Let Them Eat Cake II – Tour de Pafuri 2014

Aug 22, 2014 |  Trip Reviews
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Tour de Pafuri 2014 Part II

Nick Galpine recces then rides this year’s Tour de Pafuri – three days of wilderness mountain biking in far northern Kruger National Park and an important event on Children in the Wilderness (CITW)’s fundraising calendar… 

Precious cargo Tour de Pafuri

Before the main Tour de Pafuri event, we were tasked with unpacking all the guests' bikes, and some of the guides were soon deep in reverie as the bubble wrap came off the carbon-fibre dream machines. One or two were in pieces and took quite a bit of assembling – but fortunately a passing NASA engineer was able to assist. My old "farm gate" looked like a steam train by comparison, and believe me, you carry someone else's bike pretty gingerly when it costs more than your car!

Tour de Pafuri 2014

Like many cult members, mountain bikers dress weirdly (teardrop helmets, spandex and bibs, like aerodynamic babies) and speak their own language, with much debate over the competing merits of hard- and soft-tails. Personally I found my own rear started out pretty soft but after a couple of days' riding over rocks, had toughened up considerably.

Tour de Pafuri

A leisurely ride on Day One drew first blood, when most of the riders careened round a corner into an unseen slough of grey sand and promptly toppled over. All of which was quite amusing when viewed from the tail gunner position, until it dawned on me that with everyone else having stopped, I would lose all momentum and inevitably fall over too.

Lioness - one of a mating pair at Pafuri

The most challenging part was the thick sand trail to Lanner Gorge where those who had resisted the advice to let some air out of their tyres, soon felt a bit deflated themselves. But by hook or by Land Cruiser we all got there in the end, to be rewarded with spectacular views down into the Gorge – where else in the world can you look down on a sandy beach where the only footprints are those of elephants, whilst black eagles soar overhead?

Tour de Pafuri

Perhaps the infamous Pafuri pachyderms had been chilled out by all this beach time, but they gave us very little trouble during the event. In fact we saw far more buffalo as we traversed the Makuleke Contract Park. Punctures caused us more issues, although these were euphemistically referred to as “technical issues” to avoid any red faces. Of course in MTB parlance, “technical” usually means rocks or a precipitous slope, in other words, you will fall off – so this caused some happy confusion.

Thanks to Mari’s support from Jo’burg, tea stops became tea and cake stops, and suddenly all that bumping and grinding (of gears) made a whole lot of sense when you got to eat a boiled egg and a slice of delicious home-made fruit cake at the top of the hill overlooking the Benini Wetlands, or in a donga tree-shaded from the tropical sun.

When not in the saddle we made time for an extensive fines meeting (few went unpunished) and to search for the secretive grey-headed parrot, a psittacine so rarely seen that we had to summon it with a “similar” call from an iPhone app before we finally saw one upside down in amongst the blossoms of a sausage tree. By the final morning the appeal of gears and wheels had finally worn thinner than the Kevlar-sidewall tyres, and instead we set out to track eland or look for more birds, before a final hearty breakfast and the disassembly of all those gorgeous Scotts and Yetis (now abominably caked in red Pafuri dust, but somehow more noble for it).

A fantastic time was had by all, from Rupert the buffalo making his nightly rounds of the Camp to the effusive staff, whose very real happiness at seeing us return each day was matched only by their sense of puzzlement at why we were doing all this in the first place. As the dust settled on a successful event, the guides were left to contemplate their Future Life, and ponder whether it would be smooth or crunchy, and what they could do next that would be this much fun, and this worthwhile.

Tour de Pafuri 2014

With huge and heartfelt thanks to Janet and CITW, Rob and Landi for their warm hospitality and logistical wizardry, Rhodes and Hein for keeping us out of mischief, Tina for the tea stops and all the Pafuri Trails Camp staff for taking such good care of the Dimension Data team and all of us. Special thanks to the cycle leaders Cameron and Peter for leading us home each day. Next time we’ll definitely let off a couple of bear bangers, but only after we find that elusive Pel’s!

Read the equally entertaining Part 1 of Nick's Tour de Pafuri report here.

Words Nick Galpine

Pictures Nick Galpine, Janet Wilkinson

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By Nick Galpine

The call of the wild – and too many BBC wildlife documentaries – persuaded Nick to abandon the smoky steelworks of his childhood for the clear waters and immense skies of the Okavango Delta. Arriving at Mombo on the same truck as the first reintroduced white rhinos in late 2001, Nick soon realised (as did the rhinos) that this truly was heaven and earth. With the ashes of his return ticket to the UK cooling in a campfire somewhere on Chief’s Island, Nick spent the next several years helping monitor the first wild rhinos in Botswana in a decade. Several years of camp management across the Wilderness portfolio subsequently ensued but by early 2014 it was time to check out a different kind of jungle and Nick relocated to Johannesburg to focus on marketing the Collection properties, and pursue his interest in the manoeuvres of the world’s finest taxi drivers.

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Janet  Aug 22, 2014

Thanks for an amusing insight into this Tour de Pafuri Nick. Glad you came along and helped make it a great success

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