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By Miles Crisp

Miles has been a social mountain-biker for almost twenty-five years. He has always loved the freedom that his bike has given him to explore some of the most remote parts of our region. Miles says that he has made lifelong friendships through his cycling and gets huge satisfaction from being part of this wonderful community.

Miles entered the very first Tour de Kruger back in 2005 and has been totally hooked on the format and the cause of CITW ever since. He joined the team of volunteers in 2009 after accepting a dare to create new routes in what was then a brand new region – the very south-western part of Zimbabwe. Miles has participated in every single Tour in one form or another except for two.

In his spare time, Miles is a businessman in Joburg and is a proud husband and Dad in a family that has come to share his passion.

Tour veteran Miles has produced a remarkable memoir documenting virtually the entire history of the Tour’s various iterations. We will be sharing excerpts from it in the weeks to come – and we hope you’ll enjoy this rollicking ride down the single tracks of his reminiscences as much as we are…

It was August 2008 and the fourth Tour de Wilderness: a new variation after three years of pedalling up the right bank of the Limpopo River in Mozambique into South Africa’s Kruger National Park. We had become the master sand-blasters in Mozambique, and so Malcolm McCulloch, Russel Friedman and team had determined that it was time to test new territories.

We had done a day in Mashatu Province, Botswana, a day on Venetia Diamond Mine’s Game Farm and then after a bus trip to Musina, a day along the old military fence down the right bank of the Limpopo River, and would be finishing up with a day in the Pafuri section of the far northern Kruger Park.

I was sitting with Malcolm on a sandy bank of the Limpopo discussing the route.

“As entertaining as the old military electric fence has been today, it is not great to come on a wilderness ride and barrel along a broken old tarred road alongside a fence”, I commented.

“I agree”, said Malcolm. “It would be much better if we had access to the Zimbabwean side of the river – no fences and real bush. That would be a much better experience and we could contribute to the development of the Peace Parks Project. How could the electric fence have been entertaining in any way?”

I explained that we had been called to a halt for a Supersport TV interview with Owen Hannie, who was cycling in our group. Gerald de Kock, also riding in the event, was going to interview Owen as the rest of our group lounged and leered helpfully in the background. Owen steadied himself, took a deep breath, and started to explain to the camera what a wonderful time we had all been having. He stretched his arm out languidly for poise, and latched onto a strand of tightly strung wire. This was the wire that also supported little signs that ominously advertised impressive levels of voltage. We wondered whether there was still any life in the old relic.

We all heard a kind of low buzz, followed by an impressive crack and a scream. Owen changed his tune to a yelp and fell to the ground with startling little kicks and convulsions. He held his injured hand while the camera rolled. Gerald the seasoned professional simply nodded and agreed. The rest of us also fell over – not as a result of any mild electrocution, but from sheer uncontrollable mirth.

“I see that the fence still works”, commented Abbey de Groot – always practical and interested in buildings and installations.

“In fact, it works quite well”, added Kobus Burger – an electrical engineer by qualification. “I reckon that was about 1 000 volts – easily – judging by his convulsions and the speed at which he went down”.

“It will be interesting to see if Owen ever walks again,” I wondered aloud. “Maybe it is a bit like being struck by lightning”.

Owen staggered to his feet, a bit breathless.

“I see that he can stand – that is a good sign”.

He dusted himself off, inspected his hand for third-degree burns and rather disappointingly found no evidence of the mishap. Gerald simply resumed his interview.

I continued my conversation with Malcolm who expressed great disappointment at having missed out on the electric fence episode.

“So, Miles – if we can get permission to cycle through Zimbabwe, since you are such an expert on what constitutes a good route or otherwise – will you assume responsibility for setting the route on that side?”

Anyone who knows Malcolm knows that you cannot say no.