Oh, what a year... September 30 2020
2020. What a year. We, at Peace by Piece, mourn the lives lost and the hardships fought as a result of COVID-19. We feel for those all around the world, especially in countries poorly equipped to handle the medical complexity this virus brings. The economic fallout has been significant as well, and our heart goes out to those trying to keep a roof over their head and food on the table.
Like so many students around the world, school was interrupted for Peace by Piece's scholarship recipients. Students were sent home on March 17th, though "home" may be an orphanage or a mud hut without running water or electricity. And while lessons were eventually broadcast by national radio and television, this is still unattainable to the poor and vulnerable children living in dire circumstances.
The students did return to school in July and they have been working tirelessly to catch up. School breaks were eliminated and all 53 of our scholarship recipients are expected to finish their school year on time by the end of December. We are certainly proud of their efforts.
FIVE Form 1 (8th grade) Day-School Scholarships Awarded for 2020 January 20 2020
Congratulations to Baraka, James, Nicemery, Nelson and Praygod! They will be staring middle school at NKK, joining 27 other Peace by Piece scholarship recipients returning to school this year.
SEVEN Form 1 (8th grade) Boarding Scholarships Awarded in 2020! January 15 2020
Congratulations to Jesca, Brenda, Miriam, Upendo, Dickson, Siriel and Erick! They were awarded Form 1 boarding scholarships to Edmund Rice for the 2020 school year!. They join 13 returning boarding students at Edmund Rice this year. Good luck to all of our students! Have a great year!
Middle School Graduates! December 15 2019
Alex and Faraja graduated from Edmund Rice! We are beyond proud of you two! These guys will have 6 month break from school while they study for national exams. A two year high school program will start in July. Congratulations Alex and Faraja!
Off To High School!! July 08 2019
Our first class of scholarship recipients joined the program in January 2015. After four years of rigorous studies, they graduated from middle school in December. High school begins in July in Tanzania to allow for time for entrance exams and school matching. We are so incredibly proud of Mery, Jesca, Jennifer, Magreth and Dorice. They are each attending government boarding schools to complete their secondary schooling over the next 2 years. Peace by piece is sponsoring their school and living supplies, uniforms, transportation and all associated fees during these next two years. Congratulations ladies!
Four new scholarship recipients will begin Form 1 at Edmund Rice Secondary School, a boarding school in Arusha. They will join the eleven Form 2-4 Peace by Piece scholarship students already attending Edmund Rice. Congratulations Regina, Naomi, Glory and Livingstone!
11 new students begin Form 1 at Nkoarisambu Secondary School January 15 2019
Peace by Piece is sponsoring eleven new students at Nkoarisambu this year. They will join the nineteen Form 2-4 students in the program. Each student receives school supplies including all textbooks and new uniforms. We wish them the best of luck this year!
High School Here We Come! November 24 2018
In January 2015, eleven students became the first Peace by Peace scholarship recipients. Four of those students passed the rigorous entrance exams to be able to attend Edmund Rice Secondary School, a private, boarding school in Arusha. Last month, they graduated from Form 4, equivalent of the 11th grade in the USA. In June of 2019, they will begin high school! We are so proud of our students!!
Class of 2017! September 14 2017
Peace Matunda Primary School's 2017 standard 7 class recently took their national exams and we are anxiously awaiting the results! Of these students, 19 will require financial assistance to continue their education next year in secondary school.
The Peace by Piece scholarship program commenced in January of 2015. Since that time, 26 children have joined our program. 9 of our students are attending boarding schools in Arusha and the remaining students attend the local government school as day-students. Our scholars are excelling and we couldn't been prouder!
On average, 9 students join our program each year and usually a third those students require boarding school. This year that number more than doubles! With 19 applicants and 7 students requiring boarding, we need your help!! Please consider making a donation to help send a child to school!
New Form 1 students! February 03 2017
We are excited that nine new students will be continuing on to secondary school with scholarships from Peace by Piece. Three are boarding students (Calvin, Godson and Lovin) and six will attend the local government day school (Alice, Sixtus, Robinson, Yusuf, Happiness and Invocavity). Congratulations! They will be joining our other six boarding and eleven day-school Form 2 & 3 students! We are proud of all of our scholars!!
National Exam Results! November 07 2016
Congratulations Peace Matunda Primary School!!
We are so proud of the national exam results!!
2016 NATIONAL EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL OF TANZANIA
PEACE MATUNDA PRIMARY SCHOOL
School ranking District level 14 out of 132
School ranking Regional level 88 out of 622
School ranking National level 1307 out of 16,350.
And they're off!! February 02 2016
2015 ended with a bang...
As 2015 came to a close, our eleven sponsored secondary students not just completed Form 1 (the first year of secondary school), but EXCELLED, with seven of the students ranking within the top 13 of their class! Mery, Doris, Jesca, and Calvin finished out the year at Edmund Rice (boarding) Secondary School in Arusha and Godfriend, Isaac, Jennifer, Jostina, Daniel, Nice and Nickson concluded the school year at Nkoarisambu Secondary School. All are candidates to continue their education next year in Form 2! We are so grateful to their sponsors for continuing to invest in a brighter future for these amazing children!
At Peace Matunda Primary School, eight students completed Standard 7 (the final year of primary school). All of these students passed their national exams and were looking forward to starting secondary school in 2016. Two of those students, Alex and Faraja are orphaned and have lived at Peace Matunda Orphanage for over 5 years. They both performed well on the rigorous entrance exams and interviews at Edmund Rice (boarding) Secondary School and we are proud to announce that they were accepted for Form1. Of the remaining six students, all live with family in the local village and four are in need of school scholarships in order to continue their studies at the next level.
2016 brings brighter futures...
In January, Mery, Doris, Jesca, and Calvin were joined by Alex and Faraja at Edmund Rice Secondary School. Steven, Loveness, Meshack and Silas began a new chapter in their lives as they joined Godfriend, Isaac, Jennifer, Jostina, Daniel, Nice, and Nickson at Nkoarisambu Secondary School.
In the United States, starting middle school may signal new independence, greater responsibility, more intense studies. Every child is expected to attend- required to attend. In Tanzania, starting middle school (or secondary school) is a privilege afforded to few. It can signify the difference between living life above or below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. It opens doors, especially to women, reducing fertility rates and allowing women to enter marriage, older and more mature. It can be a way out- out of poverty, out of hardship, out of despair, bringing hope and opportunity. In Tanzania, starting secondary school is a momentous step towards a brighter future.
We are so proud of the seventeen students enrolled in the 2016 secondary school year and we are beyond grateful for all the sponsors, our supporters and the amazing staff at Peace Matunda for making this possible!
Jesca, Mery, Doris, Faraja, Alex and Calvin (along with friends Maggie and Corfield) at the start of school this year.
2015 Peace Matunda Primary School graduates. All are attending secondary school in 2016.
And they're off!! Alex and Faraja, all packed for their first year of secondary school!
The ladies! Maggie, Doris, Jesca, Mery.
Visitors day at Edmund Rice March 18 2015
Kaaya visited the kids at Edmund Rice last week and reports that they are happy and doing great!
Secondary school!! January 15 2015
The time has come! The 2014 primary school graduates are off to secondary school! Mery, Calvin, Doris have started school at Edmund Rice in Arusha. We are so grateful to their sponsors! (Magreth, Shila, and Jesca are also off to secondary school and continue to be supported by their primary school sponsors- thank you!!)
Seven day students have also been granted PbP scholarships to Nkoarisambu Secondary school! Daniel, Isaac, Jennifer, Jostina, Moses, Nice and Godfriend are living with family and attending school 2km from Peace Matunda.
School supplies, text books and uniforms have been supplied to all the children. We wish them all the best!!
Nkoarisambu day students! From left Jackie James (Project coordinator) Isaac, Nice, Nixon, Jostina, Kaaya Unambwe (Founder of Peace Matunda), Jennifer, Godfriend, Daniel, Wariambora Kaaya (School Manager at Peace Matunda.)
Amani House kids off to school! From Left: Wariambora Kaaya (School Manager at Peace Matunda), Shila, Mery, Doris, Magreth, Calvin, Corfield, Kaaya (Founder of PM)
Jesca was accepted to a prestigious, government boarding school! Congratulations Jesca!
National exam results!! Congratulations Peace Matunda! January 01 2015
We are so proud of Peace Matunda!! All 19 of the 2014 grade 7 students passed their national exams, allowing them to continue on to secondary school. Not only did all the children pass, but Peace Matunda's ranking in the district, region and nation is outstanding!! Congratulations to the students and teachers at Peace Matunda!
PEACE MATUNDA PRIMARY SCHOOL – P0105130
NUMBER OF STUDENTS: 19
SCHOOL POSITION DISTRICT LEVEL: 8 out of 128
SCHOOL POSITION REGIONAL LEVEL: 51 out of 589
SCHOOL POSITION NATIONAL LEVEL: 532 out of 15867
The name of this section gives away the main highlight: elephants. For many days on this section, riders spotted elephants roaming the savanna looking for a tree to snack on our a tree to rub away the days itches. Other wild animals on route were giraffes, springbok, kudu and baboons. It was a special experience for me to see both giraffes and an elephant while riding!
We were luckily to have Daryl, the elephant whisper, along with us for the journey. He was an expert in wild animals in Botswana and gave us the run down on what to do if an elephant was close to us on the road. Basically, stay away from it. Although it would make a great shot of you with your bike and an enormous African elephant in the background, it really is not advisable as the elephant might be frighten and head in your direction- they move a lot faster then you think- we were told. Some riders, frustrated with their unsuccessful sight of elephants felt the highway should have been called “The Elephant Dung” highway as the sides of the road were literally lined with huge mounds of elephant dung.
One of the other highlights for this section of the tour was the "Man- Eating-Bugs" (probably not what they were really called, but the name suited them.) These crunchy critters were all over the road. There was certainly more squished on the tarmac than alive, but the ones that were alive, fed themselves off their friends, and relatives. Yes, these bugs were cannibals, once their kind was killed we would see several bugs both eating the dead bug and pulling it off the road for an evening snack.
At first I did not want to run over the bugs as I actually thought they might puncture my tire, but later, as my mind went more and more nub with boredom I would aim for them and try to crunch the critters. This was a really fun game for about two hours until one bug squirted its guts all over my leg and shoes. Enough of the bug squashing game, I continued to practice my ABC’s backwards out loud while also looking carefully for the huge African elephants along the side of the road.
Another amazing experience was being able to go on a river boat along the Kazungula. Such a beautiful river that Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia all share. When we reached Maun, I also was able to go on a flight over the Okavango delta at sunset. So pretty!
This was also the part of the trip where I really figured out I am not a long distance flat road cyclist. I found riding on the road to be quite boring. No hills to climb, no rocks being through at me and no bad road surfaces to dodge. Riding a mountain bike does contribute to the slowness of my pace, but it was mainly I was to bored to push myself to go faster. I decided that biking intervals might get me focused. With tips from my dear friend Suzie, Sonia, a fellow rider, and I hit the road for a few interval sessions. It did help for a bit!
Though Botswana was also the biggest distances we road in one day: 208km into Namibia. With the help of a peloton, we pushed through the day, and at the end of it all, it was really not that bad. Not that I wanted to bike further, but reaching Namibia meant the end of the long road days and that we were headed for off road in the dessert.
Diamond Coast - Windhoek to Cape Town April 30 2014
The last section of TDA2014 brought some amazing experiences and some of the hardest sections of the entire tour.
If Namibia is not on your bucket list, you need to add it. I found it to be a beautiful, diverse country with so much to offer in terms of animals, landscapes and culture. Our first rest day was in the Namib-Naukluft Park, at the dunes of Sossusvlei; miles of mesmerizing sand dunes. Some riders biked on the dunes and had a great time messing about in the mounds of sand. Watching the sunset over the dunes and how the colour of the sand changed was marvelous. We were also able to make it to Fish River canyon, the second largest canyon in the world.
Through Namibia we continued off road through incredible mountain vistas, without having too much climbing. Cyclists saw lots of wild animals- kudo, baboon, lorx, springbox, ostrich, and big snakes. There were times when these wild animals seemed to chasing the riders, twice there were encounters with a lorx who seemed to be quite curious as to what these crazy people were up to. Luckily, no one was injured.
Cycling through uninhabited areas meant there were few places to stop for a drink or a snack so it was important to ensure riders had enough water and food to get them to lunch. There were times on this section of the tour that I ran out of water and was super hungry before arriving to lunch. But nonetheless, this section confirmed that I am much more of mountain biker than a road cyclist. For the first few days of the off road I was cruising at a speed that I could not maintain on the road- seems ironic, but I had more adrenaline to push myself.
As we got further into the southern hemisphere, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, it did start to get much colder. Nights involved sleeping in with all my clothes in order to stay warm in the Namibian desert.
Entering the border into South Africa was a great feeling; this meant we were 7 days away from Cape Town, a place many had been thinking about since we started the tour in January. It did also help us to remember that we still had 7 more riding days, and of course needed to be careful as we were headed off road again. The reason for the off road in South Africa is that the highways are too dangerous to cycle on, cars are at max speed on roads without a shoulder.
We were warned about the wind in South Africa, but personally nothing could have prepared me for the endless wind as we headed south. I realized I can take climbing mountains, curious locals, off road, rain, and sand. But wind and I really are not friends. As our tour director, Randy said, it is like the invisible enemy.
It was on these seven days that I finally got that feeling I was waiting for: pushing myself to the limit. On day 115 of 120 each pedal took so much effort. I pushed myself as hard as I could;12km an hour into an intense headwind. I thought the lunch truck was at 70km, so began my count down at 60km. It took an hour to go 10km. Reaching 70km I realized that lunch was not there and must have been at 75km. I was done, really feeling I could not keep going, feeling I could run faster with my bike then ride. Nonetheless, I continued reaching lunch 45 minutes later. I really felt like I wanted to give up, but after a nice break and some food, I decided to push on as there was road and the possibly of a tail wind ahead. Another 8km on off road, then it was a delightful, to see tarmac again (despite my previous dislike). Happy to be moving at a much faster speed I powered down the hills, until the free hub on my bike snapped again. This meant my bike was out for the count, hoping in the truck with Alex was a good choice as the rain started to pound down just as we reached camp.
That night I went to sleep thinking that I really wanted a day off, and told myself if it was raining in the morning I would take the dinner truck to camp. The am brought sunny skies and my bike was fixed, and ready to ride. I was happy to have made the decision to ride, but knew that I was going to be thrilled to reach the finish line in 3 days, where my Dad and Carol awaited!
Day 119 was like no other on the tour, pelting down rain, hail, and busy roads meant that I really did not want to bike. I did not sleep much the night before, debating my decision, so also woke up really tired and freezing in the rain. I thought up so many different excuses for not riding, but in the end I just did not want to, I was tired. Thus, along with another rider who took the day off, we put up the marking tape so those amazing riders that decided to give it a go in the weather conditions would not get lost. It was extremely impressive how many riders finished the day, as even in the car it was a scary 120km ride into our last camp for the TDA2014.
Waking up early on Day 120 was not a surprise for me, as whenever I am really excited about something I have a hard time sleeping. We had 60km to get to lunch that was on a beach with Table Mountain in the background. Despite being up super early, I was late leaving camp and had to boot it to get to lunch in 3 hours. After four flats I finally made it! Next up was some photos on the cold, windy, rainy beach then our 20km convoy into Cape Town. It was hard to know how I would feel reaching the “finish line”. But I was extremely happy to see my dad and Carol and very proud of what I had accomplished over the passed four month. I now just need some time to reflect on the experience and truly understand what it meant for me to bike across the amazing, marvelous continent of Africa.
Zambiez Zone April 23 2014
Entering into Zambia was delightful! There are miles of lush green grasslands leaving you curious as to what kind of wild animal might pop out. I think this was just my phobia of snakes as there were never any animals that took us by surprise. We cruised passed tons of agricultural fields with GMO signs advertising the huge crop yields.
There were many rolling hills in Zambia so lots of climbing for Justin. Not only did we have long riding days, there were also lots of hills for us to mull over. We also had the longest km day on my birthday, 181km and over 2000 meters of climbing. I will remember the day I celebrated my 30th birthday for a long time. Each grueling km! The night of my birthday we stayed at a lodge along the river and had apple pie for dessert! My amazing friends also sent Justin over with lots of birthday goodies from Bangkok!
Although I planned to ride and meet Justin in Victoria Falls, I decided once we reached Lusaka to take the bus with him. As a rider you are aware of the big buses that fly passed you, but often to not consider that they are filled with people watching you cycle. It was great to be on the opposite side of the tracks, as on the bus we passed all of the TDA cyclists on their ride out of Lusaka. It was then that it really hit me that we are biking down an entire continent that most people bus through.
We found an amazing lodge in Livingstone owned by a retired Canadian couple. It was so nice to sleep in a bed and stay in bed passed 7am in for three days in a row. Justin and I went to visit Victoria Falls and got soaked by the mist. I also took at ride in a micro plane over the Falls in order to get a better view! It was truly spectacular.
Zambia seemed like a quick country to ride through with only 8 days on the bike, and only 5 for me. Off to the Elephant Highway in Botswana we head!
Malawi Gin- Mbeya to Lilongwe April 23 2014
Throughout our journey border towns are always interesting experiences. There are herds of men trying to persuade you to exchange currencies, people selling drinks and food, and of course tons of buses traveling between countries. As a cyclist you can get confused in the process. Which buildings you need to go in to get an exit stamp and then where you need to go in order to get a visa. In Malawi the confusion was no different; men, women, children and foreigners in bike shorts and helmets entered into Malawi immigration. Some people had no shoes or shirts and were dancing in immigration to the great music that was playing! Welcome to the Malawi Gin section of the TDA.
Our first stop was at Chitmba beach on Lake Malawi! The beauty of this lake was incredible, surrounded by lush green hills and fishing villages. The campsite we stayed at was right on the beach. It felt so nice to have my feet in beach sand and go for a quick dip in the lake.
Some of the great sights we saw in this section were many local cyclists. They carried lots of produce on the back rack of their bikes. Whether it was livestock: goats, chickens, a pig, or local produce: tomatoes, lettuce, squash or maize bikes were loaded and often too heavy to ride. Local riders would whizzed passed us in full sprint on their single speed Phoenix bikes! At times, the riders would also draft off us in order to get more speed.
One of the other sights I witnessed along the roads in Malawi was a lot of agricultural fields. Many families are earning a living selling their produce at local markets. There is also a large timber industry and lots of deforestation occurring. Many men are seen in the distance cutting down trees and women are moving the extremely huge logs on their heads, from where they have been cut into piles that are then loaded onto trucks.
I also saw signs for international development agencies helping different towns and villages in Malawi. One of the projects seen frequently was promoting the end of human defecation in villages. Signs were created to identify villages that were “Open Defecation Free Area”. Not sure what the opposite of this sign would read? We found there was a cultural of shaming people who use the bush for a toilet. Children and adults made lot of noise when they saw foreigners or anyone else headed to squat in the woods. Clearly this made some of our camping areas a bit challenging when one needed to pee and there were no toilets to be seen, just a lot of children in view!
I also saw lots of friendly, curious children in Malawi. They would often say hello, but the translation in Chichewa sounds very similar to Money, which is still a soft spot for TDA riders, after the experiences in Ethiopia. Many times as we were parked on the side of the road trying to change tires or have a rest, children came in herds towards us shouting Munzgo! As in many other countries, on the tour, children love to come stand by the campsite and watch what the riders are up to. One morning outside of Lilongwe the children were up waiting around our tents at 5:30am.
Personally this section was a noteworthy experience of excitement to meet my boyfriend Justin in Lilongwe, but it also meant I was going to lose my riding partner Mateo. I had arranged with one of the restaurants in Lilongwe to have a table ready for about 25 people in order to have a farewell party for Mateo. However, there were over 39 riders who showed up and the manger, a 60+-year-old British man, was run off his feet! The food and company was terrific!
Leaving Lilongwe with Justin riding with me was amazing! Being born in Lilongwe meant that it was extra special for him. Even though our first day on the bike he had 5 flats and we crossed into the Zambia. This was the start of the Zambiez Zone of the tour! Another country under our belts also means we are quickly encroaching onto the last few sections of the tour. I cannot believe how fast time has flown by.
Massi Steppe- Nairobi to Mbeya April 09 2014
After I left my sister, Bella and Kaaya outside Arusha, the rain continued for two days as we headed into the off road section of the Massi Steppe. Despite the very quick downpour, it was a beautiful two days biking out of Arusha headed to the dirt road, which lead us to Mbeya. These 7 days were the longest section of our tour without a rest day, and were forecasted to be rainy, wet and very muddy! I was ready for it with my mountain bike tires and love of off road!
To my surprise, once we hit dirt my speed increased from 25km per hour to 30km. Clearly my motivation had picked up. Our first night in an off road camp was great; the campsite had bucket showers for us to wash off the days sweat and dirt. Over the next five days we had a little bit of rain in the night, but nothing significant until the last two days.
For me, the biggest event of this section was at a school camp where I decided to pitch my tent by a big tree. A few of the other riders, Steve, Kim and Mateo followed suit. As darkness set, we looked at the rings and three moons of Saturn on a rider’s telescope. Getting ready for bed, I brushed my teeth under the tree; quickly I realized that there were ants, big red ants, crawling all over my feet and legs. Looking down it was obvious I was brushing my teeth on an ant’s nest. Running away screaming for help, I found Steve who just laughed at me and did not think my yelling was really quite necessary. Ok, perhaps, yes, I was over reacting but I had never had anything like this happen to be before! Dragging Mateo with me, I walked back over to where the ants were and showed him that in fact that ground was moving, there were millions if not trillions of huge ants under the tree I pitched my tent. Mateo, also did not seem too concerned, and went into his tent for the night, mocking me. Within a few seconds he started to say there were ants trying to invade his tent; since he is really quite a jokester, I did not believe him. This was until I looked outside my tent and there were hundreds of ants crawling on my ground sheet and up the seams of my tent. Quickly we decided to evacuate that area, leaving Steve and Kim behind to fend for themselves. Yelling, laughing and dragging our tents away from the ant’s nest we went. Although we were safe from the ant nest, we were not able to escape the village disco that was pumping music as loud as it could! Oh camping, I really do not think I will camp much more in my life!
The day before we reached Mbeya many riders got caught in a huge storm that transformed our school campsite into a pool of mud. Riders who reached camp before the storm were able to set up their tents on semi dry ground, but as the rain heaved down, trenches were built around tents in order to prevent a flood inside their tents. The next day we knew there was going to be a lot of mud for us to bike through, so I was excited, but we also knew there was a huge climb into Mbeya, through an area called the “Worlds End” and that there was a good chance it was off road.
Having the mental challenge of ant attack under my belt, I knew I was ready for unknown road ahead. Around 40km we hit pavement and by about 60 we hit road construction. Views from the “World’s End” were like nothing I have ever witnessed before! Low lying clouds looked as though they were touching the road ahead. From the high elevation we could see far off into the distance, and it really did feel like a scene from The Lord of the Rings. It also became very stormy and rain came down on us like nails. The pelts hurt my skin and eventually I became very cold. Continuing to climb into the abbess, it became colder as the rain continued. Eventually we reached the top of the climb and needed to head downhill on this horrible, pot whole filled road, with humongous rain filled potholes. I could not feel my feet, or my hands, and was worried about the state of my break pads. Mateo, being the smarter of the two of us, decided to put his bike in a dump truck and meet me at the bottom of the hill. Clearly I made it down the hill; arriving to Mbeya, drenched, frozen and feeling exhilarated that we had competed another section of the TDA 2014.
Mateo and I after biking up and over the "Worlds End"
This section of our tour seemed to whizz passed us in comparison to a month in Ethiopia. We crossed the border from Moyale, Ethiopia into Moyale, Kenya. In this area there is often disputes between the two places as they fight over the border limits. Several times on past TDA expeditions riders have not been able to ride in this area due to the conflict. By scouting ahead of the riders, our tour director was given the all clear from local authorities that we were safe to cycle. Upon arriving in Kenya we also picked up three security guards due to nomads who are on the look out for tourists and their possessions. We had absolutely no problems crossing through Northern Kenya; accept for the horrendous road conditions!
The name of this section of the tour is called Meltdown Madness. After the roads in Ethiopia, I was not sure how the bumps could get any worse, but I was quickly proven wrong as we started to cross through the Dida Galgalu lava rock desert. Huge rocks were scattered all over the dirt path. We also encountered a far bit of road construction; within the not so distance future this section of the tour might need to find a new name! I cannot imagine several years ago when all of the kilometers would have been on the bumpy old dirt trails through northern Kenya.
Masai herders and their families inhabited most of this area. Lots of beautifully beaded men, women and children were seen along the road. Arriving in a town called Marsabit (said to resemble Mars) there were also lots of Somali tribes at the local market.
As we headed further south and the desert began to disappear our campsites began to greatly improve. Leaving behind lots of sand in dirt we were able to shower in lodges that were equipped to handle over land tourists. Trust me, it is a real novelty to have a cold bottle of water or juice after a long day on the bike, a cold shower was really something. Until this point of the tour showering was really only available on rest days. Due to the vast amount of tourism in Kenya, there are a lot more facilities available- I might even call them luxurious in comparison to the bush camps we slept at throughout Ethiopia.
We convoyed into Nairobi, which was also quick interesting. The traffic in this city is crazy, so I took my chances and volunteered to help patrol traffic, which means stopping cars that try to cut off our 35-person bike convoy. A bit of a dangerous position at times, but helped to keep me occupied. Sitting in traffic is never fun, but in stopping traffic I am able to talk and wave to locals. It was great to spend some time in Nairobi visiting with friends and going on a tour of Kibera, a slum with over 1 million people.
Two days out of Kenya we crossed the border into Tanzania and travelled into Arusha where I met my sister and was able to visit Peace Matunda! The children at the orphanage and school have grown since I was there in 2011, but they are still as precious as ever. It was great to meet with Kaaya and Jackie in order to discuss future plans for December 2014 when the children will attend Secondary School. We determined that it would cost about 1100USD the first year and about 700USD for the next three years of the children’s secondary school. Thus, the goal of 12,000USD that I want to raise while on the tour will help four children attend secondary school. In Tanzania the Standard 7 students write standardized exams and then need to apply to three high schools.. The government determines where the children are sent to secondary school, and offers scholarships to students who achieve high results. There is the potential for some of the Peace Matunda children to receive scholarships. The student who I am currently working on sponsoring is Jennifer Charles. Jennifer lives in a small house with her grandparents and her younger brother, Ibrahim. Jennifer’s parents abandoned the children shortly after Ibrahim was born. The NIST community has supported Jennifer’s family since our visit in 2011 so I am very happy that we will be able to continue to support Jennifer into the next stage of her life. While chatting with Kaaya and Jackie, it became very clear that there are a lot of students at Peace Matunda who have a similar situation to Jennifer. In trying to raise 12,000USD I hope to send four students to secondary school for four years.
Biking out of Arusha was really special for me. Kaaya the founder of Peace Matunda, decided to join me along with his cousin and my dear friend Bella Six. Also along for the ride was my amazing sister, Kayleigh. It was wonderful to bike along side these three very special people! Kayleigh and Kaaya were able to bike 35km outside Arusha before taking a bus back to Peace Matunda. Bella Six continued with me to lunch at 65km, when in started to torrential down pour, he decided to also head back home!
After Arusha we headed off road through Tanzania. I will write a separate blog post for out amazing mountain biking; 7 day off road days into Mbeya, Tanzania.
A day in the life of a TDA rider March 09 2014
We have been on the Tour D’Afrique for a almost two months and I am very much adjusted to life as a cycle tourist. In fact, many of the strange nuances of being a rider now seem very normal and I wanted to share some of my daily activities.
5:45am- Wake up to the sound of tents being folded down, and people headed off to either our brown unisex “toilet tent” or the closest bush that is 100meteres away from the tent area. The tour has supplied lots of shovels for digging holes and many riders have also brought their own! I had read lots about the details people shared regarding their bowel movements and never really expected to listen to as many conversations on this topic.
6:00am- The official wake up, a car honk, by one of the TDA staff. Meanwhile our amazing cook as has started breakfast, consisting of either oatmeal or granola accompanied by bread or chapattis and a variety of spreads: nutella, peanut butter, jam, honey, corn syrup, and butter. Of course several bananas are cut up and put into our breakfast to help with muscle recovery! Also at this time many riders are enjoying their morning tea and coffee awake up. Personally, in the darkness of my tent, with only the light of my dying head torch battery, I am trying to find all of the requirements for my ride: bike shorts, a shirt, leg and arm sun protectors, sunglasses, shoes, socks, helmet, GPS, GO Pro, iphone, ear plugs, camo back, butt cream, first aid kit and my race chip, thank goodness I am a morning person otherwise I really would struggle to get ready on time!
6:30am- By now I have packed up my tent and sleeping gear, taken my malaria and am off to start my morning work out-shoving all my stuff into a small locker made out of wood. As I lug all my stuff over to the truck, I am secretly hoping that the riders around my locker have already packed up their belongings; it is quite cramped in the truck as everyone gets ready in the morning. Breakfast is devoured as soon as my locker has been jammed shut.
7:00am- Official departure time. Many riders have clocked out with their timing chip and started peddling! The first person to leave is often Erwin, a middle aged German man. The rest of the riders trickle out to begin their ride. This is also the time when you question your clothing choice for the day. Weather on the tour is varying. Sometimes I wake up just about froze and know that I will need extra layers for the morning, other times, it is hot at 7:00am and I know putting on copious amounts of sunscreen in the darkness might turn out to be a sun burn disaster. Since I have signed up for the race component of the tour, I need to remember to clock out when I leave in the morning. I often remember that I did not lock out five kilometers down the road! As part of the race, we have “Mando days” which means that all riders who want to race need to start at 7:15. On these days, time bonuses are given out: 30 minutes for 1st place, 20 minutes for 2end and 10 minutes for 3rd place. These bonuses are given to both men and women and the bonus is taken off their daily time. Although I enjoy taking part in the race, my biggest competitor is myself, as I can be my own worst enemy.
7:30am to 10:30am- Between this time my riding buddy Mato and I have passed amazing scenery, whether it is mountain vistas, sand dunes, unpaved lava rocks, desert terrain or ordinary tarmac many laughs have been shared. Although Mato, and I are on the same bike trip we often see things that each other completely misses. As a result, we often ask each other if we are on the same tour! Depending on how long the ride is, our favor snack of a PBM bar will be demolished in order to have more power to get over the hunger until lunch. I will often go through at least three liters of water in my camo back and sometimes need my water bottle in order to reach lunch well hydrated.
10:30am to 12:30pm- Although this time depends entirely on how long the ride is, we will hit the lunch truck, aka Steven’s Diner. Steven is our very friendly Tanzanian lunch cook. He always has a variety of options for us to eat. Fruits like: watermelon, banana, pineapple, apple, mango, papaya, whatever the local farmers have harvested. Tuna, avocado, egg, ham, cheese and spam are often the items we have to make sandwiches. Also on offer is any left overs from the previous nights dinner. Although there are not many rules on the TDA, one of the main rules about the lunch truck is you MUST wash your hands before going anywhere near the food and need to be considerate that you do not each too much in order to leave some for other riders who are behind. Our tour director has told us horror stories of previous years when the last riders, whom have been the longest since breakfast, would arrive at the lunch with barely even a rotten banana to get them through until they reached camp. Before taking off for the last half of the ride, I will re-fill my camo back and water bottle- the last experience I want is to run out of water when there are no shops along the way.
12:30pm to 5:00pm- Again, depending on the length of the days ride my arrival to camp will vary. However, once I reach the campsite for the night, my first rule of business is to get out of my bike shorts. I despise wearing them any longer than absolutely possible. I will then unpack my locker and with the help of Mato, put up my tent. Using the ever so handy baby wipes, I will attempt to get some of the rides dirt off my face and legs, but honestly the dirt really does not come off until I shower in anywhere from one to five days later. After locking up my bike and getting my tent organized, so there is a place for my to sleep, I will have some of the wonderful soup that our cook has made and re-hydrate for the next day’s ride. Many conversations can be heard about the days events: what riders saw and experienced, their health and digestive issues, order of arrival to camp, road conditions, average speed, problems with their bikes ect, ect. When I have heard enough of the day’s analysis, which for me does not take long, I retreat to the shade if any can be found. Facilities at our camps are often very sparse; mostly we are sleeping in the middle of nowhere in a field. Our camping sites have ranged from abandon amusement parks, mountain peaks, cow field, convents, deserts, forests, schools, to actual camp sites with showers and toilets. Depending on where we camp, riders could go to a town and hunt for cold drinks and snacks. One time we found freshly made donuts and ordered 40 to bring back to the hungrycyclists. At times, some of the locals will know we have arrived to their territory and bring us hot to lukewarm drinks. In Ethiopia a barrier of string was put up around our campsite in order to prevent the ever so curious children and adults from entering our tents and to create some sort of boundary. This did mean that at times there was any where from fifty to two hundred people standing around the campsite watching our every movement. When we were told this would happened, I really thought it was a joke, boy was I wrong.
5:30 to 6:00- The daily sound of “Rider meeting” is summoned. But in reality this means people walk away to get their dishes for dinner and finish a few last minute things before sitting down to the instructions for the next days ride. Our tour director explains the turns and terrain challenges along with any points of interest, this includes coke stops and perhaps the one tree between the start and finish of the ride. Depending on where we are, the instructions will vary. When crossing Sudan we were given directions like, turn left at the jerry can, or right at the abandoned tire. In Ethiopia it was more direct- 50km there will be a village, with coke and children who are known to be vicious, so ride through with precaution. In most cases, we are riding on the same road for each section between rest days. As soon as the instructions are given, and the noises of peoples hunger have prevented questions dinner is served. Since I am eating vegetarian there is great local produce available for me to consume. We have had incredible pasta, beans, BBQ squash and a variety of different salads. As I wash my plates from dinner, the sun begins to set over the horizon and I am amazing a the colors the sky can create.
7:00pm- Is normally when I retire to my tent to write some notes in my journal and read a few pages of a book. Earplugs are inserted as I fall asleep to the sounds of donkey’s, dogs, chatter from the riders, and indefinable insects. I truly am loving my life as a TDA rider and am excited for the what the next few months will bring!
Ethiopia Update- Part two! March 03 2014
The “Biblical Ethiopia” section of the tour finished on the 27th of February. We have now begun the section called “Meltdown Madness.” The name was given due to the hard core off road this section has; biking through the Dida Galu Desert and the lava rocks that are remnants from a volcanic explosion several years ago. We will reach Nairobi on the 8th of March.
Reflections on “Biblical Ethiopia”
Due to the 81 million people that live in Ethiopia, I am sure the sounds are different then many other countries in the world. There are hundreds of people standing on the side of the road as we biked through their villages. People are generally excited to see cyclist’s whiz pass and often several locals, young and old, are yelling phrases. Some of the most popular are “Where you go?”, “You, You, You”, “Welcome to Ethiopia” then there are those phrases that really have wore on the riders, “Give me money”, “Give me pen”, “Give me bike”, Give me banana”. The constant shouts and screams heard along the way have been very exhausting for many TDA riders. There are different reactions; some riders have ridden with sticks for protection and intimidation, feeling that is their best defense against both the stones and yelling locals; others chose to totally ignore, not responding.
Personally, I have tried to respond with Salemo, (Hello) to anyone, young or small who is calling to get my attention. Although it does become exhausting I have been able to avoid any serious threats or stones hailed my way. I have been lucky to ride with a buddy: Mato, a fifty-year-old man from San Francisco. We have had each other’s backs throughout the passed thirty days riding through Ethiopia. Many laughs and stories have been shared.
Besides the chatter of people we have heard lots of birdcalls, as Ethiopia is home to several species of birds. Often we wake up and fall asleep to the chirpings of nature’s creatures: small sparrows, big vultures, and hornbills. Often we will hear barking dogs or donkeys in the distance!
Since we have spent almost a month in Ethiopia we have witnessed so many different landscapes and scenery. Starting off in Gondar, and traversing the Simien Mountains was mesmerizing. We probably have climbed well over 30,000 meters, both on and off road, and as a result have had incredible views.
Descending after a long climb is very rewarding, and is truly a mountain bikers dream come true. As I pealed down the mountain, I have been totally enthralled by the mountains and the potholes I need to avoid!
After leaving the Simien Mountain range, we descended into the Blue Nile Gorge and quickly proceeded to climb 20km out again. This day had a lot of build up on the tour, as it was both a time trial and one of the main highlights of the “Biblical Ethiopia” section.
As we ventured further south, the landscape changed again to lush green hills filled with local produce: wheat, mangos, banana’s, avocados and sugar cane. As we left the country, our landscape turned into red soil and termite hills, showing signs of entering the northern desert of Kenya.
We have also been very luckily to bike into some of the most historic towns of Ethiopia: Gondar, Axum, Yabello, and Debre Birhan. The ancient importance of these towns has been very interesting for a history buff like me!
Besides the sounds of the children of Ethiopia, the sight of many kids hurdled together was often quite intimidating. I really never knew exactly how they would respond to me. Some of the spectacles witnessed were children doing the Ethiopian shoulder dance in the middle of the road, waving and smiling, running along side your bike, picking up rocks, or just starting in your direction. As I passed the children I found myself turning around to wave Ciao and seen if there were any rocks headed in my direction. Sometimes there were, often times the kids headed in the direction of the next cyclist.
In the rural environment, young children often were dressed in rags and many small boys were naked from the waste down. The reality is that many of these children do not attend school. They are helping out the family by herding the livestock or carrying loads of sugar cane or firewood on their backs and heads. Passing by small children who were carrying water from the community well to their homes was a common occurrence. I often would see people walking from what looked like nowhere towards a vista that also looked like nowhere. As much as there were a lot of people in the villages we passed there was still a lot of open landscapes where no houses were in sight, but many people still roamed.
The tastes of Ethiopian food have been both remarkable and revolting. Fresh-layered juice is certainly a treat. Avocado, mango, papaya, and pineapple topped with a squeeze of lime have been a huge highlight. But it was important to watch out for any water born bacteria that might linger in your juice! How you identify these bugs is by how your tummy feels the next day! Either you won or the bugs did!
The local ingera, in small qualities, with chick pea bean curd or different types of meats had been enjoyed and thrown up by many riders. Clearly, Ethiopia has some bacteria that our tummies are not use to, thus over the course of the passed few weeks, almost every person on the tour has had an upset stomach.
It is amazing how much my butt has been able to withstand long hours on the bike. Each day we were riding between 4 and 8 hours, often only getting off the seat to eat lunch and run to the washroom in the bush! Although there were days when I was tried, I have truly enjoyed each day on my bike and love that I have the opportunity to have visited Ethiopia on two wheels.
Biblical Ethiopia February 09 2014
Since our arrival in Ethiopia, on the 31 of January, it feels as though we have peddled over all the mountains this country has to offer! We crossed the border from Sudan into Mettema, Ethiopia and have been climbing the Simien Mountains, mostly off road, ever since! The views, although endless, are truly breathtaking.
There are around 91 million people in Ethiopia, so the villages we have biked through are packed with people. Often the locals are not watching closely for a stream of bikers to wiz through their ever-so quite village, so are not paying attention to where they are walking, thus riding with extreme precaution is very important.
The young children of Ethiopia, although very cute and generally smiling and welcoming, do love to throw rocks. It seems it is part of Ethiopian culture to partake in the activity. When the adults scold the children for throwing rocks, the punishment given is identical- rocks are pitched in the direction of the youngsters. Each rider has their own philosophy on how to deal with the children: ignore, yell, wave, talk, or cheer as they peddle passed.
Personally I have the approach to talk, wave and cheer at the children as I am approaching. I do my best to say Hello in Amheric, and have had some delightful conversations with children as they attempt to run along beside my bike. However, it is intimidating to approach a group of small, seemingly innocent kids, and have no idea how they are going to react. I have taken the tours advice and tried my best to ride with a buddy, which often does help, not protect you from the children, but be an extra target in the village!
We have been luckily to visit some of the most historical areas of Ethiopia: Gondar, Axum, and Lailbela. The Coptic Christian influence is amazing, and history behind the churches is really quite impressive. From the Debre Birhan Selassie to the rock cut churches I feel really luckily to be able to ride into these historical cities.
We have over 15 days left in Ethiopia, and I am excited for what is to come!
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