04 Jul

Cork to Dublin

The first days in Cork, journey to Killarney, climbing Carrantuohill and on to Limerick & Dublin

On arrival at Cork airport from London I was given 10 euros for Christian Aid while assembling my bicycle which was an amazing boost! Thank you Robert Walker – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon – At least there was a bonus to taking my time with the assembly! I’m still not very proficient at it but micaculously the bits all fit together (thanks to the London Bike Kitchen www.lbk.org.uk for all the helpful tuition and advice).

I was glad to have a few days to get my act together before Emma and Katherine joined me for the start of the ride. I felt a bit like when you first arrive at a holiday destination after a period of work and suddenly all the tiredness starts to come out of you.

I thought for two milliseconds about swapping my bike for this one but then changed my mind! While in Cork I got about 10 minutes with Patricia Messinger on C103 radio. I knew what I wanted to say but found it difficult to talk about people I met in Africa who are living in extreme poverty without getting emotional about it. Good to practice it though.

On Sunday in Cork I went with Emma to worship at Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral. The cathedral is in the background of the photo of me on the bridge. We received a great welcome and send off from the Very Rev Nigel Dunne (Dean of Cork) on the left in the group of four and Rev Ted Ardis (Dean’s Vicar) on the right. http://corkcathedral.webs.com/ Thank you to Andrew Coleman and Tess Purcell at Christian Aid for organising this and other things. http://www.christianaid.ie/

On the Sunday evening Katherine (my son Guy’s fiancée) arrived and we celebrated her birthday and the start of the ride with dinner at the Cornstore restaurant. Emma & Katherine are joining me on the ride from Cork to Dublin before they return to England.

At the start line in Cork. Still smiling!

En route between Cork and Killarney. Those are Katherine’s birthday balloons!

Stream on the way up towards Carrntuohill, the highest mountain in Ireland. We had cycled from Sugan Hostel in central Killarney to Cronin’s Yard and walked from there to this stream.

At the top. Poor visibility but we made it!

On the way down, looking down the Devil’s Ladder.

On the way down, looking back up the Devil’s Ladder. Maybe you can see Emma & Katherine coming down.

Katherine crossing a stream at the bottom on the way back to our bikes. We had completed the climb!

On the cycle back to Killarney from Carrantuohill I noticed a potential future home for my retirement. Needs a bit of renovation! That evening I gave a talk at Killarney Methodist Church and received 140 euros which was brilliant. Thank you to Rev Karen Spence and KMC.

A stop on the road to Limerick from Killlarney. In Limerick I got an interview with Limerick Live (radio). Will put a podcast link here if/when I can get it.

We celebrated our arrival in Dublin by a visit to Temple Bar which probably has the most expensive beer I’ve ever had so won’t be rushing back any time soon. Emma’s partner Tom from Norwich joined us.

I had a radio interview with Dom Perrem at Spirit Radio based in Bray http://www.spiritradio.ie/, met Christian Aid people, had my rear wheel axle repaired (thanks to Paul at River Cycles www.rivercycles.com for doing such an excellent job without charge) and worshipped at Abbey Street Methodist Church where I received a warm welcome and talked about the CtCT Challenge.

Thanks to Emma & Katherine for being such wonderful and helpful companions between Cork & Dublin.

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29 or twitter – www.twitter.com/nicksimon29

30 Dec

Paarl to Cape Town

Journey from Paarl to Cape Town and time in Cape Town

On the outskirts of Cape Town Lion’s Head came into view as I passed endless auto retailers and related businesses.

Convention Centre area near the city centre.

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Yacht Marina.

It was a huge and terrific moment for me when this photo was taken as it marked the end of my Cairo to Cape Town cycle challenge. I had done it! Straight afterwards I went to find my backpacker lodging and went out to have 2 pizzas for dinner!

View from my dormitory at The Backpack www.backpackers.co.za

It was great to get together again with fellow cycle tourer Andy Bristow soon after arriving in Cape Town – www.thewildcyclist.com We cycled together through Zambia but Andy had gone on through Namibia while I went through Zimbabwe to get to South Africa.

It was also good to meet up with Adrian Whalley (my contact at Christian Aid in the UK) who was on a personal visit to Cape Town to meet a Rwandan family who have had to move to South Africa. We all took the cable car up Table Mountain.

Me at the top of Table Mountain.

View of Cape Town from the top and bottom of Table Mountain.

While in Cape Town my friend Rowland Glanville (who was in France) introduced me to Lance & Julie in Hout Bay and Jimmy in Rondebosch. I had a delicious braai and swim at Lance & Julie’s and a lovely meal with Jimmy and his family. I also joined Jimmy for a full moon evening cycle ride around Cape Town with several hundred others and one evening we climbed up Lion’s Head to watch the sunset. Jimmy is in the photo at the top of Lion’s Head with Table Mountain in the background. Cape Town has fabulous mountain scenery all around it.

In Cape Town I met with the staff of the Economic Justice Network which is supported by Christian Aid. This is a campaigning organisation for economic justice with a focus on extreme poverty eradication. For example they work to ensure young people in southern Africa have access to gainful and productive employment enabling them and their communities to be lifted out of poverty. Campaign work tends to be less appealing to many perhaps because the results are less immediately tangible however it is an essential part of the work to reduce extreme poverty – www.ejn.org.za Executive Director Rev Malcolm Damon is the second from the right in the photo and the baby is being held by mum who is currently on maternity leave but wanted to come in to meet me!

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

I did get around on my bicycle a little. These pictures are taken of Lions’s Head on the way back from Hout Bay going past the Twelve Apostles (mountains). It was a beautiful ride.

A treat to mark the end of my cycle journey was to paraglide off Lion’s Head which was an amazing experience.

Ready to leave for London. Bicycle and bags packed for check-in. It has been a terrific experience and such a privilege and blessing to have been able to complete this cycle ride through Africa. Thank you to all of you who have supported me. It is the end of a chapter (maybe a long one but still a chapter) and as I haven’t yet reached my fundraising target and all being well the CtCT Cycle Challenge will continue next summer with Cork to Camden Town (and the 5 Peaks) Challenge – 2,000 miles through Ireland and the UK.

www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon

www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

04 Dec

Johannesburg to Paarl

Journey from Johannesburg through Vaalpark, Kroonstad, Virginia, Bloemfontein, Trompsburg, Colesberg, Hanover, Richmond, Gamamadi Guest Farm, Beaufort West, Prince Albert Road, Laingsburg, Touws River and Wolseley to Paarl

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Brent Knoll alongside the M5 in Somerset? No, it’s a hill alongside the R82 20 miles south of Johannesburg.

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En route to Vaalpark. Crossing the Vaal River. The Hijack zone sign was not reassuring but all went well for me.

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In Vaalpark I stayed with warm showers contact Gerhart Du Toit who was a generous host and even sent me off the next day with a huge packed lunch.

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In Kroonstad I had my second bath in 9 months. It was brilliant! The next day I passed one of several grain storage silos I have seen recently and a fairly rare goods train on the line beside the road.

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I tried out a route with less traffic but it ended up being a dirt road and I soon went back to the highway. At the end of this day in Trompsburg on the back of my door in the motel it stated “In case of any emergency situation e.g. fire and riots, please move to the parking area”. At least I didn’t have to leave all my guns at reception as in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia back in May!

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The next day I did find a better route. I am getting more punctures but I am also getting more free meals given to me along the way which is unexpected and wonderful. This is the land in which J R R Tolkien was born and lived until the age of three. – I didn’t see any Hobbits, Orcs (thankfully!) or Gandalf (though he might have been handy for mending punctures!).

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Here is the Orange River, almost low enough to walk across.

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More Tolkien-type landscapes. I don’t like to look too far into the distance. It’s too far!

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It’s still a long way to Cape Town!

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More huge vistas along the roadside.

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I’ve still got that wire brush appearance!

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Beaufort West main street.

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This is a wind turbine tower section on its way to enlarge a nearby wind farm. The turbine blades went on even longer lorries though probably didn’t weigh as much.

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Sunset in the Karoo at Prince Albert Road in the Western Cape

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Plenty of dry riverbeds around.

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I stopped for a lunch at Matjiesfontein where I stayed with ex-wife Helen 31 years ago. http://www.matjiesfontein.com/pages/history/

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After Touws River I took a more mountainous route via Wolseley avoiding the busy N1. It was harder to pedal but the scenery was more spectacular.

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The route I took from Wolseley to Paarl was less mountainous and more downhill.

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On arrival in Paarl I tried a delicious charcuterie and wine pairing tasting at the Laborie vineyard. In the evening I worshipped at The Rock Church which focused on the nativity. http://www.therockchurch.co.za/

17 Nov

Beitbridge to Johannesburg

Journey from Beitbridge in Zimbabwe through Musina, Waterpoort, Mogwadi, Polokwane, Mokopane, Bela Bela and Pretoria to Johannesburg in South Africa

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For the first time in Africa no visa was required at the border as I entered South Africa from Zimbabwe. I could stay for up to six months. It was also the first time I had seen a sign like this one, illustrating the security situation in the country. A few days later I saw another one stating “High crime area keep doors locked”.

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Facilities at the roadside became much more ‘westernised’ in South Africa.

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At Waterpoort I camped at the police station.

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On the road I was spontaneously offered a lift by a driver in a pick-up truck – which was tempting but I managed to decline! Cycling in South Africa is not common apart from it being a leisure or sports activity in some areas. This is a land of intimidating security gates and fencing.

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I’ve reached the Tropic of Capricon! Here is a picture of some road construction. It’s far more substantial than I have seen in any other African country. Highways in the main city areas can have 5 lanes in each direction but there are almost no facilities for cyclists. Despite a good standard of living for many there is plenty of extreme poverty in the country creating an understandable tension and security issues.

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Pretoria has a very ‘westernised’ appearance.

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When I entered South Africa I joined www.warmshowers.org and my first host was Christine Le Roux in Lynnwood, Pretoria. It was an amazing experience to stay in such a fabulous home and with such a generous host and lovely person. If you are cycling through Pretoria any time soon then join www.warmshowers.org and check if you can stay. I had to pinch myself to believe I was there. It was a pleasure to spend time with Christine and share travel and life experiences. It reminded me too how blessed and privileged I am.

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Homes for sale of the edge of Johannesburg. 1,649,000 Rand = £97,000. The road view is coming into Johannesburg. Johannesburg is not a good place for cyclists but it enabled me to meet two Christian Aid partners.

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In Johannesburg I visited Christian Aid’s partner the Bench Marks Foundation – www.bench-marks.org.za The Bench Marks Foundation monitors multi-national corporations to ensure they meet minimum, social, environmental and economic standards & is an ethical and critical voice on what constitutes corporate social responsibility.

Soweto (south-west Johannesburg) which has a population of over 1 million is surrounded by mining tailing mountains which leach radioactive uranium, arsenic and other poisons. The 3 photos above are taken from the same place. The National Football Stadium is just across the road. Dust clouds from the tailing mountains also cause pollution over Soweto.

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Mining tailing dams create lakes which are often used by children living in extreme poverty for swimming. The photo of the homes with children is on the edge of Soweto and a mining tailings mountain can be seen in the background.

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

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The extremes of African weather are illustrated by this violent hailstorm in a shopping centre car park in Johannesburg. African countries frequently have to cope with extreme lack of water on the one hand and extreme flooding on the other.

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In Johannesburg I stayed with Karl & Sharon Weber (previously members of my home church at www.highstreetmethodist.co.uk. While there we worshipped at Trinity Methodist Church in Linden www.trinitylinden.org.za I also visited the Apartheid Museum – well worth a visit – www.apartheidmuseum.org

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I visited another Christian Aid partner, The AIDS Consortium – www.aidsconsortium.org.za

This brings together some 300 organisations in a network that processes information and works towards an equitable response to the epidemic. It uplifts communities by building AIDS competence, with a specific focus on Human Rights.

Here is a workshop I attended in Soshanguve (north-west Pretoria) where there were about 60 participants and the emphasis was on promoting dialogue and focusing on the issues of stigma and discrimination, poverty and substance abuse.

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

31 Oct

Livingstone to Beitbridge

Journey from Livingstone in Zambia through Victoria Falls, Hwange, Halfway House, St Lukes Mission Hospital, Bulawayo, Bobo’s Home and Tod’s Guest House to Beitbridge in Zimbabwe

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Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe is a short cycle ride from Livingstone in Zambia across the Zambezi River road / rail bridge.

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On the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls there is more water compared to the Zambia side which is almost dry although overall the volume of water is only running at about 3% of its peak flow. At peak flow I think it must be very difficult to even see the falls – you just get soaked instead!

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Here is a view of the Devil’s Pool where I swam a few days earlier looking across from the Zimbabwe side. If you look closely at the middle of the picture you might see somebody sitting right on the edge of it!

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After Victoria Falls town the landscape became very sparsely populated and the rivers were bone dry. Although it is the dry season right now Zimbabwe has experienced well below average rainfall for some time with serious water shortages being experienced particularly in the southern part of the country.

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In Bulawayo I used a roadside bicycle workshop to replace my tyres. This is my 3rd set in Africa but they should now last me to Cape Town. Bulawayo is the second city in Zimbabwe but I thought it was quiet with little sign of much economic activity.

I met with Christian Aid partners Christian Care & ZimPro in Bulawayo. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to meet any of their beneficiaries ‘in the field’ because the authorities officially require a visitor like me to be ‘vetted’ which can take several weeks. Rural areas particularly are seen as Zanu PF strongholds (i.e. pro Mugabe) and the fear is that a person like me might seek to change that.

Whilst there is a diverse range of work going on for people living in extreme poverty the major issue right now is lack of accessible water. It is generally accepted that there are some 4 million people who are food insecure and that this is likely to rise to 8 million within about the next 6 months – in other words in about 6 months time more than half the country’s population will not be or will only just be getting enough to eat. So things are bad here. The country is completely bankrupt.

In general I have been moved by the high level of extreme poverty that I have seen in every country that I have been through in Africa (10 so far). Christian Aid partners are doing great work the result of which is really to lift those living in extreme poverty up a few steps into a situation where they are more able to stand on their own feet. While I know there are many worthy charities that should be supported, extreme poverty is not a cause area we should ignore, whatever the reasons for it or the blocks there are to reduce it.

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

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After Bulawayo I was invited to stay for a night with Bobo Gibbons (I was introduced to him through a friend of his I met in a bar in Bulawayo). Bobo had to leave his farm some time ago which has now become very unproductive. He is now mining for gold with some success.

After leaving Bobo the journey to Beitbridge was difficult with daytime temperatures reaching the 40’s and few if any facilities along the roadside. My drinking water was also over 40 degrees (well above body temperature) and I had to rest more to avoid getting seriously overheated.

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After just two weeks in Zimbabwe here I am about to cross the border at Beitbridge into South Africa. I now have about 1,300 miles to go to reach Cape Town.

16 Oct

Lusaka to Livingstone

Lusaka and Journey through Kafue, Mazabuka, Monze, Choma, Kalomo and Livingstone

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In Lusaka I met up with my daughter Emma and her partner Mike who came to visit for a couple of weeks from the UK. Emma brought me some lovely presents including bottles of real ale and fancy loo paper! I wanted to keep going with the cycling to enable me to get back to the UK before Christmas. So after a couple of nights with them I cycled on to Livingstone with Andrew while they went on safari before catching a bus to Livingstone.

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It took 6 days to ride to Livingstone from Lusaka, an easier ride than Lilongwe to Lusaka although the daytime temperatures moved into the upper 30s.

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The highlight of our stay in Livingstone was a visit to the Devil’s Pool at the top of the Victoria Falls. This is the ultimate natural infinity pool with a drop of 100 metres over the edge.

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Emma jumping into the Devil’s Pool

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Me, Andrew & Mike on the edge of the Devil’s Pool

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View over the edge

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The Zambezi river is currently at about 3% of its full flow as it’s the dry season. This means the Falls are at their lowest but it’s the best time to visit the Devil’s Pool which cannot be accessed for six months of the year as it’s too dangerous.

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Emma and I also went swimming here in what is called the Boiling Pot below the falls near the road/rail bridge that marks the border crossing into Zimbabwe. I’ll be crossing this bridge on the bicycle to start my journey alone again through Zimbabwe in a few days time.

30 Sep

Lilongwe to Lusaka

Lilongwe in Malawi and Journey through Mchinji, Chipata, Katete, Petauke, Nyimba, Luanga Bridge, Mlamba Village to Lusaka in Zambia

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In Lilongwe I met up with the staff of Christian Aid Malawi and also met cycle tourers Luca & Johanna again (who I originally met at the Kenya / Uganda border).

On leaving Lilongwe I was given a lovely send off by Christian Aid colleagues who prayed for me and waved me off. I was joined on my cycle journey from here to Lusaka by Andrew Bristow from Liverpool who I had met a few days beforehand (photo above) – www.thewildcyclist.com Both of us are planning to get to Cape Town but after Zambia Andrew will be gong via Namibia while I will be going via Zimbabwe.

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The border crossing into Zambia was the first one at which I didn’t have to fill in any paperwork. Here is Andrew in Chipata on the first dedicated cycle lane that I have seen so far in Africa.

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This is Andrew’s photo of me on the bike.

We stayed in or camped at lodges and similar facilities including the Tiko Community Centre in Katete. www.tikondane.org This is nothing to do with Christian Aid but is an interesting community project.

At the lodge where we stayed in Nyimba the food menu included spaghetti bowlones, mararoni in means meat, beef strew & chicken louly pop!

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After Katate we went through about 10 miles of rough road which was in the process of being upgraded. For the first days in Zambia though the tarmac road was generally very good.

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Here is the suspension bridge over the river at Luanga Bridge. Much of the forest growth in the area has been destroyed by fires often as a result of charcoal production. Charcoal is sold in sacks in many places along the roadside.

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On the last night before Lusaka we camped in Mlamba Village, with the permission of Joseph who was the leader for the village and surrounding area which has a population of about 1,200. Andrew gave the villagers a portable shower which he is filling up at the village water pump.

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The two villagers in the photo are Luke on the left and Banda on the right.

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

22 Sep

Mbeya to Lilongwe

Journey from Mbeya in Tanzania through Tukuyu, Karonga, Chitimba, Rumpti, Mzuzu, Chikangawa, Jenda, Kasungu to Lilongwe in Malawi

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Upendo is not a road transport brand I see catching on in the UK although in Africa it means love. I have also seen one or two Upendo bars. In Cairo I saw a clothes retailer called Hitler.

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As I cycled up towards the border with Malawi water was more in abundance and there were plenty of bananas, potatoes and tea. At the border for the first time I hadn’t organised a visa in advance but got through ok. Just inside Malawi I met South African Bernie Theron cycling in the other direction. He is cycling Cape Town to Kenya and back to South Africa again.

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I’m beginning to meet more long distance cycle tourers. Here are a Swiss couple heading for Johannesburg and Madagascar before returning to Switzerland. They started in Rwanda.

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South of Karonga I visited the Wovwe Rice Co-op supported by Christian Aid through their partner CISP (Comitato Internationale Per Lo Sviluppo Dei Popoli). It is improving the lives of local farmers who now get better prices and yields for their rice. Yusuf, District Coordinator for CISP is wearing the white t-shirt at the front left, the Co-op Chair Mr Simkonda is wearing a tie, Manager Mr Nyondo is wearing a grey and white shirt and I’m in their somewhere!

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

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I thought this local shop had interesting potential for sales promotion offers! Businesses sometimes offer an unusual mix of products or services.

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I eventually reached the beach on Lake Malawi. The fishing boat has been laboriously carved out of a tree trunk.

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This was an inspirational visit for me where I was unexpectedly guest of honour at a meeting of about 60 people. These young women are now 13-18 years old, were all forced into marriage and had no formal education at that time. Now they are all taking up the opportunity of a formal education to enable them to make better progress in their lives. All this is made possible by Christian Aid’s partner FOCUS (Foundation of Community Support Services ). What was particularly impressive was the active involvement of traditional community leaders and their spouses, men’s groups and the police.

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Here is an inspirational woman called Enala. She was forced into marriage at 13, has 6 children, has been able to take up educational opportunities herself and is now a mentor for teenage girls.

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Here is the road inland from Lake Malawi after Chitimba (uphill!) to Mzuzu.

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After Mzuzu I took the M1 road away from the Lake Malawi shore because Christian Aid has a partner in Kasungu. It was a land of forest.

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Painted roadside advertisements.

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How much wood can you get on a bicycle?

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Overturned container lorry!

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Ben Batt & Amanda Bowran- I didn’t know you had shops in Malawi! The miracle shop didn’t sell any miracles!

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Roadside tobacco depot. How many cigarettes will this make?

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This is in a village called Kapinya near Kasungu where Christian Aid partner CADECOM (Catholic Development Commission) is providing support. Here is a maize store being created.

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Goats have been provided to households in the village.

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Cut maize is used to retain moisture and fertilise the soil in this test plot.

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Here is Elizabeth Banda who heads a group of 83 local farmers in the local community and this is a community plot growing beans. Irish potatoes, maize and tomatoes are also thriving in neighbouring fields.

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

03 Sep

Singida to Mbeya

Journey from Singida through Manyoni, Dodoma, Chipogoro, Migole, Iringa, Mafinga, Makambako, Chimala and Mbeya

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After Singida there were strong cross-winds. Up on this electricity pylon there are about a dozen people! At a village lunch break the woman who served me had a t-shirt on that stated “God will make a way” which I found encouraging!

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En route to Dodoma. The railway line is the mainline between Dar es Salaam and Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika. Not much used I think.

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A very large grasshopper landed on my shoulder and the shock made me fall off my bicycle! Al least it wasn’t road traffic that did it. I had to put a large plaster on my palm which broke the fall. These plasters seem impossible to buy anywhere in Tanzania (I have tried many times since and could only get small ones). It’s the second time I have fallen off my bicycle. The first was when a motorbike knocked my rear view mirror as it passed me near Kampala but this was when traveling very slowly and I only grazed my skin lightly. William Tembo (a Malawian lorry driver) bought me lunch on this day. Maybe we will meet again later on.

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In Dodoma I rested a while and worshipped at the Anglican Cathedral where I met Craig & Liz Coston from Sevenoaks who are both currently teaching in a school they have helped to fund.

Shortly before Iringa I had my second puncture (actually two at the same time on the rear wheel). I should have replaced the tyres in Dodoma but didn’t realise how worn the rear tyre was getting. I did replace them both in Iringa!

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Soon after Iringa I met Marcelo Veirdi from El Salvador. Marcelo has been on the road for 3 ½ years and has 2 ½ years to go on a round the world trip! We cycled 4 days together to Mbeya. It was great to have a companion for a while. He has a blog at www.5cub.blogspot.com and is going on to Zambia, while I am going to Malawi next.

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Here are a couple of pictures Marcelo took of me on the road. We went through about 100 miles of roadworks before Mbeya. Fortunately we could go on the almost completed ‘new’ road for quite a bit of it as we were on bicycles.

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Here is another photo Marcelo took of a boy on a wooden bicycle which actually worked!

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A field on approaching Mbeya

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I’m now over 90% through Tanzania and by the time I get to the Malawian border should have made up over a week in time on my original itinerary so things are looking better. In Mbeya Marcelo & I met Cory & Kim Hodgson (http://www.gracem.org/?page_id=646) who kindly invited us to dinner and Cory showed us around the town  . On Saturday I spent time with Martine Seton from The Netherlands who is travelling through Africa with her husband Andrew (www.4x4travelbox.nl).

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

13 Aug

Kigale to Singida

Journey from Kigali in Rwanda through Kayonza, Rusumo, Muzani, Nyakanazi, Ushirombo, Kahama, Nzega, Igunga to Singida in Tanzania

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I spent a night in a dormitory at this new women’s opportunity centre in Kayonza where there was an eco-lodge generating its own renewable energy. www.womenforwomen.org/rwanda-womens-opportunity-center-opening This is not something that is funded by Christian Aid although the charity does have a history of partnerships in all the countries I am cycling through in Africa. The next Christian Aid partners I will actually meet however are in Malawi.

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In the south-east of Rwanda there are paddy fields in the valleys. In Tanzania the land would soon be getting drier again.

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On my last night in Rwanda I stayed at the border town of Rusumo. The border crossing the next day was the fastest yet (less than 30 minutes). A new efficiently run passport control has recently opened.

 

Please consider donating £1 or more to Christian Aid’s work in Africa to help reduce extreme poverty – www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon and if you are already there do join me on facebook – www.facebook.com/nicksimon29

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The road deteriorated a lot in Tanzania. Plenty of large potholes around. Getting half way through the CtCT cycle challenge and now being in country number 7 is good news but I found the first few days in Tanzania quite difficult physically and psychologically. I have entered another huge country through which I recon I will have to cycle 1,000+ miles. I am four weeks behind my original plan. If I am to meet up for a week with my daughter Emma in Zambia, get to Cape Town and return to the UK by Christmas I will have to go faster. I had an enforced delay in northern Ethiopia through a shoulder sprain and perhaps I have stayed a little too long here and there along the way.

 

I passed a lorry with “The Lord is my Light and Salvation” (Psalm 27) written boldly on the front which encouraged me. There are quite often Biblical references written on vehicles although I don’t think it improves the driving standards in the slightest!

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The land flattened out after Nyakanazi and the road surface began to get better. I managed to catch up with my schedule a little. Rather than try to do more miles cycling in a day I have decided to have less rest days which I think will work better. Sometimes I feel tired (like it is something that builds up over time) and at others I am amazed how I am progressing. It is only by getting out of my comfort zone that I find out what is actually possible.

 

At my stop in Kahama I found my first wi-fi in 6 days. I hope it will get better. I was tempted to have “Amelican beef paper steak” but chose “Africa fish boiled with rice” instead. It was delicious.

 

I am managing to see a little of the Olympics on television which is a pleasant surprise. Tanzanians seem to have little interest in it. My brain is probably unusually wired because my favourite “sport” personally is where there isn’t a “winner” and a “loser”. I like to be in a small team (or do something individually) where there is an element of nature and where the idea is to achieve a challenge. If the individual or team achieves it then it has been a success. There are no “winners” and “losers” but rather “winners” and “winners” or “success” through which all involved can celebrate. So I enjoy or have enjoyed things like cross-country running, swimming, sailing, mountaineering, kayaking, rock climbing, yoga and cycling but I tend to lose interest if it’s all about winners and losers. I admit though that I do get enjoyment from watching some competitive sport as it can be very exciting.

 

I watched some of the Olympic women’s cycling road race on 7 August where the American Mara Abbott was overtaken right at the very end by 3 other riders. Although I didn’t see it beforehand the “original” leader (Annemiek van Vleuten from The Netherlands) came off her bicycle at a corner about 90% of the way through the race and had to go to hospital.

 

“Gold” 3 hours 51 minutes and 27 seconds.

“Silver” 3 hours 51 minutes and 27 seconds

“Bronze” 3 hours 51 minutes and 27 seconds

4th Mara Abbott 3 hours 51 minutes and 31 seconds

5th Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain!) 3 hours 51 minutes and 47 seconds

 

Congratulations to the “winners”. Nail biting stuff but the “winners” and “losers” system means that Mara Abbott is totally devastated by being 4th (4 seconds slower or 0.03% slower). Isn’t this crazy?

 

Ok, so that’s just my thinking but for Africans I guess that anyway there is not much feeling of there being a level playing field. How can Rwanda or Burundi ever expect to “beat” the USA, China and others? A quick check through google shows that in the 2012 Olympics in London 85 countries won at least 1 Olympic medal. The other 119 countries participating didn’t win any. Africa performed especially poorly (10 countries out of 54 won a medal and 5 out of the 12 countries in my CtCT cycle challenge). Within Africa 70% of the medals were won by Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa. I’m not surprised there isn’t much interest in Tanzania. Tanzania has only ever won two Olympic medals (two silver in athletics in 1980).

 

Are you bored with that picture of a baobab tree yet? Quite a few have appeared on the landscape. None of them have any leaves at the moment as it is the dry season.

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I’m not much of a one for selfies but am gradually getting more used to the idea. I had a haircut recently hence the wire brush appearance. I did point to the photo of the young man with an afro twist hairstyle in the barber shop but was told that one wouldn’t be possible!

I was pleased to be able to get a birthday text to my daughter Emma as I did to my son Guy four days beforehand. They are four years apart in age.

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At a village lunch stop before Igunga there were as usual plenty of children around. For the last 1,000 miles or so I have been a person of fascination called a Mzungu (European) particularly by the young people I pass.

My paper road map always seems to be a good talking point. It’s generally very difficult to get paper road maps in Africa and it can be the first time someone has seen one. The man holding the map is Athuman, a local livestock farmer. I’m not generally what you might call an “early adopter” when it comes to all things electronic. I don’t have a sat nav but have found the “maps.me” app very useful (thanks to American Dagny Card who told me about it back in Gondar, Ethiopia). “iOverlander” seems to be popular with long distance motorcyclists but I’ve not found it so helpful for me as a cyclist.

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I’m feeling a little better about ‘catching up’ on the miles I still have to go. I’ll have to see how I am doing when I reach the Malawian border in a few weeks time.

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A dry river bed beside the road. Views into the distance are becoming bigger (you can see for many miles) reminding me of the vast size of Africa. The island of Great Britain ‘fits’ into it 140 times and 4.5 times into Tanzania!