“It’s not how you dress…

… it’s how good you look going slowly!” Say what?

Cycling Africa is not a new idea to the continent. Ever since a certain adventurer decided to circumnavigate Africa on his bicycle, the lure to be free on ones saddle while letting the African wilderness pass you by has always attracted cycling enthusiasts, those with their souls connected deep within Africa.

Not every pedlar can just pick up a bike and ride to Cairo, and not every place offers that deep, lost ‘African’ connection some cyclists lust for.

There is one place, however, that is tucked away quietly in the Northern Kruger National Park and ignites a spirit of remoteness and unrivaled natural beauty. A place explored for hundreds of years only by some quiet feet on the ground, but screams loudly with wildlife and adventure. A dream like place, with an ever changing landscape and abundant diversity of fauna and flora.

Pafuri, as it is affectionately known, is a contract park within the Kruger National Park owned by the Makuleke People. It is a primal piece of wilderness wedged between the confluence of the Luvuhvu and Limpopo Rivers, and is said to flourish with 75% of the entire parks biodiversity.

Scribed with wild and ancient stories, Pafuri is a remote wilderness unlike any other. It is home to olden baobab hills, decorated fever tree forests, and lala palm fringed vleis… all with a heap of other flora painted in between. The wildlife is ceremoniously noisy; a good nights sleep is one charaterised by hooting owls, howling hyenas and honking baboons.

Full Days Trail

A low density of camps and vehicles make it a perfect place to get lost, and enjoy one of the few truly hidden wildernesses in Africa. RETURNAfrica have the location epitome! With easy access to those ‘lost’ locations, and knowledge of the ‘hidden’ ones further away… which make it a mountain bike trail Shangri-la!

The ride itself is not a race, or a tour, nor a safari… but more a walking trail, on a mountain bike, in a big five area. So don’t expect to set any ‘King of the Mountain’ segments on Strava, the wilderness I just described above is too amazing and unique to have it whizz by you in a blur. In fact, I had to speed up certain clips in the video below so you all didn’t fall off your saddles.

So now that I have your attention, and laid down a reasonable enough canvas, let’s wander – and wonder – a moment what it would be like to ride your bike quietly around such a place…

… well, see for yourself! This is most definitely a bucket list tick!

More Images…

 

Some images courtesy of Cameron Murray – Escape Cycle Tours

Kalahari Dreaming

 All the bush is dry, and the sand is red. Yet this is not always the case in the Kalahari.

Tswalu is often referred to as a desert, and it may have all the extreme temperatures of one, but it may surprise many that it is in fact a ‘semi-arid savannah’… a green desert.

Trees grow contently through-out the landscape, peculiar flowers litter the sands and grass blankets the dunes creating a sense that appears everything like a savannah, yet wonderfully different!

My time at Tswalu can best be described as mesmerising. I was captured by the shear vastness of the landscape, shocked by the silence that echoes off the rolling sand dunes, and held to ransom by the length of every sunset.

Long Kalahari Sunset from the dunes

Long Kalahari Sunset from the dunes

It is said that guides are rewarded with sunsets, in the Kalahari, we are honoured by them. The sky seems to arrest every bit of light, and holds it from one end of the Earth to the other, allowing not a single particle to escape… forcing us to be drawn into its endlessness.

The Kalahari can romance even the hardest souls. But what it radiates in landscapes and sunsets, it compliments with a diversity of amazing wildlife.

Ironically, its vastness lends well to some of Africa’s smallest and most fascinating creatures. Creatures seen so seldom elsewhere, it makes Tswalu a trove of treats for the absolutely weird and wonderful. It is also your best chance of seeing the elusive ground pangolin, a mammal unlike any other.

Meerkats and Pups

Meerkats sunning themselves

The Rare Ground Pangolin

The Rare Ground Pangolin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small creatures also have a big presence in the Kalahari. Sociable Weavers captivate your gaze with their enormous nests, providing a continuous hum of activity, and when the sun sets, barking geckos will fill the diamond sky with a soundtrack that dominates the Kalahari night.

Large animals still roam the red Kalahari dunes in abundance. As herds of eland click through the grass and Desert Black Rhino exhaust their ‘bad’ tempers, they all leave little disturbance to the massive world that waits beneath. It’s unusual to think that the majority of Tswalu’s creatures live underground, but when these subterranean animals like aardvarks, meerkats and foxes leave their burrows, they provide some amazing opportunities to view and photograph their behaviour.

A herd of Eland seen from a helicopter

A herd of Eland seen from a helicopter

A herd of Oryx (Gemsbok) move across a sand dune at sunset

A herd of Oryx (Gemsbok) move across a sand dune at sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even with large predators like lion and cheetah that move between the sand dunes with a grace uncharacterised by any savannah, the Kalahari seems in perfect balance. The folding mountains in the east seem to enclosed a harmony that ripples across the sand dunes to the setting sun far off into the west.

A Kalahari Black-maned Lion

A Kalahari Black-maned Lion

Cheetah with the Kalahari backdrop

Cheetah with the Kalahari backdrop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My impressions of Tswalu and its endless landscape, distinctive wildlife and quiet silence that is so deafening it sings with life?

A land that time remembered, and humans will never forget.

Heartbreak Kalahari

A sad story unfolds, as an old lioness slowly dies while her sister and cubs watch on.

We originally thought after finding her, that she had been bitten by a cape cobra, and she was reacting to the potent neurotoxins in the venom. But as it would turn out, old age had allowed parasitic worms to fester on her brain, causing these horrific violent attacks, and ultimately her death.
We watched a few more of these disturbing and emotional episodes, scenes as if she were fighting an invisible enemy, while her cubs and sister called in confusion and hesitantly moved around her. And then she succumbed, yielding to her attacker… an old warrior bowed her head, and slowly retreated back towards her now certain fate. (as seen in the photo below)

Please excuse some of the shoddy, shaky camera work mid-way, I was handing out tissues to my guests.