Riding across borders


AFTER graduating from the University of Cape Town, four friends decided to travel the world on their bicycles.

Thirteen months later, after cycling through Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the four recently finally reached South Africa.

Tom Perkins from London, Matt Chennells from Somerset West, Jimmy Owen from Howick and Buster Brotherton from Kenton in the Eastern Cape have been to 25 countries.

“The journey has been amazing,” Perkins told Weekend Witness when the group reached KwaZulu-Natal this week

Perkins and Chennells began in London in July last year, cycling through Europe, and were later joined by Owen in Khartoum and Brotherton in Ethiopia.

Curiosity, a love for travelling and the urge to make a difference inspired the journey.

“It was partly because of the desire to travel and to see new places,” Perkins said.

But the journey was mostly about creating awareness and raising funds for Peace and Love International and the Peace and Love Musical Outreach Project.

The project seeks to teach life skills to at-risk youths from some of the worst townships in Cape Town. These include respect towards women, conflict resolution, drug avoidance and anti-gangsterism — all through music.

Their journey also had its surprises, like when their arrival in Egypt coincided with the Arab Spring uprising.

“We were there during the revolution last year.

“It was interesting to see a country that is so beautiful go through that.”

Although Egypt stands out, he said each country had its unique characteristics.

“There is a rich diversity of cultures out there. Everything changes as soon as we cross the border into another country,” Perkins said.

While cycling from country to country, the group often felt homesick.

Perkins explained that they chose their bicycles as a mode of transport because they were physically and emotionally challenging, adding that the beautiful part was that “it changes how people approach you”.

Although locals welcomed them with open arms, the weather, on the other hand, did not always play nice.

“The hardest part was dealing with the heat in the Sahara desert. You have to try to cover your skin as much as you can and be very careful,” Perkins said.

As if the scorching heat wasn’t enough of a challenge, Perkins also met with an obstacle of his own.

He sustained a knee injury and was forced to ditch his bicycle and get himself a motorbike instead.

“I was travelling alongside the others on the motorbike while my knee was healing.”

His knee healed two months ago.

The challenges made the group stronger and even more determined to make a difference.

The last leg of their journey will see them heading to the Western Cape, ending at Forresters Arms in Cape Town.

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