasha certainly cannot remember how she got into the outdoors since this was part of her childhood. Her parents are well known in the outdoor community and everyone who has been involved with the oldest and first running event in the region, the infamous “Wadi Bih Run”, will know the Young family.

Tasha shared photos from her childhood, here in the UAE, which shows a very different place to what we see of Dubai today. Decades ago this country’s terrain was even more rough and, in many places untouched and unexplored. This was Tasha’s playground growing up, especially the Hajar mountains. So her love and passion to explore and enjoy the outdoors was not something Tasha had to find, it was always there! But even if the spark was lit early she kept it burning all the years and what she was taught by her parents, she is adopting now in her very own personal way combining hiking with yoga. Apart from her favourite hikes like Stairways to Heaven, Dead Goat Gulley and Jebel Rahba she also highlighted the therapeutic and meditative benefits of hiking as well as functional movement which is great for injury recovery. “Even if the outdoors developed a lot since her childhood there are still many things you should be aware of and take care of like the level of experience and fitness needed for a hike. Even if it is not comparable to the 80s and 90s the mountains and hikes are still rough and you need to go prepared.”


A big thank you to the four ladies for taking the time to meet people and share their stories. This is what a community is all about, get together, share things and have a good time! It is not always that easy and without the support of brands like Columbia who actively want to help by growing the community and supporting events like these or the Cycle Bistro, it would not be possible. To be able to offer to our readers and the community, free events, someone needs to cover the bills and there are only a few companies left who truly respect and care about the community and not just their sales. Building and growing the community is an investment in the future so we are grateful to have the Columbia Adventure Academy to achieve these goals. Check out www.columbiaacademy.ae for more free events to get you inspired to go out and try new things and enjoy the outdoors here and abroad. The next event will be the end of April about Outdoor Photography – more details will be posted online soon. ■


To see the video from this and our other events check out our Facebook and
Instagram page as well as www.facebook.com/columbiame and
Instagram: @COLUMBIASPORTSWEAR_ME.


Words + Photos by: Daniel Birkhofer