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By Tanya McKenzie

During Lockdown, I have found a beautiful friend in Nature’s Valley, @Janet.Schuling. Janet posted this on Instagram and it really resonated with me, and made me think of our lives and how distracted we are: “The whole world is created to distract us from ourselves. Many of the mechanisms of distracting ourselves from our internal troubles have been removed during lockdown. People are even using the COVID-19 crisis to distract themselves. Perhaps it is time to allow yourself to experience what you are experiencing – right now. How do you feel right now? Powerful words from an interview with Gabor Maté, author of ‘In the Realm of Hungry ghosts’”.

This quote made me think of the Nedbank Tour de Tuli and why it is so attractive to us, the cyclists, with such busy schedules. The tour is the very best way to reconnect with our true selves and not be distracted by the things that take up so much space and time in this age of the Anthropocene. Out there in the wilderness, there is very little connection with social media, world news, markets, e-mails, work stressors and phone calls. It is the most unique opportunity to be stripped of all these influences and to get away from the distractions of life, to simply be immersed in the natural world.
Not only do we get the chance to connect with nature, but the hours of pedalling away, on ancient elephant paths meandering through the bush, gives us the time to contemplate so many things that we never give time to consider. This type of “meditation” is so useful in gaining clarity over the things that we wrangle with, but never have time to ponder over in our demanding lives.
The Tour is the perfect way to reconnect to the real stuff.

My association with the Nedbank Tour de Tuli has many levels. It all started with me participating in the Tour de Kruger in 2008, where we began our ride in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (Notugre) and rode to Pafuri. It was the start of something that I have done every year since and I love every tour. The routes change, the people change, the weather changes and yet there is a wonderful familiarity about the feeling one gets out there, with time, space and freedom, and nothing to distract us from contemplation.

For various reasons, the route was changed to move through the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA) from 2009 to date. I am passionate about the GMTFCA area and fully involved in Notugre and the Tuli Conservation Trust (TCT). My father, Ted Steyn, bought property in the reserve in 1969 and was the founder of Notugre and the TCT. He instilled this passion for conservation and wild areas in me from a very young age and I have always been excited about sharing this great love of ours with receptive people.

Since the Tour raises funds for the Children in the Wilderness programme (CITW), I was questioned at a GMTFCA meeting in 2009 as to why the communities in the area of the Tour de Tuli were not benefiting from the donations. I raised my hand and undertook to initiate the Children in the Wilderness programme in the Bobirwa district. I have been immersed in this work since 2009 and I am passionate about it. I love the idea of wildlife and conservation education and working with children. Although CITW Bobirwa is slightly different to other CITW programmes which are run alongside Wilderness Safaris operations, it gets the various landowners in Notugre involved in the programme, by having to donate beds for camps and for Eco-Mentor training.

The Tour plays the most important role in raising funds for all the CITW programmes and it has sadly been cancelled for 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will lead us to find new ways of operating induvial programmes for now, but we cannot wait to host the next tour in 2021, where we can share and instil more of this love for our planet.

Tanya McKenzie, June 2020