Last week Ben, our Managing Director, returned home from Africa after having successfully completed a 500km charity bike ride on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support.
The challenge took place on Madagascar which is one of the largest islands in the world, off the coast of Southeast Africa. The island is covered by large swathes of tropical rainforest and is quite hilly – which, as a choice of destination for a long distance bike ride, does seem slightly mean!
After flying from London to Paris, Ben and the rest of the team caught a 13-hr flight to Antananarivo (Tana), the capital of Madagascar, arriving in the early hours of the morning. After a day spent acclimatising, warming up their legs with a ride across town and making sure their bikes were all in good working order, it was an early night for Team Macmillan.
In a country with limited electricity people tend to rise with the sun and go to bed not long after sundown. Consequently the team would be woken at 5:30 each day for a quick breakfast before heading out. They would cycle until 11:00, when they would stop for a carb-heavy lunch of rice, pasta or potatoes, after which they would get back on their bikes until about 17:00 for a dinner of (yes, you’ve guessed it) rice, pasta or potatoes before collapsing into bed.
On an average day Ben and the team would cycle 100km in temperatures of 30 degrees, meaning that they needed to drink 6 litres of water a day to replace lost fluids.
Around 80% of the wildlife in Madagascar is unique to the island and the team got to see some incredible wildlife close at hand, including lemurs, crocodiles, elephant birds and geckos. Some creatures got rather too close for comfort, however, as one team member discovered the night he found a snake in his bed. It is a little known fact that there are 80 species of snake in Madagascar although apparently none of them are ‘overtly dangerous’ (how enormously reassuring). Fortunately one of the locals came to take the unwelcome bedfellow away and all was well.
All of the locals (snakes notwithstanding), were extremely warm and welcoming towards the group. As Ben said “It was humbling to see how basic life was for many of the Malagasy people, many of whom lived in huts and had to walk miles for running water. Although many of us in the group were taking part in the challenge because we had been affected by cancer, the hardship we saw in Madagascar was a powerful reminder of how fortunate many of us are”. Over 70% of people live in poverty in Madagascar and responsible tourism is important for the economy of the island.
Ben was inspired to take part in the challenge in memory of his mum Gayle who died last year. It is perhaps unsurprising then, that he spent a lot of time thinking about his mum during so many hours of cycling. “Obviously no amount of money can bring my mum back but as a group we raised over £150,000 which is just incredible. I miss my mum every day but I know she’d be really proud of what we achieved and would be happy that we’re supporting such an important cause like Macmillan”.
After an exhausting 6-days, Ben and the rest of the team were euphoric to finally complete the 500km challenge. To date Ben has raised £3,260, every penny of which will be matched by EC Creative meaning a total amount of £6,520 for Macmillan.
A huge thank you to everyone who has sponsored Ben (there is still time to sponsor him on his Justgiving page). As well, he is already planning another charity challenge for 2017, so watch this space for details.