Having spent the last few and a bit years working for Immediacy I've decided I need to do something completely different. I like cycling, obviously. I also like challenging myself and I wanted to see Africa, so when I read about the Tour d'Afrique I knew what had to be done.
I will be starting the Tour d'Afrique in Cairo in January 2009 and cycling to Capetown by May 2009. The ride features 96 cycling days or stages, averaging 123 km (77 miles) each, broken up by 22 rest days and 2 days of travel for a total of 120 days in Africa.
I'm also hoping to use this trip to raise awareness and funds for the following charities.
The Tour d'Afrique Foundation provides bicycles for AIDS / HIV
workers throughout Africa. The bicycles enable medical staff
to treat many more AIDS/HIV sufferers than would be possible
AVIF is a small charity organization which organizes volunteers
to help provide education and support in rural Kenya. Even a small
amount of fund raising will make a big difference to the amount of
work AVIF can do in Kenya.
It's been a pretty manic 6 weeks.
In addition to working pretty hard, I've been organising lots of details for the Tour d'Afrique trip.
- Visas - www.sudan-embassy.co.uk and www.ethioembassy.org.uk
- Bicycle spares - www.wiggle.co.uk and www.merlin-cycles.co.uk
- Flights - www.opodo.co.uk
- Hotel - www.cataracthotels.com
- Serious travel insurance - www.statravel.co.uk
- Vaccinnations -1 down, lots to go ...
With only about 6 weeks to go, it's all starting to seem very real. I've just got to the point of having enough free time to start my charity fundraising.
Building this blog to help with fundraising and publicity has taken a lot of my free time.
If you're reading this :- please donate :) !!
I haven't been doing enough training by along way, so it's going to be hard when I get to Africa. I've still got lots of things to sort out for the trip. More bike spares, a video camera, either a solar charger or a dynamo and some means of comfortably carrying 3 litres of water.
One of the charities I am supporting with my trip is the Tour d'Afrique Foundation.
The Foundation donates bicycles to health care workers and other deserving individuals in Africa.
HIV/AIDS is probably the worst health problem in Africa, however maternal mortality, tuberculosis, malaria,diarrhea, diabetes, cervical cancer are also big challenges.
Bicycles being a very low cost and sustainable form of transport, enable medical workers to treat many more patients than they otherwise would.
The Tour d'Afrique foundation also donates bicycles to other deserving groups. For example in 2008 the Foundation donated 10 bikes to Garlendale High School in Capetown. Many of the children attending this school come from disadvantaged backgrounds and often fall prey to crime and drugs. The school recently started a cycling club, which functions under the auspices of Pedal Power .
The cycling club has had a positive impact in the lives of the children who have joined. The school anticipates that four of their pupils will be chosen to represent the Western Cape in the annual inter-provincial schools cycling competition. This has created a positive difference in the lives of these children, and as a result, there is a huge demand from other children to join the club.
Poverty, however, prevents them being able to afford a bicycle to join the club. It is likely that the 10 bikes donated to this school will change the lives of 10 more children.
AVIF is an innovative online charity that provides volunteer teachers and other support to disadvantaged communities in rural Kenya.
AVIF's focus is on helping people in rural Kenya to become more self-sufficient by teaching them about running small businesses, disease prevention, renweable energy and eco-friendly technologies such as solar cooking.
JNMCC Mercy Home is a girls orphanage in the village of Maseno, near Kisumu, in Western Kenya. It is one of the projects assisted by AVIF Volunteers in Kenya and is one of the projects that will be helped by some of the money that you donate in sponsorship of my trip.
JNMCC Mercy Home founded in 1998 by Edward Buyengo, a local preacher and his wife Deborah. To begin with it was just a case of Edward taking five local orphans into his own home to care for them. He decided to focus primarily on providing a home for girls rather than boys as it is commonplace in Kenya for the girls to be married off young in poor families to both alleviate the burden of the family, and to gain a dowry to help sustain the rest of the family.
The orphanage was set up in Edward and Deborah’s own home as the girls were incorporated into the family and became sisters to their own daughter Miriam. To this day, one of Edward’s most strongly held beliefs is that the Mercy Home remain under one roof and that the girls are treated just as Edward’s own are treated. They are a family, and if you ever go to stay you will be family too. There is no division between the Founder and his family, any guests or volunteers that are staying or the girls themselves, the Mercy Home is exactly that; a Home.
The expansion of the Mercy Home programme lead to the expansion of Edward’s home too, with two extensions that introduced a 14-person dormitory, a new washroom, a large kitchen area (including chimney), sitting-room and office. These extensions were completed in November 2006 and opened by the local District Commissioner. There are now 15 full borders at the Mercy Home ranging from 10 to 18 years old and another 25 on the Day Programme whereby the girls (and now one boy!) are enrolled in the programme but due to lack of space, are unable to board.
I thought you might be interested to know when the scheduled rest days are in the forthcoming Tour d'Afrique 2009. By implication, all the other days are very much not rest days.
Start - 10th Jan 2009 Cairo
Friday January 16th Luxor
Sunday January 25th Dongola
Friday January 30th Khartoum
Friday February 6th Gondor
Monday February 9th Bahir Dar
Sunday February 15th Addis Ababa
Friday February 20th Arba Minch
Saturday February 28th Marsabit
Saturday March 7th Nairobi
Tuesday March 10th Arusha
Wednesday March 11th Arusha
Thursday March 12th Arusha
Friday March 20th Iringa
Thursday March 26th Chitimba Beach
Wednesday April 1st Lilongwe
Tuesday April 7th Lusaka
Saturday April 11th Victoria Falls
Sunday April 12th Victoria Falls
Saturday April 18th Maun
Friday April 24th Windhoek
Wednesday April 29th Sossusvlei
Sunday May 3rd Felix Unite
End - 9th May 2009 Capetown
Well, I've been in Cairo for about 5 days now and I've done all the usual touristy stuff like visit the museum, the pyramids and the Mohammed Ali mosque. All very interesting, but for me half the fun is just being in Cairo and marvelling at the seemingly bizarre chaos of it all.
The traffic is amazingly bad as are the traffic fumes which are literally choking. Crossing the road is an excellent high stakes game of skill and daring where you simply step in front of the slower moving cars that you think might stop or swerve around you.
People in Cairo are the friendliest people I've come across and many times people shout "Welcome to Cairo" as they drive or walk past. They are also very "commercially minded" (to say the least) and I've been introduced to a number of clever if highly dubious and persistent sales techniques.
Westerners stand out from the crowd and are considered fair game for any number of schemes designed to part you from your cash. All the "scams" are done with good humour and I haven't once felt remotely threatened.
In some areas (the pyramids, downtown) we were bombarded with requests from taxi drivers, shop keepers and random people wanting to take you to a shop elsewhere. Purely from a time point of view it's best to be friendly but keep walking. You could easily be asked if you want a taxi 10 times in 30 metres.
One of the highlights of these first fews days (apart from crossing the roads) was going inside the Great Pyramid at Gizza. Inside the pyramid it's suprisingly warm and you need to climb maybe 200 feet up a very steep, very narrow, low ceiling tunnel to reach the pharohs burial chamber. The burial chamber is a rectangular room about 5m long x 4m wide x 3m high made from black stone. At one end of the burial chamber is the remains of a sarcophagus made from the same black stone.