Imagine a 3084km charity bike ride and you’ll probably think of a large group of lycra clad riders on expensive bikes, cruising along tarmacked roads past iconic landmarks. Well, not this one. This ride in Africa was slightly different.
When the rest of his group backed out at the last minute, Willhard was faced with a choice, either cancelling his challenge, to cycle from Iringa, Tanzania, to Johannesburg, SA, or tackle it alone.
Charity Cycling at it’s hardest
The goal of the cycle event is to raise money for the NGO Willhard Mboglea is the President of, The Iringa Rural Development Initiative, or IRUDI, to buy a car for the organization. As an organization dedicated to improving lives for the most vulnerable communities in the outer reaches of the Iringa community, there is a lot of travelling involved. Currently this is undertaken by unreliable public transport, cycling or walking for hours at a time.
The inspiration behind the challenge
Willhard explains about the inspiration behind this challenge: “Malundi is a girl in one of the schools my NGO has worked closely with. When I first met her, her teacher told me her story that is a sadly familiar one in the villages”.
“Her father passed away when she was very young and at the age of seven, Malundi had to stop attending school to look after her mother who had contracted HIV and was terminally ill. Malundi cared for her mother for two years until her mother also passed away. At the age of 9 she was able to return to school and is considered one of the top student in her class, despite the challenges she faced during her development years.”
You can read more about Malundi’s story on the IRUDI website.
The 3000km picnic
With the prospect of the fundraising falling apart, Willhard decided to go ahead and set off, just him, a rickety bike, a few sandwiches and over 3000kms of – mainly dirt – road ahead that would take him from Tanzania through Zambia, Zimbabwe and into South Africa.
It wasn’t long, two days in fact before the bike had its first (of many) breakdowns and Willhard relied heavily on the kindness of the people he met along the way to get him back on the road.
After many challenges along the way, Willhard completed his journey in a little under 4 weeks. As it turns out, Tanzania and Zambia were quite straightforward, it was when he reached Zimbabwe that things started to go downhill.
When asked what the hardest part of the ride was, Willhard said: “For sure in Zimbabwe, I was forced to sleep in the bush for two days as I had no cash and could not get any. I went to more than six towns, more than twenty cash machines. I didn’t have money to pay for accommodation, with the owner holding onto my passport until I could settle the debt, nor money to eat for two days. I had made friends on the way but still I didn’t like to trouble them bearing in mind we had just known each other.”
But what about the scariest part? Riding solo for over 3000kms has to throw up a few challenges. Willhard continued: “I had to seek advice from immigration officers about cycling through Charara National Park, the answer was a big NO due to events of people being attacked by elephants and lions. Although that made me feel a little uncomfortable and a few of the dangers I faced suddenly feel a little more real, it wasn’t the animals I feared most, it was the humans.”
“As I crossed the Zimbabwe/South Africa border, I was welcomed by warning signs which read ‘HIGH CRIME AREA DON’T STOP’. I was so scared. I had met another cyclist doing something similar while passing through Zambia, he warned me of this area, I was wishing I had listened. The threat of being shot by armed robbers seemed very real, much more so than being attacked by an elephant or lion. The warning signs were appearing regularly between the border and Musina town, some 10km further along the road. It was definitely the quickest 10km of the entire journey!”
However, hard work and fear aside, one of the greatest things any adventure like this creates is new friendships. Willhard had to rely on the warmth and compassion of many people along his journey, and some of the nicest he met were in Zimbabwe, and this is what he recollects as the highlight of his challenge. He continued:
“The best part of the journey was the first evening when I entered Karoi town in Zimbabwe. I made very good friends, who I believe will become my long time friends. We shared lots of stories as well as discussed very important matters. It’s the time I came to learn that Zimbabweans are very nice people, though the outside world doesn’t differentiate the ordinary Zimbabweans with the government. The mistakes done by the top government leaders should not be considered Zimbabweans mistakes”.
“Of course, another highlight was the moment I was finally able to collect money from a Western Union agent after starving and sleeping in the bush for two days. I couldn’t believe that I was able to have food sleep in a lodge and get my passport back!”
Discover more about Willhards journey
If you would like to speak to Willhard about his incredible journey he would be available for interviews and would love to talk to anyone that would like to do a feature. Please contact Matt by emailing [email protected] and he would be happy to arrange an interview.
Welcome to the Iringa Rural Development Initiative (IRUDI), a local non-governmental organization (NGO) with the goal of improving the life for the villages of the wider Iringa community Tanzania.
Working closely with volunteers from all over the world, the small IRUDI team undertake projects such as supplying clean water, building schools and providing education to villages that would otherwise be almost isolated.