Blog: Hill ready to conquer African bush at Zuurberg
After travelling more than 900km from Durban to Port Elizabeth, professional cyclist Andrew Hill shared his thoughts before he set out to conquer the African bush at the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek.
Heading off to King Shaka International Airport with my bike packed in its trusty regular companion, the bike bag, there was that regular feeling of excitement and nerves in the surrounding traffic mayhem.
Cheesy as it was, Johnny Clegg’s “I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart” tune seemed quite fitting as I was headed to Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape.
The combination of bike and bush is right up my street on the enjoyment factor rating, so the prospect of spending time in one of South Africa’s national parks really got me thinking about the next few days.
The fact that the trip wasn’t a game sightseeing holiday made the prospect no less exciting as I was instead gearing up for Great Zuurberg Trek.
Having raced in Zuurberg and the Addo area a number of times before, I had a good idea of what was in store for me and my teammate Marco Joubert at this year’s race.
The major difference this year was our accommodation arrangements for the event.
In the past we were comfortably accommodated at the Zuurberg Mountain Inn but in 2017 a greater demand from participants had the organisers look elsewhere for additional luxury accommodation that could showcase the area and be more attractive to overseas riders.
The Addo Elephant National Park was definitely the key draw card and this year we were put up at the Base Camp platinum plus accommodation.
The drive up to the Zuurberg Inn for registration was chilled and relaxed as we both knew our preparation was done.
We could now sit back and enjoy the afternoon while taking in the views of the surrounding bush and, hopefully, a couple of elephants sightings.
Our accommodation was world class and right from when we arrived we knew it was going to be awesome.
The camp is setup with team mates having to share rooms, but it sure beats the normal two man tents you have to squash into at other big races.
All in all we were set up for an unforgettable time on and off the bike in the African bush.
It’s not often you get to ride a bicycle in a game reserve but fortunately, as South Africans, we have an inherent link to the bush and wildlife, so the prospect isn’t as farfetched as it may seem to foreign mountain bikers.
That said, as accustomed and nonchalant we might be as “saffers”, you still need to be aware of your trail up ahead and the animals that could leap into your path as you diligently follow the back wheel of your team mate.
There is always a chance of the odd animal strike as its instinctual flight reactions hit overdrive.
Unfortunately I’ve been on the receiving end of a few in my mountain biking career.
There was the incident with indecisive goat whilst racing overseas, the charging warthog that smashed my teammate’s Italian carbon wheel in the Umko Valley, and then last month a monkey collided with my front wheel in the Inanda Valley.
The struggle is real in Africa and we all need to be aware of what is lurking in the bush as we head out to carve some trails.
Danger aside, we are amazingly privileged to be on our bikes exploring the African bush in this year’s Great Zuurberg Trek and I’m really looking forward to stage one tomorrow.
CAPTION: Professional cyclist Andrew Hill is ready to conquer the African bush at this year’s PwC Great Zuurberg Trek. Photo: Desmond Louw