Hi-Tec PUFfeR 2012

Trail runners compete in the endurance HI-TEC PUFFER Ultra Run from Cape Point to the V&A Waterfront, in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, RSA

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Get your GRAV on!

The Gravity Adventure Festival, this year presented by leading outdoor apparel brand MERRELL, once again rocked the Kogelberg Reserve near Kleinmond in the Western Cape. With Tatum Prins and Graham Bird in charge, GRAV FEST has gone big … nearly as huge as Judgement Day rapid on the Palmiet River after all the recent rains. A massive turn-out for the Wild Runner Trail Series, plus the Black Diamond Rock Rally, MERRELL Adventure Race, Black Diamond night run as well as a river swim, SUP Race and a host of other events, kept kids, weekend warriors and racing snakes entertained.

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Tour de Tuli 2012: Day 4 – End of a Wild Ride

All good things must come to an end, and Day 4 of TOUR DE TULI was infused with that bitter-sweet enjoyment of a Sunday evening joy ride, knowing that just another school day will stare you in the face come morning. As usual, the final stretch saw riders put the hammer down as they headed home to the finish line in Mapungubwe National Park, in Limpopo Province, RSA.

Most of the border crossings went pretty well during the ride, with especially the Bostswana authorities deserving kudos for always being incredibly friendly and organised. The same cannot be said for the Zim officials, although they did have smiles on their faces most of the time. Superb single-track sections – mostly along elephant and game footpaths – and another sandy bike push across the Limpopo got us onto SA soil.

A nasty combo of concrete and gravel climbing past Crook’s Corner banged me past some ellies feeding by the side of the road, but it all happened so quickly that I did not even register on their pachyderm radar. Crossing the finish line was happy face / sad face all at the same time, but the prospect of one of those legendary TdT parties kept the riders decidedly up-beat.

Five days of riding, shooting and editing (with an average of 4hrs sleep per night) finally came to climax, and I can say without a doubt that TUR DE TULI is a mountain biking experience I will remember for life. Thank you, CHILDREN IN THE WILDERNESS – I truly hope that we have all in some small way contributed to helping this amazing charity reach more of their admirable goals.

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Tour de Tuli 2012: Day 3 – Crash and Burn

The third day of TdT2012 traditionally kicks in at the top end of the scale when it comes to time in the saddle. As per usual, we set off at dawn, with me short cutting to the tea stop to make sure I get shots of the racing snakes in Group 1. From here, I roamed back and forth along the route, trying to hook up with various groups as they battled a route navigating extreme sand and thorns.By now, I was getting sort of used to riding solo in Big 5 territory, but still nearly kakked my shorts when a kudu bull snuck up on me from behind while lying stretched out in a sandy river bed in wait of teams to photograph. When that twig cracked behind me, Usain Bolt would have looked like a slow motion Os du Randt as I sprinted off into the mopane brush. Minutes after managing to control my heart rate, a crested snake eagle whooshed into the tree above me and flapped around for 30 seconds, only to emerge with a wriggling 3-foot serpent in it’s beak … Incredible to see, and even more amazing to get an actual image of this.When Group 6 came past me near Strat Point 3, I decided to chase them down and get on David Evans’ bus, and was patting myself on the back as I kept pace with this fast group. The wheels came off – or at least went up in the air – as I passed Edwin ever so slightly off-track, and spotted my photographer mates up ahead. Over-estimating my MTB capabilities, I thought I would show-boat for the cameras with my hands in the air. Big mistake – a massive wipe as my front wheel washed out on the loose gravel downhill, with me going down in a cloud of dust. The worst part of it was that neither Grant nor Anton managed to get a proper shot of what truly was an epic wipe. I got up and pretended to be fine, but felt as if I had just been blind-sided by Jonah Lomu.

Fortunately no serious damage had been done – a sprained thumb, bloodied elbow and interesting bruising on my right thigh – and a few Myprodols later on during the ride made sure there wasn’t too much discomfort. A great donga drop-off just on a km from camp provided fantastic entertainment, with some spectacular wipe-outs, and while I milked this vantage point for photos, a swarm of tiny little vampire flies came and sucked all the blood off me like weird cleaning bots from an space alien movie. What made the scene even more surrealistic was that the shallow pool a few hundred metres up-river from me crawled with crocodiles.

Around 4pm I headed back up the route to go in search of the backmarkers, and followed them into camp just as the sun began to set behind the fever trees gracing the incredible Kuduland Camp, our rest spot for the 2nd last night of TdT2012.

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Tour de Tuli: Day 2 – A Sandy Ride to Shashe

Shashe Village in Zimbabwe featured as one of the main beneficiaries in TdT2012, with a major charity drive focusing on education in the area. Children came to dance and sing from all corners of the Maramani community and were soon kicking about soccer balls handed out by the riders and CHILDREN IN THE WILDERNESS. As it was a hot and dusty day, the lcoal shebeens did exceptionally good business out of the thirsty competitors, especially after I organised a bike race beteen the local Shashe Fat Trackers and the TdT participants. The athletes won, but it was a different ball game when I got them to switch bikes 🙂 A shorter course catered for the guys who still felt Day 1 in their legs – the last group took nearly 9hrs to get into camp – while the racing snakes cranked along a gruelling loop to join in the fun. Thrills, spills and quite a few tears were the order of the day, before another feast of a meal in Maramani Camp, right on the banks of the bone-dry Shashe River.

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Tour de Tuli 2012: Day 1 – Mission Mashatu

TdT2012 started off with 70km-plus of cranking through the incredible Mashatu Game Reserve in the Northern Tuli block, mostly along well-trodden elephant paths. I set off solo just after dawn to catch the riders between Strat Point 1 and the Tea Stop, and was quite – ‘perturbed’ is not really a strong enough word I would use – when I heard mention on my radio that a pack of hyenas and four lion were spotted along the route I was riding. At least I was close to tea and thought that, if I screamed like a girl, they might sent the chopper to rescue me from a maula tree. The adrenaline really kicked in when I stripped my pedal approximately 8kms further along the route, and had to limp back to the Tea Stop. Fortunately another rider had to pull out due to a bad fall, and Frank helped me pirate his pedals and cleats (egg-beater to SPD) and I could chase off after the riders again. The last group had a good 45min on me by now, so I screamed along the footpaths, hoping to god there were no ellies (or big cats) waiting within the occasional dense clumps of miombo forest I was barreling through. Fortunately there weren’t, and I soon caught up with Gus and Trevor, the guys in charge of the backmarkers. Their Mexican lady was making slow progress (an average speed of less than 7km/hr), so I chased up another few groups to get to brunch with Group 13 just leaving. A quick handful of biltong and a banana later, I was on the Mercury again and on their tail, with the Go-Pro ready to catch any of the action. Nobody got blinged by a pachyderm though, so after an hour I hung back and waited to let some of the other groups catch up as we approached the Zim border. The cameraderie between the riders was amazing, and this is to me what makes the TdT such a special event.

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Tour de Tuli 2012: Day 0 – Arrival at Mashatu Game Reserve

The TOUR de Tuli is a 4-day mountain bike tour as opposed to a ‘race’, and riders particpate on invitation to support the amazing CHILDERN IN THE WILDERNESS Charity. Do not let the ‘tour’ part of TdT lull you into a false sense of security though: four consecutive days of 70 kays along elephant footpaths, rocky roads and sandy river beds will test your physical limits as well as your bike skills. It is, however, a mountain biking experience without parallel anywhere in the world. The images capture a time-slice of DAY 0, before the actual start of the event …

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