Annajo is twenty years old, lives in Groningen where she also studies psychology on the University of Groningen. On the fifth of October 2013 she went to Kenya together with her sister Hinke to cycle 400 kilometers in the Kenya Classic race. This first adventure in Africa is something that she will never forget. Find BoB’s interview with Annajo below!
This article is part of the BoB report series in which we conduct interviews and report about cultural events and local experiences.
Q1: What was your motivation to participate in the Kenya Classic?
A1: My sister Hinke already had been to Africa for a medical internship, where she had experienced the poor health conditions in a local hospital in Tanzania. As a medicine student she witnessed the unhygienic manner of working in the hospital and she noticed that a lot people died due to the lack of hygiene rules. She realized a lot of African lives could be saved by simple improvements. When she went home, my sister and I talked a lot about her experiences and we felt that we must do something about it. After one and a half year, a participant of the Kenya Classic (2012) told us about AMREF Flying Doctors and the Kenya Classic cycling tour. At that moment, we both felt that this was our chance to mean something for Africa!
Q2: What was your strategy to raise money for AMREF and the race?
A2: AMREF had stated that each participant of the Kenya Classic had to raise at least €5.000,-. My sister and I had to raise no less than €10.000,-. Honesty, it was very hard for us to collect €10.000,-, because we were both relatively young and did not yet have a big network. So, we had to be creative and decided to organize a lot of fundraising activities. For example, we organized benefit diners, a walk and a card campaign at an elementary school. Besides that we wrote lots of letters to companies, sold hundreds of bottles of wine with profit and asked our family members and friends to give money and help to collect the money. For that, dear family and friends, we want to thank you for your tireless efforts!
Q3: How did you prepare for the trip?
A3: I always wanted to have a racing bike and practice cycling as a professional sport. After we signed up for the Kenya Classic I bought myself a racing bike and started to train. In a couple of months I gained a good cycling condition, but as you probably can imagine, I needed a firm mountainbike to ride the Kenya Classic. Also I had to get used to a mountainbike, because cycling on a mountainbike is a lot heavier than a racing bike.
Our friend Freddy and owner of cycling shop ‘Kroontje’ borrowed me a brand new mountainbike for which I’d really like to thank him. At the end of July I started with the mountainbike training. Hinke and I practiced a couple of times on some hiking trails in the Dutch forests. However, we mostly tried to make as many kilometres as possible on the mountainbike. For the rest, I didn’t exactly know what to expect.
Q4: I can imagine the challenge was tough. What was the biggest challenge during the Kenya Classic?
A4: At day three the trip became hillier and I had to cycle the real first big and steep hills (believe me, they were BIG!). Even though I had practiced on some hilly mountainbike trails in the Netherlands, the mountains in Kenia were a different story and that’s putting it mildly. I really struggled with these first big mountains and I broke during the lunch stop. Apparently I needed this little breakdown and I realized I should not give in to these difficulties. We were in Africa and that’s a place where real difficulties are!
After that day I became stronger, but also more susceptible to the bad and poor conditions in Kenya. It was hard being faced to this and I wondered “How can people in Kenia be so happy in their ‘poor’ conditions, while we in Holland are so wealthy and often feel unhappy?”
I soon realized that people in modern western societies often do not live in the presence, do not appreciate the little things in live as often as they should and always strive for more and more. During this delusion people forget what they actually have. I also was one of these people, but after this challenge I have learned to put things more in perspective.
For me, the whole trip was a big challenge both physically and emotionally. It is a challenge to face your sins in life, to think about who you are and who you really want to be. The Kenya Classic is a journey that will change your life. Your fitness and stamina are put to the test, and you will think about your values and believes about the world, your life at home and the person you are.
Q5: What was the most beautiful place you’ve been on this Kenya trip?
A5: We visited the most beautiful place after finishing day five of the Kenya Classic. After an exhausting cycling trip along the Pipeline track we finished in an encampment provided by Robin Hurt Safaris. The pipeline was used to bring water from the Kilimanjaro to the Mombasa-Nairobi railways. The comfortable tents stood in the middle of a small forest with some wildlife around it. The staff of Robin Hurt Safaris took good care of us and provided warm showers and delicious meals. It quickly became dark and there were oil lamps throughout the whole camp.
That special atmosphere I experienced there, I’ll never forget. The next morning when we woke up, we saw the peak of the Kilimanjaro which was partially covered with snow! I’ve been told that during our night’s rest there were elephants around the camp and the guards had to chase them away. It was a unique experience to camp in Africa, knowing that wildlife is close to you.
Q6: Any wildlife encounters?
A6: Most wildlife was encountered during our last days. We spotted ostriches, elephants, zebras, gazelles, monkeys and giraffes. Amazing!
Q7: Would you do it again?
A7: Absolutely! It was the experience of a lifetime, both the fundraising and the cycling tour. However, at this moment as a student I’m not in an appropriate financial situation to pay for the trip and I don’t have enough time to raise the money. Maybe I’ll participate in a cycling tour organised by AMREF again in the future.
I feel very connected to AMREF due to everything I’ve been through in Kenya. It felt good to make a little difference for a better world. However, there’s much more left to be done. I hope I will inspire other people to do their best for a better world and will help AMREF Flying Doctors in realizing structural improvements in Africa.
About the Kenya Classic
The Kenya Classic is a one-of-a-kind Dutch cycling adventure in Kenya in which participants cycle about 400 kilometers on dirt tracks to raise money for Amref Flying Doctors. Amref Flying Doctors is an independent organization that focusses on long-lasting health improvement in Africa. Amref has African origins and the majority (97%) of the Amref employees is African, making it easier to execute projects in local communities. The first three editions of the Kenya Classic were a great success and have raised over 1,3 million euro. This year (2014) the Kenya Classic will take place from October 11th until October 18th in southern Kenya near the Amboselli National Park.