Just a few layovers, brief cramped plane naps, and minor delays later – the Bike Zambia team arrived together for the first time in Lusaka yesterday afternoon. With barely a moment to rest, we piled into a bus to head to our first beneficiary visit, World Bicycle Relief (WBR), to see the factory and hear about the programs from country director, Dave Neiswander. Our visit was short in anticipation of a longer field visit the following afternoon.
Following a 6:30 departure time a bus transfer outside of the busy Lusaka city streets, the team regrouped and prepared for our first full day of riding. And a full day it was planned to be, with a solid 108 kilometers to start us off. As this day was part of the updated route since Bike Zambia 2012, the whole crew was is for a brand new ride and a whole new surprise of just how hilly Zambia can get!
After a well deserved sleep in Siavonga, the group awoke early for a visit to the Lake Kariba dam wall, just a few kilometers outside of the town. The dam wall completed in 1960, spans an impressive 617 meters in width and boasts over a 120 meter drop – not to mention, it holds back the world’s largest reservoir by volume!
With a short leg on the paved road before heading onto the dirt, we made our way out of Mazabuka for our next stop, Monze. As promised, we really did turn off the main traffic route and made our way along the unmapped dirt roads, encountering deep sandy patches, rocky bumps, 90 degree temperatures, and the occasional cattle crossing. Cycling in this terrain proved much different than most riders’ usual training on road bikes. And though challenging, it was undeniably one of the most beautiful days of the ride – allowing for an unique experience of the countryside and endless opportunity to stop and interact with villagers.
hough today’s ride had its highs and lows, with a slightly smoother paved road stretching over 100 kilometers, this update is more appropriately about someone we met along the route, Mulenga.
As many of you are aware, Bike Zambia is a ride to support a number of beneficiaries who are working to address HIV/AIDS and poverty in Zambia. One of these main organizations is World Bicycle Relief, who we support through the Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP), the STEPS/OVC caregivers program, and a revolving microfinance bicycle lending program through Vision Fund.
With today’s ride came some milestones. The route itself was not furthering the team along our way to Livingstone, but instead was a small detour to see the beautiful countryside of Zambia – ending at the shores of Lake Kariba. The team completed our longest day of riding yet, 110 kilometers.
Amidst a day full of off-road riding, hot afternoon sun, and just a few too many falls into the deep sand, we stopped in a small village called Siachatema. For those of us who did the trip last year, this was a village that we eagerly awaited. We had been very warmly welcomed last year and given a tour of the town. So to our great joy, one of the village leaders, David, not only warmly welcomed our group once again, but remembered Bike Zambia from the previous ride and had photos that one of our riders last year had emailed him of our visit.
With a mix of excitement and regret to be finishing the ride, the team embarked on our last day of cycling into Livingstone. Compared to the majority of our +100 kilometer days, the 60 kilometer ride felt like a walk in the park and brought us into the city before noon.
Before heading to the falls, the group made a stop at Maramba Health Clinic to see the work of one of our beneficiaries, CIDRZ (Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia). As the clinic was very busy seeing patients, our visit and tour, though short, was very insightful and important for the group to see first-hand. The clinic, with only one physician and a staff of several counselors and nurses, sees well over a hundred patients each day. In addition to HIV/AIDS care, the clinic concentrates heavily on maternal care and tuberculosis. Within the HIV/AIDS initiatives, the clinic sees patients regularly for HIV testing, counseling, and close treatment monitoring – especially for the prevention of mother to child transmission.
After a much appreciated morning to sleep in past 5:30, the team planned a morning with our final beneficiary, Grassroot Soccer (GRS), at a soccer tournament. The group’s contribution to GRS was to host their first ever VCT (Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing) tournament in Livingstone – a new region that they are in the process of expanding to.