We woke up this morning to a beautiful sunrise over Lake Naivasha, birds singing, monkeys calling. Bliss. Which is a good job as yesterday was  ummm...a little tougher. 14 hours in the saddle that included one of the most beautiful roads through the Kenyan Highlands. Swooping turns, endless vistas, colourful villages, we loved every second. But unfortunately it lulled us into a false sense of security.

We always knew yesterday would be a long day but it was made a little longer by a couple of minor bike issues and a border crossing into Kenya. So after the beautiful road, dusk began to fall, and we still had 200 k of Kenyan  roads to ride.

Hitting some major highways, we dodged and weaved through traffic as night fell, making sure that some road sense challenged Kenyan drivers didn't run us onto the hard shoulder. I don’t think they have advanced driving schools here. We all have intercoms and we needed them yesterday. “Watch out for the crazy guy in the taxi coming up behind”.  “See that coach, go defensive.” The comments sounded like a fighter squadron going into battle and I almost called “Bandit at 3 o’clock Ginger, Tally Ho!”

It was great to turn off the Highway into Camp Carnelly, a wonderful oasis on Lake Naivasha that welcomed us with open arms and very large  and very much needed burger and fries, glad to know that the longest day of the trip was behind us

This is a great team and I am so enjoying being with them. I can hear Faith giggling as she’s reading a book, see Lisa laughing with a local, and I’m enjoying a fill breakfast [eggs,  sunny side up and all the trimings] with Wes. Danielle had a bast on the back of my bike yesterday and Lenard and Lee Ann crack us up with the intercom commentary. Kaitlyn is a bike pro and up for any challenge and Andrew and Les are great in the sweep vehicle, keeping everyone safe and sound.

Today we’re enjoying a leisurely start then heading on to Masai Mara for a rest day on safari. Everyone send their love to family and friends and wants you to know they are safe and sound.  Hope you are too!

Talk soon.

 

Just a short blog today as we got in late and we’re leaving early.

Yesterday was a bit of a slog through rain storms, broken clutch levers, electrical failures and stalls due to the heavy rain, but the last two hours were in beautiful sunshine. Everything is wet but we were still laughing when we reached the home of our friends Jeff and Shannon Dyck. Wonderful hospitality with a welcome BBQ waiting. Thanks guys!

We think we’ve ridden out of the rain soaked area, at least we hope so, as it’s a beautiful sunny morning and we’re good to go

Now, onto Jinja!

Lisa and Lee Ann are today’s guest bloggers as we explored the delights of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, here in Uganda.

Lee Ann: Imagine Gorilla's in the Mist , steep mountains, deep ravines covered in the rain forest jungle. The sunlight slowly sneaking warm rays to the thick, vine filled ground cover. And then you turn to see the majestic mountain gorillas foraging on leaves, ants and tree bark. They take your breath away as you see them in their natural habitat. Their soulful eyes and peaceful demeanor as they sit back and forage. We saw a silverback, black backs, and one of the highlights, a baby gorilla only 6 months old as he was playing in a tree by himself like a child on a playground. We were truly blessed to have them meander through the forest floor not 2 feet from us.

Lisa: While half our group was in search of the gorillas in the mist, the remaining four of us went on a local community cultural walk through the nearby villages. There is a local organization called the Ruhija Community Gorilla Tourism Development Association, and their knowledgeable guide walked us through various projects and villages. One of the highlights of the day was visiting two schools. They are both schools for orphans, and were started by a local woman with a passion for caring for children in need. Her commitment to this village is commendable and we appreciated being able to visit the Little Angels school and the children there. We also visited a small waterfall as well as a beekeeping project.

As our group reunited at the guesthouse in the afternoon, we enjoyed swapping stories and photos of what we experienced in the great Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Tomorrow we ride again!

 

Well, the first day on the road was one for the books. Before we left the Wellspring compound, we took what Andrew calls the “Little did they know” picture. The boy is a prophet.  

We rode out of Kigali on a warm summers morning and motored an hour and a half through the most gorgeous scenery. Fragrant tea plantations, swooping mountain passes, children running and waving like we were Tour De France riders. It was sublime, and I could hear the whoops  of the Kigali2Joburg crew over our intercoms. 

Expecting the normal border hassles, we sailed through the formalities at both the Rwandan and Ugandan borders with smiling and helpful guards waving us through. I somehow don’t think they’ll all be as easy as that.

After a quick lunch stop in Kabale, we headed up towards the mountains, ready to take the turn into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Sounds foreboding right? We thought so too, especially as we rode towards those weird dark clouds. I mean it’s the dry season!

Apparently not, because as we turned on to the mud and gravel track that we had to go 26 K down, things. got. crazy!

A huge storm came out of nowhere and we suddenly found ourselves riding into what felt like Valhalla. Lightning flashed, thunder roared and the heavens opened. Our little track of a road was soon criss-crossed with flowing rivers of mud. Corners were washed out and the rain soaked us to the skin. Oh and did I tell you we were climbing a mountain with a sheer drop of two or three thousand feet on one side? 

I was leading and trying to pick the right line, with my head on a swivel, also trying to keep the other riders in view as we slid around hairpin turns, with a visor that was almost impossible to see through due to water streaming down it. Three times my bike kicked out sideways and at one point I found myself heading towards the drop, just managing to kick it round again before finding out if it had a parachute attached. 

I’ve got to say, the other riders were incredible. Some of them had never ridden off road and they stayed upright, with not one person dropping the bike. 

Eventually we rode into the Ruhija Gorilla resort campsite, a cool place we’re at for two nights. I gotta tell you, we got off the bikes and after a moments stunned silence, with a ‘did that really just happen’ look on our faces, we all burst into hysterical laughter and hugged each other silly, It’s good to be alive. 

Tomorrow some of us will visit a local village and some will go and see the gorillas, but tonight we’re still in the afterglow of making it through, even though all our clothes are still dripping and we’re huddled round a fire trying to get warm. What a day.

 

Well the day has dawned...quite early for most of us. The bikes are packed and ready to go and at 9:30am we are riding out of Kigali. We’ll be saying goodbye to our friends at Wellspring who have looked after us so well, inspired to ride to support their incredible work in education and ready for whatever awaits.

A lot of people have asked me are we really ready? Well, we’re as ready as we can be, but you never know what the road is going to throw at you. In that though, we have some excellent bikers and some great support and we’re confident we’re going to get where we’re going, Which by the way, is the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, our first stop, We hope it is penetrable, as it’s where some of the team are going on a trek to see the Gorillas.

For now, we’ll leave you with Tolkien’s words from the Lord of the Rings that seem appropriate.

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.

See you in Uganda.

Wes reflects on visiting the work of Wellspring and how a whole community is being engaged in the life of a school.

On Sunday, after a few days of seeing the work of Wellspring in Kigali, our group packed into two LandCruisers to take the 4 hour drive headed out to Rubavu.   I had my first experience of being behind the wheel, trying to navigate amongst the mass of cars, people and motorcycles, backseat drivers, and Andy's attempts to lose me in the roundabouts. Our trip, up and down at least one half of Rwanda's famous thousand hills,  was an experience!  What struck me was the clean roads and side walks, as it was the day after umaganda, the mandatory cleaning half-day that Danielle spoke of in the earlier blog.  We also saw people walking with hundred-pound loads of produce, wood and other commodities stacked high on their heads, or if they were lucky, on a bike.

On Monday, after a great night in our beachside accommodations on Lake Kivu, we headed to Wellspring's local office in Rubavu, where we would be able to meet all the staff who work hard, and sacrificially,  to develop and support programs in 75 schools in that area.   We were able to hear them speak of the challenges they faced working in these schools, mostly rural, and spread over a large area, and often accessible only by bad roads or by foot.   We then headed out to a nearby school for a visit.  We were able to drive there on a steep side road that had been made passable by a group of parents who had, through a Wellspring parent engagement program, realized making access to the school was an important part of community growth and engagement.  At the school we were able to see a classroom of happy, engaged kids, as well as involved parents.  The parents were there, even at the end of the school year, working on school improvement projects such as weaving blinds to keep the afternoon sun out of the classrooms, as well as constructing foundations for an additional two classrooms to be built soon.  Truly an inspiring day today !  Tomorrow we pack the Hondas, and start the journey.

Hi Everyone! Danielle here. We’ll be taking turns posting on the blog as we go so I volunteered to kick things off.

We’ve had a great start to our trip here in Kigali. Most of the crew has arrived and we’ve been spending our time getting to know each other and preparing for the journey ahead.

Yesterday we visited the Wellspring team. It’s an organization that’s dear to my heart and though I’ve been involved for a few years, I was still blown away by the team and all that we learned, saw and experienced yesterday. And we never even left the office! I can’t wait to head out to Rubavu tomorrow to experience Wellspring’s work in the school district of Rwanda’s western province.

Today is the last Saturday of the month - Umuganda. Umuganda is the Rwandan practice of community service. Every month, the entire country comes together to work on civil projects like public building maintenance and street cleaning. Since 2007 Umuganda has collectively contributed an estimated $60 million (USD) to the country’s development. It’s a way for the country to come together and work together in unity. While we didn’t participate ourselves (though many expats and visitors do), we waited until after Umuganda to get out on the road.

To prepare for the ride ahead, the group did a quick loop on the bikes around our neighbourhood this morning. After a trip briefing by Andrew, the team got a chance to pick their bikes. I made the comparison to Harry Potter in Ollivander’s wand shop (let the wand choose the wizard...let the bike choose the rider) which was sadly lost on everyone but Kaitlyn. Once the riders were on their bikes, the next challenge was getting them out of the parking lot. If anyone has been to Wellspring, you’ll know that this lot features a steep gradient and some treacherous gravel. Andrew and Andy both agreed that the lot may actually be the most challenging part of the entire ride.


Thankfully we left the parking lot without incident and the riders were on their way. Andrew and I followed in ‘Herbie’ (the support car) and were impressed by how great everyone looked on the bikes for the first time. Africa Twins are no small bike - 750 cc - but everyone agreed they handle well and are a smooth ride. After a couple loops through the winding residential valley, we reconvened at the parking lot to celebrate a successful first ride. All in all a great start to the trip and it has us excited for the adventure to come!

-Danielle

Dear friends

I am writing this message to you as the sun rises over Kigali, capital of Rwanda. I’m getting ready for the Kigali2Joburg ride, taking a few friends on motorbikes from here through 8 countries down to South Africa, raising funds for the work of Wellspring. It’s going to be an adventure!

We’re aiming to raise $25,000  and I’d love you to consider giving your support. The link for that is at the sponsor tab above and also at the end of this post, but before you decide, I’d like to tell you why it’s so important.

Every time I visit this amazing place I am re-inspired all over again about the work that is taking place here. I have met some of the 175,000 children that Wellspring is helping get a quality values based education and their enthusiasm and hunger for knowledge has blown me away. I have spent time with teachers who just a short while ago were feeling inadequate and unprepared for their roles, often resorting to violence to control classes of up to 125 children, classes that have no electricity, books or resources of any kind. Now those teachers are being equipped with the resources and training they need to turn those schools into vibrant communities of learning, where every child is valued and given the same worth and dignity that children in Canada are.

I have met girls who dream of a brighter future, but who are at risk of being victims of violence and exploitation, who now have opportunities and expanded horizons, due to the focus Wellspring is bringing to girls education. And I have once again visited the Genocide memorial, a somber place that commemorates the killing of nearly 1 million Rwandans in three short months in 1994. It’s a place that always calls me to be part of the difference and change that is taking place here, as we help Rwanda give an education to children that inspires them to be better than generations of the past, to say “Never again, will we let this happen”.

I wish you were here to see it as well. I wish you could feel the determination of our team, of these children and their parents, of the teachers and school leaders, to see a better, brighter future for Rwanda and to be a beacon of hope for what peace and reconciliation can look like. It is a luminous thing to experience, and I know that if you could see it, it would affect you as much as it affects me and everyone else who visits here. That’s why through all the muddy roads, roadblocks, crazy potholes and sand filled deserts, I’ll be keeping my eye on the prize. It’s not just getting to Joburg. It’s standing with these wonderful human beings

So thank you from Rwanda and from all of us here. You are making a difference in your prayers and support and we appreciate your generosity more than you could ever know. You are amazing!

Now, here’s that link 🙂

With gratitude

Andy

We thought you might like to get to know one or two of our riders, so please say Hello to Wes Robinson. He’s a good guy.

Bio:  Recently retired , Husband to Lori, Dad to three kids and spouses, papa to 7!  Finding opportunities, exploring creation, resisting OPA's.....Other People's Agendas
Currently Based :  Vancouver
Keeps busy with: life without paid work, Family and grandchildren,  volunteering, appreciating the impact that these people make locally and abroad : The Wellspring Foundation, Camp Qwanoes, my friends at MRBC, Casa Compasiva in Mitla,  Arrow Leadership, Opportunity Int'l !
Recent adventure motorcycle experience: None,   Except falling off my quad
Current MC: BMW F650Gs

Congratulations to the Northbound crew who arrived to a warm welcome from the Wellspring team today in Kigali.

Covered from head to toe in dust and full of tales of muddy roads, encounters with gorillas (that’s the unarmed and hairy type) and the joys of getting five bikes past suspicious border guards, they rode into the Wellspring compound with smiles on their faces and our teams applause echoing in their ears .

Now we have some very dirty bikes to clean, some cables to replace and some tires to swap out, not to mention 5 oil changes and a bunch of other stuff. It’s a long way back to South Africa and in one week, these babies have to be ready to go again!