The Very Long Way Down

August 14, 2012

Local man sets off this week to cycle from London to Cape Town for charity

This Thursday Killeavy native Diarmaid McDonald will close the door of his flat in Brixton in South London and, along with his Scottish girlfriend Hannah Smith, push off on his bicycle. Rather than the normal commute to the office, they hope to keep going for eight months and stop only when they reach Cape Town at the bottom of Africa.

The pair will head first to Portsmouth for the ferry  that will take them to France. They’ll then wind their way across Europe and over the Alps towards Venice where they’ll hop a boat to Greece. From Athens they’ll catch a short flight to Cairo before pedalling south through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and beyond before finally arriving in South Africa in April next year.

McDonald, a former Abbey student from Cloughoge, now living in London, says its a daunting undertaking:

“By day three we’ll have cycled further than we’ve ever cycled before, so we’re really pedalling into the unknown. But we’ve done a lot of work preparing over the last year and have given ourselves time to build up our stamina through Europe. Fingers crossed we’ll be ok.”

The pair are raising money for two causes linked to their jobs in London. McDonald will be raising funds for local HIV and AIDS organisations working with vulnerable people in the countries they are passing through; whilst Smith is raising funds for the Gaia Foundation who work with local communities to help them cope with environmental destruction and climate change. McDonald said:

“We set out to do this challenge because we wanted the adventure, but through our jobs we know of so many incredible people doing vital work in the countries we’re passing through we thought it was a great opportunity to generate some support for them. We’re hoping to raise £10,000. We’ll be visiting the projects as we go and will write up blog posts and stick photos on our website – maybe videos, technology permitting – so people can see what their donation is delivering.”

The trip will be a huge challenge. Carrying everything they need on their bikes from spare parts to food, each night they intend to pitch up their tent and camp, cooking their meals on a small camping stove. Asked about the dangers of the trip McDonald highlighted his main worries:

“We’ll only rarely be camping somewhere where we might come across a wild animal like a hyena or lion and they generally steer clear of humans. At our closest we’ll be hundreds of miles from any trouble in places like Sudan, and we’ll keep track of changes in the situation. To be honest the biggest danger we’ll face is the same one we face cycling through London every day – traffic. Drivers in Africa are pretty notorious so we’ll have to keep our wits about us.

“I’ve travelled a bit in Tanzania and Ethiopia before and we have contacts in most of the countries we’re passing through, so they should help us a lot – even if it is just a shower and proper bed every few weeks! We’ve no real idea what to expect and there may be times when its totally miserable, or we have to swallow our pride and catch a bus for a day to get us through a tough spot, but I’m pretty confident we’ll enjoy it and we’ll make it all the way. Not least for the promise of a few days on the beach in Cape Town!”

You can follow their trip on Twitter @farcycal or on their website where you can also find more details on the charities they are fundraising for and how you can donate.