Welcome to the Vet on a Bike website. My name is Ian Wright and I’m an English veterinary surgeon. Over the next few months, I will undertaking what I hope will be an epic adventure: joining the Tour d’Afrique expedition cycling across Africa from the Sudan to UK to South Africa, raising funds for the Born Free Foundation, stopping in to see some of their and other animal-related charities projects along the way and fulfilling a life-long dream to travel overland through Africa.
As I go, I’ll be keeping this website updated with tweets, blog posts, maps and photos. If you’d like regular updates, you can subscribe by email, Facebook or Twitter using the buttons on the left.
The entire expedition will be completely self-financed, with every penny raised going directly to the Born Free Foundation – please do consider donating using the JustGiving box.
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My last update was from Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Leaving there 10 days ago, we rode west and crossed the border into Zambia at the end of the first day. Most of us made the border crossing without incident with the exception of Chris Dick who discovered that, whilst the rest of us had been given 30 day Malawi visas, he only had a 7 day transit pass. The only remedy for the problem was either to return to Lilongwe, where the expired visa could be extended and a receipt issued, or to offload all the money he had to the border officials to persuade them to let him pass. Needless to say, an official receipt was not forthcoming.
The next few days between Chipata and Lusaka were all long, averaging 150km, and not the most interesting of the Tour to date. The main problem was that the grass verges grew to several metres high, so it was like riding through a gorge with nothing to see on either side. Sally-Ann’s coining of the term MAMBA (miles and miles of bloody Africa) in Tanzania was certainly apt here. The weather was also extremely hot, and very humid. Added to all this, I managed to acquire another bout of gastroenteritis which put an end to my EFI streak which had been good since Marsabit. Despite this, there were some very nice campsites – Mama Rulas outside Chipata and Luangwa Bridge Camp – a beautiful spot overlooking a bend in the Luangwa River, shame about the racist owners! While there, we met a British couple her were driving from Cape Town to Cairo in there Land Rover converted by Nene Overland in Castor. Small world!
View from Luangwa Bridge Camp
I spent most of the rest day in Lusaka feeling unwell, so made up for it by hitting the shopping malls, eating my own body weight in takeaway junk food and spending the afternoon at the cinema – almost a normal day.
From Lusaka, I took the truck for a couple more days to give myself sufficient rest. No regrets – again, the distances were long and the scenery not the most exciting. Unfortunately, several bikes were stolen from one of the campsites – enquires are still proceeding and there are hopeful signs that they may be recovered.
The last day into Livingstone was a new experiment for the Tour – the Phoenix Stage. All through Africa, we’ve seen locals riding bikes, especially in Tanzania and Malawi. These are cheap, heavily-built Chinese or Indian bikes capable of carrying huge loads. When the Tour Foundation donates bikes (they donate one bike on behalf of each rider), the model of choice is normally the Phoenix, so it was suggested that riders could buy a local bike, ride it for a stage and then donate it at the end to increase the number of donated bikes. Also, it gave us a very good chance to ride a mile (50km actually) in the local’s shoes. Alex and I shared a bike between us, and by the end appreciated our bikes so much more. Our model was an Atlas rather than a Phoenix, it sported solid metal pivoted bars rather than brake cables, a single gear, a broken freehub so it was essentially a fixie, and a frame even heavier than my Nomad. That said, the bikes are easy to service, parts are available anywhere and they allow people to be so much more mobile than they would be on foot.
We’re now coming to the end of our rest days in Livingstone and I’m looking forward to the last stretch. I’ve had a great few days with Mum and Dad who flew up here on their way to a friend’s wedding in Mauritius – we’ve seen the Falls with more water flowing over them than any of us had seen before, located a hotel where Mum stayed when last here in 1965 and even fitted in a quick bungee jump (just me – Mum and Dad did the bridge slide).
Victoria Falls nearly obscured by spray
Next update will hopefully be from Maun, where I’ll be visiting a local veterinary charity. Hopefully, I’ll still be busy on Twitter in the meantime, so it would be great to hear from you if you’d like to get in touch. Lastly, please consider supporting Born Free if you’ve enjoyed keeping up to date with my travels.