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Cycle 4 Uganda: An Unforgettable Ride

Bike tours are a unique alternative to the typical bus tour. With total immersion in a new place, you get the nitty gritty reality of being part of a location rather than peering through a bus or car's window and simply observing. Peddling through every inch of the journey with blood pounding in your ears and asphalt running under your tires can be a powerful experience. Oh and don't forget the exercise!

So when the Ugandan based Mara Foundation was brainstorming for fund raising ideas, bike tours seemed like the perfect fit. “It's a great way to tour a country, to experience things first hand,” Nigel Ball, Director of the Mara Foundation explains. “We want to challenge them physically, to stretch them beyond what they normally do.”

 

And a what a challenge it will be. Nigel and his colleagues have planned a seven day charity bike ride from Sipi Falls to Kampala, Uganda, raising money for secondary Ugandan schools while showcasing the unique natural wonders of the countryside.

The Plan

The seven day trip stretches over 200 miles of Ugandan road with up to 100 dedicated cyclists, showcasing everything from mountains to waterfalls, rivers to rainforests. And since the trip spans December 30th to January 6th, there's also the opportunity for one heck of a New Year's Eve story within the second night of arrival.

Participants as young as twelve years old are welcome to join in the trek but even after keeping the beginner bikers in mind, the roads will be trying and a bit of stamina wouldn't hurt. A biker is encouraged to partake in some training beforehand to help prepare for a fast and furious week of cycling. But don't let the exercise dissuade you because this excursion is peppered with periods of relaxation and recreation.

Just don't party too hard because this bike tour means business as well as fun. As the organization's website advises, 'if there were ever a way to wake us from too much revelling the night before, it would be getting on our bicycles and start our cycle to one of the highlights of the challenge' in regards to the morning after New Year's Eve.

With a passion for biking and a visually stimulating expanse of road to cover, every day holds a breath-taking pit stop. Sip Ugandan tea at the Sipi Falls after a long day of cycling. After riding by rice patties, recline on the bank of the Ugandan Nile. Coast through the foothills of the Mt. Elgon region. Visit with the local school children in the village of Katimbiri. This bike tour is hands on and involved every tire rotation of the way.

And with all this beautiful territory covered also comes the comfort of biking beside guides that know exactly what they're undertaking. “The challenge was to find good quality roads that were good passing-through spots for tourists,” explains Nigel Ball, “We were looking for a variety of landscapes.”

There is also some free time for those who want to explore a little. A full day of rest is set aside in Igana, a great jumping off point from the Ghandi memorial, the source of the Nile, and the Mabira Forest Reserve. Activities like white-water rafting, jet boating, and bungee jumping are also an option. So if cycling anywhere between 25-60 miles of road daily just doesn't cut it for you, there will be plenty of other ways to tucker yourself out.

The Purpose

In 2006 the Ugandan government got rid of tuition charges for their secondary school systems. The popularity of the measure boosted attendance rates exponentially, which is a good thing, but many secondary schools become immensely overcrowded. With the influx of so many students, education standards started to slip.

This is where the Cycle4Uganda comes in. All proceeds, both entrance fees and further donations pledged of participants go directly to the Mara Foundation's Next Generation program. This program is a welcome relief for a number of schools struggling to keep up with the number of new students.

The Next Generation program partners up with Ugandan schools to improve the quality of learning for Uganda's next generation. “We don't just hand them money.” Nigel Ball explains. “We address issues of quality, partnering up with innovative individuals to not only raise learning standards, but to provide longer term, sustainable solutions.”

So instead of merely money-dumping and running, the Next Generation program partners with schools long-term to help them come up with new solutions for providing better education. By working closely with schools to promote long term innovation and structural change the Next Generation Program provides a helping hand every step of the way.

So for those travelers or bicycle enthusiasts looking to get more than just a good time out of trip, Cycle for Uganda has it covered. Covering destinations from the Sipi Falls, Mbale, Tororo, Jinja, Mukono to Kampala on two wheels might just be one of the most intimate and rewarding experiences to participate in.

For more information visit the Cycle Uganda website detailing the adventure, or follow Cycle4Uganda on Facebook.

 

 

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