Home' Scoop : Scoop 54 Summer 2010 Contents 78 SCOOP SUMMER 2010
ABOVE Through the mud in Gabon. RIGHT
Women from Djido, Niger. BELOW RIGHT
Getting patched up after a fall.
armed security car
was being shot at by
those projects that were giving a leg up, rather than a hand out. Through
the expedition, the website with its detailed diary, imag es and podcasts, and
a pending documentary and book (which is in neg otiations with television
networks and publishers), the Northam-born adventurer also hoped to
educate and inspire others to make a difference to the lives of many Africans.
So, how did Kate cope mentally with such a huge mission? “Rather than
one-and-a-half to three hours at a time, I’d do just an hour, or even less and
have a short break. I also tried to divert my mind away from the enormous
‘wall’ confronting me and concentrate on the beauty of my surroundings,
finding a positive train of thought, or a g ood song. There was always
something to think about or plan ahead.”
The core team who supported Kate for most of the journey included
Scotsman John Davidson, who drove and coordinated vehicle support,
cameraman and photographer Zdenek Kratky, and Daniel Harman, who
cycled (until he was injured) but continued to support the expedition. The
film footage and stills are to be used for a documentary, which Kate is
currently in neg otiations to sell to a major commercial television network.
Averaging about 130km a day, K ate cycled from Seneg al, on Africa’s west
coast, to Somalia on the east coast. She travelled through Angola, Malawi and
Rwanda – some of the world’s most remote and dangerous territory. “Of
course there were some hairy moments, like when I tried to take a photo to
mark passing our 10,000th kilometre in the Republic of Congo and suddenly
our armed security car was being shot at by ‘Ninja’ assassins,” she says.
The final leg of the journey was also perilous, when Kate was crossing
the lawless no man’s land, a buffer zone between Somaliland and Puntland.
Despite travelling with a large military escort, she was given a pistol to carry in
her front bar bag. “Every day brought some kind of crisis on the roads... and
it can be hard going, trudging through sand corr ug ations, but what I found
helpful was to look for something beautiful or positive in my sur roundings.”
Throughout the journey, they opted to camp rather than stay in expensive
hotels, which were often substandard. “It just takes some experience and
common sense to find safe campsites out of view of the road. Eastern Africa
is well set up mostly with good camping facilities, which are much better value
than hotels, and some of them even provide warm showers!”
While Kate and her team tried to eat as healthily as they could, it wasn’t
always easy to find fresh food. “One of the best leg acies of the French
colonial rule is that they all know how to make decent bread,” she says. “In
west Africa, often lunch would be greasy omelettes with onion in a baguette.
John did a g ood job of sourcing food from the markets, but it was a case of
buying bits and pieces at a time – often there isn’t much of the right food
available for hungry cyclists. The staple meat for many of the countries we
visited was boiled g oat – I think I’d be quite happy never to eat goat ag ain!”
Kate says one of the many benefits of travelling by bike is that the cyclist
feels more connected to the people. And while she says she was privileged to
gain an insight into so many different cultures, a few stood out.
“We met some of the Koma people who live in the Atlantika Mountains
on the Cameroon-Nigerian border. They live in isolated communities on both
sides of the border where they exist self-sufficiently. Traditionally, they don’t
wear clothes, just leaves (which are renewed daily) covering their private parts.
They grow and hunt for all their food and have a vast knowledge of how to
use the natural veg etation for medicines.
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