May 9, 2015 by Rob Gardiner
Around three weeks ago, I gave a talk on my most recent cycling exploits, in aid of a local charity, GRIPPERS. After I had finished speaking, I was asked – by one of the still conscious members of the audience – whether I had plans to go cycling again. This question, and every permutation of it, has been asked countless times over the past few months. On this occasion, as I had many times before, I replied that I had no immediate plans to go cycling again.
However, just three days after that drowsy audience member asked this oft-repeated question, my answer suddenly changed. Andrew surprised with me the news that he was planning to quit the drudgery of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for the bright lights and gleaming bureaucracy of the Civil Service. This swift career change left him with a few months of liberated unemployment. He was planning to go cycling in Africa: would I like to come?
Anyone who knows me, knows the answer to that question. A hectic few weeks later, a route has emerged, flights have been booked and notice has been given. On 2nd June, we leave England’s fledgling summer behind for the pleasant winter weather of Namibia. The mountains, deserts, plains and deltas of southern Africa await us, as well as a plethora of weird and wonderful wildlife. Or at least what is yet to have been butchered in the name of resurrecting ailing Chinese libidos.
Our route (see it here) will take us north east, towards the Indian Ocean. From Namibia, we hope to cross into Botswana, and then make our way through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania. If all goes well, we will finish in early August, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
And to cap off this whirlwind foray into the Southern Hemisphere, a brief Tourient Express reunion is on the cards. Currently whiling away his days serving and consuming beer with characteristic aplomb, Josh has confessed a yearning to return to the saddle once again. Unfortunately, full-time employment rather hinders his ability to flee the country on two wheels, but there are plans afoot for him to join Andrew and me for a short section through Zambia and Malawi.
Finally, many people have asked me how we will cope with the obvious danger of fearsome African beasts devouring us in our sleep. Well, this is something to be worried about, but the risk is now lower than ever. Whilst this is good news for cycle tourists such as ourselves, it is sadly indicative of the toll taken on African wildlife by decades of poaching.
Amidst the furore surrounding ebola, ethnic strife and Islamic terrorism, the monumental challenges facing Africa’s natural heritage have been sadly overshadowed. I was lucky enough to recently attend an event that focussed on sustainable wildlife tourism in Africa, hosted by the conservation charity Tusk, in partnership with Steppes Travel. This event highlighted not only on the challenges facing wildlife conservation in Africa, but also the important role of tourism in placing a value on Africa’s unique wildlife.
Therefore, if anyone would like to increase our chances of being eaten by lions, consider travelling to Africa because, to be honest, the odds are fairly heavily stacked in our favour at the moment. And for those worried about ebola, remember that avoiding eastern or southern Africa because of ebola, is akin to not visiting Stonehenge because of the crisis in Ukraine.
Last of all, on a more cheerful note, if anyone is interested in reading about something other than masochistic cycling expeditions, please check out my friend Charlotte’s blog, Southeastern Promises. A few days after I leave for Africa, she will be setting off, alone, to explore Southeast Asia, and she takes much better photos than I do.