Plan B

In theory the Final Continent Expedition is rather easy. Fill a sea container full of bikes, send it to Africa. We cycle 5000km through Southern Africa arriving to a standing ovation of smiling African kids and church singing mamas. Then as we dismount from our bikes someone hands us an ice cold bottle of Coca – Cola. Then as we take our first sip, with sweat flinging from our brow, the Melbourne sea container pulls into town with hundreds of smiling African kids running behind it. Then Elton John pops up and starts singing the Cycle of Life, Michael Jackson then floats down from heaven to join Elton in a duet. Lions, zebras and giraffes come skipping onto the scene and we all join hands and sing in unison as we open the sea container doors, laughter and singing filling the African air as the sun sets over the container.

In reality it’s a little bit more complicated. Let me just talk you through the process. Firstly, BEN Namibia needs to have found a community that is in need of a bike workshop, and a community that will get behind it and support it so that it is a success. Then once they have the support of the community, they need to find the funding to set up the container, which is roughly between $20,000-$30,000. Then once that gets the green light they need a sea container full of bikes.

That is where Bicycles for Humanity come in. But Bicycles for Humanity doesn’t have a warehouse full of sea containers ready to send off at a drop of a hat. The Melbourne chapter of Bicycles for Humanity send 2-4 containers per year dependant on supply and funding. At the storage spot they only have room for one container, and when that is filled it has to be sent off straight away to be replaced by an empty container so that the constant stream of bikes coming in have somewhere to go. For them to send the container requires $10,000 – $12,000 to cover the shipping costs. As you can see quite a few stars have to align.

Then if that wasn’t enough, you then have the shipping of the container. Getting the container to Africa takes a couple of weeks, but once it hits Africa it’s on African time, taking months to get to the destination. The last Melbourne container was unpacked and packed again twice at the Zambian/Namibian boarder because different officials wanted to see its contents! Trust me unloading and reloading 400 bikes is not a quick task.

What I’m trying to portray is that it was always going to be a miracle if everything aligned and we arrived at the same time as the container. From the get go we have had to play things by ear, for example we only found out Katima Mulilo was the destination six weeks before leaving Melbourne. But never did I think the container would be beating us to the destination by two months. I always thought that we would have to be extending our bike ride to kill time as the container had been held in customs somewhere.


We had been building up to the cycling out of Cape Town, we had prepared for the cold weather, packed our gear accordingly, I even went and bought -5 degree sleeping bags six days before departure to replace our summer bags. Plus we had mentally pumped ourselves up to cycle the remote route up through north western South Africa, and then tackle the Namibian desert, something that I was really looking forward to, the challenge.

At the end of the day I couldn’t justify going on my little cycling adventure and missing out on helping with the container. Although I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to keep the human powered promise, I’m here in Africa to work, to complete my goal, to give back for all the generosity I have received on my working the world quest. Plus everyone who has donated towards the container, and supported us, have supported us to work with the container. Not to mention the documentary; it was no use arriving two months after the container as the majority of the container would have been implemented, I wanted to document the whole implementation process and be an integral part in seeing its completion.


Now we will be catching the 20 hour bus north to the Namibian capital Windhoek. We will stay four days in Windhoek, where we’ll do some filming at the BEN, Namibia HQ. Then we will catch another bus to Rundu on the Angolan/Namibian border. From there we will cycle along the Caprivi Strip, visiting bike work shops along the way to Katima Mulilo, arriving early July to meet the container. As planned we will work a couple of months setting up the container. Once it is implemented we will then set off on our big bike trip cycling through Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and possibly Mozambique. In the end we still work with the container of two months and do five months of cycling but all in a different order.

So that’s that folks. Now we have our heads around it we are quite excited. If only I had thought about all this before leaving Melbourne I wouldn’t have had to pack my puffer jacket or run out last minute and bought warmer sleeping bags. But that’s the nature of the beast.