THE TOUR DE TULI

The Nedbank Tour de Tuli has been running for the past 12 years and is a renowned, premier mountain bike tour through some of Africa’s most pristine wilderness areas in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

It is the main fundraiser for Children in the Wilderness (CITW), and all funds raised by the tour are channelled directly into CITW. Over the last 12 years, the tour has hosted approximately 3 223 cyclists and raised R18 million. This has allowed them to host over 5 600 children at their camp programme since 2001 and over 11 000 children in their Eco-Club programme since 2012.

Photo Credit: Erik Vermeulen

Photo Credit: Erik Vermeulen

ARRIVING ON DAY 1

My mission was to guide a group of 16 cyclists through the three countries without angering too many elephants while giving the cyclists a great bush experience. It sounded great except that I was a runner and hadn’t cycled in 6 years. Four months of frantic training and I felt ready but the nerves always start when you get closer to the start line.

I had managed to raise R10 000 for the cause using Different.org so at the least the kids would be benefited. You can see the funding page HERE

The tour is extremely well organised. The food is great, the cyclists well looked after and everything runs like clockwork.

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FIRST DAY OF RIDING

We headed out of the Limpopo Valley Airfield in an easterly direction into the sunrise which was spectacular. After about an hour we hit Nel’s Vlei, a beautiful area filled with animals. The ride was full of technical areas, sand and some elephant sightings including a great sighting of a hyena carrying a large bone. After about 6 hours of riding we pulled into Amphitheater Bush Camp.

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AMPHITHEATER BUSH CAMP

Situated on the Motloutse River, the Amphitheater Bush Camp has spectacular views of the low lying areas. A nearby koppie provides a brilliant view point and sun-downer area. Although everyone is still set for another 190km of riding, the beers are impossible to ignore with this view available.

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DAY TWO

We headed west out of camp and started off with a river crossing to warm up the legs. After crossing the Motloutse River we moved into open plains on well-used ellie tracks. The first 10 km took us through true wilderness areas where we explored the Tuli Wilderness Reserve. We then crossed back over the Motloutse River, heading east to a stretch which was very diverse as the bush changes all the time from mopane to open plains to leadwood thickets, with tricky drainage lines which needed to be crossed. This was the easiest of the 4 days with only 50km of cycling but with many historical and scenic places to stop and admire.

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Solomans Wall
The Rhodes baobab

HELPING OUT AT THE LOCAL SCHOOL

Half way through the ride we were treated to visiting a local school to deliver bags with stationary. The kids were awesome and got to ride with the cyclists. Children in the Wilderness helps many local schools, educating them on the environment and providing good mentorship and leadership training.

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DAY 3 – INTO ZIMBABWE

We all headed out early on the third day as the distance and terrain was going to make for a long day. We crossed the Majale River twice with the banks being very steep. Most rode the technical banks, some tumbled down but others opted for the walk of shame.

We headed into the heart of Mashatu with plenty of game and as we got closer to the Shahe River there was a dramatic change in landscape and vegetation, and riding become a bit more challenging with thick bush, rocky descents and the odd drainage line to throw a spanner in the works.

As we hit the crossing we whipped out our passports where some very kind officials waiting under the shade of a large fig tree stamped them. Then started the very long march across the mighty Sashe. The single track wound its way from the crossing for about 23km until we hit the amazing Maramani Community Camp.

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Crossing into Zimbabwe
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Stopping for a short break
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MARAMANI CAMP

Based on the banks of the Limpopo River, this camp was possibly the best part of the trip. One of our team dared the water swim but for most the warnings deterred even the bravest swimmer. The food as usual was amazing and the view begged one to drink a few beers while the night jars ushered in the evening.

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DAY 4 – HOMEWARD BOUND

We headed out from Maramani Community Camp to the north where there was an easy fast riding Jeep track all the way through the community lands to tea set in cool shade on the banks of the Pazhi River. We then crossed the river and headed north and then east across game-filled acacia and mopane bushveld.

One of the highlights of this day was the Sizi Spring. This is an age-old meeting point for all animals, and is the likely source of permanent water for the Iron Age era Mapungubwe Kingdom.

From the spring there was a short ride to the Mapungubwe camp. A beautiful camp set out overlooking the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers.

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Sizi Spring
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FOOTNOTES: Photo credits: Opening shots Erik Vermeulen. The rest Ryan Sobey.

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