Cyclists reach 2 600km mark!

HARARE - Two local cyclists riding across the 3 600km-long border of the country on an Anti-Poaching campaign sponsored by Dulys Motors were in Kariba yesterday and were hosted by businessman Ray Townsend – who runs a safari in the area.

Ashley King and Linda Davidson were in the Gache area on Day 32 of their gruelling tour.

“Our intrepid host, Ray Townsend was up to see us off,” Davidson, one of Zimbabwe’s leading female cyclists, wrote on the campaign’s Facebook page yesterday.

“He (Townsend) is quite a character, this man, I could write a story all about him but in brief he was a professional hunter for many years before deciding he had enough and turning to conservation. Professional Hunters are actually great conservationists.

“This could begin a huge debate however professional hunters get a really bad rap on account of their more bloodthirsty clients. Ray Townsend still owns the lease on huge tracts of safari and hunting area, in fact with a bellow of laughter he informed us last night that the road from Siabuwa to Mujere that we loved so much is his land, a safari area not hunted for years. (I thanked him profusely for hosting us on not one but two of our nights!). Having cycled 2600km of our country's lesser known roads, Ashley and I can both attest to the fact that currently used safari areas have a good road structure, loads of game and very little poaching.

“The hunting operators have a vested interest in keeping it like this and their presence in these areas is a huge deterrent to the poachers apart from the fact that they also would never kill an underage animal and never as inhumanely as the ones we had found the day before. Nonetheless this is not intended as a forum to discuss the sensitive issues of professional hunting but there is no doubt that Ray Townsend has made a huge impact on the Gache Gache area and his small piece of paradise. The Gache anti-poaching unit that he heads has over 700 arrests to its credit and the area is teaming with huge herds of elephant, buffalo, eland, kudu and others. Ray apologised to us profusely that the waterbuck population is right down.

“Our plan today was to ride to the Kariba Dam wall and we were so excited that our families are coming in for the rest day.

“About half an hour out of Gache and across the picturesque Gache river bridge we are pedalling along serenely when my cleat feels a bit loose. ...I look down to check my pedal and to my horror the entire crank has fallen off and is hanging off the end of my shoe! This is the metal arm that attaches the pedal to the bike! I cruised to a stop and Ashley wrestled the crank off my shoe and we had a moments panic about the severity of the bike's injury.”

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