We’ve biked to Malawi

The idea of biking virtually to Malawi didn’t seem all that odd in the context of Covid-related restrictions. We are so grateful to all the people who engaged with the idea and enthusiastically at that. It was fun and people responded in all sorts of ways, increasing their engagement with us and with our work in Malawi.

Livingstonia ahead…

We made it to Bandawe, North Malawi with a few days to spare – 10,679 miles. Bandawe was home to Mamie and Jack Martin for most of their time in Malawi. Having arrived we exuberantly undertook a victory lap of Lake Malawi and completed over 1,000 miles on that extra ride. These miles/kms were made up of short, medium and long trips by our Bike2Malawi riders. Everyone will get a certificate, stating their own total. This is not, and never would be, a competition or race and so no comparative data is being made available. Your distances are your achievements. Well done to you all. Here are some of the images you shared.

  • 67 people registered including two children. 36, more than half, of those riders were new to the Mamie Martin Fund. This expansion of our supporter base is a real achievement for us and we are delighted to engage with so many new people.
  • Those riders live in Scotland, England, Germany and Ireland, in order of the numbers in each country.
  • There were 583 separate logs of distances ridden. These started on the day of the launch and finished after 10 pm on on the final day.
  • 11 riders set up fundraising pages and raised £2,207.18 between them, not counting gift aid.
  • A further 34 people donated to the VirginMoneyGiving (VMG) fundraising page and several others to the main MMF page; funds donated outside of the VMG page were added to the total showing on the VMG page.

Bike2Malawi has been a huge success in terms of engagement and profile-raising. We have also raised more than £7k, a new record for MMF which is likely to be broken this year by the #Pledge100 team. That success could not have been achieved without the help of Andrea Adden during the planning stage; her managing the numbers once we started was also invaluable. Our launch could not have been professional and effective without the generous help of Jade, Craig and David from the Scotland-Malawi Partnership and the video work done by Richard Robinson.

MMF, Soko Fund and David Livingstone Centre come together in a bike ride

Bike2Malawi rider, Brian Kerr is Chair of the Soko Fund and a Trustee of the Mamie Martin Fund. He has a new e-bike and was keen to give it an outing. He also wanted to see the newly-refurbished David Livingstone Birthplace which reopened on 28th July. Closed for four years to undergo major refurbishment, the new museum exhibition re-introduces us to David Livingstone, focusing more than has been previously done on those around him. He was not really the ‘lone explorer’ of the previous versions of that history.  

So Brian set off in the sunshine from Edinburgh to Blantyre. He recalls: “The sun was much too bright for a decent picture (by me anyway). It was a lovely ride-such an interesting variety of countryside and old industrial stuff and the West Lothian mining villages.

Some of the traffic on the roadside paths was not nice – but the canal beyond Coatbridge – you could imagine yourself in La France profonde!! (until the path comes to an abrupt end and you are lost of course!!).  

Dr. Livingstone, who WALKED from his home here in Blantyre to Africa – apart from the sea, obviously – is still revered by many in Malawi. On the day I visited the cafe was only open until 3 pm – imagine my feelings arriving on a very hot day at 2.59. Staff were exceptionally kind to an old man!”

Last year’s MMF biking project, Story on Bikes, was launched at the Centre, even though it was still closed at the time. On #Bike2Malawi we stopped off at Mary Livingstone’s grave – Dr Livingstone’s wife. So we feel a strong bond with this Centre and are glad that Brian made it there and back (just) on the battery of the new e-bike. He has in mind to visit Dunluce Castle in Ireland; Mamie and Jack Martin sailed to Africa in its namesake in 1921. So watch this space for his report on that trip.

Wendy Norman writes about why she is ‘biking to Malawi’

“As a now semi-retired Gynaecologist, I was very privileged, in 2016, to travel to Nkhoma Hospital in Malawi with the Scotland-Malawi team to contribute in a small way to their phenomenal programme of cervical screening and cervical cancer prevention. We have helped to introduce practical but effective treatment of pre-cancer, as originally pioneered by my predecessor, Dr Ian Duncan, in Dundee. I was bowled over by the camaraderie, dedication and expertise of the local Malawian teams who continue to work so effectively under such challenging conditions.

Since my return we have all continued to ‘virtually’ support work in Malawi and worldwide as much as possible but clearly any plans for return visits to that wonderful country have now been deferred and overshadowed by the COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile it is heartbreaking to hear of increasing numbers of young girls now obliged to leave school due to the economic effects of the pandemic. These young girls then become teenage brides and mothers, thus repeating the cycle of inequity. If we are ever going to work our way towards a fairer world, we have to educate girls and young women. Educating girls allows them to make safe choices about their own reproductive health and, in time, that of their children and families. It also allows them to become financially independent and enter the workforce as the hundreds of nurses, teachers, doctors & scientists Malawians need to become equal partners in delivering anywhere near the standards of health care that we in the UK take for granted

I therefore jumped at the chance with #Bike2Malawi to jump on my bike and raise funds for secondary education in Malawi. We have to keep girls in school, and it is something practical I can do to help whilst constrained to the UK. So far, I have cycled almost 300 of my 350 mile target.

I won’t lie – it has been tougher than I thought – 5-6 miles a day sounds fine until you inevitably miss a day then have to do 12…. Then 18…. And I have been on holiday for 3 of the 9 weeks of the fundraiser (not always with a bike) so have had to do some mammoth rides to catch up. We are so lucky though to have such wonderful scenery to cycle through both here in Scotland and across the UK. I have been joined on my rides by both daughters and various friends and family, so it has been good exercise and good fun. I am truly humbled by the response of my family, friends and colleagues to my fund-raising efforts, which I know reflects their understanding of how much this all means to me. Good luck to all those cycling the 10,679 miles and I hope we all meet in person one day. Thank you to the Mamie Martin Fund for making this possible and to all those doing the groundwork to facilitate this fundraising; it is an incredible effort all round.”

Wendy has raised over £500.00 so far and her page is https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/WendyNorman

Jenni Barr cycles the Duke’s Pass

Jenni Barr is one of our #Bike2Malawi riders and is also a Trustee of the Dunblane-Likhubula Partnership, another Scottish-Malawi charity. Like so many small charities we team up where we can for mutual support. Jenni, along with Ann Hale, also from the Dunblane-Likhubula Partnership is cycling for #Bike2Malawi and simultaneously fund-raising for the Likhubula community. She has written about her 6-day cycle ride in the Trossachs in Scotland, including the Duke’s Pass which is a difficult hill for a car, never mind a bike, even an e-bike like Jenni’s.

“This has been tough!! I had 5 days clear for cycling and the wonderful offer of a bed in the Trossachs. I persevered through an injured sciatic nerve, thunderstorms and flooded country roads to add 255.5 miles to my #Bike2Malawi total. I’ve loved cycling through the Trossachs while listening to John le Carré on Audiobooks. I was the subject of several heckles but the best was from a 30-year-old as we passed on a hill (me cycling up) – ‘If you can do this, anyone can!!’.

I’ve long loved cycling, though these six consecutive days have taxed me. But I want to thank the challenge of #bike2malawi for pushing me forward to ride the Duke’s Pass in both directions, cycle round Loch Katrine and back three times in a week, commune with deer and foxcubs who didn’t even move off the road. No Pelaton ride could give you the smell of damp greenery or the passing sounds of streams and waterfalls by the roadside – every sense is engaged. When it got tough, I remembered the value of the support to the community at Likhubula. I’ll sleep tonight!”

Inquisitive cattle

Willie Sinclair is the grandson of Mamie and Jack Martin and a Bike2Malawi rider. He reflects:

The bicycle as a mode of transport was very new and exciting when Jack and Mamie Martin were growing up. It makes me happy to know that the bicycle is now a vehicle for funding the work they, especially Mamie, were so passionate about 100 years ago. Today I was an object of interest to some inquisitive cattle in Glen Clova.

The bicycle shares with the sewing machine a remarkable feature: both designs are essentially the same now as when they were first conceived. (I thank my pal Charlie for that snippet.) The classic diamond-framed bike we all know and love has been with us essentially unchanged since the 1890s. Jack and Mamie were born in the 1890s. Today, while toiling uphill from Dykehead, I reflected on their hardiness. The roads they cycled on were rough, they endured multiple punctures and their big heavy bikes had only one gear. But the bicycle was the Smartphone of its day: an exciting NEW and innovative aid to communication and travel.


In Malawi, as in many other cash-poor-talent-rich countries, riding a bike is not seen as a leisure activity. It is fuel-efficient emissions-free human-powered short-haul transport. Cuba had a potentially catastrophic collapse in oil supply when their main fuel source, the USSR, ceased to exist. Instead of selling their principles for American oil they ordered a million bikes from China. But I digress.


The strength, literally, of the bicycle is its geometry: two steel tubular triangles and two big rotating circles which by gyroscopic means (no, I don’t know how to explain it) resist the tendency to fall over. Wow! Imagine the hoo-hah if it was being invented today.
We tend to think of it as having been around forever but the last few years of the nineteenth century is really not long ago. (I’m starting to sound like an old man!)
The way things are going in the world today I see the bicycle outliving the motor car, which is ironic as many motor manufacturers started as bicycle builders.