Transaid: Cycle Tanzania

Transaid TanzaniaInternational transport development charity Transaid is embarking on its latest challenge, with a team in Tanzania cycling over 400km!

The challenge aims to raise money for Transaid to invest in its development projects in the developing world, and will involve riding from the base of Mount Kilimanjaro to the amazing Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The team will be in Tanzania for a total of nine days, riding the 400km distance over five days. The team will travel through national parks, into the Rift Valley and through Maasai villages, facing difficult terrain and extreme heat.

Microlise, which is becoming a Corporate Supporter of Transaid, is providing support to the team by tracking its progress, which you can follow using the map be displayed below. You can see where the team have travelled, with the map being updated each day.

So far the team have completed:

Day 1: Marangu – Kibouni (Tarakea) 52km
We start our ride cycling alongside the East side of Kilimanjaro – the most famous mountain in Africa. Today is a relatively short day designed to give us time to acclimatise to the roads and the heat. We may see baboons and black and white colobus monkeys en-route. We finish the day in Tarakea, almost on the border with Kenya. From here there is a beautiful view across the border to Amboseli National Park. Overnight camp.

Day 2: Kibouni (Tarakea) – Ol Molog 75km
Today we continue riding roughly parallel to the Kenyan border and around the Eastern edge of Kilimanjaro, towards the Maasai village of Kamwanga. Most of the road is reasonable tarmac, with some dirt roads and tracks. Our route is varied, taking us through the Rongai Forest, home to the agile colobus monkeys, buffalo and elephant. In the more open landscapes which we’ll pass through today, with bush and grassland stretching for miles around, we’ll see many Maasai walking and grazing their cattle and sheep as we pass through several towns and villages along the route. Overnight camp.

Day 3: Ol Molog – Arusha 100km
The route now undulates through Maasai farmland and villages. We complete our circuit of Kilimanjaro with stunning views of the peak of Mount Meru. We continue south and eventually re-join the tarmac road, beginning a gentle descent towards the town of Arusha via the Arusha National Park.

Day 4: Arusha – Lake Manyara 102km
This morning we start in the bustling town of Arusha. The terrain is mostly flat through savannah grassland towards Lake Manyara. We will enjoy views of this stunning National Park as we head to our overnight lodge.

Day 5: Lake Manyara – Ngorongoro Crater Gate 41km
Today is our last day of cycling as we head towards our finish line in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We have a steep climb up the Rift Valley with an amazing view of Lake Manyara National Park once again when we reach the top. We continue climbing gently to the Ngorongoro Park Gate itself, the landscape becoming much richer with dense forest, with a chance to see a huge variety of birds and wildlife. We finish the ride at the Park Gate and this evening we will enjoy a well deserved celebration meal. Overnight lodge.

Transaid Tanzania 1Update from Alan West of DHL
Alan West is completing the Cycle Tanzania challenge as part of the team. Here is an account in his words:

Ride going well with no major issues, a few spills, but nothing major. Early on day one we visited caves that were used by the Chagga tribe to hide stock, women and goods from marauding Masai tribesmen; they also still practice steel work to make traditional pieces. The day was wet at first and dried out towards lunch. With some difficult sections of climbing as we made our way to our digs for the night.

An early start on Tuesday took us further through the Rongai Forest, within some spectacular views of Kilimanjaro. Breathtaking and humbling.

As we made our way through the day we left the roads and entered the real African bush. Some proper off roading, heat and undulating geography made for another challenging day. We finished camping under the stars, tired but starting to realise we’re in a real challenge and not a simple tourist trip.

Another rude awakening at 05:30 (03:30 UK time) and we started the most challenging day we’ll all ever experience doing anything possibly in our lives let alone on a bike – 104km of cycling through rocky off road, extremely difficult sandy stretches either sans and dust over a foot deep, finishing with a long section of never ending climbing, finishing with some very welcome decent to our overnight stay in vibrant Arusha.

I personally can’t understate how difficult today was.

Overall we’ve had a few fallers but nothing more serious than a few scrapes and bruises. There spirit of the team to complete this has been immense.

On Day four, an increasingly weary group of cyclists again awoke at 05:30 for what on paper was the longest day yet of our ride – 114kms (approximately 71 miles). After the trauma of the previous day’s 105km riding over rocks and sand culminating in the 16 kilometre climb on tarmac there was a tangible sense of purpose amongst us – aided by a consensus that the day couldn’t in any way be as bad as the previous day (quoted by experienced guide Henk as being the hardest day on any Transaid challenge he’d ever been involved with).

The previous night’s stay in Arusha had provided some welcome running water and an opportunity for us to learn more about Tanzania’s transport infrastructure and safety issues from Eng. Dr. Zacharia Mganilwa, Rector of the Tanznian National Intitute of Transport – as he provided a talk and Q&A session for us in the evening.

Despite the distance this day was probably the most straightforward of the week, with beautifully smooth roads and undulating hills making it possible for everyone to record some reasonable speeds, with Alan recording over 36mph on his mountain bike at one point! Later in the day we were rewarded with an unexpected glimpse of some elephants as they rumbled through the bush about 80 metres from the road.

All in all a good day as we arrived at our hotel at Lake Manyara.

Day Five was for many considered to be the hardest day of the trip: 58 linear kilometres with a total climb of 1.2km, all on tarmac, towards our final destination of the gateway to Ngorongoro Crater National Park. As we left just after dawn at 0700hrs we enjoyed an initial flat 2km, a huge flock of storks in a tree we rode under, as well as a small gathering of baboons a little further along the ride.

We then began to climb.

The climb was as steep as many had feared and seemed to be never ending. Both Sean and Alan set steady paces as they worked their way up, with Alan hanging back to help some of the riders at the back (a few broke down in tears it was so difficult at times), and to hear the guide Henk’s stories – his one of how a unicyclist beat him in a mountain biking competition probably being the best…

After the initial hell the climb became slightly easier with some huge downhill sections lifting the spirits of many (Alan recorded over 40mph on one of these!). The final climb did though bring disaster for one of the riders: a high speed fall less than a kilometre from the end resulted in a broken collar bone as well as a broken helmet (it turned out). He managed to cycle the final steep uphill section with just one hand, but was then barred from any further riding by the trip’s doctor.

Arrival at the Crater, some tired emotion riders completed various photo opportunities and we turned around and cycled back 17kms to complete a formation ride home into our last hotel.

We were greeted by all the hotel staff and the local support staff who had been with us all of the way singing and clapping an upbeat song to welcome us to the end of the challenge. A very touching thought and one that made even some of the hardiest of the group ‘a bit emotional’.

Whilst we all felt a huge sense of achievement and relief at completing the Transaid Tanzanian bike ride, we also felt slightly saddened by the fact that it had ended. Most, if not all of us forged some strong bonds along the way, and look forward to putting ourselves to the test in the future – hopefully with many of this group once again.

One final point: the people of Tanzania are unbelievably friendly. With adults and children alike shouting greetings of ‘Jambo’ as we ride by.  Just past halfway and feeling humbled, tired, amazed and proud in equal measures.

Make a donation
Donations to Transaid can be made through its JustGiving page, which you can find at justgiving.com/transaid.

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