U.S. couple cycle for Africa’s girls

2007-12-31 00:00

Pietermaritzburg played host to an adventurous couple this weekend after resident Robin Gardner met up with the Franco-American cyclists at Sani Top and invited them to stay a night with his family in Hilton.

Amaya Williams and her husband Eric Schambion (both 40) set off on June 7, 2006 to begin their African adventure. Passing through 29 countries, it took them 17 months to reach Cape Town and the southern tip of Africa.

The couple were faced with physical and mental challenges along the way and the journey has left them exhausted, exhilarated and hungry for more adventure, they said. “We’re doing this to take time out of the hectic 21st century and slow down the pace of life,” said Williams. “A bicycle is the ideal way to explore the world. You see so much more in the saddle of a bicycle than you do when you’re whizzing by in a car. Bicycles break down barriers in developing countries because the locals also use them as a primary means of transport.”

“We’re also doing the trip for the thrill of a new adventure every day,” added Schambion. “And we want to promote cycling as a healthy and environmentally-friendly mode of transport.”

Most importantly though, the couple are cycling to raise funds for the charity Campaign for Female Education.

Schambion told The Witness that they have been touched by the hospitality shown to them in South Africa.

“We are constantly having people stop next to us … and asking if we are alright. Some invite us to join them in an impromptu picnic or to stay at their homes.”

He said that such a family had motivated them to continue their journey after they became very despondent in Namibia. “They made us realise it was worth the effort.”

He related a nasty experience with military police in West Africa after one produced an AK47 when the couple refused to pay a bribe. Eventually they were forced to pay the bribe, but at twice the original asking price.

Schambion is a systems engineer working with satellite tracking and Williams is a teacher. They are both freelance contract workers, hence their ability to up and leave their careers for their cycling adventures.

The couple will now make their way along the East Coast of Africa to complete the loop and their trip.

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