Pedal power takes cyclists on marathon adventure

Loretta going downhill into the Addis Zemen valley.
Loretta going downhill into the Addis Zemen valley.

A FORMER Alnwick pupil, who set up a charity after seeing the plight of street children in Africa, is halfway through a year-long, 12,000-mile fund-raising quest.

Craig Pollard, who was brought up in Wooler, set off on his quest in August last year with five others and an aim to raise £100,000 for a number of African street-children charities.

The team stop for a well-earned beer.

The team stop for a well-earned beer.

The former Duchess’s Community High School pupil, his wife Loretta and four friends are to travel through 29 countries from London to Cape Town, cycling around 1,000 miles a month, although two of the group have now left the trek.

Last week, Craig said: “We’re currently in the Ethiopian highlands, battling the massive mountains, heat and high altitude but loving the edginess of this stunning country.

“It makes a nice change to the stark desert but the people are of equal friendliness to the Sudanese.

“We’re quite nervous about tackling the Blue Nile Gorge in a few days, which is a rough road that drops a mile in height in 20km before the steep mile-high climb on the other side.

“We’re very excited to be seeing our first street-child project and getting stuck in to the charitable side of the Cycle Africa project.

“Our first is a Retrak project in Addis Ababa that works with these very vulnerable young kids and gives them a second chance at life.”

On the Cycle Africa blog, Loretta wrote: “The scenery has been the most beautiful so far on the trip, resembling landscapes you’d expect in somewhere like Lord of the Rings.

“We’ve managed to find secret campsites away from the crowds and although the children chant ‘you, you, you’ as we ride past we haven’t experienced a single bit of hostility from them (rather the opposite as they race alongside the bikes for a chat or a few of the small ones help push us up the hills!)”

The team has so far travelled down through Europe to Turkey before crossing through Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and into Egypt.

From there they have cycled south through the whole of Egypt and Sudan and entered Ethiopia with Kenya the next stop.

But the effort is all worth it.

Craig said: “Street children are the most vulnerable people in the world. They live in rubbish bins and raising any money makes a massive difference.

“It only costs £15,000 to set up and build a half-way house for street children which will last 20 to 40 years.

“We want to help them get off the street and into schools and, in the future, jobs.”

The team are paying for the trip themselves and every penny sponsored at will go to the street-children projects that they’re visiting along the way.

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