30 riders complete Cycle Tanzania 2015!

Transaid’s biggest ever African Cycle Challenge took place between the 6th and the 14th June 2015, raising an incredible £129,000 (and still rising!) for Transaid. 30 cyclists from across the transport and logistics industry took part, with teams and individuals coming together to take part in this once in a lifetime adventure.

Safely delivered by Kenya Airways into Kilimanjaro International Airport, the team of 30 cyclists were met by their tour manager, Henk Blanckenberg – a passionate South African who spends his entire life leading cycling and trekking challenges across the world. As the minibuses climbed further up towards Kilimanjaro, everyone’s thoughts turned to the 5 days of cycling ahead, and what might lie in store. After lunch, the team were introduced to their bikes for a short 7km ride to a nearby waterfall. With little sleep and the effects of altitude, this was harder than the distance would suggest, but the team returned to their accommodation tired and happy, ready to face whatever lay ahead over the next week.

Day 1 – in the words of Aggie Krasnolucka-Hickman, Head of Marketing and Comms at Transaid

“We started off with a comparatively short ride of 65km, which took in a number of hills at high altitude. Some of the very experienced riders struggled with the inclines and found it hard to breathe. Weirdly, I didn’t suffer too much from a lack of breath. I put this down to my hot yoga training which focuses on the importance of breathing… in and out, in and out… I tried to imagine the air traveling throughout my body and the oxygen reaching the muscles in my legs and this just carried me through.”

Team Lunch on Day 1

Day 2: In the words of Peter MacLeod, Editor of SHD Logistics

“Wake up to a cold morning on the slopes of Kilimanjaro – frost on the ground, so warm clothes to start with. Start with a gentle tarmac ride through pine forests, and we get our first proper look at Kilimanjaro.

Skirting the northern edge of the volcano, passing close to the Kenyan border across elephant migration paths. Sadly the only migration we saw was a wall of butterflies.

Everywhere we went we were greeted with shouts of ‘jambo’ (hello in Swahili), ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’ by the smiling locals. Their faces lit up with a wave, and many of us tried to engage with them, as they collected around our rest areas with fascination in their eyes.

Ice cold water in the showers at the Dutch-owned farm’s campsite brought me around, and the day ended memorably – dinner around the camp fire after watching the sun set to reveal the most beautiful star-filled cloudless southern sky.”

Day Three: In the words of Chris Owens, Managing Director of Alpine Travel

“Day three saw us leaving the mountains and descending across the Rift Valley from Mount Kilimanjaro to Mount Meru, this was a journey of 66 miles with again some 3,000 feet of climbing as we made our way across to the bustling city of Arusha.

Day three was by far our hardest day with searing heat, big hills, frighteningly large foot prints and sand storms, certainly not what I’m used to cycling around Wales! That said the people we met along the way were equally friendly such as the Masai farmer from the rift valley with 200 head of 5 wives who told me his wives caused him far more trouble than the 200 heard of cattle!

Day three really brought home to me the value and real need for much of Transaid’s work in the transport sector of East Africa. Having cycled on their roads I can certainly vouch that much needs to be done!

Anyway there I am cycling up a hill on the way to Arusha, the hill turned out to be nearly 10 miles long and climbed about 1,500feet, I’m nearing the summit of the climb when a Tanker passes me and the driver as so many do was leaning out the window saying “Pusha Pusha” or something like that which in Swahili means faster faster! Shortly after I’m catching up with said tanker which has pulled into a layby shortly ahead, the passenger is getting out of the cab and placing a wheel chock behind the back wheel to ensure the tanker doesn’t roll back down the hill and once it was secured the driver released the foot brake and got out of the cab. As you can imagine I found the wheel chock quite concerning but sensible but the driver was 14 perhaps 15 years of age. I get talking to the driver, and he tells me he has been driving for 2 days solid from Dar es Salaam and that is why he has the young boy with him to take the wheel when he’s feeling tired. They were swapping over as there was always a police check over the other side of the hill and sure enough there was. My major concern was that the tanker without a handbrake and with a 14 year old driver was an LPG Tanker, but for the grace of god goes I sprung to mind, or similar!

Break time with bikes

Day 4: In the words of Florence Bearman, Transaid’s Events Manager

Day 4 saw us taking on 114km, a distance that after the previous day’s challenge, was rather daunting to everyone as we sat at breakfast that morning. Henk had promised a smooth tarmac road with ‘undulations,’ but after three days, we had wised up to his meaning of the word undulation! (replace with hill…) It turned out however that on this occasion, Henk was right! By lunch time, the whole group had completed nearly 80km, and the general feeling was one of elation, happiness, and surprise that we had cycled so far in such a short space of time! After lunch, one of the fastest cyclists spotted two elephants moving in the bush by the side of the road, with some of those further back reporting that there were four in total! We all took some time to watch them happily moving about it their habitat before heading on towards our destination for the night. A fantastic day of cycling, rounded off with a swim and a visit to the local market.

Day 5: In the words of Peter MacLeod, Editor of SHD Logistics

Today, our last day of riding, was arguably the hardest as we rode up the ridge on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater National Park. Originally a mountain the size of Mt Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro blew itself to bits three million years ago, leaving an almost perfectly round 18km diameter crater’s edge, with a rich, fertile plain and lake in the middle, one of the world’s most beautiful and bountiful game reserves.

There are no easy ways to get a bicycle up a vertical crater wall, and we were primed that this was arguably the toughest day’s cycling of the entire week. The ride was 58 linear kilometers, with a total climb of 1.2km.

Cycling by Kilimanjaro

As we departed our hotel at first light, the sand baboons and storks were out in force to see us off. A rapid ascent towards the crater gave us unbelievable views of Lake Manyara below.

Up, up, up we went, until the gates to the national park came into view. The sense of satisfaction as we crossed the line was undescribable, and emotions got to one or two of us as we took in what had been achieved.

As we staged a formation arrival at that night’s hotel, riding three abreast, the hotel staff joined with our support crew to perform a moving song for us, improvising using places we had visited in the lyrics. It was simply beautiful and very much appreciated.

A well deserved glass of sparkling wine and a swim ahead of the celebration dinner marked the end of this epic adventure… Would I do it again? Yes – tomorrow.

What the participants said:

“Cycle Tanzania ticked all of the boxes that I thought it would and then some more… a fantastic personal challenge, a magical African experience and £130k to a great cause. We didn’t just visit Africa, riding it by bike meant that we lived Africa…up close and personal, the people, the landscape, the wildlife…a truly fantastic experience.” Dave Howorth, Supply Chain Director, General Mills Ltd

“Thank you for providing an opportunity to get involved in something so life changing… (it was) difficult, satisfying, but ultimately the most rewarding experience of my life.” Alan West, Programme Manager, DHL Supply Chain

“Cycle Tanzania has been the most brilliant challenge I have done – the country is beautiful and so varied and welcoming, and our group has immediately worked as a team. A great human experience and fantastic challenge to remember!” Agnes Baudry, Operations Development Manager, B&Q

Transaid organises an Africa Challenge every 12-18 months. To find out about the next challenge, planned for early 2017, contact Florence – Florence@transaid.org, or on 020 7387 8136