Exactly two weeks after our first epic Zululand Wild Ride, we were on the road again, bikes in the back of the bakkie, on route to Pongola for a weekend of great riding.
Although we had dropped from Lockdown Level 4 to level 3 since our previous trip, there were still a number of roadblocks on route, but our permits issued by Adventure Solutions were more than sufficient, and we arrived around midday on the reserve, with ample time to get everyone checked in to their rooms, and then get ready to ride.
Friday Afternoon we did a relatively short ride, just for everyone to get to know each other, and asses the skill/fitness levels of the various riders. It turned out to be an excellent ride though, with a few moments of excitement, the first being when a warthog charged out the bush and nearly took out my front wheel.
The absolute highlight of the afternoon ride though, was a sighting of 7 rhinos, as we dropped down onto the floodplain of the Pongola River. We stopped off a safe distance from them, and admired the view for a couple of minutes before they took off into the bush and we could proceed. About 2 km later, we came across another momma rhino and her yearling calf, but these two where blocking our way, so after observing them from a safe distance (some even from a very very safe distance), we back tracked a little, and took an alternative route back to the lodge. We then settled in for the evening, got the fire going, and spend a lovely evening around the campfire, enjoying the full moon, a lekker braai and some great company.
Saturday morning was meant to be an early start for a full day of riding, but a few mechanical issues delayed our start. By 8:00 we were on the road though, and soon encountered the days first obstacle, as we crossed the Pongola river, at a a shallow drift, before continuing the mornings ride along jeep tracks and game paths, through the riverene bush, spotting lots of antelope along the way, and an group of at least 10 giraffe.
Eventually we reached the halfway point of the ride, at the currently closed, but very beautiful Nkwazi Lake Lodge, overlooking the upper reaches of Jozini dam. We caught quick breather here, and had the option to go on a boat cruise, but the group chose to rather take advantage of the cooler weather, and maximise our riding time.
We then dropped from the lodge down onto the plains overlooking the lake, with the mighty lebomobo mountains as a backdrop. As we rode through this area, we spotted some more giraffe, herds of wildebeest and impala, and even a lone ostrich. There was also no shortage of warthog, but they fortunately stayed well clear of my front wheel this time.
We then wound our way back up the ridge line, and then began the decent slowly back towards the drift where we would again cross over the river. Except, a surprise awaited us as we reach the river….. a group of three elephant bulls had decided to block our path, we would need to find another way to the river crossing.
The elephant were fortunately calm, and we could observe them peacefully for a while before crossing over and then going back up to our lodge, for a quick brunch/lunch combo, and a little time to rest before the afternoons ride, which included a pretty big climb up the highest hill in the region. Some opted to rather drive up and enjoy the view, but all those that rode it thoroughly enjoyed the climb, and I am sure had a better appreciation for the view, knowing they had worked for it.
After a few minutes to catch ones breath, but not long enough to cool down, it was back on the bikes for the rather rocky descent down the mountain, and then a few km on easier tracks, making good use of the last of the daylight.
Saturday Night was again enjoyed around the campfire, with a massive braai, lots of banter and war stories were shared, and then it was off to bed to rest up for another day in the saddle on Sunday.
Sunday morning we got a nice and early start, although some of the group opted to lie a little. We did an easy loop around the lodge to warm up, then stopped back at camp to pick up the late sleepers, and fit in another cup of java, before heading back across the river, for a tough but enjoyable ride on some more mountanious terrain. After crossing the river, it was a long but gradual climb up to the top of a hill, with amazing views of the entire region, followed by a long, slightly technical descesnt back down to the Pongola river, and then another proper climb, before starting a long, gradual descent, finally ending up back at the lodge, were brunch was waiting, before packing up and sadly saying our goodbyes for now……. But still looking forward to the next time.
To book a spot on the last ride for the season, click the link below. Discounted price of R3150.00 expires midnight on 9 June