The route and why we’re doing it
What do the sleepy villages of the Cotswolds and the vast swathes of wilderness in Sub-Saharan Africa have in common? Well not a lot really, apart from that myself and three others will have cycled through both by the end of this year.
I’m Will Johnston, one of four members of Cycling For Rangers. We’re a group of friends who have a collective passion for the outdoors, conservation, filmmaking, writing and cycling. We’re combining all of these in our cycle from Johannesburg to Nairobi.
Over the past few years we’ve had countless hypothetical conversations about what great adventures we’d love to do one day. At the wackier end of the scale, there was talk of roller skating from John O’Groats to Lands End, a Channel crossing from Dover to Calais by pedlo and cycling from Paris to Barcelona in what I can only describe as “the bike thing that the Chuckle Brothers drive.” Other ideas we’ve floated have been rowing the Atlantic, circumnavigating Ireland by bicycle and riding a Boris bike from London to Moscow.
We decided on the most ambitious plan yet, an 8,000km snaking cycle from Johannesburg to Nairobi, through 8 countries and 10 national parks. The motivation? To raise awareness about a cause and part of the world that we feel passionately about; conservation and particularly the welfare of anti-poaching rangers across sub-Saharan Africa.
But what is an “anti-poaching ranger”?
These are the men, and increasingly women, on the frontline of protecting Africa’s wildlife. This involves skilled tracking, perseverance through thick bush and long hours spent amongst some of the most dangerous animals in the world (elephant, lion, buffalo etc). It is tough, dangerous and thankless work.
The catalyst for supporting rangers were the hard facts. Firstly, its very possible that we’ll see the extinction of elephant and rhino within a mere two decades because of poaching. Secondly, two rangers die a week worldwide trying to protect our planets’ giants.
Our project was formed as a reaction to this and aims to raise awareness and funds for anti-poaching rangers across Africa. We’re doing this by supporting For Rangers, an organisation dedicated to improving ranger welfare. We’ll also be making a feature documentary on route about these individuals who risk their lives every day to protect Africa’s wildlife.
Why Jo-burg to Nairobi?
The area between Johannesburg and Nairobi gives a rough geographical guide to where poaching is concentrated within Sub-Saharan Africa. As we travel through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya we’ll also pass through the majority of the countries that For Rangers operate in.
Our decision to cycle also bares relevance to the day-to-day lives of rangers. This is that bicycles are the primary mode of transport for rangers throughout Africa. Cycling therefore provides us with common ground with the subjects of our film. There is no doubt that the access and support we’ve gained from people on the ground would not have been as strong if it were not for the fact that we are mad enough to cycle this journey!
We’ll be keeping you up-to-date throughout the trip, sharing stories of our progress and painting a picture for you of those who risk their lives every day on the frontline of Africa’s war with poaching.
Lets not let this extinction happen on our watch!