A Wooler man and his team completed their own olympic charity challenge of a lifetime recently – cycling more than 10,000 miles from London to Cape Town in South Africa.
On August 7 last year, 35-year-old Craig Pollard and wife Loretta White left London’s Russell Square with two friends – Gareth Morris and Scott Carroll – to begin an epic adventure.
During the past 12 months, they have cycled through the whole of Europe to Istanbul, survived the blistering 50°C heat of the Nubian Desert in Sudan, tackled the hundreds of mountains in Ethiopia, Burundi and Rwanda, pushed their 50kg bicycles through sand and mud roads of western Tanzania and overcame dysentery and other illnesses to achieve their dream.
Craig said: “This trip has been the toughest thing that any of us has ever done, it has pushed us to our physical and mental limits but it has also been the most incredible adventure.
“We’ve been very lucky not to have any major incidents along the way, if anything it has gone the other way, everywhere we have gone people have been incredibly friendly and welcomed us into their homes.”
Loretta and Craig, who have been married for nearly four years, have cycled with Gareth and Scott for more than 10,000 miles, through 27 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“We are not cyclists back home,” Craig said. “We had a few training weekends in the months before but only loaded our bikes for the first time the night before we left, feeling terrified about being able to cycle straight with all of the luggage!”
A year to the day from when they left London, the team arrived at their final destination of Cape Town and two days later, Craig and Loretta were granted unique permission by the Table Mountain National Park and Cable Car Company to take their bikes to the top of this iconic landmark for a dream finish on this natural wonder of the world.
But it has been a journey with a purpose.
Craig and Loretta set up the UK charity Cycle Africa and the team has been raising money and awareness for their partner organisations: Street Action, Retrak, Railway Children, Action for Children in Conflict and Street Child Africa are working to support more children off the streets of Africa’s cities and into better lives.
Through their website – www.cycleafrica.org – the team has raised more than £34,000 towards its £50,000 target, most of it coming from family and friends.
Craig said: “We have been visiting street children projects in the countries along our route.
“We have seen the tiny feet poking out of the bottom of fertiliser bags on the streets of Addis Ababa and have heard how many children feel safer sleeping in the drains under Africa’s cities and how they are often washed away when it rains.”
For more information, visit www.cyclefrica.org