What an amazing few weeks it’s been! I finally managed to have a few weeks’ holiday for the first time since the Games. I flew off to the Maldives and simply had the best time – very relaxing. It was pretty scary coming home though, and realising I then had over 300 miles to cycle on my “Bike for Africa” ride in Zambia! The team was myself, Ross Davenport, Jo Jackson, Mel Marshall, James Lovatt, Adam Peaty, Rob Day, Mel Berry, Ed James, Luke Ellis and Kristen Maine. It was my first time out there and didn’t know what to expect. I had seen pictures but they don’t really prepare you for what you actually see.
We started our journey in Livingstone, site of the amazing Victoria Falls and an incredible place. We spent three days in Livingstone getting used to the heat and seeing different sites. We went on a safari and then to the Falls themselves where we swam in the “Devil’s Pool” which is right on the edge of the fall and very scary! It was a great experience – but nothing like the start of the bike ride…
I knew the bike ride was going to be difficult but I don’t think I realised quite how hard it would be. It was without a doubt the hardest challenge I’ve ever done. The first day was 80 miles, which was hardcore to say the least. Unfortunately, Jo Jackson and I weren’t feeling too great and Jo had a little fall on the bike too. But, true to form, she got straight back on and carried on.
The second day was even harder – at 103 miles! It’s not only the sheer distance, but also the heat and the prospect of spending the night in a tent. I’m not really a camping type of girl, so that was interesting especially in the middle of Africa…
By the third day, I think everyone was feeling it. It reached 43 degrees and we hit the hills! I had a little cry in the morning as I was in so much pain but managed to somehow keep going thanks to the amazing spirit within the team. They helped and supported me so much. I don’t think I would have completed it without them. The fourth and final day was definitely the best, just knowing I didn’t have to get on the bike again the following day was the best feeling! When we finally arrived in Lusaka after a gruelling 493k, there was an amazing sense of satisfaction at our achievement. All the people waiting to greet us when we arrived made it an experience I will always remember.
The last few days in Zambia were spent visiting different sites. We went to an orphanage, hospitals, schools and different charities. It’s incredible how different it is out there, certainly not something I have ever experienced. The trip differently changed me and the way I think about things. Seeing kids walking around in any clothes they can find, not having shoes or anything to eat or drink, is just heart breaking. The scale of the poverty wasn’t something I was prepared for and really made me proud of the money we have raised to help.
If anyone wants to donate please go to www.justgiving.com/zambiacycle or text 70070 enter tpdf50 + amount.
Overall, I loved Africa and will definitely be back!