A Parteen man has recorded the highs and lows during a gruelling 10,500km charity cycle from Cairo to Capetown with three of his college friends through which over €26,000 has been raised.
Maghnus Collins-Smyth embarked on his South African adventure with Brian O’Shea, Castletroy, Limerick; Alan O’Dwyer, Clonoulty, Tipperary and David Burns from Coleraine last July and the group are expected to complete the cycle by the end of this month.
Along the way, they are cycling through Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa.
In addition to exploring South Africa, the four cyclists have already raised €26,326 for a number of causes. All the cyclists are paying their own expenses, so all the money raised will help local and international projects.
These include the hydrotherapy fund in St Gabriel’s School, Limerick, which provides disability services to children and young adults in the Mid-West; constructing two additional classrooms for a school in Ethiopia, building a grain store for farmers in Gigil, Kenya and purchasing a 32-seater school bus.
In one of his blogs on their BikeAfrica2009.com website, Maghnus recalled that the real thrilling highs he experienced have, without exception, crept up on him.
“To try and pick a single event or day is nearly impossible. Even the seemingly mundane days can come alive, sparked by a song on my ipod, a conversation on Wana, or even the seemingly relentless thrill of not knowing where you will be sleeping as the sun plunges towards the horizon.
“As we cycled across Tanzania toward Malawi, we entered Mikumi National Park and began a 50km cycle traversing an unfenced wildlife reserve. Having witnessed O’Shea nearly being run over by a giraffe and narrowly avoiding an angry bull elephant, I found myself cycling on a slight downhill with a herd of zebra galloping alongside me. For five magic minutes we kept pace with each other as we raced toward an unknown finish line,” he stated.
He cited an attack by a rabid dog on a young boy in Tanzania as his lowest point.
“As we ate breakfast on a roadside I heard screams coming from down the road. As I ran toward the screams I saw a boy lying on the tarmac with half his body obscured by the long grass bordering the road.
“After what seemed like an eternity, the dog released his grip following a number of kicks from me and blows from a shovel swung by a quick thinking roadside worker.
“Before the boy could be helped the dog had to be killed and so I watched as the dog was repeatedly battered over the head until his body finally slumped lifelessly into the grassy roadside. Having cleaned and dressed the boy’s wounds, we implored the group of locals who had now gathered to ensure the boy see a doctor.
“As he was led off, we again repeated the words rabies and doctor. We cycled off in hope rather than confidence that we were understood,” he said.
The 24 year-old former Crescent College Comprehensive student went to NUI Galway to study BCL Law and went on to do a Masters in Public Law.
Having been brought up in a place as far removed from the dysfunction characterising a lot of the African continent, he admitted it was impossible for him to have any real comprehension of the level of suffering that many must experience.
It has always bothered him that chance alone in relation to where you are born can result in such inequality in the standard of a person’s life.
Perhaps naively, he felt that if he could spend some time working in Tanzania, he might as least gain a tiny insight into the people and their ability to endure.
While enquiring about the possibility of getting into a volunteer scheme, he was advised that in the current financial climate it would be of more value to organise a fundraiser in addition to any aid work.
Brian O’Shea mentioned the idea about working in Africa and suggested the idea of cycling through Africa out. Maghnus jumped at the prospect of raising some money for charity and having a bit of an adventure along the way.
To make donations, log on to www.bikeafrica2009.com