June 2018 – Nedbank Tour de Tuli has officially launched the 2018 route of Africa’s most adventurous mountain-biking event, which will see 300 riders cycle across more than 250 km of challenging and remote terrain in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa between 2 and 7 August.
Riders will not only have the unique opportunity to discover thrilling and untravelled wilderness trails, but also enjoy a range of original activities such as meeting an astronomer, being present at the unveiling of the brand new Nyala Berry Camp in Zimbabwe and visiting a fascinating 140-million-year-old dinosaur fossil site.
“Each year the route for the Nedbank Tour de Tuli changes as our volunteer teams are constantly discovering new and exciting trails for our riders. With over 11 years of exploring the Tuli Block, our route planners have managed to find some truly authentic wilderness trails that not only showcase the magnificent landscapes throughout the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA), but also create the best cycling adventures in Africa”, said Tour Director, Nicola Harris.
This year promises another extraordinary mountain-biking journey complete with pristine single-track wilderness trails, a range of wildlife encounters, meaningful community interactions along the way and superlative hospitality with 150 volunteers completely dedicated to the success of the event. The Tour will be opened by the celebrated Botswana Dance and Choir Group who will also see the riders off in style on the morning of the first riding day.
In Zimbabwe, renowned astronomer Cory Schmitz will take guests on a virtual tour of the stars on the second night, the 5 th of August. He is participating in the Tour and will be available to chat with riders, sharing his expertise on astronomy. According to Cory, “2018 is very special in that we are able to see five planets (Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars) with the naked eye, all at once, with four of them being some of the brightest ‘stars’ in the sky! Mars in particular will be bigger, brighter and closer to Earth than it’s been since 2003. The remote location of the event will offer incredible visibility of the planets due to the significantly reduced light pollution in this wilderness area and I am looking forward to sharing this magic with the Tour’s participants”.
Itinerary highlights over the four days of cycling include:
Day 1: Limpopo Valley Airfield to Limpopo River Camp (Botswana) – approximately 60 km
The riders set off from the Limpopo Valley Airfield, with many little koppies providing 360-degree views of the breathtaking landscapes showcasing the Tuli Block, while the spectacular sunrise colours in the winter bushveld are sure to impress. Riders can expect huge diversity in the terrain, with changing landscapes and mopane thickets opening into plains littered with agates, shepherd’s trees, rocky sides and plenty of undulating sections hiding sneaky and sandy drainage lines that require special attention to detail and great caution from the rider. Interesting highlights include a stop at ‘Bryce’s Store’ which contains historic tales of the conflict between the British and the Boers dating back to the late 1800s in what officially came be to known as the Anglo Boer War.
Day 2: Limpopo River Camp (Botswana) to Nyala Berry Camp (Zimbabwe) – approximately 80 km
The second day of the Tour is the longest riding day and therefore it is compulsory for riders to carry hydration packs. They ride along the Limpopo River for a few kilometres before turning north towards the crossing point into Zimbabwe, using ancient paths that migrating elephants have walked for centuries. Since these elephant trails have been used for so long they are hard-packed, creating perfect, fast and flowing riding routes. At Shashe village, riders are treated to a tour around the community-owned and farmed orange orchards irrigated with massive central pivot machines. They also get to visit the children of the Jalukang Primary School (one of Children in the Wilderness’ partner schools within the GMTFCA ), before enjoying the fast-flowing, winding jeep track that will take them past the Big Donga before crossing the Pazhi River. After sailing across the mopane graveyard, past ancient nyala berry trees, the riders settle in at the brand new Nyala Berry Camp for the rest of the day. Situated on a flat-topped mesa along the Pazhi River, the camp owes its name to the massive and ancient nyala berry trees on the site.
Day 3: Nyala Berry Camp loop (Zimbabwe) – approximately 52 km
The third day begins by crossing the Pazhi River into a fascinating region of sandstone koppies, rocky outcrops and old elephant trails. There is an opportunity for riders to explore the Tobwane Dam along the way before tracking along the ridge separating this region from the Limpopo floodplain. After a tea stop, riders head down a rocky ridge towards the newest one-kilometre dam wall in Zimbabwe. The reservoir has been created to store water pumped out of the Limpopo River using solar power.
Day 4: Nyala Berry Camp (Zimbabwe) to Mapungubwe Camp – approximately 60 km
The last riding day of the Tour is a feast of sights for the riders, including plenty of elephant, and a fascinating dinosaur fossil site that is more than 140 million years old. After crossing the Pazhi River again, riders enjoy a spectacular viewpoint, which includes an interesting old ox-wagon that was abandoned there many years ago. Riders then proceed to fast-flowing plains with no riding tracks. The area is ideal for game sightings, including a den of bat-eared foxes. Once they cross the red Kalahari sand, riders take in the magnificent surroundings of baobabs and ancient rock-figs until they emerge at the Sizi Spring, purported to grant ‘everlasting youth’. The last night’s festivities take place at Mapungubwe Camp in the ancient Kingdom of Mapungubwe, a World Heritage Site in South Africa.
“We have spent many hours fine-tuning this route and can’t wait to share it with our repeat riders, as well as introduce the Tour’s magic to our newcomers. Being based at a new and remote camp for two nights will give our riders time to relax and feel at home in this beautiful wilderness area and to enjoy and explore the beautiful nyala berry forest”, Nicola added.
What makes the Tour that much more appealing is the fact that all funds raised are channelled directly to Children in the Wilderness (CITW), a non-profit organisation that runs sustainable environmental education programmes in rural areas, bridging the gap between local communities and the adjoining wildlife areas they live next to.
“The Nedbank Tour de Tuli is the primary fundraising event for CITW and has contributed immensely towards the programme since 2006. Thanks to our participants, sponsors and volunteers, the Tour has managed to raise more than ZAR20 million for CITW to date and this has allowed for the sustainability and steady growth of the programme across seven African countries. CITW has since awarded more than 2 000 scholarships to learners at primary, secondary and post-secondary institutions, has hosted some 7 000 children on Eco-Clubs, and trained close to 700 Eco-Mentors. The actual Tour may just be four riding days each year, but its positive impact is everlasting in the lives of these children”, Nicola concluded.
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.