Ever dreamt of cy­cling along par­adise beaches? We tried out a new tour

There’s a new way to ex­plore Mozam­bique’s best-loved hol­i­day coast­line: by fat­bike! We sent a novice cy­clist to join the first-ever tour

Ire­cently learnt to ride a bike and like any­body with a new skill, I wanted more. I was long­ing to pedal some­where far, far away. That’s how I found my­self head­ing for the Kosi Bay/Farazela bor­der in a Mercedes Sprinter with 15 other ‘real’ moun­tain bik­ers. Just to give you an idea of some of the com­pany I was keep­ing: on the seat be­hind me was Ride Mag­a­zine edi­tor Tim Brink and be­hind him was Ju­lian Bryant, both of whom have done the Cape Epic more than once. Be­side me was show-off cy­clist and Get­away deputy edi­tor Tyson Jopson, who had been giv­ing me rid­ing lessons and of­ten ef­fort­lessly popped a wheelie as I was plead­ing with the bike to just move for­ward. Up­front was Ro­han Sur­ridge, the leader and or­gan­iser of this first-ever four-day fat­bike tour along the beaches of South­ern Mozam­bique. And then there was me, proud fin­isher of three laps of the Sea Point prom­e­nade. At the back of the bus were two glim­mers of hope: Al­li­son and Mervyn Gans, an older re­tired cou­ple. Turns out, they spend their time try­ing out new cy­cling routes and tours. Al­li­son ar­rived wear­ing a T-shirt printed with ‘I love bi­cy­cles’. At the Kosi Bay bor­der we were joined by bona fide wild man Andy Coet­zee, fly-fish­ing ex­pert and pre­sen­ter of Na­tional Ge­o­graphic’s Caught on Sa­fari: Live. We un­loaded the bikes on Mozam­bi­can soil and set off for Ponta do Ouro. Ahead of us, a 15-kilo­me­tre un­du­lat­ing sand track stretched east to­wards to the coast. It had rained the pre­vi­ous night so there were deep pud­dles. It was at this point that I felt I should in­form ev­ery­one that I was new to cy­cling, to min­imise po­ten­tial em­bar­rass­ment ahead. I’m glad I did. Be­cause things got tough, and quickly. The dif­fer­ence be­tween rid­ing in sand and rid­ing on the prom­e­nade, I dis­cov­ered, is that on the sand, the bi­cy­cle only moves for­ward if you pedal. There was no coast­ing like I did on the prom­e­nade. Andy and Ro­han dropped back to give me ad­vice and en­cour­age­ment, and I even­tu­ally got into a bit of a groove. We soon reached our first stop: a small she­been on the road­side. I never knew, un­til then, how a cold 2M beer could soothe one’s soul af­ter a hard af­ter­noon of toil­ing in the sun.

We picked up our bikes and con­tin­ued to­wards Ponta. Chil­dren in uni­form on the side of the gravel road started cheer­ing us on like we were in the Tour de France, ex­cept I was lag­ging be­hind. Anx­i­ety kicked in at the thought of not liv­ing up to the Usain Bolt/Ser­ena Wil­liams sta­tus of pi­o­neer­ing black ath­letes. Think­ing that I didn’t want to be the guy these chil­dren would grow up try­ing to not be, I be­gan cy­cling fu­ri­ously. I wanted to stop and scream back at them, ‘This is for fun, peo­ple! No one is go­ing to win any­thing at the end of this. I prom­ise!’ But I had al­ready made the first mis­take of cy­cling fu­ri­ously on a harder gear as I was ap­proach­ing a hill. There was no fight­ing any more – it was time to get off my bike and be the black guy push­ing his bike while all the white peo­ple cy­cled ahead. A roar of laugh­ter erupted from a group of women on the side of the road as I got off the bike, and with my head hang­ing down, I pushed my bike up­hill. We en­tered Ponta do Ouro via the main drag, with vil­lagers on the side of the road sell­ing any­thing from a kalei­do­scope of African-print clothes and sculp­tures to fruit and veg­eta­bles stacked on the ground. Signs of­fered curry, cock­tails and beer. Tempt­ing, but we pushed on to Kaya Kweru, next to the beach, where we’d be spend­ing the night. We im­me­di­ately or­dered beers, dived into the pool and, de­spite 15 kilo­me­tres in the sad­dle, felt thor­oughly re­freshed. Later on, at the Love Café, I was re­warded with a won­der­ful prawn curry for din­ner. When I woke the next day, ex­cept for a sore bum, my body felt sur­pris­ingly lighter and I was ready for the day ahead: we’d be head­ing out to cy­cle on the beach, where our fat­bikes would be in their el­e­ment. We cy­cled along the golden sand past plenty of fish­er­men. At Ponta Ma­lon­gane we stopped for the req­ui­site 2M beer be­fore the pull of the blue ocean got too strong and we aban­doned the bikes to go for a snorkel. Later, we saw hun­dreds of crabs danc­ing be­tween the sea and the shore, dig­ging up holes that were then washed over by the waves. That day we cov­ered about 20 kilo­me­tres, stop­ping of­ten to swim, drink beer and en­joy the scenery. The high golden dunes gar­nished with flora and patches of coastal for­est make the coast­line here a stun­ning show-off. We ar­rived at Co­ral Bay Camp­ing at Te­choba­n­ine around 2pm, in time for lunch. In the spirit of em­brac­ing lo­cal tra­di­tions, I de­cided to try Mozam­bique’s fa­mous peri-peri sauce. To my dis­may I learnt the hot way that some ex­pe­ri­ences are bet­ter off left to the na­tives; that

‘All I could hear was the mag­i­cal sym­phony of splash­ing waves and the clicks of crabs’

lemon, not a cold grape, cures the sting of peri-peri on your lips; and that it’s gen­er­ally not a good idea to eat chillies if your bum has been in the sad­dle for over 40 kilo­me­tres. On day three, we did a short cy­cle along the beach be­fore reach­ing a stair­case into the nearby for­est. We slogged and pushed our bikes up the stairs, and were re­warded with a won­der­ful panoramic view of the ocean at the top. Then we cy­cled away from the coast, through the for­est to­wards Piti Lake, neigh­bour­ing the Ma­puto Ele­phant Na­ture Re­serve. Andy told us about the an­nual mi­gra­tion of over 3 000 ele­phants from the Tembe Ele­phant Park in South Africa. We fin­ished cy­cling around mid­day, went for a beach­comb­ing stroll and watched Andy’s twin brother, Mark, cast his fish­ing line into the ocean. That evening we sat around the fire, waves splash­ing in the back­ground, the aroma of steak siz­zling on the braai, and rem­i­nisced and laughed about our jour­ney. On this fi­nal night, Andy took us for a walk along the beach – these un­spoilt sands are prime turtle-nest­ing ter­ri­tory. It wasn’t the right time of year to see tur­tles but the night walk was worth it. All I could hear was the mag­i­cal sym­phony of splash­ing waves and the clicks of the crabs play­ing hide and seek with the wave crests. The next day we caught a taxi back to the bor­der; I was en­cour­aged to see that it strug­gled as much as I had along the bumpy route into Ponta do Ouro. Yes, I may have falsely over­stated my fit­ness level and was saved fur­ther em­bar­rass­ment by the fact that there was no medal at the fin­ish line. How­ever, the medal that I’m now clutch­ing dearly against my heart with fond­ness is the mem­ory of the idyl­lic scenery: golden sand, ocean and oc­ca­sional forests; the fact that we of­ten had it al­most all to our­selves; the mo­ments of ca­ma­raderie and en­cour­age­ment I re­ceived as a novice. These are the mo­ments that are urg­ing my re­turn, like a turtle, to the bliss­ful sands of South­ern Mozam­bique.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM LEFT Wel­come with twins Andy and Mark Coet­zee, about to go snorkelling at Ponta Ma­lon­gane; carbo-load­ing-wor­thy pas­tries at Doce Vitória bak­ery; there’s no rid­ing up stairs, alas.

Wel­come cy­cled past rusted old cars and aban­doned houses on the road from the Kosi Bay bor­der to the coast. OP­PO­SITE Mar­ket stalls line the road into Ponta do Ouro, where you could buy any­thing from co­conuts to medicine.

ABOVE, FROM LEFT The Love Café in Ponta do Ouro, where we cel­e­brated fin­ish­ing the first day’s ride with de­li­cious prawn curry; Mark Coet­zee loves fish­ing but he didn’t catch much. OP­PO­SITE Pass­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers en route to Ponta Ma­lon­gane.

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