Last week Thursday, July 27th, we packed our bags and camping gear to be part of the annual and coveted Nedbank Tour De Tuli challenge courtesy of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), writes Moagi Madisa. The cycling event directly benefits underprivileged children in the eight-member countries of Wilderness Safaris under their charitable trust dubbed Children in the Wilderness.
Held at Limpopo Airfield Valley, the cycling event saw 257 cyclists from Botswana and across the world doing it for charity from all the four camps in three countries; Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The cyclists’ euphoria was upbeat ahead of the challenging and uneven safari terrain with anticipated trappings, falling and getting lost in the African veld.
Seeing the cyclists tackle the challenging terrain reminded me of my childhood biking days, and I was utterly smitten by the skills and passion they displayed throughout the entire race. It was truly a breath-taking moment, to see the compassion shared by the three SADC countries in contributing to the needy and racing for a worthy cause.
The Cycle Tour took place in the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA (Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa) and gave sundry cyclists the opportunity of cycling in remote Africa via a cycle route predominantly single and jeep track, and cyclists also had the privilege of riding along ancient elephant tracks.
Together with my travel companions; Mompati Tlhankane (Mmegi newspaper) and Loretta Mekgwe (Gabz FM), we had truly underestimated the distance to the Mashatu Game Park and were forced to spend a night in Selibe Phikwe – which three hours away from the first camp – Limpopo Airfield Valley.
We arrived at the camp the next day. Temperatures had dropped in the semi-arid airstrip. We found many cycling groups having left already and for us and luckily so, Batswana riders were the last to leave, as we captured a few photo moments before proceeding to grab coffee to mitigate the chilly morning.
With four camps in between almost 2800km of biking, the 70km of the first day was a trip to the next camp dubbed the Amphitheatre Loop, situated alongside the bank of the dry Motloutse River, only a stone’s throw from Solomon’s wall.
However, before we could join others at the next camp, we shot left to the border post- Point drift, next to Limpopo River, which was unfortunately dry. In my mind I thought it was going to be magnificent to cross the border using a cable cage with the river flowing over its banks. What a tourism site this would be to behold!
Imagine drifting over the river banks in a cable car and below seeing all of Botswana’s beautiful and magnificent flora and fauna. Just how incredible will that be? As we reach the border and mingle with the Immigration and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) officers on site, they narrate stories and sightings of roaming elephants in the area.
Quite enchanting and scary is how these animals have become aggressive due to the constant disturbance of poachers in the area. Life within this area is quite fascinating. Those living in the vicinity get their basic necessities from across the border. Imagine, crossing the borer just to go buy a loaf of bread and coming back.
There’s a fully-fledged supermarket in the bush, even though customers refer to it as a kiosk. The shop has everything one can ever need. We grabbed all that we needed for our trip and crossed back to Botswana before proceeding to our site, the Amphitheatre Camp with was slightly 15 kilometres away.
One the way, we met with a few cyclists who had lost their GPS timing and schedule, hence why others arrived during lunch time. Who cycles for 70km for over six hours even if you are an amateur? I was consumed green with envy. Those who cycled the Nedbank Tour De Tuli course surely had tonnes of fun. Imagine riding through elephants, lions, leopards and impalas alike. Driving through the terrain, we sighted a few wet and warm elephants dung on the route. Such bravado though!
It was soon lunchtime and we all resigned to enjoy some good food servings before chilling by the mountain to chase sunsets and the beautiful Botswana scenery below. One good thing about traveling to new places is meeting and interacting with new people.
The highlight of my trip was hanging and exchanging journalism notes with our colleague from ENCA, none than Onkgopotse OG Molefhe; who happens to be the channel’s Sports Editor. “So how’s work, I never thought you could take biking seriously,” he replied, “but I have been doing this for over five years now, just that it was road biking which is not challenging like this one.”
My mates hijacked our conversation and I carried on snapping away at a few good moments. So, next time you see ‘OG’ at any of the next Botswana tourism/sporting events; please credit my humbled interactions with the man.
OG’s participation in the Nedbank Tour De Tuli was made possible by Nedbank. Clearly, we could also have our corporates contributing towards good causes such as this one and investing in individuals who are good in their various and respectable professions.
Another noticeable and important individual in our camp was none other than Jacques Beard – Vice Chairman of Land Rovers Owners Club in RSA. He’s such an open and welcoming man who as a youngster I could learn life manuals from him very fast. Guess what, he has fallen in love with Botswana and has promised to be back soon perhaps with his club mates’ entourage. Guess what, I will be happy to host your again Mr. Beard.
As time is usually jealous especially when one is having a good time, it was soon night time and a few announcements were made among others being that the money raised will be donated to Lentswe Le Moriti primary school pupils among others.
We all reclined under the cool African sky around a warm bonfire, imbibing on some cold tipples of beer and winding up our day in the bush. The next day, we were off to Francistown where we proceeded to document Sowa Town ahead of the looming Makgadikgadi Epic which takes place from 9 – 12 August 2017. See you all there!