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Thursday 18 December 2014

How to discover your inner revhead in the African bush

They say it is important to step out of your comfort zone once in a while.

As my comfort zone frequently encompasses glasses of wine and fine dining, I usually step outside by having a beer and a burger. Mission accomplished. 
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But on my recent trip to South Africa, staying at the ultra-luxe five-star Palace of the Lost City, I was urged to really step outside my comfort zone. 

And unlike the times in New Zealand when I said "no" rather fiercely to offers of bungy jumping or abseiling, this time I said "yes" when a gap emerged in my very busy itinerary. 

I not only said "yes" to a strawberry daiquiri that evening, I also said "yes" to riding a powerful quad bike through the African bush the next morning. 

Now the Palace of the Lost City is the sort of place where you are pampered to within an inch of your life; there are two world-class golf courses, upmarket restaurants, foot massages by the swimming pool and wine lists featuring some of South Africa's finest drops. It's the sort of place where I feel very much at home. 

The "adventure" choices offered at the Sun City complex of which the Palace is a part are many and varied; ranging from Segway tours and hot air balloon safaris to archery, paintball, clay target shooting and tours on quad bikes. 

These four-wheelers look quite benign until you get on them and flick the switch. Suddenly they turn into snarling, bucking monsters that need to be tamed. 

As our route took us off-road into the bush; along the nature trails through the Letsatsing Game Park, there were steep inclines and rocky outcrops to be negotiated and muddy streams to be crossed. 
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Riders are given a brief rundown on their machines, handed hair nets and crash helmets and warned not to put their feet on the ground while riding as it is easy for a leg to be twisted and broken. Reassuring. 

Sure enough, I did put my foot on the ground - once. Thankfully I survived with all limbs intact. 

Our group quickly broke into two; a couple of riders found the terrain too rough and insisted at riding at around 5kmh. The rest of us wanted to get up some speed - and almost gave a nasty surprise to one of the local zebra as we roared past.

In all honesty, the animals are totally blasé about the occasional quadbike traffic, to which they have become accustomed.   

We didn't see too many animals on our ride; but it was in the middle of the day when wise creatures, and particularly giraffes, tend to seek out shade and sleep. For those wishing to see wildlife, early mornings and late afternoons are the best times.

Be prepared to be challenged. If you get up above 25 kmh, the quad bikes quickly become quite unstable - but the adrenalin rush is unbeatable. I ended up drenched in sweat - it takes quite an effort to keep hold of the handlebars and a couple of times it felt like I was going off sideways.

After covering 10km of rocky terrain and wild bush I ended with a sore posterior, aching forearms and was also splattered in mud from head to toe - meaning I had to take advantage of the Palace's express laundry service when I returned to the hotel. 

Back in the arms of luxury. 

Adventure activities at Sun City are operated by Mankwe Gametrackers. +27 14 552 5020. A one-hour quad bike experience costs around $70, depending on exchange rates. 

For details on The Palace of the Lost City, part of Sun International's Sunlux Collection, visit 

# The writer was a guest of Sun International  



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