WEDNESDAY 24 JULY – RIDING DAY 1: MAPUNGUBWE CONFLUENCE CAMP (SOUTH AFRICA) TO NYALABERRY CAMP (ZIMBABWE)
Distance: Approximately 50km
After being stamped out of South Africa at the Mapungubwe Confluence Camp, you will follow the reserve roads down to the Limpopo River where you will cross from South Africa, and clear customs under a mighty fig tree on the Zimbabwean side of the river.
A short, rocky scramble will bring you to some baobab trees and a path that will lead back to the Limpopo floodplain – and from there up an ancient elephant track to the mystical Sizi Spring. You will swing in a wide arc to the north and north-west until you reach the Pazhi River with its bed of black decomposed volcanic rock and sand – quite different from all of the other rivers in the region. Turn southwards again and traverse a massive granite dome, criss-crossed with elephant trails worn into the rock. Marvel at an almost perfectly preserved 200 million-year-old fossil embedded in the rock, then head back to the floodplain and the Limpopo. Cycle past the Bristow’s front gate and home, visit more fossils right there (not the Bristows!), and then into an awe-inspiring indigenous forest filled with nyalaberry trees, ironwoods, fever trees and wild fig trees. From here it’s a short hop to the delightfully cool Nyalaberry Camp, situated in the Pazhi riverbed.
THURSDAY 25 JULY – RIDING DAY 2: NYALABERRY CAMP (ZIMBABWE) TO AMPHITHEATRE BUSH CAMP (BOTSWANA)
Distance: Approximately 80km
Depart from Nyalaberry Camp to the west, ride fast over hard-baked plains covered in mopane trees, through the mopane graveyard and across into scenic grassland and acacia trees. Here, pick your way through the bush using only the tracks of the cyclists who rode ahead of you, and you will emerge into the Maramani Community Lands.
Peer carefully over the edge of a deep donga that feeds the Pazhi River, before topping up with water and light snacks at a pre-tea stop. You will then fly straight across hard ground, weaving around subsistence farmlands protected by thorn-bush fences. You will arrive in Shashe village where you may be able to buy a cold Coke, or even a beer. Bundu-bash your way through a dense indigenous forest, protected by a high canopy of ancient trees. You will emerge at the sandy Shashe River crossing, and say farewell to Zimbabwe at the customs post set up under a tree.
After the Shashe River crossing to Botswana – a good walk approximately 1km through the riverbed – the Tea Team will be waiting for you underneath a beautiful fig tree with some delicious and replenishing treats. No doubt Mama Janet will not disappoint. DO NOT forget to fill up all water containers as it’s a long haul to the next stop.
Leaving the Tea Stop, we enter a stunning riverine forest of majestic ana and apple-leaf trees (rain trees for our Zimbabwean guests). Heading into the Tuli Concession, riding is mostly on game trails, with the odd Jeep track where you can catch up on some team chatter. Riders pass Bryce’s Store, which was once a trading post for the Zeederberg Coach Company’s route from Pretoria to Bulawayo, though not much of it is left after it was bombed from the Pitsani Kopjies in November 1899 during the Anglo-Boer War. Game in this section is plentiful as there is generally water here. Heading west the terrain varies substantially, from open plains to mopane thickets and croton forests, which are generally associated with waterways. For the newbies, in the mopane areas it is advisable to keep some distance between yourself and the rider in front of you, to prevent being lashed in places that may cause discomfort, bearing in mind that you still need to keep close enough so you don’t go off-route.
Brunch then awaits on the banks of the Majali River, where the Culinary Catering Team will present you with some appetising delights. Be sure to refill your water here, as it’s still a fair distance to the end.
On this leg of the route there is a rocky Jeep track climb that will challenge the tired and less experienced riders.
After this section the riding gets easier, following a straight beeline west to the end of Day 2. However, we must caution you, there is a riverine area through which we pass, where the bush is fairly thick and which elephants tend to frequent in the afternoons; please pay careful attention to your Leaders, and listen to their instructions at all times.
For the last four to five kilometres, we have tried our best to avoid sand as much as possible; however getting to the magnificent Amphitheatre Bush Camp may mean having to push your bike through some patches of sand.
Cold beers will be waiting for you in a breathtaking wilderness setting, with a glorious sunset to reward you after this challenging day.
FRIDAY 26 JULY – RIDING DAY 3: AMPHITHEATRE BUSH CAMP LOOP (BOTSWANA)
Distance: Approximately 50km
This day will be the easiest day of the event and riders are encouraged to enjoy the scenery and take as much time to absorb the beautiful setting around them as possible – just enjoy the adventure. It incorporates plenty of single track riding as well as a sandstone rocky ridge to play on. This particular area is steeped in history dating back centuries.
Take advantage of this heavenly area to stop and immerse yourself in its wonder.
The aim of this day is to keep you out of camp as long as possible; we encourage all groups to enjoy, and appreciate the experience of sharing a safari on a bicycle with each other.
FRIDAY 27 JULY – RIDING DAY 4: AMPHITHEATRE BUSH CAMP (BOTSWANA) TO MAPUNGUBWE CONFLUENCE CAMP (SOUTH AFRICA)
Distance: Approximately 75km
For the wicked, hungover party animals, this day will most certainly be a challenge. However, in my opinion it is the pièce de résistance of the Tour.
We head off into the sunrise, passing the Sacred Mountain (ask your Leaders about this sanctified spot), and beneath Mmamagwa Ruins you will have a clear, silhouetted view of Rhodes’s Baobab on the skyline to the south.
Caution. We pass through the same drainage line as on Day 2 coming into camp, and elephant activity may be a bit tricky. Please pay attention to your Leaders.
Crossing the Vet Fence we land up on the Cycle Mashatu Trail, where the riding is easy and fast-flowing, but beware of the dreaded flicking mopane branches! Swinging south towards the Limpopo River, the terrain opens up into hilly-flats, which are scattered with majestic mashatu and shepherd trees. We are then left with the hurdle of crossing the Jwala River into Cycle Mashatu’s River Camp for brunch, where you will once again be welcomed and treated by The Culinary Team.
After brunch, we head east along the banks of the “great grey, green, greasy” Limpopo River towards our final destination at the Mapungubwe Confluence Camp in South Africa. Here we cross at Shalimpo Island, where an informal border crossing will be set up, and Botswana Immigration will process everyone out of the country.
When entering South Africa, there will be an immigration official at the Mapungubwe Confluence Camp as you arrive. NB! NB! NB! It is IMPERATIVE that you do not leave without an ENTRY stamp into South Africa. (When crossing borders, you need an exit stamp from the country you are departing, and an entry stamp for the country you are entering.)
You may come across the odd tempting pool of water when crossing the Limpopo back into South Africa; however we highly recommend you refrain from even the thought of a dip as there will be crocs lurking in the depths (or shallows…).
The final few kilometres are a killer on already tired legs, and many riders will need to dig deep. But at this point, you are almost there, and we guarantee there will be an ice-cold drink waiting for you to celebrate your achievement once you enter the beautiful Mapungubwe Confluence Camp.