A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of traveling up north to cover the Nedbank Tour De Tuli. The Nedbank Tour De Tuli is a unique event, where riders traverse 3 countries and enjoy their surroundings rather than race against the clock.
What also makes the event truly special and unique, was that its all about giving back. The event organisers; as part of Mandela day, donated a library to one of the schools in the local community. Not only that, they donated other essentials to other schools in the community along the way.
I have huge respect for the event organisers, who managed to pull off such an amazing event with what can only be described, as a logistical nightmare. Covering 3 countries, all with their own unique requirements and laws, as well as, keeping all cyclists safe over the 4 days of riding.
Everything was immaculate, from the village set ups in the 3 different countries to the registration process, it was done with absolute precision.
All athletes had the pleasure of riding among some of Africa's Magic. With, in my opinion, Botswana taking the prize of having the most amount of wild life! Riders had the chance to get up close and personal with some of the big 5, with regular interactions with Elephant and the odd lion. It was truly a very unique experience and I'm sure every rider cherished every moment of their ride.
Each morning riders were generally up with the sparrows, this did mean the media crews needed to be up even before that! This gave us a unique perspective, seeing the calm before the storm. Watching riders packing their bags that would be transported to their next stop as well as grab some breakfast and that quick cup of coffee (or 2) before they set off.
We were blessed with pretty decent weather, and a few days of some absolutely beautiful sunrises.
One of the aspects that made this event truly unique, was the fact that riders, and crew needed to traverse through 3 different countries. As I mentioned this was a logistical nightmare, but made the border crossings quite entertaining when riders needed to either swim through rivers or push through fine sand across the Shashi river. The Shashi river is the natural border between Zimbabwe and Botswana, it only has water in during flood, which luckily it didn't! I think every rider had to push their bikes across, numerous vehicles got stuck but we all made it over in the end. Crossing the Limpopo river was a bit less of a dramatic affair, with the majority of riders pushing over and catching a refreshing swim in the process.
The majority of day 1 of the tour, as well as the beginning of day 2, was situated in Zimbabwe. Lots of dust, not as much wild life as other regions but very friendly locals that cheered on the riders are the cycled by. Zimbabwe was an entertaining day for our media van, as we some how managed to grab 2 punctures that made us use up both our spare wheels (not the greatest way to start the tour). None the less, we all found transport back to camp and a plan was made for the remainder of the tour with alternative transport arrangement.
At this point I should just give a massive shout out to the Landy Crew! They sacrificed their pride and joys to be part of the event!
Along with the Landy Crew, another vital organ in the event was the Samills. The old military vehicles transported everyones gear to every single stop. The crew behind them worked tirelessly to get everything done and it was great to see these machines in action.
Day 2 to the morning of day 4 we were in Botswana (the land of the baobab tree! A truly breath taking country with a variety of scenery, wild life and friendly locals. I'm pretty sure most riders would have found this their highlight of their trip. The camp in Botswana was truly putting you one with Nature. Getting woken up at 2am in the morning with the sound of Lions roaring in the area, or the high pitched laugh of a hyena, it was truly something special and slightly terrifying at times knowing they on your door step and all thats between you and them is a tent zip.
Every night we were blessed with great entertainment, from the local marimba ladies, to world renown talents Schalk Bezuidenhout and Matthew Mole. Was an honour to photograph such talents our Country possess.
The final day of the event brought the riders back to where it all started. A lot of them were overcome with emotion with the goals they had achieved and the stunning adventure they had been on. I'm sure all of them will have memories that will last a life time and I'm pretty sure many of them will be back for the next one.
I had an amazing time covering the event, making some new friends and witnessing some people smash their goals they set out to achieve.
It was a real once in a life time experience that I would love to be part of again if the opportunity arrises.