July 2018 – Nedbank Tour de Tuli has officially launched the 2018 route of this ultimate mountain-biking event, which will see 300 riders cycle across more than 250 km of challenging and remote terrain in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa between 2 and 7 August. Riders will not only get the unique opportunity to discover exciting fresh wilderness trails, but also to enjoy a range of original features such as meeting an expert astronomer, being present at the unveiling of the brand new Nyala Berry Camp in Zimbabwe and seeing a fascinating 140-million-year-old dinosaur fossil site.
“Each year the route for the Nedbank Tour de Tuli changes as our volunteer teams are constantly discovering new and exciting trails for our riders. With over 11 years of exploring the Tuli Block, our route planners have managed to find some truly authentic wilderness trails that not only showcase the magnificent landscapes throughout the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA), but also create the best cycling adventures in Africa,” said Tour Director, Nicola Harris.
This year promises another extraordinary mountain-biking journey complete with pristine single-track wilderness trails, a range of wildlife encounters, meaningful community interactions along the way and superlative hospitality service with 150 volunteers completely dedicated to the success of the event. The Tour will be opened by the celebrated Botswana Dance and Choir Group who will also see the riders off in style on the morning of the first riding day.
In addition, renowned astronomer, Cory Schmitz, will take guests on a virtual tour of the stars on the second night in Zimbabwe, the 5th of August. He will also be participating in the Tour and available to chat with riders, sharing his expertise on astronomy. According to Cory, “2018 is a special year that will enable us to see five planets (Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars) with our naked eyes, all at once, with four of them being some of the brightest ‘stars’ in the sky! Mars in particular will be bigger, brighter and closer to Earth than it’s been since 2003. The remote location of the event will offer incredible visibility of the planets due to the significantly reduced light pollution in wilderness areas and I am looking forward to sharing this magic with the Tour’s participants.”
Itinerary highlights over the four days of cycling include:
Day 1: Limpopo Valley Airfield to Limpopo River Camp (Botswana) – approximately 60 km
The riders will set off from the Limpopo Valley Airfield with many little koppies providing 360-degree sights of the breathtaking landscapes showcasing the Tuli Block, and the spectacular sunrise colours due to the winter bushveld season sure to impress. Riders can expect a huge diversity in the terrain, with changing landscapes and mopane thickets opening into plains littered with agates, shepherd’s trees, rocky sides and plenty of undulating sections hiding sneaky and sandy drainage lines that require special attention to detail and great caution from the rider. Interesting highlights include a stop at ‘Bryce’s Store’ which contains historic tales of the attacks between the British and the Boers dating back to the 1800s in what officially came be to known as the Anglo Boer War.
Day 2: Limpopo River Camp (Botswana) to Nyala Berry Camp (Zimbabwe) – approximately 80 km
The second day of the Tour is the longest riding day and therefore it is compulsory for riders to carry hydration packs. They will ride along the Limpopo River for a few kilometres before turning north towards the crossing point into Zimbabwe, using ancient paths that migrating elephants have been using for centuries. Since these elephant trails have been used for so long they are hard-packed, creating the perfect fast and flowing riding routes. At Shashe village, riders will be treated to a tour around the community-owned and farmed orange orchards irrigated with massive central pivot machines. They will also visit the children of the Jalukange Primary School (one of Children in the Wilderness’ partner schools within the GMTFCA), before enjoying the fast-flowing, winding jeep track that will take them past the Big Donga before crossing the Pazhi River. After sailing across the mopane graveyard, past the ancient nyala berry trees, the riders will finally settle in at the brand new Nyala Berry Camp for the rest of the day. Situated on a flat-topped mesa along the Pazhi River, the camp owes its name to the massive and ancient nyala berry trees on the site.
Day 3: Nyala Berry Camp loop (Zimbabwe) – approximately 52 km
The third day will begin with crossing the Pazhi River into a fascinating region of sandstone koppies, rocky outcrops and old elephant trails. There will be an opportunity for riders to explore the Tobwane Dam along the way before tracking along the ridge separating this region from the Limpopo floodplain. After a tea stop, riders will ride down a rocky ridge heading towards the newest one-kilometre dam wall in Zimbabwe, which has been built as a reservoir to store water pumped, using solar power, out of the Limpopo River.
Day 4: Nyala Berry Camp (Zimbabwe) to Mapungubwe Camp – approximately 60 km
The last riding day of the Tour will be a feast of sights for the riders, including plenty of elephant and a fascinating dinosaur fossil site that is more than 140 million years old. After crossing the Pazhi River again, riders will enjoy a spectacular viewpoint, which includes an interesting old ox-wagon that has been abandoned there for many years. Riders will then proceed to fast-flowing plains with no riding tracks. The area is ideal for game sightings, including a den of bat-eared foxes. Once they pass the red Kalahari sand, riders will be able to soak in the magnificent surroundings of baobabs and ancient rock-figs until they emerge at the Sizi Spring that is known to grant ‘everlasting youth’. Enjoy the last night’s festivities at Mapungubwe Camp set in the ancient Kingdom of Mapungubwe, a World Heritage Site in South Africa.
“We have spent many hours fine tuning this route and can’t wait to share it with our repeat riders, as well as to introduce the Tour’s magic to our newcomers. Being based at a new and remote camp for two nights will give our riders time to relax and feel at home in this beautiful wilderness area and to enjoy and explore the beautiful nyala berry forest,” Nicola added.
What makes the Tour that much more appealing is the fact that all funds raised will be channelled directly to Children in the Wilderness (CITW), a non-profit organisation that runs sustainable environmental education programmes in rural areas, bridging the gap between local communities and the adjoining wildlife areas they live next to.
“The Nedbank Tour de Tuli is the primary fundraising event for CITW and has contributed immensely towards the programme since 2006. Thanks to our participants, sponsors and volunteers, the Tour has managed to raise more than ZAR20 million for CITW to date and this has allowed for the sustainability and steady growth of the programme across seven African countries. CITW has since awarded more than 2 000 scholarships to learners at primary, secondary and post-secondary institutions, has hosted some 7 000 children on Eco-Clubs and trained close to 700 Eco-Mentors. The actual Tour may just be four riding days each year, but its positive impact is everlasting in the lives of these children,” Nicola concluded.
Click here to watch a short video showing the highlights of last year’s Nedbank Tour de Tuli.