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ONCE IN A LIFETIME: Riding & rising from Ashes in Rwanda

Reho Travel's CEO, Karsten Horne, sets off on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure through a 'sea of green' and smokey air in Rwanda. Click here for part one of his journey or read on for the final:

Reho Travel’s CEO, Karsten Horne, sets off on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure through a ‘sea of green’ and smokey air in Rwanda. Click here for part one of his journey or read on for the final:

We roll out of Team Africa Rising Headquarters in Rwanda on our Scott Spark mountain bikes, narrowly avoiding a lady carrying firewood on her head. She is dressed in a vibrant umushanana, which consists of a long skirt with a sash across her shoulder, the striking orange and aqua blue contrasting against her rich brown weathered skin.

We ride on through a bustling village, onto the open road, verdant tea plantations creep right up to the edges of the road and as it curves you feel that you are being engulfed in a sea of green. In the distance one of the five nearby volcanoes is struggling to appear through the smoky sky, a result of burning off in neighbouring Uganda.

Rwandan woman

Ahead of me is Adrien, a member of Team Rwanda, already a multiple national champion who competed in the London Olympics however, to the untrained eye, he looks the same as all the skinny young men you see just hanging around. Cycling is a big deal here, which is quite remarkable given that as recently as 2006 riders were competing on wooden bikes.

In 2007 Team Africa Rising was formed by Jonathan Boyer, a legendary American Tour de France rider with a colourful past. A deeply religious man, he sought redemption by moving to Rwanda with a vision to develop the sport in the struggling nation. Since then the team has morphed into a semi-professional outfit that has competed at the Olympics, World Championships and Grand Tours. The rise of the team is so remarkable that several years ago Hollywood came knocking, resulting in an award-winning documentary called Rising from Ashes (Think Cool Runnings or Eddie the Eagle).

Karsten Rwanda

The majority of taxis in Rwanda are bicycles, you just need to look for the yellow, red and green stripe on the pannier rack, flag the rider down and off you go. He gets a great work out and you get a pollution free commute. The quality of roads in Rwanda is quite surprising and although every inch of the country is covered in hills, you can still get to the Uganda, Congo, Tanzania or Burundi border within 2 hours, from virtually anywhere, on smooth bitumen. There is not much traffic either, a few local buses, occasional trucks, tourist jeeps, virtually no motorbikes then suddenly a bunch in lycra that look like they should be on Beach Road swoosh past.

Two hours of mountain biking with a world class rider is a humbling experience and exhausting just trying to keep up, so by the end I was feeling very wobbly and slightly delirious. Getting wiped out by a jeep full of American tourists in their pressed khaki, having ticked off the Gorillas, on their way to the airport for their connection to Houston would not have been a great way to end the ride.

Rwanda gorilla

Sweating heavily and feeling unsteady on my feet, I look up as the waiter hands me a fresh ginger and honey tea. I’m suffering from tonsillitis and bronchitis, am struggling to breathe and still distraught that today was the day I was supposed to be riding out with Team Rwanda. Instead I’m laying here making up stories, wondering what might have been.

He turns to me and says “Shujaa, come on we need to get you well, you are going home tomorrow.”

 

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Have you travelled to Rwanda?