The Transaid team has launched its Cycle Zambia 2018 challenge – and while it may not seem possible – the challenge is set to go even further next year finishing at the astonishingly beautiful Victoria Falls in Zambia.
Starting on Friday 21st September 2018 and running until 30th September, cyclists will travel 490 kilometre in a ride beginning in Lusaka, Central Zambia.
The 2018 challenge follows a massively successful trip this Spring to South Africa which raised over £227,000 for Transaid’s essential road safety and access to health care programmes.
The intrepid Microlise team, which included Andree Corden, Marketing & Events Co-ordinator; Jennifer Walton, Senior Business Analyst; Mike Lockwood, Products Portfolio Manager; and Mark Young, Senior Field Service Engineer, together raised more than £15,000 between them.
Microlise has already signed up for Cycle Zambia – just try and stop us. We’ve confirmed our place, now it is just a matter of deciding who out of the many volunteers will take part. It is a spectacular event both in terms of the journey itself and the phenomenal funds raised for Transaid and the incredible causes it supports.
There’s still time to get your team in, but with over a third of places already gone, we would suggest you get a move on before all the places go!
Here’s an account of this year’s Cycle South Africa challenge from our very own Andree Corden. It should give you a taste of the dedication required to succeed – and the tremendous satisfaction you get too.
Saturday – Arrive in South Africa
We were met by Henk Blankenburg, our tall, blonde imposing Afrikaans guide for the week. Donned in combat trousers with eyes that moved like an action man we decided immediately that we had better do exactly as he said.
After a long journey on a very hot mini bus we arrived at the hotel and went for our bike fitting. There was a slightly stressful moment when my bike didn’t have a saddle (bit of an issue) but fortunately and kindly, Calvin from DHL had a spare one so I was saved!
Day 1 – De Doorns to Montegue (114km)
Jen and I both failed to set our alarms for breakfast at 6am but fortunately Jen was awoken by our neighbours slamming the door. We jumped out of bed and ran in circles for 5 minutes looking confused but fortunately we had prepared our kit the night before so made it for breakfast just as they were clearing up.
After Henk’s early morning stretching session we headed off and after being worried about the heat (35 degrees was predicted) we were shocked to be absolutely freezing. It was about 12 degrees and raining with a very strong wind that blew in our faces whichever direction we went!
After losing the feeling in my fingers from cold the sun finally came out and we had lunch at a farm where the owner oddly told us that we could use his pool but not the toilet.
Henk had been very clear with instructions on keeping hydrated. ‘Sip water all day – 10 litres of it’ he said! This caused Jen and I issues as bib shorts made a quick alfresco loo stop quite tricky!
After many hills (mainly up) into the wind on a very bumpy gravel surface the day became a true endurance event as it got hotter and hotter. The support van with Denis and Sele and their refreshments was like a mirage in the desert. The poor old legs were on automatic pilot and after a cycle through a township on the outskirts of Montegu we arrived at the hotel, shattered and hungry!
Day 2 – Montegu – Barrydale – 72km
The day started a little better as both alarms went off – but it was at the unearthly time of 5.30am! We wearily dragged ourselves out of bed and ate as much as we could whilst still half asleep. We yawned our way through Henk’s warm up routine and set off before sunrise, a little dazed and confused.
After a good few hours on gravel roads with a water stop at a (sadly closed ) brewery we turned onto a tarmac road and started a 3000ft climb in blazing sunshine. I have previously driven past cyclists on similar roads and wondered what kind of lunatics would willingly cycle up a very long, very steep hill for fun. I was now that lunatic! The sense of achievement at the top was amazing though and we stopped for a long lunch before a very fulfilling long downhill section and an early finish.
After a well earned chill in the sunshine at Sandy’s B&B we walked through a very quiet and peaceful town to the hotel for our evening meal. It is amazing how much food we ate – we asked for extra chips and nearly ate the table legs when they forgot to bring us the main course.
Henk shocked most of the group by announcing that we would be doing an additional 30km tomorrow. We went to bed plotting his demise.
Day 3 – Barrydale to Malagas – 78km
Fortunately Henk had been persuaded to drop the additional 30km and it was now an optional add on at the end of the day. So we happily carried out our early morning routine and set off on what Henk promised would be the best morning of cycling. He was right, it was awesome! The Tradouwpas took us down a steep mountain road through amazing scenery, a welcome easy start to the day.
We soon went back to the dust gravel paths though and at the first water stop of the day saw our first South African resident – an Ostrich! We all chased him to take photos only to be met by a lorry load of them all comically watching us over the top of the trailer. Probably wondering why a load of middle aged men were wearing co-ordinating lycra and eating energy bars in the middle of no-where.
We now know that Henk is a pathological liar. He mentions ‘downhill’ and ‘undulating’ sections but not the lengthy and exhausting uphill miles that go on and on and up and up.
We are now part of the newly formed ‘middle of the road’ gang i.e. not the speedy group always at the front (including the always very co-ordinated Michellin team) or the stragglers at the back. We stop when we think we have reached the top and share jelly babies and console each other when we realise it is yet another false summit.
At the end of today’s route we come to a hand drawn ferry across the River Breede. We estimate that we have almost double the maximum weight on board so some of the boys help to pull the rope and reduce the time we spend in the middle of a river which we are convinced is crocodile infested!
Another evening of well earnt beers with a group of people who feel like lifelong friends despite the fact that 3 days ago we had never met.
Day 4 – Malagas to Arniston – 85.5km
This was supposed to be the easiest day. It wasn’t!
It started well as we had a lie-in until 7am! The good news ended there though – it was cold, windy, grey and raining. The headwind was so strong that even going downhill required a low gear and constant peddling, it was brutal. The first water stop saw us huddled into the back of the support van like miserable sardines trying to get warm.
The ‘undulating’ gravel roads went on and on and on, legs were sore, bums were raw and spirits were waning. Poor Jen had a nasty fall and had to have a stint in the support van, she was not a happy bunny!
It was so heavy going that we didn’t make the lunch stop until almost 3pm and almost inhaled Denis’s picnic (peanut butter and jam roll) we were so hungry. After lunch stop Jen re-joined us and we had to dig very deep and team Microlise came into its own as we finished the last 30k in formation taking it in turns to take the wind head on from the front. We were like ‘proper cyclists’!
The toughest day was rewarded by a beer overlooking the ocean and a euphoric sense of achievement. The need to consume calories continued though and we ordered a pizza after we had eaten our substantial evening meal. We slept like babies, with a growing sense of sadness that the experience was coming to an end.
Day 5 – Arniston to Cape Agulhas 74km
Henk’s early morning routine was enjoyed by all and he told us to make the most of our last day. We didn’t quite believe him when he said there were no uphill sections due to his long list of previous convictions.
Team Microlise stuck together for the whole of the day and although there was growing excitement as the end of the journey drew near we had to dig deep again as we didn’t have a single pair of fully functioning legs between us.
The view as we reached the coastal road was incredible with the famous red and white lighthouse visible at the end of the headland. After many photo stops, some of them tearful, we all met at a café with 1km to go and excitedly tied balloons to our helmets before cycling the last section as a group.
What a wonderful feeling to stand at the most southern point of Africa, looking at the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, knowing that the challenge was complete and we had all made it through 5 very tough days.
Hopefully the money we raised will help Transaid make a real difference to a lot of people.