Written by: Anja Riise
On 21st May Jaci’s Lodges arranged the first ever biannual cycling event in Madikwe Game Reserve. This ride marked the launch of the lodge’s new ‘Madikwe Mountain Biking Weekends’ that give cyclists the opportunity to peddle through Big Five country over two days with nothing more than a bicycle and the helmet on their head.
The beautiful sunny morning saw seven enthusiastic participants meet for their pre-cycling brief, just after breakfast. One of the lodge vehicles went ahead with all the snacks and cooler boxes and with the important task of keeping a look-out for any dangerous animals and to scout for good drink stop spots along the way. A second vehicle drove in front of the cyclists to keep them safe in case of any large game that may be encountered. The last vehicle drove behind the group in case any of the participants could not continue or there were any technical difficulties with the bicycles. All three vehicles were in constant radio contact, to ensure everything went smoothly.
Their 40km journey would take the group past the terrapin hide at the lodge’s waterhole. The stunning scenery as well as the rich birdlife seen made the morning excursion even more pleasurable. As the participants started the incline towards the boundary of the reserve, they were greeted by some impalas who were no doubt curious as to what these two-wheeled creatures were. After the ascent, the much anticipated 2km downhill towards the Molatedi gate was greatly appreciated, and even had a few of the participants breaking the reserve’s speed limit.
Once the cyclists reached the Molatedi gate, they passed onto one of the main roads which is more even than the previous section and allowed the cyclists to enjoy the scenery more. Both impalas and wildebeests were passed at close quarters and most of them looked rather confused, but didn’t budge until the cyclists were right next to them. Only once they realised it was humans at a racing speed of about 20km/h, they scattered in disbelief.
The first pit stop took place next to the road, with a wonderful view of a waterhole and the mountains, drenched in early morning sunlight. Drinks, dried fruits, nuts, biltong and date balls quickly emerged from the lead car and were devoured almost as rapidly. An energy re-fill was much needed by this time. After the short rest, the group continued with just a slight breeze stirring the air. The vehicle in the front also helped out by asking oncoming cars to stop or slow down for the cyclists, as to not spray dust all over the group.
We had heard on the radio that a pride of lions had been seen close to the road the cyclists were headed to. After this news we kept in radio contact with the other guides that were out on game drives to find out what their movements were. As we approached the junction where the big cats had been seen, we were relieved to hear that they were slowly moving away from the main road. It could have been an interesting sighting, but maybe a bit too exciting!
At the 20km mark, which was also the turn-around point, a second pitstop was enjoyed under the shade of a few big trees whilst watching impalas feed in the distance.
Cycling back on the main road proved to be much easier and quicker as the group were now on a decline. The group progressed quickly, but also had time to keep a lookout for animals. An elephant herd was spotted in the distance and we all stopped to enjoy the moment – which also allowed the cyclists to catch their breath again. The elephants went about their own business without even noticing that they were being watched.
A third and final stop at Molatedi gate meant a long good look at the 2km long uphill stretch along the fence, which earlier in the morning had entailed an exhilarating 45km/h ride, with no effort. This time around, I imagine the hill seemed less enjoyable. As brunch time was approaching, I think most of the participants were eager to get back to the lodge however and they were making good progress. Rounding the waterhole in front of the lodge, big smiles were on everyone’s faces, as a great outing and a 40km ride had been accomplished.
On the second day another 20km were accomplished, but this time outside the reserve. With sore legs and bums from the previous day, the group still managed to cover this route faster than the first 20km the day before. Although the animals encountered were a little less wild, the scenery was just as beautiful.
The next Madikwe Mountain Biking Weekend is set to take place on 11th-13th November 2016. Visit Jaci’s Lodges for more details.