THE Tour d’Afrique cycle race from Cairo to Cape Town boasts three riders with strong connections to Kenton-on-Sea among its 43 full-tour riders from all over the world.
Shona Bell and her partner Miguel Teixeira, who own a home in Kenton, represent Team Zodwa – Cycling South. A third rider with connections to Kenton is Steve Smith, whose father owns a business there.
CYCLING HOME: Shona Bell (left) and Miguel Teixeira, who own a home together in Kenton, are competing in the Tour d’Afrique cycle race from Cairo to Cape Town Picture: SUPPLIED
Team Zodwa was started by a group of female paramedics, firefighters and rescuers from South Africa, who united to provide education, support and create awareness on issues of safety for women and children. Their vision is to empower women and children to believe in themselves and achieve their dreams.
Team Zodwa – Cycling South, started in Cairo on January 14 and will reach Cape Town on May 12.
Both Bell and Teixeira say they wanted to travel through Africa, thinking it was going to be in their Land Cruiser, until they saw an advert for Tour d’Afrique.
“Then we knew that was it. We have been cycling for about 10 years now and thought what better way to see Africa,” said Bell. Bell and Teixeira have said they have learned that Africa needs to focus in leadership and governance, to stop relying on NGOs and donors.
“In the most supported nations we have the kids shouting ‘give me money’ when they see us, but in Tanzania the kids are all in school uniform, shouting hello and welcome,” said Bell.
“Ethiopia has such potential but is a bubbling cauldron…..despising “feregis” (foreigners) – undisciplined children, literally millions of them under the age of 10, who are not in school but rather spending their day in the roads, throwing rocks at passersby. Sudan, on the other hand, is one of the nicest and friendliest countries, along with Tanzania.
“Malawi is on the edge of a crisis, but beautiful. Kenya has challenges but Egypt did not feel African at all, its revolutionary energy made for a difficult ride for most of us in the first two weeks.”
Only a short time into the tour Bell was pushed into a truck by what she described as a “crazy mountain man” in Egypt and, after being released from hospital, underwent minor surgery in the back of the team support vehicle in Sudan after complications arose.
“This meant I missed most of the cycling in Sudan and traveled in the vehicle. Mig and Steve however, are what we call EFI’ers – they have cycled ‘every fabulous inch’ so far,” said Bell.
Team Zodwa rested in Lilongwe enjoying a few days respite, and left for the Zambian border on Wednesday April 4. Next is Botswana on April 15 and then on to Maun, then Windhoek via Ghanzi. After Windhoek Team Zodwa will cycle south to Cape Town, having two rest days in Soussasvlei and on the Orange River.
The journey could be considered more a social experiment than a tour. The team sleeps (camp in tents most nights), eat, shower, crash, cry, share cokes and chipattis along the route and mend punctures together.
“One of the best stories was the donkey shower (we took) in Sudan when, after six days in the desert with no ablutions at all, we had the locals bring a donkey cart to camp with a tank of water on board. They sold us a bucket for 20c and we ‘showered’ together,” said Bell.
Bell said a misconception South Africans have about Africa is that it is a dangerous place.
“I have never felt so safe riding my bike, although Egypt and Ethiopia had their challenges,” said Bell.
“Ethiopian motorists were so considerate, Kenyan drivers less so, but there the people made up for it! As a ‘muzungu’ (white person) we are easily spotted, but the calls from the homes, schools, shops and huts along route are all friendly and so often we are offered food, fruit and water along the way.”
“The Canadians and Europeans are having a ball, shopping, trying the foods, talking to everyone along the way. Most of the time no one understands their accents but the locals smile and allow photos then have a good laugh as we cycle off.”
Upon their return Bell and Teixeira will be launching Team Zodwa to the public, where they will invite anyone to become a Team Zodwa member by doing 20 or more hours a year community service, raising money for a charity and undertaking an extreme event.
“We have linked up with FoodBank SA and will be working with them to launch a school feeding scheme next year. During this cycle businesses are collectting food which will be donated to FoodBank SA,” Bell said. “Our other passion is wildlife and after our rhino Mkawete was killed by poachers in 2010 we want to make as many people as possible, aware of the need to educate others, about saving rhinos. This we are doing on the tour by talking to all we meet along the way. Especially with the Kariega Game Reserve poaching incident in the last few weeks, I share the news with the other cyclists on how Thandi is doing and how we lost Themba.”