On the 1st of November 2019, 18 cyclists were put through their paces with the first WILDSERIES Somkhanda MTB Challenge 3 day stage race which took place at the big 5 community reserve in Zululand.
This challenge was not for the faint-hearted as riders had to navigate tricky terrains and wildlife encounters.
On day 1, riders experienced the true nature of Zululand’s weather, as it boasted four seasons in one day. Riders persevered through thick, clay-like mud as slight rain descended upon them. Many riders were delayed at the breakfast stations as they had to cleanse their bikes from the thick cakes of mud lodged in the bike’s mechanism.
Lions were a commonplace at the challenge with riders having to be escorted by the Somkhanda Community Game Reserve vehicles to a safe location. Some riders were fortunate enough to spot the lions comfortably nestled in the bush, watching these precarious creatures cycle past. It was a full day of wildlife encounters as riders cycled past a herd of buffalo, which some speculated was the reason for the lion’s presence.
Day 2 was no different as the lions were the order of the day as cyclists were once again transported to safety after numerous sightings were reported by our professional monitoring team.
Unfortunately, the riders didn’t see any lions en route their new drop-off point but were treated to a lion call-out at the end of the day.
After a hearty lunch and a quick shower, riders were transported down to the dam lodge for a close encounter with the kings of the jungle. The team enjoyed a laugh as our adult male hid in the bush and purposefully let out a loud roar to scare a young sub-adult male feasting on the day’s offerings.
The final day of the WILDSERIES Somkhanda MTB Challenge reminded riders that the challenge wasn’t for sissies as riders navigated steep peaks and rocky terrains to the finish line. Tired riders wheeled across the finish line with a sense of relief and achievement etched all over their faces.
A prize ceremony celebrated the inaugural WILDSERIES MTB Challenge as each rider was awarded a piece of Somkhanda Community Game Reserve to take home, our indigenous Spekboom, propagated at the WILDLANDS hub. This wonderful plant is sought after as an air-purifier and its leaves can be used in salads. Interestingly this little marvel is also known as elephant food.
The success of this challenge was as a result of a partnership with many stakeholders and we would like to give a hearty thanks to our partners and contributing sponsors, Africa for Africa, Sanlam, Nel Skincare, Ecofuel, Midbay Audi, Rotary Club, Jonsson Workwear, Med Evac, Painted Wolf Wines, Thirsty Elephant and Phonix Capture cc.
Roelie Kloppers, Executive Director of WILDLANDS comments, “As luck would have it, the inaugural Somkhanda Challenge coincided with one of the most unforgettable sporting achievements in South Africa’s history, and a day where we reflected on the privilege of living on this amazing continent. After a hard second day of cycling, our riders joined Somkhanda’s rangers and hospitality staff to witness the Springboks’ annihilation of England in the World Cup final. The braai fires continued late into the night as we were all reminded how far we have come as a people united in diversity, and, as we celebrated the development of Somkhanda as a true South African destination fit for hosting such memorable occasions. The challenge was a great success and has definitely promoted
Somkhanda as a rugged destination for all outdoor enthusiasts. We look forward to hosting similar events in future.”
Meiring Prinsloo, Somkhanda Community Reserve Manager said, “With the inaugural Somkhanda Mountain Bike Challenge, during this past weekend, another building block was laid for ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of this protected area.”
“Thank you for your support, we could not have done it without you guys. You are now ambassadors of Somkhanda Community Reserve and the MTB event. Please spread the word and let’s make this event grow and put Somkhanda on the map,” comments Africa for Africa’s William Lombard.
“What a privilege to support this WILDLANDS event,” says Craig Massey, Regional Executive for Sanlam Private Wealth. “It’s a great opportunity to give our clients a unique mountain biking experience and to witness first-hand the success of WILDLANDS’s efforts to protect and preserve our heritage.”
Harriet Tubman once said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer” and we are grateful to our partners for making our dream a reality.
Look out for the 2020 dates for this wild adventure and be part of it or visit www.wildseries.co.za for updates.
To book your stay at the Somkhanda lodge or wild campsites, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email JanineDP@wildtrust.co.za or visit our website for details http://wildtrust.co.za/somkhanda/
Photo’s credit: Phonix Capture CC