Epic pedal-kart drive opens eyes in 21 countries

2010-06-28 00:00

A BRAZILIAN environmentalist arrived recently in South Africa after spending more than two years travelling from Paris to Johannesburg on a pedal-kart.

Jose Castro (52) spent more than 3 040 hours travelling more than 17 000 km on his journey through Europe and Africa, passing through 21 countries.

Castro has been on similar journeys in the past, with all of them focusing on some form of social service or awareness campaigns. He rode around the world on a bicycle from 1983 to 1986 raising cancer awareness, and more recently he crossed Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro on a boat made of bottles to highlight the issue of water pollution.

The main aim of Castro’s latest journey is to create awareness about visual impairments, including glaucoma and cataracts. The initiative is also aimed at giving leverage and exposure to the “SightFirst” programme of the Lions International Club, the association to which Castro belongs.

“When Fifa announced that the first World Cup in Africa was going to take place in South Africa, I couldn’t miss it,” Castro said.

“I was originally meant to come by bicycle, but there was not enough time to do it. What makes this special is that we used a children’s toy to do something that will ultimately benefit children.”

Castro contracted malaria twice on his journey, was robbed once and had to be wary of landmines when travelling through the Sahara Desert, but he maintains that although it was tough at times, he never lacked motivation.

“Every single day on my journey I would see children in need of help and that is the real motivation,” he said.

“Maybe my attitude can change the world of one child, even if only for a short while.”

The Lions International Club member arrived in Johannesburg on June 1 and was in Howick at the weekend. He leaves the country on July 19 and will be preparing for another journey that will see him travel more than 15 000 km through Japan, Australia and the United States in a wheelchair in an attempt to fund one million pairs of reading glasses.

Castro has watched all of Brazil’s World Cup matches so far and says that he is thoroughly enjoying his first stay in South Africa.

“More than the wildlife, the weather, the land; more than all of this, the most beautiful thing about Africa is its own people,” he said.

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