This is me (pictured right) with my good US-friend and travelling companion, Keenan Duke. The day was 21st January 2020 and it was the beginning of our big cycle journey from Cape Town to Cairo, an expedition of over 10,000 km. We set off and within the first hour, Keenan had managed to puncture his rear tyre. Lucky for us, we quickly found the culprit, a sharp nail and in no time we were back on the road. This was the first obstacle of many that we were to face together. It highlighted the importance of having each other's back at a time of need. Our team dynamic was to play a huge part in the days and weeks to come as we established a supportive mind-set from the onset. We knew that if we failed to establish a working, effective relationship, we were going to struggle beyond belief.
Keenan and myself had previously met during our own travels in India a few years earlier, we had spoken and dreamt about one day riding our bikes from the southern tip of the African continent up to the Northern Mediterranean shores. After keeping in touch via the occasional call, we manifested our dream and turned it into a living reality. We reunited in Cape Town only a few days before setting off. Whether we were ready or not, we were committed to spend the next eight months together, through thick and thin, travelling through the varied and dramatic terrain of the vast African continent. This was my first, major cycle tour (it was Keenan’s second) and I had spent many months preparing for it, both mentally and physically.
I saw the journey as being a huge test of my endurance but also a great opportunity to raise funds for a worthy charity. In my search for the right organisation to support, and while I was working in a gold mine in Western Australia, I was drawn to the vision and culture of the team at a small UK charity, Indigo Volunteers. Holly Penalver and her amazing team were hugely excited when I shared my plans with them. From that day, a virtual bond was formed. Along the way, they provided help, support and encouragement to help tell the story on social media platforms. With objections being thrown at us, left, right and centre; from inconsistent access to WiFi to the daily challenge of riding our bicycles for eight to ten hours a day in the blistering African sun, their charity efforts - particularly in refugee camps in Greece - kept me focused and determined. I cannot thank them enough for all they did to support me.
To give you some insight on our outlook over the first two gruelling months on the road, we travelled through the magnificent Western Cape, the rolling deserts of Namibia and the remote tribe land of Etosha before travelling along the Caprivi strip, crossing the Okavango River, to Victoria Falls on the border with Zambia and Zimbabwe. We had completed 2,500 Kms, encountered much varied wildlife, having to occasionally plead for water after we had run short in blazing 42C afternoon heat and, of course, steering clear of some ‘crazy’ African truck drivers who almost knocked us over most days! But each day, we packed our camping gear, dragged ourselves back onto our bikes and tried not to let the scale of the endeavour cloud our positive mindset. It truly was an opportunity of a lifetime and all for a great cause.
By mid March, the news was beginning to reach us that the COVID-19 virus was going to affect our plans. A global pandemic had gotten in the way of our journey, something neither of us could have foreseen. We were bitterly disappointed to learn that borders were closing, travel was being restricted and visiting Europeans on bikes were not being made welcome. There was no choice but to cut the trip short. It was totally out of our control. In a matter of days, Keenan and I had gone from being two intrepid explorers, bound by the adventure, to the clean comforts of our homes. The warm welcome from my family, and from the Team at Indigo, when I arrived home in the UK was much appreciated but I was still disheartened.
‘till next time
Whilst the trip has been put on hold for now, I hope one day to return and complete the journey through Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. It might have to be completed in stages - I have a career to think about - but I have made it a lifetime goal to finish the journey! Lastly, I am delighted to say that we managed to raise a fantastic £2,700 to support the ongoing work of Indigo Volunteers. As of now, I am self isolating with my amazing family in the UK trying to figure out a way to continue the campaign to reach my target of £10,000.
‘till next time,