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".