From the monthly archives:

October 2009

First report via satellite phone from Africa

by Jeremy Howard on October 25, 2009

Kate calls in via her satellite phone, and describes her first days on the bike: high-30’s temperatures, and over 100km cycling in a day!



by Kate on October 21, 2009

Off the plane at 8.30pm and the heat and humidity was stiffling and inescapable. Everything seemed to be pretty routine; passport control, all our baggage arrived in tact, met by Bigue, who had come to see that we manouvred through the airport safely…but as we headed for customs we hit complete chaos. “Helpers” swooped from all directions and suddenly there were very real concerns of losing some of our gear. We did have permission to film, but this was a bad idea as it attracted a swarm of opportunists. Evetually it was all bundled into two vehicles and we were off.

We are staying with Alex Mackenzie (of Bassari Resources) and are fortunate to have use of his office, drivers and helpers. There’s no way we could have organised everything in five days; visas for Mali and Mauritania, all sorts of final preparations, visit a few of the sites and generally get acclimatised.

Dakar (population – 2.5 million) is the economic centre of West Africa. It has the largest port and there seems to be masses of recent investment. The contrast between the wealthy and poor majority is extreme. Where we are staying in Yoff, there is a lot of building going on. The streets, away from the main drag, are poorly maintained. Any roads which are sealed are not maintained and are more potholes than not. Being driven around gives Dan and I a feel for what we are about to immerse ourselves into tomorrow when we start.

A visit to Dakar is not complete without a trip to Ile de Goree, a small island 3km offshore. Initial impressions are of an idyllic island; leafy cobblestone alleyways, bougainvillea, colourfully painted buildings…but the main reason for visiting is to learn of it’s more sinister history, as a major transportation point for the 300 year long Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The island was first colonised by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, British and then French. The most important site to explore is La Maison des Esclaves (Slave House). Rather than me explaining everything about it’s importance, if you click on this link you can take a virtual visit of La Maison des Esclaves:

It is important to realise that while Ile de Goree is a confronting reminder of a gruesome chapter in history, slavery is still a very real issue. Slavery was only recently outlawed in Mauritania and Niger for example, but this does not prevent it continuing to oppress and keep people trapped in a cycle of poverty.

I am a little short on time, with so much do do this afternoon in preparation to set off early tomorrow morning, so more soon. Be sure to check out the latest podcast (which will be done in the next couple of days).



by Kate on October 14, 2009

Title: Dakar

Dates: 15th - 21st October GPS:

Distance: 0km Total Distance: 0km

Roads: Busy

Weather: 30 degrees, humid

Touch down was a few hours late, but all the equipment arrived unscathed, even if Paddy did have to wait a couple of days for fresh underwear because his rucksack was waylaid in Singapore. Our time in the UK has proven to be an excellent plan; a chance for the team to meet and get to know each other a little, an opportunity to make final preparations for the journey ahead, and an interim period to unwind and recover somewhat from the final few crazy days/weeks/months in Australia.

Daniel was waiting to greet us at Heathrow with a hire van. We seem to be getting on like a house on fire. He’s a very easy going guy, eager to contribute his part to the expedition. It wasn’t long before he’d pulled his bike out of the bike box and put it together. He seemed very pleased with his new machine. With all the sponsors’ gear, it was as if all his Christmasses had come at once.

After a few days of running around sourcing various bits and pieces, getting my Senegal visa and making some good connections, the three of us drove up with all the gear to Simon’s farm in Worcester to meet John and Simon for the first time. Simon, our back up driver who is also a Land Rover mechanic had been working on John’s vehicle to get it ready for a ten month journey across some of the most rugged conditions possible. John had just arrived from Scotland having finished harvest. It was quite a moment when all five of us were finally together – everyone was excited. After months of emails and phone calls, we were able to get to know each other over a pint or two in a country pub. Apart from swapping a few travellers’ tales it was a chance for me to communicate the plans in more detail. This project and expedition is so complex, there are so many ‘moving parts’, that it has been impossible to keep everyone updated. 

We spent a day and a half together, utilising much of the space on Simon’s workshop floor to spread out the equipment, sort and re-pack. Dan and I put our bikes together. This was the first time I have had an opportunity to take it for a spin – the bikes are great, Vladimir and his team at Cycleworks had done a great job building them. Paddy and Dan had a chance to test the helmet cam system while John and I went off to source power inverters, a water pump and filter and other bits and pieces.

The plan to get everyone plus all our gear to Senegal is a little complicated. John and Simon are driving down; taking the ferry to Spain, then across to Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania to St Louis, Senegal. Unless everything goes without a hitch (this includes getting Mauritanian visas in Rabat, which will take some time), they will not be there for the start of the expedition from Cap Vert. Dan, Paddy and I are flying to Dakar on Thursday, spending time acclimatising, getting Mali and Mauritanian visas and seeing some of the sights. We’re being looked after by Alex Mackenzie from Bassari Resources, who will also provide a driver for Paddy to film the start, unless John and Simon make it. We plan to set off on 21st October and take two days to reach our camp near St Louis where we will rendevous with John. Then we will set off east along the Senegal River.

By mid-Friday it was all done. We had just what we needed to start the expedition and the rest, including the spare bike was left to go in the vehicle. John and Simon are now well on their way, somewhere in Morocco as I write. We parted with an air of positivity and confidence. Each team member has indicated seperately to me that they are pleased that we all get along so well. There is such a range of skill sets and the team is a great mix of of youth and experience. 

 We’re back in London, staying with another brother of a friend of a friend. (We’ve had some very patient and generous hosts in London; firstly Simon, Daniel and Tim in Maida Vale and now David in Hackney) There’s more last minute things to do; topping up with a few bike parts, camping gear, mosquito repellent, medical supplies, detailed maps from Stanfords (my favourite shop just about in the whole world), water filters… We actually have five ways to purify out water. The bulk of the work will be done by a ceramic filter John has set up with a pump in the back of the vehicle. We also have a Lifesaver Bottle 6000 which filters out everything, a Steripen which zaps water with UV light, chlorine drops and we can also simply boil water. This is essential for our health, so we are not taking any chances.

Last night I met up with Greg Yeoman, who cycled with me across Russia and half of Australia. I had tried to tempt him to join me two and a half years ago, before anyone else knew about my plans, but now he has family commitments so this time he can only be with us in spirit. We’ve also met Claudio von Planta (filmmaker from Long Way Round and Long Way Down) who has been incredibly supportive, helping us with all sorts of advice and contacts.

So next time I write, it will be from Dakar…its getting close now. Have a look at the latest set of photos and listen to the latest podcast – an interview with SEN sport radio in Melbourne (done at 1am in the morning).


Interview on SEN radio

by Jeremy Howard on October 13, 2009

Kate has been talks about her upcoming trip in this interview with SEN radio. She is heading off to Senegal in just a few days.



by Kate on October 5, 2009

Title: Dakar

Dates: 15th October GPS:

Distance: 0km Total Distance: 0km

Roads: Busy

Weather: warm, humid

This diary entry was written at an altitude of 38,000 feet. After a final frantic week of preparations and saying goodbyes, Paddy and I somehow made it to the airport with about 200kg of equipment divided into 18 pieces of baggage – including three bikes which had only arrived at 4pm the day before! We’re excited and I am very pleased to have pulled everything together. Organising Breaking the Cycle has been the most complex and difficult project I have ever managed. Researching and designing the concept, route and storyline, this project has been four years in the planning, with 18 months of  “full-on” organisation (while keeping a full time job).

I’ve only just managed to pull together the “bare bones” $200K  budget thanks to the support of 30 sponsors and many private contributors. We have the backing of a number of partner organisations who are allowing us to explore the issues associated with extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa to a meaningful depth. I encourage you to support these organisations (see Partners’ section of this website).

The Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development have done an amazing job creating this innovative e-learning education programme, customised and practical for the BTC project. It’s now ready to go and I hope schools throughout Australia and beyond will get involved. The platform is there for teachers around the world to communicate their ideas and share resources so reinforce what is being learned.

While I have been driving BTC so many other have embraced the project; many have contributed big time and their belief has really spurred me on. Robert Swan has not only been responsible for connecting me to many of the major sponsors, but has also been working tirelessly with Tamara, my publicist to give a number of motivational lectures to raise funds.

The logistics for creating the documentary are complex. Paddy has done an incredible job researching and sourcing all the AV and storage equipment to ensure we can capture quality material to make a great documentary series.

And lastly I know I have a great team…Daniel (cyclist), John (driver) and Paddy (cameraman). We all have different strengths, skills and experience to contribute, but we all have a common goal. John has been involved since last November, Daniel since April and Paddy came on board in the last three months. When we touch down in a few hours, we’ll meet Dan for the first time. John we will meet next week. And so the adventure begins! We are so excited.