< bike2malawi Archives – Mamie Martin Fund

Mixed cycling weather – report of a friends’ ride

Continuing our series of posts by Bike2Malawi riders, Liz Hall writes:

“It was a grey day when I set out to Waverley train station for a Bike2Malawi biking adventure in Northumberland. My first time on a train for some time, but the train carriage was empty and in a blink I was in Newcastle, and met by yellow t-shirted Moira and Heidi. We made our way to Cycle Hub café to meet Alan and Shelagh. It became clear that unlike Moira, cycling in sandals and bare legs was not going to keep me warm enough in the wind and rain that had just started. What clothing would Jack and Mamie have had I wondered as I pulled on my “waterproof” trousers.

The first day was a challenge cycling North to Amble against 20mph winds … the tail end of a storm from Norway. The biggest drama was turning the corner barely being able to stand in the wind and Moira’s bike pannier cover taking off and flying over the road being rescued by a young lad who darted across to fetch it before it took off for ever. We were in this together, made slow progress and abandoned all idea of visiting the art installation at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea; at least the wind dried our clothes. Relief to reach the hostel in Amble which was so comfortable and well equipped. Nothing beats pasta.

The wind had halved the next day but we got drenched, not before spotting yellowhammers and stonechats amongst other wildlife. Blyth was a welcome break with hot food but we were too wet to admire the scenery and carried on to Seahouses – a beautiful fishing village where we managed to nearly dry out (stuffing newspapers into our shoes). Nothing beats pasta. We could sit outside in the morning for breakfast in sunshine. Then we had a glorious day of cycling from Seahouses to Berwick upon Tweed with some sunshine and a fair wind. We could see the Farne Islands and had magnificent views of Bamburgh Castle. A highlight was cycling across the causeway to Lindisfarne and back. We finished the day arriving in Berwick at the pristine YHA hostel with approx 115 miles on the clock. Time for a rest, a day’s exploration of the town and a chance to walk the walls and have a curry. Nothing beats pasta but pashwari naan with cream came close.

Berwick to Tweedbank was the last day of our adventure passing by Paxton House and stopping for soup and lunch at Floors Castle. What stands out for me on this trip was the camaraderie, the beautiful scenery, the wildlife, the chance to stop and stare at the poppies in the fields and when somebody’s bike played up there was no question …we look after each other, go the speed that suits us all and have fun on the way clocking up the miles to Malawi, hopefully raising awareness of the lack of opportunity for girls to have a decent education in Malawi.”

Did you see that giraffe?

Bike2Malawi tricyclist, Daphne Loads, writes:

As part of #Bike2Malawi in support of MMF for girls’ education in Malawi, I’m tricycling 420 miles around my corner of beautiful East Lothian. At the same time I’m travelling in my imagination from Cape Town to Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) following part of Mamie and Jack Martin’s route from Scotland to Malawi 100 years ago.

I’m having fun imagining that wild roses are proteus flowers and that the weasel streaking across my path the other day was actually a mongoose. My familiar beds and borders have been transformed into the stunning vistas of Stellenbosch and Betty’s Bay, the sites of two of South Africa’s botanical gardens.

This virtual journey reminds me of Michael Marra’s song in which he spells out the consequences “If Dundee was Africa”. Mischievously, he points out that Aberdeen would be at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and that, with a sunnier climate, Broughty Ferry would seem not bad. I think Marra’s hilarious lyrics also highlight the serious difficulty of trying to imagine other lives and other circumstances in different countries.

If East Lothian *were* Africa (sorry, I can’t help being pedantic …) it’s unlikely that I would have gone to university, or indeed survived into my sixties. Statistics for educational participation and life expectancy are relatively easy to compare. I find it more difficult to think about how these differences came about, why they continue and what we should do to tackle them. I can’t imagine what it’s like to miss out on schooling for lack of basic items. I don’t know what it feels like to have my education financed by a stranger on a bike.

Difficult as it is to imagine other people’s realities, I’m convinced it’s worth the effort, even if we sometimes get things wrong.

Did you see those giraffes?