31 Oct

Birmingham to Camden Town

Journey from Birmingham through Ross-on-Wye, Cardiff, Bath, Bournemouth, across the Channel to St Malo, Mohon, back to Bournemouth and on to Cholderton, Oxford, Harpenden and Camden Town

Twelve swans on the river Wye near Ross-on-Wye. At Ross-on-Wye I gave a talk to the Methodist / URC church which generated a brilliant £299.75 in donations. Rev Glyn & Sheila Jenkins kindly put me up for the night.

On my way to Cardiff I passed the Newport Transporter Bridge over the river Usk. It’s an aerial ferry which opened in 1906 and is still operational some of the time. In Cardiff I managed to get an interview with Radio Cardiff.

View of the Second Severn (M4 motorway) Bridge from the Severn Suspension (M48 motorway) Bridge.

 

Between Bristol and Bath I cycled along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path (former Midland Railway).

After Bath I headed on towards Bournemouth where I had planned to pass by Sue Stone. Sue is a life coach http://www.suestone.com/ who I had met before. I had learned that she was holding a retreat workshop in Brittany around the time I was to pass through Bournemouth with one place available. After thinking it over I decided I would take a boat across to France and cycle to join it!

Here is my bicycle on the car ferry from Poole to Guernsey. I had to stop over half a day there and then take another ferry to St Malo in France.

  

St Peter Port, Guernsey and a blue letterbox! Isn’t it amazing how things can change over such small distances. Pillarboxes were trialled in the Channel Islands in the 1850s before they were introduced to mainland Britain. It reminded me of how language dialect can change over small distances too. The day I cycled from Manchester to Liverpool, a distance of just 35 miles, was enough to change it from Lancastrian to Scouse.

Coming into St Malo the ferry passed a lighthouse (Phare du Grand Jardin) and there were many yachts sailing around. The old city of St Malo is surrounded by fortress walls and the town has a long and spectacular beach.

From St Malo I crossed the La Rance Tidal Barrage when the tide was coming in. Here the tidal range is 8 meters. It became operational in 1966 and generates the equivalent power used by a town of 225,000 people.

En route to Mohon I passed through this quiet French village (it was Sunday). I managed to take a cross-country route cycling along country lanes for much of the way.

Unfortunately I found the routes that google maps recommended for bicycles in Brittany not as reliable as I had found them in the UK. I had to backtrack several times when the route became too impassable. Here is a ford along a farm track that I decided not to cross. I thought there was a good chance the route would get worse and I didn’t want to have to turn around and come back through the ford a second time! Eventually I reached my destination (an old farmhouse).

Special lunch outing in Josselin during Sue’s retreat workshop (all women except me!). It was great to make some new friends and I found the retreat useful with plenty for me to work on and practice during the coming weeks and months back in the UK.

On the cycle back to St Malo I passed a water tower featuring an impressive painting of Theodore Bortrel. He was a popular singer–songwritier, poet and playright born in Dinan nearby in 1868. It made a nice change to seeing mobile phone antennas, etc. on water towers back in the UK. The road sign is similar in format to many in the countryside at turnings off what in the UK would be a B road to little hamlets and other places.

A group of cyclists out for a Saturday ride in St Helier, Jersey. The boat journey back from St Malo to Poole meant stopping there for half a day.

Elizabeth Castle at St Helier and Corbiere lighthouse just off Jersey. There have been plenty of shipwrecks around here in the past. When I got back to Poole that evening it was raining hard and I went round in circles for a while before I found a route back to Bournemouth via Sandbanks and along the seafront.

After Bournemouth I went to Oxford via Cholderton. Here is a country lane I went along between Cholderton and Oxford.

After Oxford I passed through Aylesbury where I joined the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal joining the main canal at Marsworth. From Marsworth I cycled south along the canal to Berkhamsted.

From Berkhamstead I took a cross-country route to Harpenden. It was great to meet up with friends in my home town at High Street Methodist Church http://highstreet.church/ including Rev Mark Hammond here outside the church. A celebratory chocolate cake and mugs of tea appeared!

After a night staying near Hapenden with Ben & Diana Batt (more church friends) I cycled the last 27 miles to Camden Town. The CtCT Challenge was physically completed!

8,189 miles (Cairo to Cape Town) last year followed by 1,864 miles (Cork to Camden Town) this summer = 10,053 miles. Over £33,000 has been donated or pledged to Christian Aid’s work in Africa so far which is amazing. If you can add £1 or more to that total it would be fantastic. Please go to www.virginmoneygiving.com/nick.simon

Emma (daughter), Guy (son) and Katherine (Guy’s fiancée) met me at the ‘finish line’ in Camden Town and we later enjoyed a celebration meal together at Lemonia in nearby Primrose Hill.

08 Sep

Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Birmingham

Journey from Newcastle-upon-Tyne through Nenthead, Threlkeld, Ambleside, climbing Scafell Pike and on to Preston, Manchester, Liverpool, Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham

Much of the time cycling from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Ambleside was rather wet. Not far into the journey I passed this home which I thought had a good chance of winning the local front garden ornaments competition!

From Ambleside I cycled to the top of Langdale and then walked up Scafell Pike.

I got to the top at 11.30h. It was clear! The view from the top is towards Wast Water and on to Sellafield on the coast where there are plans for a new nuclear power station.

View across Lake Windermere from Ambleside towards Scafell Pike. I spent some time in Ambleside because I wanted to rest and to review my forward itinerary as my idea of fundraising through local and regional media as I went around Great Britain was not working well. This means there is less incentive for me to visit big cities going further south. I started doing a few pub collections.

After Ambleside I headed to Preston and cycled some way along the disused Lancaster Canal.

I stayed with warm shower host Tashi Bradford and her cat Tevi in Preston. Tashi has travelled extensively, gave me an excellent dinner and it looks like I’ll meet her again in London before long.

On the way through Salford I passed by my own barber’s and went in to have a haircut!

In Manchester I spent a night with another warm showers host Tim Walton & his partner Linda who are planning a long distance cycle trip next year.

I crossed over the Manchester Ship Canal between Manchester and Liverpool. It links Manchester to the Irish Sea and was opened in 1894.

Here is a view of the Albert Dock area and of the landmark Three Graces in Liverpool. The Three Graces are the Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building. Another good warm shower host Alaster Thomas put me up for the night and in the morning he cycled with me along the River Mersey waterfront to the city centre. We ended up at Ryde bicycle cafe http://www.rydeliverpool.co.uk/ in the old Cains brewery where we are in the photo. Ryde were brilliant at doing some bicycle repair work for me (thank you to Ian & helpful mechanic Don). The next day I visited Alaster at his workplace at Castle Fine Arts http://www.bronzefoundry.co.uk/ making big sculptures. Busts of John Lennon were the order of the day. Owner Chris and Alaster kindly showed me around.

While staying in Liverpool I went for a day by train / car to Snowdonia and walked up Snowdon with daughter Emma & her partner Tom. Here are some bicycle parking spaces at Betws-y-Coed rail station where Emma & Tom picked me up.

We went up the Miners’ and down the Pyg tracks. I think it was the busiest day of the year being the August Public Holiday weekend. It was almost clear at the top!

Back in Liverpool I met up with cycling friend Andrew Bristow https://thewildcyclist.com/ from Southport. We cycled together through Zambia last year.

From Liverpool I crossed the river Mersey at Runcorn on the way to Stoke-on-Trent where I stayed with Marg & Corin Hardcastle and was delighted to receive £137.50 for Christian Aid’s work in Africa through a talk I gave at West End Methodist Church www.westendmethodistchurchstoke.org

I stayed with my daughter Emma in Birmingham and she made me a new CtCT bicycle flag. I’m afraid I lost the first one in Scotland after it snapped off during the ride near Fort William and I never managed to find it again. I got a TV slot on Made in Birmingham’s news: https://www.madeinbirmingham.tv/catchup/?c=news&p=x4ugxl&v=x5zt9fg Click on the video and slide along to 19.42 out of 22.00 minutes into the programme. I’m not sure how long this link will last.

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

02 Aug

Glasgow to Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Journey from Glasgow through Edinburgh, Pathhead and St Boswells to Newcastle-upon-Tyne

From Glasgow I went along the towpath of the Forth and Clyde Canal towards Edinburgh.

 

At Falkirk the Falkirk Wheel (completed in 2002) connects the Forth and Clyde Canal to the higher Union Canal (opened in 1792) which I then followed as it goes into the centre of Edinburgh. Originally there was a flight of locks at Falkirk.

I pushed my bicycle through a long tunnel and over the Avon aqueduct. In Edinburgh the wet weather continued and I briefly met some of Christian Aid’s team.

 

After Edinburgh it was a privilege to stay for a night at Prestonhall in Pathhead with John Crocker, (an old school and university friend of my father’s) and his daughter Jackie. Here is the walled garden which Jackie has had restored. John is standing just outside it.

It was amazing spending a night in a four poster bed in an 18th century mansion (not something I have done before!) after my recent camping and staying in hostels. All of my possessions can now fit into a single garage as I had a big domestic clear-out before I cycled through Africa last year giving things to my children, Oxfam and selling things through Gumtree, etc. Whilst I do appreciate and like material things it was good for me to declutter and quite liberating.

After Pathhead I passed by a wind farm, the Leaderfoot rail viaduct over the river Tweed and stayed a night at St Boswells.

At the border with England.

Some photos of Newcastle-upon-Tyne city centre, all at the river Tyne apart from the entrance to Chinatown.

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

25 Jul

Campbeltown to Glasgow

Journey from Campbeltown through Kilmelford, Fort William, climbing Ben Nevis and on to Tyndrum and Glasgow

After docking at Campbeltown and hosing my bicycle down to get rid of the salt water I rested over night at the local Backpackers. The next day I stopped by Tarbert harbour at low tide for a lunch break and later passed along the Crinan Canal which yachts use to avoid having to sail all around the Kintyre peninsular.

 

I camped a night at Kilmelford Yacht Haven. Experienced my first midges but fortunately they didn’t bite.

View from the road bridge at Connel looking inland towards Loch Etive.

 

Later in the day some of the route was on a dedicated cycle path away from other road traffic although not for the last section from Corran to Fort William which is a narrow road and not good for bicycles. My flag pole snapped while I was riding along on this day and unfortunately I lost my daughter Emma’s textile bicycle flag.

Off Beat Bikes helpfully managed to re-fit my motor bike mirror for me which was becoming a problem http://www.offbeatbikes.co.uk/

 

 

I had never been up what you would call a mountain on my own before so decided to start early at 7.30h to walk up Ben Nevis. Around 8.45h when I was about 1/3rd of the way up a male runner coming down raced passed me. I think he was French. “Have you been to the top?” I shouted. “Yes. Have a good trip!” he replied. I guess he got back down for breakfast!

View back down towards my tent in Glen Nevis.

I reached the top at 11h. Nice and cloudy! There is also a sleeping quarters for one available up there, maybe for safety and rescue purposes. Inside it smelled a bit of stale beer but I guess there is not too much to do at this location!

On the way down I passed a large number of people coming up, gradually becoming less expectant of reaching the top the lower down I got.

 

The cycle from Fort William through Glen Coe was cloudy and wet but this stack of hay bales wrapped in plastic brightened up my day. I stayed a night at By The Way Hostel in Tyndrum where I pledged to make a donation to a couple of medics walking the West Highland Way. Unfortunately I managed to lose the piece of paper with their contact details on so if it is you please do get it touch again!

This is near the start of the Forth and Clyde Canal at the Glasgow end. It opened in 1790 and crosses central Scotland between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The old and the new. Here the Erskine road bridge which crosses south over the River Clyde towers over the Forth and Clyde Canal.

 

There are many impressive old buildings along the streets of Glasgow like these. I worshipped at Wellington Church https://wellingtonchurch.co.uk/  right by Glasgow university where I met Donald & Jackie Murray who invited me to a lovely evening BBQ (sorry I didn’t take any pictures but it was cloudy!).

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

17 Jul

Dublin to Ballycastle

Journey from Dublin, through Dundalk, Clough, climbing Slieve Donard and on to Belfast & Ballycastle

Part of the route from Dublin to the border with Northern Ireland was along country roads like this one which seemed to be the old Dublin road.

No noticeable border but I changed my euros just before it for pound notes from the Bank of Ireland and First Trust Bank.

In Clough I stayed with great warm showers hosts Alan Cargo & Eleanor Wheeler and we walked up Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains together. Eleanor is standing on the Mourne Wall going up the mountain. It’s 22 miles long (!) and was built to enclose a reservoir catchment area in the early 1900s. Alan generously swapped my bicycle seat for an old Brooks saddle which is proving more comfortable.

I’ve seen quite a few assorted wind turbines such as this one along the route in Northern Ireland, mostly belonging to farms I think.

In Belfast I worshipped at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church www.fitzroy.org.uk, was given £176.91 by the congregation and enjoyed lunch with Sandra & James Rutherford.

I saw a little of the huge 12th July Orange Order parade in the city centre. While in Belfast I was generously given over £60 by Josh and the Belfast City Backpacker Crew & other guests as well as a free night’s accommodation http://www.belfastcitybackpacker.com/. It was good to meet some of the team at Christian Aid’s office and to do an interview with Victoria Wilson at NVTV.

View along the coast going up from Belfast towards Ballycastle. I got my first puncture somewhere here. Kevlar puncture protection tape is good but not quite as full proof as I’d hoped!

In Ballycastle I was given a bed for the night at the Castle Hostel by Berkeley & Claire White and then stayed two nights with Dibbie McCaughan. Dibbie is beside me in the photo. While with Dibbie I managed to get a phone interview with Midlands Radio in Portlaoise which I had passed 2 weeks previously. The small boat that took me across to Scotland had been having major engine repairs and meant that I stayed 4 nights more than I had planned in Ireland.

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

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.