For the first time in my life, I took part in an international sporting event a few weeks ago. One with Ugandan, American and British participation; the Buhoma Bike Ride.
This fantastic event was organised by Dan who runs the hospital guest house, and who is a fanatically keen mountain – biker. His children are too, and his wife Rachel has also got the bug. There are wonderful trails all around us, through the plantations, into the hills. The countryside is so beautiful, and undulating. Just asking to be explored by bike.
And there are some nice bikes. There is a social enterprise project called the Bwindi Women’s bike project which has made bikes much more readily available locally. https://web.facebook.com/pages/category/Non-Governmental-Organization–NGO-/Bwindi-Women-Bicycle-Project-215104825711522/?_rdc=1&_rdr. The project is funded by one of the tourist lodges. The project received several container fulls of bicycles which local women have been trained to do up and to maintain. The bikes are loaned to tourists , and some are sold locally. And kids have bikes, usually too big for them, but the road near the guest house is usually fully of nine -to twelve year old boys messing about on bikes.
So the rule was to sign up, pay the entry fee and bring a bike and a helmet to the starting line in front of the church on Saturday afternoon. And there I found myself, not having ridden on a bike for some months, not off road for years, and not in a race, well…. for ever.
It was wonderful. The route started at the village church and went up through the banana plantations along tiny muddy footpaths between the plots. It went through brooks and past a little valley, up to a road parallel to, and higher than the village, with a view out over the village to the hills on the opposite flank and away down the valley. A sweaty, white, unfit forty-something was the source of much hilarity as I puffed my way past. Children called out at me, and women carrying firewood on their heads moved gracefully out of the way of my clanking, wonky ride. I only came off once. Ungracefully, in a gulley in the track, with my legs in a ditch and my head in a tea bush.
And I made it around the course. Splash through the river, and over the finish line marked on the grass with red paint. Twice. I came forth out of four in the ladies race, but as they say, it was the taking part that counts, and the exhilaration and freedom of cycling in such beautiful countryside has stayed with me.
I now make a habit of Sunday morning rides before the heat fills the day and whilst the routes are quiet. I still prefer to fall off without an audience!