RIDING DAY 1 – FRIDAY 3 AUGUST – LIMPOPO VALLEY AIRFIELD (BOTSWANA) TO LIMPOPO RIVER CAMP (BOTSWANA) – APPROXIMATELY 61 KM
This year our Botswana route team have managed to include as many little koppies as possible to offer breath-taking views of the landscapes showcasing the Tuli Block. This not only means that there will be a few uphills the good news it also means there will be a few descent’s too. Total accent will be 309m and decent 327m.
We will start the day by riding into the sun rise which will offer spectacular colours during the winter bushveld season. Kit-up warm as the temperatures can be pretty low. Don’t worry about having to cart your cold kit for the whole day as Strategic Point 1 is only 10 km in, and they will be more than happy to relieve you of any extra unnecessary kit. If you do give any of the support crew your kit, please collect it at the next camp from the Support Desk.
The first 15km are on flowing single track game trails. This section of the route offers huge diversity in terms of the terrain. Pay attention to the change in landscapes. Mopane thickets open into plains littered with agates and stunning Shepard trees. There is a bit of climbing (approximately 5km) before the Tea Stop and it’s a bit on the rocky side so please be cautious here.
Take your time at the Tea Stop. If you are a first time rider, the Tea Stops are one of the event highlights. However, be cautious, don’t over eat as the Tour has a reputation for great food in abundance where many a guest has left the event slightly heavier than when they arrived.
Ensure you top up your liquids at the Tea Stop, (water, Biogen Energy Supplement and cold soft drinks will be served at the Tea Stop each day) as the next 20km can become warm and there are no shabeens on the route as you are riding in private wilderness reserves.
The trail is undulating with those sneaky sandy drainage lines that have the tendency to make you do an involuntary lie down in the sand. Keep your eyes open. Shrub Mopane can be a bit of a sod so try and leave a meter or so space from the person in front of you. Mopane is a very hard wood, and if you are riding too close to your buddy, you may find your shins being lashed by the wiping action of the hard twigs. This is a lesson that all Nedbank Tour de Tuli riders soon learn.
The Brunch Stop will be located 40km into the route and is at a spot known as Bryce’s store. Bryce’s Store contains many stories dating back to the 1800’s. This was a permanent spring (and still is) where the British were controlling access to this only reliable water source in the area. Engagements were numerous between the Boers and the British – the first taking part on the 20th of October 1899 when the Boers attacked the British at Bryce’s Store. The store served as a staging post for the Zeederberg Coach, which ran from Pretoria to Bulawayo, a four-day trip. The Boers shelled the store from Pitsani Koppie. During the engagement Bryce’s store was destroyed and today bullets, buckles and other remains can be found in the rubble around the store.
For new riders, The Brunch Stop consists of a light lunch where ice cold soft drinks will be served and enjoyed under beautiful trees. Take a seat and chill – there is no rush, remember it’s a ride NOT a race and we expect you to enjoy the wilderness areas as much as the riding.
The riding from the Brunch Stop to Limpopo River Camp is without a shadow of doubt the best part of day. Rolling hills and open planes with stunning view points. Take the time and ride up Pitsani Koppie where you will have a 360 view of Tuli.
We then end up on the banks of the Limpopo River for a well-deserved ice cold beer. A word of warning! Day 2 is a going to be a long day, so too late or misbehaved evening may not be advisable.
RIDING DAY 2 – SATURDAY 4 AUGUST –LIMPOPO RIVER CAMP (BOTSWANA) TO NYALA BERRY CAMP (ZIMBABWE) – APPROXIMATELY 82 KM
DO.NOT.FORGET.YOUR.PASSPORT! – No mercy will be spared at the fines meeting if you forget your passport in your luggage bag. This is the longest day of the Tour so please ensure you are prepared and have filled up all hydration packs and water bottles. (Hydration packs are compulsory and each rider must have a minimum of 3l liquid carrying capacity.)
Please remember this event is very different from most, we are riding in hot African dry conditions and riders will be out on their bikes for a minimum of 5 hours. This means you need to increase your liquid intake and remain hydrated.
We will bumble along the Limpopo for a few kilometres where you can take cheesy sunrise selfies. We then turn north towards the crossing point into Zimbabwe along very well used elephant paths. Elephants use the same migratory paths for centuries where they pass the information down to future generations of the herd always knows the path to food and water during the drier winter months.
Since these elephant trails have been used for centuries they are hard packed creating perfect fast and flowing riding routes. The temptation to Gun-it will be overwhelming. Fight it. Rather slow down and absorb the beauty of your surroundings as we only have a short stint in this magic part of Tuli. As you can see by the elevation it’s rather flat and a lot less sandy than day 1. However Zimbabwe looms in the distance with the mighty Shashe River to cross.
The Tea Stop will be situated under a massive fig tree offering ample shade on the Botswana side of the informal border before you cross the Shashe River – we have fondly named this spot ‘Fig Tree Crossing’. We ask you to please be patient at the informal border. This border crossing point has been set up especially for us and we ask that you consider that it’s not their normal working environment. The border officials are genuinely excited to be involved with the Tour so please ensure you great them and thank them for their extra work to make this event possible.
After crossing the vast, sandy Shashe Riverbed (and checking into Zimbabwe at the friendly customs table) you will tunnel through the riverine indigenous forest and emerge into the sunlight at The Shashe Village. You will be treated to community owned and farmed orange orchards which are irrigated with massive central pivot machines. These activities are helping to transform an otherwise desolate, desperately poor area. Pause and absorb the stunning views of the Shashe River as you track up its left bank, venturing into Pioneer Column territory, and think about what it was like for Mzilikazi when he led his migrating Zulu clan from the lush Valley of a Thousand Hills in Kwa-Zulu Natal into unknown territory. You will visit the kids and teachers at the Jalukange School and then turn east to pick your way through ancient volcanic terrain.
The first Brunch Stop in Zimbabwe is situated at a well and pump alongside a pristine cattle kraal. Enjoy that fast flowing, winding jeep track all the way to the impressive Big Donga, and then cross the Pazhi River. Notice the black volcanic sand, completely different from the Shashe and thank your lucky stars that you are trudging through it at the end of winter. In the heat of summer it gets hot enough to melt your shoes. Enjoy the game tracks and the natural bush until you get back to some rugged jeep tracks. Swing past a lonely Sentinel baobab tree which crowns a low koppie. From here you can see the flat-topped mesa right at Nyala Berry Camp – your final destination for the day.
Plain sailing from here across the Mopane Graveyard and straight home through the massive, ancient Nyala Berry Trees that have given their name to our brand new camp.
RIDING DAY 3 – SUNDAY 5 AUGUST – NYALA BERRY CAMP LOOP (ZIMBABWE) – APPROXIMATELY 53 KM
Cross the Pazhi River again and move straight into a fascinating region of sandstone koppies, rocky outcrops and old elephant trails. The whole area has been criss-crossed by elephants for centuries and they are the very best scouts to open flowing cycle trails just for us. Stop and explore the Tobwane Dam along the way before tracking along the ridge that separates this region from the Limpopo flood-plain.
A small hike at the Tea Stop will reward you with sight of the grain bins in a cave – used to store grain by the Venda and to protect their food resources from the nasty Mzilikazi and his Zulu impis as they marauded their way to Bulawayo.
Bounce down a rocky ridge and head for the newest, grandest dam wall in the whole of Zimbabwe. Marvel at the engineering – built as a reservoir to store water which is pumped using solar power out of the Limpopo River into this dam, already teeming with water-birds, fish and even hippos and crocodiles. The new wall is a kilometre long.
Pause at the hyena restaurant, the Baobab Pub with the tailor made serving hatch and Skeleton Rock – the scene of the murder of a child by the local pride of lions many years ago. Take a little climb up to the world famous fly-camp and gaze south towards the Limpopo River, over a small pan teeming with elephants and by night, screaming with baboons. You will come back home to Nyala Berry Camp through Mopane trees, river beds and thick acacia groves, again following in the footsteps of countless elephants.
RIDING DAY 4 – SUNDAY 5 AUGUST – NYALA BERRY CAMP LOOP (ZIMBABWE) – APPROXIMATELY 61 KM
A feast of sights: Say goodbye to the Nyala berries and head south to the riverine indigenous forest area of Sentinel. Look out for elephants, and try to imagine the age of the massive hardwoods that grow out of anthills – the seeds planted there by baboons many generations back.
Ride past the home of our hosts, the Bristow’s and track alongside the Limpopo River until you peel off to a short stony climb to the most fascinating dinosaur fossil site. Try to imagine life here two hundred million years ago – a full one hundred and forty million years before the great dinosaur extinction. That is how long ago this very big ex-lizard lived – give or take a few million years either way of course.
After the fossil site visit, scratch and bump your way onto a massive granite plinth, observe the eroded paths and potholes, all aeons old. Take some time to test your technical cycling skills before you reach a mysterious wooded kloof where you will have to carry your bikes and help each other. Mind the dassies.
Cross the Pazhi River again and pull up to a viewpoint where an old ox-wagon came to die. Think about the owners who would have abandoned it – possibly having to find alternative means for carrying loads of freshly harvested ivory. This probably dates back to the 1850s – before anyone even thought about the Pioneer Column.
Enjoy tea on the riverbank, and then swing around across fast flowing plains with no tracks at all. Look out for plentiful game including a den of bat-eared foxes. You will get into some red Kalahari Sand – keep smiling because you get to soak up the atmosphere emanating from the baobabs and ancient rock-figs. You will emerge right at the legendary Sizi Spring where you can be granted everlasting youth by imbibing the sweet water directly from the source as it bubbles up from mother earth.
You will again follow the navigation skills of the elephants as you climb down to the Limpopo floodplain. Look out for game, commune with the cliffs and massive baobabs, clatter up to another little portage and then track down to the most efficient customs post in the land. Brunch will be served at the border crossing point.
If you listen very carefully you will hear the Kolokolo Bird telling you, with a mournful cry, ‘Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.’ (Rudyard Kipling).
Don’t forget to stamp out of Zimbabwe before crossing the mighty Limpopo River back into South Africa.
This year we are going to show case the magnificent Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site in South Africa. The route will take you past the Shroda dam look out. This is a magnificent viewing point showcasing the beautiful Park.
Due to the sandy terrain in the Park we will stick to the Park roads. The views and vistas you will experience whilst riding through the Park are breath-taking. This year, the cycle route will include a stop at the Park Museum where the famous Mapungubwe Rhino can be seen.
After the visit to the museum you will drop into a valley and follow game trails to the official archaeological dig sight of the Mapungubwe Ruins. We urge all of you to stop and take short walk to the top of the mountain where you will get the opportunity to see how this ancient civilization lived. From the site, it is a short ride to the last night’ camp at the Mapungubwe Confluence Site where you can enjoy a well-deserved sun-downer whilst reflecting on your time on Tour with us. We urge you all to stay this last night and celebrate a wonderful adventure shared together with new friends.