I am now back in Arusha. I apologize that our remoteness made updating the blog during Ride TZ quite difficult, but I am happy to report on our phenomenal experience now. The past eight days were unlike any other eight days of my life. In fact, every day was remarkable and brought about countless new sights and experiences to create something that collectively was quite unimaginable.
Let me begin with the riders.
Each person in this amazing group has a unique story of involvement with The Foundation For Tomorrow; some have been committed to the cause for years while others first began their relationship with the foundation after learning about the ride. Either way, the ride’s combination of philanthropy and adventure attracted a most inspiring group of people. Ranging in age from teens to fifties, this group was full of driven, ambitious, caring, interesting people who all came together and achieved something extraordinary.
Prior to the ride, the group spent months training and fundraising for the trip. Together the group raised over $100,000 for TFFT, and the money raised will go in its entirety to support a cause that these riders now deeply understand.
It was, therefore, very fitting that the ride began from Usa River Academy, where 68 of TFFT’s scholarship students attend school. The riders first had some time to visit with the students before they rode off through the children’s enthusiastic clapping and chanting.
These triplets were the first to receive sponsorship even before TFFT was officially born.
Now let me talk a bit about the ride itself. First of all, it was hard. I mean r-e-a-l-l-y hard. The days were long and hot, and the terrain was rough and hilly (and also quite sandy in parts). Every day the riders rode in these exhausting conditions for between 5 and 8 hours. The athletic challenge was high, and the riders stepped up to the plate every day.
What was amazing though, was what traveling through the country in this manner enabled the group to see. The 400 miles from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Pangani Coast lead us through a variety of beautiful landscapes and many small villages. The route was extremely remote and not frequently traveled by foreigners, especially not by bicycle. Many of the people in these villages had never even seen a white person before, let alone a group with many white people outfitted in biking gear, traveling in a pack, followed by a flock of safari cars. We were quite a curiosity ourselves, and groups of villagers stopped whatever they were doing to run to the road to greet us. It is difficult to describe the welcoming energy of these people. They shouted, jumped up and down, smiled, and waved as we rode through.
I had the privilege of spending some time in each village having basic conversations with the villagers while I waited for the riders to come through. During this time I made many portraits.
When we were not traveling through villages, we were taking in the vast and varied landscapes of Tanzania?s countryside.
From impromptu soccer games with the villagers to enjoying a beer at local pub after a long day of riding, this group didn’t mess around when it came to having a good time :)
On the morning of Day 7 we stopped at an orphanage in Lushoto that TFFT supports. Here the riders learned about the orphanage and had a wonderful time playing with the children.
As previously introduced, Richard Augustino was the TFFT student who came along for Ride TZ. Richard proved to be a very impressive rider and person. His sweet and determined nature and quiet strength was a wonderful addition to the group, and everyone enjoyed his presence and getting to know him.
The ride ended with the sweet victory of the Indian Ocean. Richard had never seen the ocean before, and after many difficult days of riding he more than earned his first ocean sighting. The look on his face and in his eyes as he looked out at the vast body of water was amazing.
I think it’s safe to say everyone else was thrilled to arrive at the coast as well!
Looking through the thousands of images form the trip gives me chills, and trying to use words to describe the experience is a challenge. It was incredible?the riders; their strength and accomplishment; the sights and people along the way; The Foundation For Tomorrow?all simply incredible.
All the images in this blog post, and hundreds more, will available for purchase in a few weeks, so please check back. Of course, 100% of the proceeds will benefit The Foundation For Tomorrow!!
I’m personally looking forward to the next ride… whenever it is, next time you’ll find me on a bike!