I grew up on a farm in Zambia, so my formative years were spent holidaying alongside the Zambezi River sleeping in tents, hiking elephant paths whilst sheltering under the vast branches of a mighty baobab during tropical thunderstorms, basking barefoot in dusty, blazing sunshine and generally just loving Africa for all her uniqueness.
So, two years ago when my personal circumstances changed, I decided to take the plunge and tick off the one thing that had been at the top of my bucket list for many years… the Nedbank Tour de Tuli (NTdT).
David and Tanya Evans are personal friends of mine, so my obvious choice of group was Group Six. My friend Debi Macready was sucked in by my ridiculous enthusiasm and also entered the Tour. Finally, the day dawned and we commenced our trip from Cape Town with much excitement and fervour.
From the minute we crossed the border into Botswana I felt enchanted by the Tuli experience that was unfolding. I reveled in being back in the African bush. The smell, the heat and the dry earth. Our thirst was soon quenched when we were handed cold beers, our tents were found, kit unpacked and new friends readily made. And so began our Tour …
I loved our chilly, early morning starts on the bike, with the frost still on the ground – which soon disappeared and was replaced by hard, encrusted soil, well-trodden by the elephant giants. The presence of the unfettered wilderness was everywhere, with mopane trees stripped and thorn bushes ready to snag a tyre or an unprotected knee. By lunchtime we had worked up a huge hunger and had wrestled many a sandy river drift, only to be indulged with a table groaning with ice-cold drinks and a sumptuous spread of food, set in the shade of a camelthorn tree. These “oases of spoilings” appeared out of nowhere! Amazing organisation and catering – I was continuously overwhelmed by the efficiency and standard of everything that was provided for us each day, out in the middle of Africa!
After a long day of riding, the ladies’ queue for the showers was short and quick – a most welcome rinse-off after a day of amazing bush sights, hard riding, laughter and camaraderie. The one-man tents were comfortable, clean and well-positioned for lots of in-group banter.
Before dinner was possibly the highlight of most days, in that we were privileged to soak up some of the Africa’s finest sunsets perched at the top of rocky outcrops and precipitous cliff faces – with views over the Limpopo River and as far as the eye could see. Colours so golden and scents so very rich. Wonderful to watch the landscape languidly slow down and prepare for nightfall. What a privilege! The campsites, I thought, were cleverly selected, well-positioned and designed to accommodate the many riders.
One memory that stands out is the border control in and out of Zimbabwe – a lonely, skinny-legged trestle table set under an abundant acacia tree and manned by two stout local officials armed with one rather aged rubber stamp and a fly swatter. Too fabulous and quite unique.
NTdT is a very special tour in that it raises funds for Children of the Wilderness, and one particular day’s ride will always stand out for me. It was the day we handed out backpacks to the scholars in a local Botswana school. They sang beautifully for us and their passion was palpable. It was heart-warming to see the children so very content and fulfilled. An endearing experience.
Two years down the line and I am still in touch with some of the folks from Group Six – we had that much fun! It was that memorable!
I simply loved my NTdT experience – it is truly unbeatable. It still remains at the top of my bucket list. Unsurpassed!