Irish News

Friday 25 July 2014

No time for cold feet - wedding day put to one side as four friends close in on epic 12,000km cycle

Declan Whooley

Published 11/04/2014|17:39

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Kyle Petrie, Niamh Allen, Isidro Carrion Martin and Sive McKenna in Egypt near the start of their 12,000km journey.
Kyle Petrie, Niamh Allen, Isidro Carrion Martin and Sive McKenna in Egypt near the start of their 12,000km journey.

Not even an upcoming wedding day has distracted this foursome from their quest.

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Seven months ago, four friends set out from Cairo to raise funds while cycling through Africa and now they are just days from completing their mammoth undertaking.

Kyle Petrie, Sive McKenna and Niamh Allen were joined by Spaniard Isidro Carrion Martin at Dublin Airport last September as they departed on a journey that would take in 13 countries on one incredible journey. Now the end in Cape Town is just four days away

The four friends put their own careers on hold to raise money for two charities, Medecine Sans Frontieres (a medical non-governmental organistaion with whom two of the participants work) and Room to Read, a charity which promotes literacy and access to books in developing contexts.

The determined cyclists have had setbacks along the way, including an attack from over-zealous youths in the Nile Valley that forced them off their bikes and the wilderness of the Kalahari desert in Namibia, but the overall experience has been once-in-a -lifetime.

"The incident in Egypt was unfortunate," Kyle told Independent.ie

"Our experiences in the country had been wonderful. The Bedouins had been so friendly and everyone we met was so welcoming."

"We were just unlucky to find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. I got hit on the head, but it was an isolated incident in what was a turbulent period in Egypt."

Kyle explained that the idea to travel the length of Africa came from Niamh's parents as she grew up in South Africa. They had always wanted to drive from Cairo to Cape Town, and while it was something they never managed to do, the idea had always stuck with Niamh.

"We thought about driving, but nobody would sponsor us driving in a 4x4, so we decided to use our bikes."

"We felt it was the kind of opportunity we might never get again."

Blogs of other cyclists who had made the same journey were quickly researched and the decision was made to embark on the Continental adventure.

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Their training he concedes was not as thorough as it could have been.

"Niamh didn't even own a bike beforehand," he joked.

"We cycled the Wicklow 200 and then got our supplies ready. We stilll have the same four bikes we started out with seven months ago, though they have changed in appearance."

Broken rims have been a constant bane for the cyclists, but incredibly Sive has not encountered a single puncture during their trip the length of the Continent.

An ambitious target of €36,000 was set for their chosen charities Medecins Sans Frontiers and Room to Read and the cycling party are nearing half that with four days to go before they reach Cape Town.

"We are delighted with the figure and we won't be disappointed if we don't reach it as we set the bar high," Kyle says.

"People have been working very hard to promote the cycle while we have been n on our bikes and they deserve huge credit."

While completing the journey has been arduous in itself, Kyle and Sive have another big event on the horizon. The pair will tie the knot on June 28th, not that they have had much time to think about it of late.

"We planned it all before we left, so we have only had to do a few minor things since," he conceded.

"We're looking forward to it, but haven't had as much time as most couples to think about the day."

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It has been a life-changing experience for all concerned and their experiences are difficult to put into words Kyle admits.

"We have had such incredible experiences. From Christmas in Naoirobi, to insane Tanzanian traffic where we were forced to jump off our bikes to the people and fellow cyclists we met along the way, it has been incredible"

All four have encountered minor illnesses - in Sudan they had to filter their water but those measures still didn't prevent stomach pains - and niggling injuries, but fortunately avoided any serious injuries.

While they would be forgiven for never wanting to get on their bikes again, Kyle declares that it has had the opposite effect and given the cyclists a taste for further adventure.

"All we want to do when we get to Cape Town is rest and go to sleep, but we have definitely got the cycling bug."

"We will enjoy our break when it is over, but we are excited about potential trips down the line."

You can donate online by clicking here. All donations will go directly to MSF and Room to Read.

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