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TOUR de TULI BICYCLE ADVENTURE

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CROSSING THE RIVER: Bikes on top

Sports tourism in Botswana continues to grow and the best part is that it is normally done for charity. After taking part in adventure charity walks, it was time to head to Northern Tuli Game Reserve to witness a bicycle adventure ride,dubbed Tour de Tuli. Which is an initiative to raise funds for a non-profit organization, ‘Children in the Wilderness.’

The adventure bicycle tour, which gives cyclists, an opportunity to view wildlife while enjoying their favourite sport,was off to an exciting start at the Limpopo Valley Camp, in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. The route  offered single track cycling and cultural interaction while passing through villages.  An overnight camp was set up at Mashatu Kgotla Camp located within close proximity to Solomon’s wall which is indeed a must see, true natural beauty with imposing rock formations.

On the second day the tour took the cyclists on a sandy jeep track through the Mapungubwe sacred hills. The terrain offered a real  challenge, calling for a serious negotiation through riverbeds while crossing rocky ridges to Fraser Jones Wier. Crisscrossing the maze of rocky ridges however offered the riders great views of wetlands existing between the ridge and Shashe river.

An informal border post was set up for the cyclists to cross over to Zimbabwe from Botswana. Cyclists continued the excursion to Shashe village in the Maramani community of Zimbabwe where there was a stop over for refreshments while boosting the local small business community that had patiently waited for the arrival of the cyclists. After the break, an easy and  fast ride on  a  flat terrain took cyclists to Maramani Camp overlooking the Limpopo River. True cultural experiences on this terrain while passing through community lands, homesteads and following donkey cart routes made  it a memorable experience.

MIXING CYCLING WITH DANCING: A cyclist dancing

An overnight stop at Maramani Camp was followed by tackling a route offering diverse scenery from rocky outcrops to flat bush veld and some incredible views on jeep tracks through community lands, crossing into thick acacia bushes through the basalt borders onto the Limpopo floodplains. A climb up Sizi, a perennial spring before pausing at a 200million- year preserved fossil embedded in the rock was definitely a highlight. Heading east and crossing the Pazhi River up to Sandstone lodge and later riding on a very technical terrain still on elephant trails was next. The riders then  followed the eastern banks of the Mutshilashokwe dam on hard jeep tracks passing through a fishing camp and past some ancient ruins into Kudu land Camp for another well deserved overnight stop.

The last leg of the Tour de Tuli was a morning ride from Kuduland Camp via single jeep tracks past Nottingham Fishing camp along a shady riverbed and past parallel basalt cliffs with black eagles all over the big African skies.

Other attractions catching the cyclist’s eye were huge caves, ironwood trees offering some of the best scenic views of the tour.  The ride continued along the Limpopo River to the crossing point where riders exited Zimbabwe into South Africa to Mapungubwe National Park. Another nine grueling kilometres climbing up to the confluence, heralded the official end of the exhausting but fulfilling Tour de Tuli mountain bike  challenge.