Thanks to all our amazing participants, donors and volunteers, it was another fantastic Cycle Challenge weekend here at Kasanka National Park! We’re so grateful to you all for your support of the seventh annual event. This year we were delighted to welcome amongst others Ernst Jacobs, founder of the Kasanka Cycle Challenge and ex-manager of the Kasanka Trust who is now based in the North Luangwa, in addition to Paul and Kathy Bonekamp from Pep who have been stalwart supporters of both the bike race and KTL over the past couple of years.
Guests started to arrive at Kasanka on Saturday afternoon. It was wonderful to welcome old faces and greet new, and an air of anticipation started to build as the afternoon drew on. Stewart made a grand entrance in his plane just before Dion gave the race briefing in the evening and went over the order of the following day. After a tasty supper of Moffat’s signature spag bol and a few drinks (including some vintage chocolate vodka) people began to peel off to their various tents and chalets in preparation for the next day’s exciting events.
Sunday dawned bright and hot and there was a palpable sense of excitement hanging over the Cycle Village as participants wolfed down breakfast, checked their bikes, filled up their water bottles and did some last minute stretches before the start. At 8.30 a.m. sharp, the whistle blew and the 45km Challenger participants set off! Fifteen minutes later, the Chase riders were off for the 22 km race. Everyone left up at the Cycle Village checked their watches and took a deep breath – now all we had to do was wait for the first riders to come sailing through the finish line!
First back was Dylan Vaughan who completed the 22 km Chase in a little over an hour, with Tabea and Jeff not far behind. An incredibly impressive win from the Chase participants – what a triumph – well done all! We were then witness to an incredible feat from Steve Wells who finished up The Challenger in record time, closely followed by Lance Vaughan – great work you guys! A special mention must go to local rider Derrick Kunda who, having won the Njinga race for several years in a row, joined the Challengers and came in at an impressive fourth place. Carina was the victorious winner of the women’s Challenger – an absolutely brilliant effort, huge congratulations Carina and all the Challenger men and women who absolutely nailed this most trying of races!
Once all riders had returned to the Cycle Village, the Bush Hopper began. After several hours of feeling nervous and waiting for the start, the Bush Hopper participants put in an impressive effort. Oliver and Hanno did brilliantly, pedalling furiously to the finish line!
All the races were fantastic and the sheer determination and talent of all participants was really impressive. WELL DONE TO EVERYONE WHO TOOK PART IN THE SEVENTH ANNUAL KASANKA CYCLE CHALLENGE!
The Fantastic 2017 Kasanka Cycle Challenge Winners are as follows:
The Challenger 45 km
1st: Steve Wells (1:39:10) | 2nd: Lance Vaughan (1:39:23)| 3rd: Stewart Parkes (1:49:18)
1st: Carina Myburgh (2:24:55) | 2nd: Lizelle Hudson (2:36:28) | 3rd: Diane Ellis (2:50:33)
The Chase 22 km
1st: Dylan Vaughan (1:00:1) | 2nd: Jeff de Graffenried (1:10:45) | 3rd: Ryan Jackman (1:16:38)
1st: Tabea Zimmermann (1:10:02) | 2nd: Sarah Jackman (1:18:29) | 3rd: Lee-Anne Hudson (1:28:09)
Bush Hopper Cycle 5 km
1st: Oliver Ayres (12:36) | 2nd: Hanno van Niekerk (14:10)
After lunch and a short break, our local friends and neighbours began to arrive at the Cycle Village for the eagerly-awaited locals Njinga race. This was the one we’d all been looking forward to – with reports from previous years of race rigging, route alterations, shortcuts taken and crazy antics en route, we couldn’t wait to see what would happen this time!
Due to afore-mentioned route alterations, the Njinga race starts from the main gate and is a hell-for-leather straight course down the drive to Wasa, with one sharp turn for the airstrip. This was where a big crowd had now assembled – supporters, family members and lots of KTL staff’s wives and children had come along too. We were full of anticipation and we weren’t disappointed – the Njinga proved to once again be one of the most dramatic races of the weekend!
This year’s men’s Njinga was won by Michael Musonda who roared past the finish to huge cheers from the crowd. The women’s race was won by Mavis Bwalya. Similarly to last year, many entrants were sporting crazy headwear and some had even doubled up, with passengers riding pillion on the back wheel. KTL was the lucky recipient of two beautiful yellow Zambikes bikes this year, both kindly donated as prizes for the men and women’s Njinga race. Kasanka Cycle Challenge old hand, participant and generous donor Rocky Sombe did us the honour of handing out prizes to some extremely out-of-breath yet high spirited locals who were delighted with their awesome Pep water bottles and t shirts for first and second prize.
The Njinga post-prize giving entertainment then started. Mr Peter from Chalilo is a blind musician who plays on a homemade tin guitar with improvised strings. His performance was glorious – he sang some very pretty Bemba songs about conserving the environment and the natural beauty of Kasanka and he had a troupe of children who accompanied him singing, dancing, and on the drum. Then followed the Chalilo Community Band – a much louder and faster performance. Harmonious singing and chanting, fast drumming, loud whistle blowing (literally!) and dancing revved the crowd into a joyous mass of swaying bodies and stamping feet. There was some hesitation to begin with but then a fair few of the crowd joined in – a special mention here must go to Sam the Peace Corps volunteer who threw some great shapes on the d floor!
Prize giving for the morning’s races followed soon after the music and dancing. Quentin Wylie who had spent the month volunteering with us announced all the winners and gave out the prizes. It was so special to stand, under the great Kasanka sky at sunset, after such a memorable day – and thank everyone who made the weekend possible, many of whom were actually with us to be thanked in person this year.
Here, listed in no particular order, are the wonderful individuals and companies who supported the 2016 Kasanka Cycle Challenge and who we are so grateful to: Pep, for the generous donation of drinks bottles which kept our riders hydrated and happy throughout the peaks and troughs of the Cycle Challenge! For two years now we’ve been wanting to acknowledge your support and your generous mid-year donation which absolutely transformed operations at the park and enabled us to provide uniforms to our staff as well as deliver clothing and toiletries to the local community. We can’t thank you enough and we’re so glad you were with us this year, Paul and Kathy, so we could thank you in person!
Bata, for supporting our law enforcement efforts throughout the Challenge weekend and the rest of this year by kindly donating rainboots for our anti-poaching staff. Robin Pope Safaris very kindly gave us the top prize for the women’s Challenger – two night’s fully inclusive accommodation at Nkwali or Luangwa River Camp in the Luangwa Valley. The Urban, Ndola, generously donated two night’s accommodation plus golf lessons for the men’s Challenger – what a lucky winner! We’d also like to thank the Mulungushi Boat Club for their generous donation of three night’s accommodation as top prize for the men’s Chase. Proflight kindly gave us two return flights to Livingstone from Lusaka for the women’s Chase first prize. Rocky and Betty Sombe generously donated a voucher entitling the bearer to a delicious dinner for two with a bottle of wine included at their famous establishment in Lusaka, The Keg and Lion. Well-renowned eateries Ocean Basket Arcades and Il Portico, Leopard’s Hill, also donated prizes to this year’s Cycle Challenge, as did lovely Sugarbush Café. Top prize for the Bush Hoppers this year was entry for four people to the elephant orphanage at Lilayi, courtesy of Game Rangers International.
Although we were extremely disappointed that this year Zambikes weren’t able to join us in person, their very generous donation of two beautiful bikes for the Njinga race winners was appreciated enormously. Skytrails once again supported the Challenge weekend by kindly lending us their truck to bring up supplies from Lusaka.
We’re once again incredibly grateful to Allan and Diane Ellis from Signs of the Times and Neon Signs, Lusaka. Allan and Diane have participated in every race since the event’s inception in 2010. They talked us through our first year in 2016 and have been an endless source of support since then. Allan and Diane are responsible for printing the gorgeous trophies, all the bike numbers, rule and route boards as well as the t shirts each year – and this year will be engraving the old sitatunga horn floating trophies, after much encouragement from a certain person (you know who you are)! Thank you so much Allan and Diane – you’re truly amazing and we couldn’t have done it without you.
Last but not least it remains for me to thank KTL UK who were significant contributors to this year’s event. A huge heartfelt thanks to you all – you really came up trumps for us and we’re extremely grateful for your support.
We feel very lucky indeed to have had such strong backing and of course the event would not have been such a huge success without the presence of such an incredible, enthusiastic team of participants, spectators and supporters – THANK YOU ALL SO, SO MUCH! We have put up photos from the weekend on the Kasanka Facebook page. I hope you’ll love them, but if there are any you aren’t happy with and would like me to take down, please email me and I’ll do so right away. You can access them here: https://www.facebook.com/kasanka.trustzambia/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Finally, I want to thank our staff and volunteers. Dion, Harry and I are so grateful for everything you did to make the 2016 Cycle Challenge run so smoothly. Ali and Q – we’d have been lost without your cheery, can-do attitude, super ant-squashing skills (Q!) and helpful suggestions in the months leading up to the event. Pieter and Charmaine, once again we’re so grateful for the loan of your bowser, tractor and other vital equipment which we could not have done without. Rich and Gerry our superstar volunteers at Lavushi Manda were route marshalls on the day and have been a source of great support and positivity throughout. Boxen, Andrew, Lewis and the infrastructure team; our wonderful lodge staff, Moffat, Remington; KTL and DNPW scouts, PPU and Pontoon camp attendants. Thank you all – and for your continued cheerfulness, enthusiasm and support – you are all amazing and we’ve felt very privileged be part of such a fantastic team.
Sadly this is the last Cycle Challenge for Harry, Dion and I. We’re all England-bound in June, but will hope to be back AS PARTICIPANTS for more bike races in the years to come!
With warm wishes to you all,
Dion, Tigger, Harry & The Kasanka Team