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Published Jan 16, 2013


By Neo Maditla

Cape Town - The easy way to meet family you have not met and who live on another continent is to fly there, but 24-year-old Phillip English decided it would be more fun to do it the long way round by cycling there.

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The New Zealander packed his bicycle, tent, cooking equipment, water filter and books and left England for Spain before boarding a flight to Egypt, where his 10-month journey to Cape Town began.

There he got on his bicycle and embarked on an epic journey through Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Lesotho, before arriving in South Africa via KwaZulu-Natal.

English, who arrived at Cape Point last week, said the main motivation for the trip was to meet his family, but also to raise money for an NGO, the Acumen Fund, which uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty.

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Heaimed to raise $25 000 (R218 000), and managed to raise close to $10 000, of which he is still very proud.

English said his journey was full of surprises, including having to ride through the desert in Sudan in extreme heat, having his bicycle stolen at a compound in Ethiopia, and crashing in Kenya.

“In Kenya I was warned by some motorists that there were leopards ahead, so I bought a machete,” he said.

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But the machete fell off the back of his bicycle and tore through the pedal chain, which caused him to crash.

“I had to hitch-hike back to Nairobi to have it fixed,” he said.

English said Zimbabwe and Sudan were some of the most hospitable places he rode through on the journey.

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“The media has made Zimbabwe seem like a place that is not friendly to Westerners, but the people were very friendly and incredibly generous,” he said.

He said South Africans were also generous, especially in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.

“I went into a supermarket and one lady bought me water, another lady bought me milk, and another gave me R10,” he said.

English said although he enjoyed his adventure, it was a bit lonely travelling on his own, especially in the northern parts of the continent where people spoke very little English, “and the few who did speak it, wanted to discuss religion, and I don’t want to be speaking about religion all the time”.

On his in Cape Town, English, who was joined by his father, Steve (who lives in New Zealand), got to meet his extended family.

Explaining his reason for the trip on his website before he left, English wrote: “My grandparents left South Africa in the 1950s and went to England to escape apartheid. They are mixed race and they wanted to give their children a better opportunity.

“Cape Town is where they are from, which is why I have chosen to finish my tour in Cape Town. So, in a way, it is my way of doing their trip backwards. I have never been to South Africa and I am very much looking forward to meeting the family for the first time.”

Steve said he was nervous at the start of his son’s trip, but because of technology, such as Facebook, it was easy to keep up with him. He said he and his family were also happy to be reunited with their extended family. - Cape Argus

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