Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Mike 'The Bike' cycles West Africa - Part 1

Today’s post is our first from Mike ‘the Bike’ McLellan, cycling enthusiast and long-time supporter of Yes to Life who is cycling from Italy to West Africa to embark on the adventure of a lifetime and raise lots of money to help us support people with cancer along the way.

Italy, France and Spain have been full of chance meetings and unexpected adventures, an experience of having to relinquish ideas and adapt to reality, of 'going with the flow' and allowing things to unfold. As I reach the end of the first leg of my journey, I look back at what has already been an incredible trip; the kind people I've met, the ever changing landscape, the foreign tongues, the not knowing where I will be sleeping at night but it somehow always working out!

Travelling on a bike you are very vulnerable in all ways; and you have to be sensitive too, in all ways. Some people have asked if I use GPS, I don't and sometimes I wish I did but I have my own system, I ask the way! Some days I think I must ask the way maybe 30 times, usually it works and I find the right way from a local person.

The advantage of this is that it forces me to make contact with people, which adds an important dimension to the journey. On several occasions people I have asked have gone out of their way to show me the route. In one instance a man rode 10km with me on an impromptu sightseeing tour of a city, on another a cyclist actually turned around and cycled with me in the opposite direction than he was going just to make sure I found a tricky route onto the right road.

This kind of journey, being extended over months rather than days, becomes a way of life. Routine becomes extremely important, as does discipline. Without these elements the ride would simply come to an end. On some mornings when I wake, the rain is pouring down on the tent. I wait for it to stop, only it doesn't. So then I have to motivate myself to get up, pack everything away and get going regardless of being soaked.

Sometimes motivation is easy at other times difficult. Some days doing over 100 km is no problem, other days doing 50 km feels like
a slog. Nothing can be taken for granted, days I thought would be easy turn out to be hard, days I thought would be hard pass by like watching a film, with almost no effort. Like the landscape, like the weather, there is continuous change. On a bike you have to learn to accept and go with this, it's the only way.

The next part of the journey is through Morocco and then onward further into Africa. It promises to be even more exciting and unpredictable than Europe, especially in terms of conditions and cultures. I will also be travelling with a cycling companion, Annie, having cycled for two months alone. Stage two will be different in many ways yet undoubtedly even more challenging!



Please support Mike on his adventure by donating here.

You can follow his trip in more detail on Facebook here.

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