20 June 2023
When keen cyclist and intrepid traveller, Ann Bennett was invited to join a mountain biking tour in Africa in 2012, she never imagined it would lead to a multi-continent adventure of a lifetime.
“A friend asked my husband and I to join her on a biking tour in Tanzania. We had never done anything like it before, but we jumped at the opportunity to see a different part of the world in a completely new way.”
The 16-day trip from the lower slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro to the Rift Valley saw the group ride up to 90 kms per day, camp amongst African elephants, and ultimately, get back to nature.
“It was an incredible experience. Travelling on bike meant we had the opportunity to ride through villages, meet the locals and interact with kids. You just don’t get that from peering through a tour bus window.
“Funnily enough, it was the first and last tour my friend took part in. But my husband and I were hooked.”
The adventurous couple went on to clock up 1400 kms in 10 days pedalling from Budapest to Zurich, experienced first-hand the extreme poverty in Madagascar, explored the beauty of the Croatian coastline and wound their way around Amsterdam’s renowned canals en route to Paris.
“One of the highlights of my travels, though, was experiencing the nomadic way of life in Mongolia. Riding across the Gobi Desert was absolutely spectacular. There is nothing in front or behind you except the sun and desert.”
Although the excursions are organised by Christchurch based company, Global Cycling Adventures, local tour guides lead the way.
“We stayed in yurts and lived off the land. A goat would arrive on the back of a bike and that was dinner for the next few days.
“The Mongolians didn’t have much, but they made the most of it and were genuinely happy with their way of life.
“It was the local people that really made the tours what they were for me. They were so accommodating and always willing to lend a hand. And at the end of it all, you know you’re giving back to the local economy too.”
Although the Covid-19 pandemic put a temporary pause on travel plans, Ann is looking forward to immersing herself in the diverse Japanese culture on her next cycling venture.
In the meantime, the Gulf Rise resident is busy getting her new four-legged companion, Poppy, accustomed to her local two-wheeled adventures.