Monday, February 12, 2007

We made it...

It's over. We've managed to cycle 400km from Mount Kenya to Lake Victoria - including a trip down and a steep climb out of the Rift Valley - in just six days. Everyone is really happy to have finished and even happier to see the back of the oldest bikes in Africa which somehow held together (mostly) through our trip. Thursday, the final day, was still tough even though it was only 60kms. In typical fashion, our guide Claude, said that we'd experience a few hills but by now we have learned to times whatever he says by at least ten. But despite some steep descents and even steeper climbs - we managed to make it to Lake Victoria largely unscafed apart from a few punctures, one wasp sting and a few near misses with suicidal taxi drivers who seem to enjoy buzzing European cyclists!

Yesterday, Wednesday was a tough 100kms with the worst reserved for the afternoon. The downside of a lovely off-road ride through a forest reserve - with monkeys and other wildlife -- was steep 15km descent over rocks and boulders which shook our antique bikes and tired arms and legs to the core. We were not happy with Claude who, as usual, forgot to mention how evil this part would be.

But its all over now and we can look forward to some R&R before a celebration meal tonight. Tomorrow morning, while the rest of the team take a 7 hour minibus ride back to Nairobi, I am flying back early so I can check out some more Computer Aid projects in the afternoon including a trip to see how a flash memory stick can be used as an aid for the blind.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Day Four: I'm starting to struggle a little bit. I spent some time with the doctor last night and this morning - one of my knees is apparently intent on slowing me down.

We began today at sunrise in a place called Kabarnet, once more up in mountains and above the clouds, looking down on the Rift Valley. We're now about 200km into the 400km in total we'll do on this cycle ride.

As we cycle through very small villages and past tiny settlements one of things we keep noticing - and one of the things that keeps us going through this - is the sight of kids walking literally miles and miles to school and the value they obviously put on education.

To be here in the country taking part in a project that is going to provide learning aids to schools, not just in urban areas but also in rural areas with a guarantee of supplied electricity and service and maintenance of the equipment we're providing, is a fantastic feeling and a great motivator.

This afternoon we're looking at a cycle onto a town called Eldoret. That will leave us with just two more days to go.

Hopefully with a few pills from the doctor's magic bag and a little bit of rest this evening I should be OK to press on.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Day Three: We started off bright and early with our first stop at a local school where we saw a computer suite, similar to the ones we will provide through the money we are raising.

There were about 30 children and around 20 computers so all the kids were able to get hands-on use of the computers.

We left the school for our next day of cycling, which was fortunately largely downhill and for 60km across the Rift Valley. The air was starting to be a little less thin and breathing became a little bit easier for all of us.

We're now in a town called Nakuru, where we're going to have some lunch and then transfer by mini-bus to where we're staying overnight, ahead of what's reported to be the most gruelling day of cycling with around 100km to do, including a 26km hill, rated as steeper than any hill we did on the second day, which would take some beating.

We've also just seen our pictures in the Kenya Times, one of the country's leading dailies. There is a lot of interest in this project because of the ways it is benefiting local school and communities.

Day Two: This is our first real day of full-on cycling with 105km from Nyeri up to an altitude of around 2,500 metres and across the equator for the first time.

This was incredibly hard going and predominantly uphill all the way with steep, steep hills but there were distractions along the way - including some baboons and elephants.

This day involved around nine hours of cycling and we finally arrived at our overnight stop at Thomson's Falls at around half past six in the evening - just as the sun went down, which takes all of about two seconds to happen in Kenya.

Day One: We arrived very early on Saturday morning at Nairobi airport and went immediately to the city's Computers for Schools headquarters. Here we saw PCs being reconditioned before they're sent off to schools across Kenya.

We also attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the headquarters for a whole shipment of computers, which have been provided by the sponsors of this project and Computer Aid International, the charity we're supporting on this cycle.

We were then transferred in hot mini-buses for four hours up to an altitude of around 2,000 metres to the town of Nyeri, where we all started to feel the thinner air.

Once in Nyeri, we got fitted up for our bikes and went on a brief cycle to the grave of Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the scout movement, this gave us an opportunity to get accustomed to our bikes.

Baden-Powell's motto was 'be prepared' and I think a few of us were already starting to fear we weren't.

Day Zero: As many readers may already know, from articles published on over the past few months, I am off to Kenya in order to raise money for Computer Aid International and Computers for Schools Kenya and to cover the work these charities are doing to recycle second-hand PCs.

In fact as I write this I've just finished packing for a night flight to Nairobi this evening. While in Kenya I will visit a number of schools to see first hand the work the two charities are doing to bridge the digital divide - a hugely important objective.

While in Kenya I will also be cycling 400km across the country to raise more funds, joined by two colleagues from CNET Networks UK and ZDNet UK.

At the moment it looks as if we're going to encounter some fairly unpleasant weather conditions and the route looks incredibly tough (a 26km climb to the top of the Elgeyo escarpment on Day 5 should be a particular highlight - and sod's law says the rain will have been replaced by fierce sunshine just for that section.)

But it's for a fantastic cause and will surely be an incredible experience. And thanks to the people at we are even able to ensure our return flights to Kenya have a zero effect on the environment (which is a topical concern some people had rightly raised about this trip). MyCarbonDebt will be offsetting the 4.5 tonnes of CO2 generated by our flights through tree-planting projects in Africa.

I would encourage any company to look at the work MyCarbonDebt does to see if it can help tackle your business' carbon footprint - its website even has carbon calculators.

On this page over the coming week I'm hoping to be able to publish updates to my journey and keep people posted with how we're getting on. We also have a blog set up where we hope to be posting.

We're not sure what connectivity will be like but we're road-testing a ruggedised laptop and data card combo - so watch this space. (We also have mobile phones and the promise of good coverage across much of Kenya - so we should be able to maintain radio contact.)

(Arriving in Nairobi should also enable me to become the first person to post a report on that airport for - a website for the business traveller from the good people who brought you

But before setting off it is also very important I thank a number of people. The guys at Ricoh have been fantastic in sponsoring us very generously and showing a strong commitment towards our project and to the wider need for large companies in the tech space to do what they can to give something back to the community.

We must also thank our employers at CNET Networks UK for covering the costs of this project and thereby ensuring all money raised goes to charity.

Thank you also to our sponsors from TallyGenicom. Robin Edwardes, senior VP worldwide marketing, wrote to tell me, just this morning: "TallyGenicom is proud to be involved in such a worthy cause and wishes the team all the best in reaching their goals. Like Computer Aid, TallyGenicom is committed to help build sustainable communities, both at home and abroad, as has been shown through our successful and rewarding programmes with education establishments."

It's great to see the industry uniting behind a cause it should rightly be passionate about.

All our personal sponsors have also been hugely generous - so a big thank you to everybody who has donated so far.

And we're still collecting, so if you are able to spare anything it will be hugely appreciated. Please visit our website and pledge what you can.

After we return we will also be reporting extensively on the work of the two charities.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Another sponsor on board...

We're just hours away from departing now but we're delighted to see sponsorship still pouring in.

TallyGenicom is the latest company to sponsor us with a promised £1,000 donation.

Robin Edwardes, Senior VP Worldwide Marketing, TallyGenicom, said: "TallyGenicom is proud to be involved in such a worthy cause and wishes the team all the best in reaching their goals. Like Computer Aid, TallyGenicom is committed to help build sustainable communities, both at home and abroad, as has been shown through our successful and rewarding programmes with education establishments."

So thanks to TallyGenicom.

Thanks also to PR companies Johnson King, Axicom, Carrot Communications and Noiseworks who have also stumped up at least £200 each. Thank you to all of you - we'll see you for drinks on the 28th.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Making sure we're eco-friendly

Thanks to the people at who are helping us to ensure only good things come out of our trip to Kenya. They will be offsetting the carbon emissions from our flights to and from Kenya - a staggering 4.5 tonnes of CO2.

They will do this through the planting of trees in Tanzania, a perfect way to offsett carbon but also to benefit local communities.

Blessing or curse...?

'Well at least we're not going to bake!' says the optimist in me.

At the moment it looks like the rainy season has started early in Kenya. And the five day forecast around the highland areas where we begin our cycle looks like rain, rain and more rain, washed down with some tropical storms.

Meanwhile towards the end of our trip it looks like they're having some pretty stunning storms right now (left) - so we could see some really impressive conditions on our trek.

On one hand this sounds like a real blow - after all, cycling 60 miles, often uphill is going to be tough as it is without mud, on the off-road sections, and driving rain. However, at least it may keep the dehydration at bay.

I must admit I hadn't envisaged I'd be packing so much waterproof clothing, and doubling up on my packing so there's dry clothing for every day - and I think the sun block and factor 25 might be overkill - but the interpid (idiotic?) side of me is already thinking that this will make it even more of an adventure and even more rewarding.

This morning we started taking our anti-malaria pills. So far no ill-effects, so we're all set to go.

Of course this can all change in a second and we still have to go entirely prepared for all conditions... but for some reason I find myself singing Toto's classic hit "Africa".

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Seriously knackered!

Helen here: Well, nearly at the end of our training and I’m not convinced I’ll ever be ready for this challenge. I did a big push this weekend cycling about 60 miles across the South Downs on Saturday and over 30 miles to and around Richmond Park on Sunday. My thighs are still feeling it 2 days later! How I’m going to keep it up for 5 consecutive days I don’t know. Certainly don’t think I’ll be very sociable on the trip as all I can do when I’m not on a bike is sleep (and eat like a horse).

Just 3 days to go now until we fly out. I’m winding the training down (only cycling into work each day) and planning to rest after tomorrow. Also getting together all the necessary equipment: blister plasters, pain killers, diarrhoea tablets – they’re all on the list. Sounds like a great trip, doesn’t it?!

Like Will, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has sponsored me. Your support has been fantastic – I’m sure £13,000 will help get computers to a lot of Kenyan children.

And if you haven’t sponsored us yet, there’s still time to do so here - .

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sponsorship pouring in...

Will writes... Thanks to everybody who is sponsoring us still - it's much appreciated and we're getting closer to our target. (You can donate or keep up with our fundraising efforts here.)

Thanks to the guys at MessageLabs who have now sponsored us, and to people digging deep in their own pockets, such as my mate Simon who weighed in with a very generous £200 which his employer, CA, is kindly going to match. Thanks also to the lovely MacLaverty family who've chipped in with £200. That takes us over the £13,000 - and we must stress that, thanks to the generosity of our bosses at CNET Networks UK who have covered all our costs, the vast majority of that money will be going directly to Computer Aid International.

Nearly there...

There's no getting away from it... we're but four days from heading to Kenya. With our training over, it's now time to rest up and get on with the less strenuous preparations such as packing, buying insect repellant and taking anti-malaria pills (which should be fun, side-effects permitting...)

So I find myself lying awake asking whether I've done enough training - it's too late now if I haven't. Four laps of Richmond Park was pretty easy on Saturday and I felt as though I could have kept going but for the descent of thousands of fun-runners and some kind of cross country championships.

For the first time in several weeks I also saw the famed deer in Richmond Park. But deer in a freezing cold and blustery Richmond Park is a far cry from what we can expect in a roasting hot Kenya next week. Though dodging dogs running across my path could prove useful practice.

I was delighted to hear from our team doctor this morning, filling me in on what we can expect next week... in the worst case scenario none of it sounds fun. He didn't have to tell me about the saddle sore though... after weeks and weeks of training I'm very familiar with that particular problem and will be enjoying my 'week off' this week if for no other reason than because my backside will not be anywhere near a bike saddle until Saturday morning.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Find us on ZDNet UK Blog too...

Exactly a week till we go now and time for some last minute training. I have mostly been hitting the gym this week as the weather has been miserable here and actually as the air-conditioning in the gym is pretty crap, it's almost hot enough to simulate conditions in Kenya (that is my excuse and I am sticking to it).

Interestingly we have been asked to pack rain-coats for the trip which is not what I was expecting but then again we will probably be grateful for some rain during one of our 90km slogs.

Will probably make it out for a long ride at the weekend - but four laps of Richmond Park last weekend means I am kind of fed-up of my usual training circuit so may head East this time -- maybe Hammersmith to Docklands or something like it.

Got to take my first anti-malaria tablet next week so get to see how it affects me - hopefully one of the side-effects will be massively increased stamina and instant Matrix-like bike mechanic skills but I'd settle for not throwing up!

I am going to be mirroring this blog on my other work blog on ZDNet UK which you can see here. We are going to be doing some video diaries and other articles and it's easier to integrate it all together using the ZD blog system.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Who'd have thought all this training would be tough?

I can honestly say I've never been so tired. The 6am, starts are beginning to take their toll. Walking across Tower Bridge this morning in the wind and rain, in order to get to the gym I felt the definite twinges of somebody's will power being sorely tested. But there's not long to go now and I think being well prepared will be well worth it once we're over in Kenya - though at the moment the idea of 30 degree heat seems a million miles away.

Currently I'm using these weekday mornings to get on the exercise bike and do an hour or so before work, I'm also doing a lot of leg weights... and then another hour at lunchtime. While getting out on my bike during the week isn't easy, replicating the stresses and strains we might be put through in the artificial environs of the gym isn't much easier. However, the legs are aching so I'm taking that as a sign that some of this training is sinking in.

As we get into the final few weeks now there are some logistics to take care of. I had all my jabs on Tuesday and am putting in for my visa next week. All that will be left to do then is some final training rides over the coming three weekends, more time in the gym and then a week of resting up ahead of the off. Sounds easy when I put it like that. (posted by Will)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Less than a month to go

Aching legs, vaccination-punctured arms, we're all feeling the strain and we haven't even started the challenge yet. However the training schedule is beginning to bite now with around three weeks to go, the realisation that we have to cycle about 90kms a day for six days is hitting home. We're trying to ride as much during the week as possible which mostly means to work and back as the short winter days preclude much else but the weekends are when we can really do some long rides to try and get our bodies ready for the shock of 400 km across African roads.
I (andrew) managed to do some biking over Xmas while visting my parents but the -10 degree conditions of rural France probably wasn't great conditioning for the +30 degrees we're likely to find in Kenya.

Similarly, a New Years spent in the Brecon Beacons seemed to offer the chance for some real hill climbing action but the impressive persistent rain – it didn't stop for four days straight – meant that one soggy 20 miler was all that I managed.

Pool comp nets £550

Big thanks to all CNET staff who took part in a recent pool competition and raffle. Congrats to the raffle winner Roshan Gonsalkorale who also looked set to win the pool comp too until he was knocked out by the eventual overall winner Timothy Buisson. Both winners received an iPod for their troubles.

The latest event brings us closer to being able to supply our own CNET shipping container of re-furbished PCs which will make a massive difference to the lives of the local children in Kenya.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Not long now

Only about two months to go before we set off to do our lunatic cycle challenge. Feeling a bit more real now as we start to think about visas and injections and maybe actually doing some training. Actually, the training seems to be going pretty well for most of us but not sure how much is going to be enough though. I do about 25 mile training route from my flat in Hammersmith to Kingston Upon Thames – including circuit of Richmond Park which takes me about 3 hours and leaves me knackered. Kenya will be twice that every day in African heat so going to be interesting six days to say the least. Will have to up the pace I think or it’s going to be very tough, also planning some kind of training weekend to get us used to the idea of long consecutive rides. On the fund-raising front – we are doing pretty well but have a couple more events up our sleeves including an internal pool competition and raffle at CNET which has bagged over £400 pounds so far.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Computer Aid teams up with AIDS charity

Evidence of how important Computer Aid's donated PCs can be to developing countries is shown by the IT charity's recent partnership with the Berkshire-based CfBT Education trust. The organisations have teamed up to donate 141 PCs, 32 laptops and 43 servers to schools and community organisations to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The PCs, donated by CfBT, will go to towns such as Kiberia in Kenya - recognised as the largest slum in Africa and home to some of the most deprived communities in Kenya. One of the group’s key projects is the Primary School Action for Better Health (PSABH) HIV education programme which aims to provide teachers and schools with the tools to educate pupils about HIV/AIDS prevention.

You can read the full story on ZDNet UK here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pub quiz a huge success

Thank you to the teams who took part in our charity pub quiz - the event raised £1,600 for Computer Aid International - and saw us crash through our original target of £10,000... with five months still to go!

Thank you also to CNET Networks UK who supplied five 20Gb iPods as prizes for the winning team. And of course the bar staff and the manager at De Hems, Soho - a wonderful pub who gave us their whole upstairs bar for free for the evening.

The coveted iPods went home with the team from Brands2Life who narrowly beat the teams from Octane, ZDNET and - with little more than a point seperating the teams. Other teams taking part on the night included (in no particular order) the lovely people from Berkeley PR, Fishburn Hedges, IT PR, Octopus, Hill & Knowlton and the team from GCI UK. Thanks again to everybody who made the evening such a success.

Everybody seemed to have a great night - with plenty of drink flowing - and once the serious business of the quiz was out of the way the evening provided an excellent opportunity for networking and mingling.

Now we're just wondering what event we could organise to trump this...? Suggestions please...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Great news - Two major sponsors on board

We've just had some brilliant news. We've secured a major sponsor for our Computer Aid International fundraising appeal. Ricoh have signed up after some excellent discussions during which we realised the commitment they feel for issues such as sustainability and bridging the digital divide are very much in line with our own.

They have agreed to sponsor us to the tune of £4,000 - which is enough to kit out two complete computer suites in African schools. It's a wonderful gesture and we really can't thank them enough.

It's brilliant to have them on board and their generosity and belief in this project sets us ever closer to reaching - and hopefully smashing - our grand total.

And in another development CNET Networks UK - publisher of and ZDNet - has agreed to meet all the costs of the trip to Africa where we will see our hard work, and the generosity of sponsors such as Ricoh, deliver real results.

This means all of the funds raised will be going directly to Computer Aid International. This is a wonderful way for CNET to get involved in this excellent cause.

Our company is at the very heart of the technology industry in all that we do and we're fortunate enough to work in very exciting and successful times. However, we are also perfectly positioned to show how technology can make the most incredible difference to parts of the world it has barely touched to date.

By making it possible for us to raise the money for Computer Aid International CNET is making a huge difference to future generations.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Rounders event a big hit!

Congratulations to PR agency Brands 2 Life who walked off with the glittering 'Ballon D'or' trophy from our charity rounders tournament last Thursday evening in a gloriously sunny Hyde Park.

Hard luck to the nearly-men and women from Inferno who were the beaten finalists on the night. They gave a great account of themselves with bat and ball but in the end were no match for the big hitters from B2L.

Other teams competing on the night were Berkeley, Cohn & Wolfe, Hotwire and Lewis, alongside teams of journalists from and ZDNet UK. Everybody present helped make it a great night and many were still around when things starting getting messy in the small hours of the morning somewhere in Soho (which all set the training back a good few weeks...)

Most importantly, thank you to all the teams who took part and helped to raise £1,500 for Computer Aid International – we were delighted with our first fundraising event and we can only hope that our future events will be attended with the same level support and enthusiasm for what we're trying to achieve for a very worthwhile cause.

Did somebody say pub quiz...? Bring it on...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Charity Rounders match taking shape

Our first fundraising event is looking like it's on course to be a big success. We've got six PR companies signed up for a charity rounders tournament on Thursday evening in Hyde Park.

Those companies are Berkeley, Brands2Life, Cohn & Wolfe, Hotwire, Inferno and Lewis - so thanks to everybody at those agencies who have signed up to play.

We also have a sponsor for the event with agreeing to stump up some prizes and a trophy for the winning team.

Now we just have to hope for good weather. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Welcome to our Blog!

Welcome to the Computer Aid/CNET Cycle challenge Blog!

This site is intended to provide sponsors, friends and family with an update on how our training and fundraising is going for the big challenge next year.

As you might know Helen Cooke, Will Sturgeon and Andrew Donoghue are taking on a cycle challenge on 2 February 2007 to raise money for the IT charity Computer Aid. Computer Aid takes donated PCs and refurbishes them for use in developing countries which stops them ending up in landfill and provides much needed educational technology to schools and other organisations.

Our 400Km cycle from Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa, to Lake Victoria, will cross some pretty rough terrain with temperatures over 30 degrees most of the time. But we think it’s going to be worth it as, with your help, we’re aiming to raise enough money to set up at least five computing centres in Kenyan schools. We’re hoping to raise £10,000 for this unique and important charity.

You can sponsor us quickly, easily and securely here:

Andrew (ZDNet UK) and Will ( are technology journalists and will be writing about the training and preparation for the trip, as well as trials and tribulations of the challenge itself on their respective sites.

If you want any more information on the challenge and why you should contribute send an email to: or visit

You can also find out why Computer Aid’s campaign to close the digital divide between developed and developing nation’s is so important at: