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.
Click here to see the pics