Nedbank Tour de Tuli 2014 : Day 1 – Into Elephant Territory

If you’ve not been to Mashatu Game Reserve, you are missing out on one of Africa’s truly special places. The dramatic sandstone landscape unfolds on the Botswana side of the sluggish Limpopo, which was uncharacteristically in full flow this year, and a corker of a course had been marked out, mainly along elephant tracks ducking and diving amidst mopane and arid savannah vegetation.

The first group of cyclists set off before dawn, with me and my riding guide Tony Roche missioning to the Tea Stop withour Landy Man Grant Roddan to catch the first groups there. With a total distance of 62km, the slower groups were expected to spend anything up to 8hrs in the saddle, so this ride is definitely not for sissies.

Gritty single-track via giant Mashatu trees took us into the sandstone outcrops overlooking the Shashe River for some exceptional play-biking, with grand herds of giraffe and eland to keep us company while verraux eagles soared high above.

The final 10km of trail into Amphitheatre Bush Camp was fast and flowing, and it was fantastic to see the Botswana Minister riding hard along with the likes of WIlderness Safaris’ Grant Woodrow in the ‘Game Viewers’ Group. It must have been the good company I kept, because it was right here that we bumped into a huge herd of elephant, making for some stunning shots.

Ice cold beers, Bean There cappucinos, hot showers, Coleman tents, friendly #TdT volunteers and fantastic food awaited all the cyclists in camp, making for one of my most memorable days of MTB shooting ever. I cannot begin to thank people like Russel Friedman, Nicola Harris, Chris Crewdson, Janet Wilkinson and their team enough for being part of this amazing Nedbank Sport event; nothing can touch it as far as organised adventure biking goes.

 

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