If you are a pilot doing daily flights, the last thing you expect to do is cycle through the jungle you usually admire from above.
Captain Sven Peeters could not hide his excitement being part of a group of 40 Brussels Airlines employees flagged off by Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Maria Mutagamba last Friday. The group was to cycle from the source of River Nile in Jinja to Murchison falls national park in the north.
“I am really excited about this experience because cycling is totally different from piloting. It is two dimensions, which is different from piloting, and it gives you chance to face off with nature in the wild,” Peeters told The Observer.
The 450km route the cyclists are taking follows in the footsteps of Sir Henry Morton Stanley (in his search for the missing explorer David Livingstone), and Winston Churchill. It is a strenuous bike ride since the biggest part of the trip is off-road and under the blistering sun.
The six-day ride started off at Holland park camping site with the riders heading towards Lake Kyoga where they will cross the lake using a boat and continue their journey through Ziwa Rhino sanctuary before climaxing at Paraa lodge on Wednesday.
The cyclists were escorted by ten bikers from the Uganda Cyclist Association for the first 37km before letting them continue on their own.
On Saturday, they were joined by a group of 13 Belgian CEOs including Jacques Borlee, Bernard Marchant (Rossel Group), Christian Van Thillo (De Persgroep), Bob Verbeeck (Golazo) and Geert Noels (Econopolis), among others, at Lake Kyoga from where they biked the rest of the trip together with the Brussels Airlines employees.
The bikers aim to raise 100,000 Euros, half of which will be given to Compressive Rehabilitation Services in Uganda (CoRSU), a private non-profit hospital offering preventive, curative and rehabilitation services for people with disabilities, with special focus on children with physical impairments.
“Africa is at the heart of our company, and it is essential that we take our responsibility and give back to the communities we fly to,” explains Bernard Gustin, CEO Brussels Airlines.
Bike for Africa is one of the projects used to fundraise money as a way of giving back while highlighting the unique landscapes of Africa. Part of the money is given to Belgian organizations who commit themselves to assisting people in need.
This year, 50,000 Euros will go to United Fund for Belgium (UFB), a Belgian non-profit organization that helps people in need in Belgium. The biking trip through Uganda is the second edition of Bike for Africa project.
In November 2011, a first group of Brussels Airlines employees biked 300km from Kigali, Rwanda to Bunjumbura, Burundi. Supported by various sponsors, the 40 bikers raised 93,000 Euros for SOS Children’s villages, with which they were able to perform more than 1,000 medical consultations in Africa.
“Bike for Africa is an initiative that we, as Brussels Airlines, are extremely proud of. It is a great physical challenge, a beautiful trip through the unique African landscape, being welcomed by hundreds of enthusiastic people in the villages we cross and above all, it is a fantastic team building event,” says Ilse Verhelst, Internal Communications Manager of Brussels Airlines.
Apart from raising money for charity, Brussels Airlines wants to use this occasion to market Uganda as a top tourist destination and an attractive biking destination.
“We are partnering with Thomas Cook, the biggest European leisure group ,to offer a spin-off product to the European market,” says Suzanne Othieno, the sales executive, Brussels Airlines, Kampala.
Together with Thomas Cook, Brussels Airlines will make special biking packages for European biking associations to come to Uganda for holiday.