– An 8000km cycle on veteran African bicycles (no gears and no brakes) from Djibouti through Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa.
In 2008 Tarka and I departed from the tiny African country of Djibouti, in the North, to cycle down the east cost of Africa to South Africa. In order to make the journey more of a challenge we decided to leave our fancy bicycles at home, and bought a couple of old heavy steel bikes from the locals in Djibouti, which were void of gears AND brakes!!!
Why start in Djibouti? Well the fact we had never heard of it was as good a reason as any.
Why on African bicycles? We joined up forces with Raleigh to help promote the British charity Re-Cycle. Re-Cycle ship second hand unwanted bicycles from the UK to Africa were they transform lives, for transport and development go hand-in-hand. If we could cover 8000km on a bicycle that many of us would throw in a skip, then maybe we can encourage people who have an old unused bike rusting in the back of the shed, to take it along to Raleigh and make a huge difference to someone’s life. …continued below
The 8000km journey, which took 11 weeks to complete, passed through 8 countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa). The journey was incredibly diverse ranging from the desert of Djibouti, with its lunar landscape, parts of which are regarded as some of the most desolate spots on earth, through to the lush green farmlands of Ethiopia, the tropics of Mozambique and in stark contrast the roof of Africa on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Unfortunately only Tarka was able to complete the entire journey. 1 month in, I received a phone call from home forcing her to be on the next available plane back to the UK putting an end to my African adventure.
Buying Herbert – after 2 days of searching in Djibouti for bicycles (It was not apparent until we arrived that Djibouti, unlike nearly all other African countries, doesn’t ‘do’ bicycles!) However when we finally found two, they couldn’t have been more how we had imagined ‘African’ bikes to be if we had tried, especially Herbert.
Tarka summiting Mt Kilimanjaro – Not so much because it was a great achievement for him, for he has climbed much higher, but because after this journey he has realised he is a cold weather person! At the top of Kili, in the cool thin air with snow under foot, was the only time he felt really content.
Bale Mountains in Ethiopia – After an epic journey to get to the breath taking mountains at 4000m, the magic came when we had taken a day off from the bikes to hike and free camp in the national park. A park believed to have no large game! So we were just blown away, if not a little apprehensive, when at dusk two lioness strolled straight past us!
Huruma Orphanage – After my sudden departure Tarka had to find a home for my bike ‘Flashdance’ and the Huruma orphanage on the outskirts of Arusha couldn’t have been a more deserving home. Receiving no funding, as they are not set up as a charity, they were over the moon at Flashdance’s arrival. Not only because it will provide some fun for the children, but more importantly it will really help with the 2 mile journey the kids make everyday to get water.