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Trans-Africa Marathon Enters Final Weeks

6 July 2010
South Africa, 6 July: Adam Wolley updates us on the last few months of this incredible journey from London to Cape Town. After the appalling accident in Kigali, he soldiers on undeterred, heading towards his ultimate destination.

"Since my last update, the outlook is immeasurably brighter. I caught the ferry from Kigoma, Tanzania to Mpulungu, Zambia. The ferry was a grand old vessel that has been plying the waters of Lake Tanganyika for nearly a century and my friends Jack, Ryan and I whiled away two days playing cards, reading and watching the mountains and tiny fishing villages of Congo slip by to the west. My face was swollen, and eating wasn’t what you’d call easy, but life was by no means a trial. In fact, quite the opposite as the Tanganyika ferry turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

"The next step was to have my stitches removed. I visited two northern Zambian hospitals neither of which were any help. Shockingly, neither had any sterile scissors or equipment. When asked how he would remove them, the doctor at the second produced a double sided razor blade; I told him very quickly that there would be no way I would allow him to remove stitches in my mouth with that! It seemed there was only one option left open to me; I would have to remove as many stitches as I could and look out for better hospitals along the way. So with a bottle of disinfectant, my trusty leatherman multitool and a mirror, I set to work. I managed to get all the ones on the outside and a couple on my lip but removing the stitches in my mouth using a multitool and a mirror proved too much of a challenge.

I was looking forward to getting cycling again but was warned by a few locals that the road to Malawi, though cyclable, was crawling with bandits. There followed two days and 350km of flatbed truck rides, the drivers driving as fast as possible over very bumpy road made for a very unpleasant journey, when I arrived at the Malawian border I looked a very sorry sight, I was exhausted, my face and scars covered in a thick layer of dust, my back and abdomen aching like never before from the savage bumps. I just wanted to get on the bike!

"Malawi is a joy in so many ways. The people are extremely friendly and seem genuinely pleased to meet you. Often, when I stopped at the side of the road a passer-by would ask ‘Are you ok sir?’ Once I had replied yes they would simply add ‘Very good. May Jesus bless you’ and be on their way.

"After 90km of dirt road I arrived at the main road (the M1) and the next morning set off south again. The road was simply divine, winding along the lakeshore through tiny fishing villages and over small hills offering breathtaking views across the lake to the mountains of Tanzania.

"As evening approached on my second evening in Malawi I was still winding my way along the lakeshore when I came across a wall blocking my path - a colossal mountain face rose up from the lake and shot straight up a sheer side into the sky. ‘How on earth do I get up that?’ I thought. What followed the next morning was the trip’s second most arduous climb, a tour de France-worthy 12.5 kilometres of steep tarmac winding up into the big blue sky. I finished with over 170km and nearly 10 hours of riding that day but it was still one of my best days on a bike.

"After the joyous ride down the lake I headed inland to the capital Lilongwe and from there took the great east road from there through the bush to Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. It was in the last day’s ride into Lusaka over large climbs that the bike finally gave out. Whether due to the crash or simply extreme wear, the bottom bracket (the bearings through which the pedals rotate) gave out, and the bike would go no further. I spent a day running around Lusaka trying to find a suitable replacement, but it is a very specific part and there aren’t many modern bikes in Zambia. In the end I had to catch a truck down to Victoria Falls where I was to meet my friend Greg a few days later. He was coming out to join me for the last six weeks of the trip and could bring me the parts I needed.

"From Victoria falls we headed south into Botswana and were amazed by how barren it was. In the first three days in Zambia, we met few cars and lots of animals, including a few giraffe and elephants right next to the road. Botswana was a real challenge as even in winter the days are very hot and the roads are long straight and featureless. Having not had the same time on the bike that I have had this year, Greg struggled for the first week but took the pain and kept up well even in driving head winds.

"From central Botswana we headed into South Africa - the final country of my tour. The North East seems to have a lot of parallels with the deep south of the United States. The terrain is flat, barren and sparsely vegetated, with long, straight, featureless roads.

"We made swift progress despite strong headwinds, to Johannesburg, where my aunt and cousin live. It was nice to be inside and not camping, as night time temperatures were pushing below zero. We stayed for a few days and went to see a game at the enormous soccer city stadium. We saw the Germans on form and knew that England would have to be on top form to topple them in the pool of 16.

"On the ride into Jo’burg my rear wheel started to play well off true. I took it to a cycle shop to be straightened and whilst attempting the job they discovered a colossal crack that spanned around a quarter of the way around the inside of the rim. My plan was to bodge it and see if I could get it fixed in Durban but after only a day after we set off the wheel was much worse. I attempted to get it welded in an engineering shop but the extreme heat on the delicate rim caused it to buckle violently and was rendered unrecoverable. I managed to get hold of a bike shop nearby who had a replacement available and we caught a lift there. It was my birthday, but all I wanted was for my bike to be rideable again. The people at the bike shop did a magnificent job in a short time, fixed a lot of other nagging problems, and they even put us up for the night.

"The following 370km down to Durban took us two days, and over some incredible scenery that reminded me strongly of Scotland. And as I had that thought, the heavens opened and I experienced my first rain for a several months.

"The final run into Durban took me through the valley of 1,000 hills and down some incredible descents, until I saw the Indian Ocean for the first time since Kenya in March.
After a delightful two day stay in Unhlanga Rocks with my cousin James we are now heading down the South Coast hoping to make the Nelson Mandela bay big screen to watch the world cup final a week on Sunday.

"With it now a measurable distance to Cape Town (1639km) I can now say that I plan to be there around the 20th July all being well. I can also announce that I am currently standing only £151.57 away from my £10,000 fundraising target with a few 'by the mile' donations yet to come in. Very exciting."

Distance cycled to date - 12,653km
Money raised for Malaria Consortium - £9,848.43

To support Adam in his final days on this journey, please go to

For more information, please contact Diana Thomas,


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