Across Africa by bicycle: The inspiring story of one man’s attempt to cycle an entire continent after losing both his parents to cancer
- Derek Cullen is currently in Kenya, midway through a journey that will take him from one end of Africa to the other
- He began his odyssey in Cape Town in November, and has passed through the likes of Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya
- Cyclist is raising money for cancer a charity, and decided to take on the challenge after the death of both his parents
There can be all manner of reasons to take a long journey – a desire to expand one’s horizons; a need to re-charge the batteries; an irresistible case of wanderlust.
But for Derek Cullen, his current odyssey has a rather more poignant reason.
A man with a remarkable plan: Derek Cullen decided to cycle across the whole length of Africa after losing both his parents to cancer
Still a long way to go: His journey has already taken him through seven African countries – and will carry him through three more
The 32-year-old Dubliner is midway through a monumental jaunt that was inspired – if that’s the correct word – by the death of both his parents.
Mr Cullen lost both his mother and father to cancer ‘a few years ago’ – and came to the conclusion that life is too short to waste being ‘crippled by fear and anxieties.’
Looking ahead: Derek Cullen began his odyssey in November, at False Bay on the lower shoreline of South Africa, near Cape Town
Nothing but the two wheels beneath him: Derek’s vehicle for his grand odyssey is a simple road bike
To plan, and then set off on a trip across Africa, using pedal power alone – and raise money for a children’s cancer charity at the same time.
‘I lost both parents to cancer a few years ago, which brought me to fully realise how short life is,” he explains.
‘As a result, I began questioning whether I was actually doing what I wanted in life. The answer to this question was a very sobering thought.
The freedom of the open road: Derek has embarked on his epic adventure to raise money for a children’s charity
Careful where you put your wheels: There have been a few animal encounters along the way – with creatures both large and small
‘It got to the point where I was fed up living a life crippled by fear and anxieties.
‘But rather than accept it, I decided to do something about it.’
The idea of travelling from one end of Africa to the other by bicycle was, he says, an immediately intriguing one – giving him a chance to see a continent in detail.
‘The simplicity of the bicycle appealed the most,’ he says.
Moments of levity: Although the language barrier has proved an issue, Derek has enjoyed plenty of interaction with local people
A laugh along the way: Derek has taken to explaining to bemused passers-by that he has ‘run out of diesel’
‘I figured it would mean having to visit and stay in remote villages that would normally be bypassed by other transport.’
He began his journey in November, starting out from Strandfontein – a beachside suburb of Cape Town which sits due east of South Africa’s most famous city, on False Bay.
Have to stop, need a rest: A break for a snooze in the convenient shade of a roadside tree
Putting down temporary roots: A tent is one of Derek Cullen’s few luxuries as he bids to cycle from South Africa to Egypt
His route initially took him due north, through South Africa and on into Namibia.
Here, a sharp right turn helped him to avoid troubled Angola and enter Botswana.
From here, he rolled north-east through Zambia and Malawi, before swerving north again and cycling through the wildlife-rich countries of Tanzania and Kenya.
Making the best of it: A rainy day and an encounter with children using a rudimentary – but effective – type of umbrella
Tough going: As well as scorching temperatures, Derek has cycled through rain storms and extreme downpours
He is currently in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
He plans to continue north through Ethiopia and Sudan, before concluding his grand tour on the shore of the Mediterranean in Egypt.
Fending off the heat: A desperate bid to cool down under the unforgiving African sun
Really starting to feel it: The effort involved in pedalling under the African sun is all too visible in this revealing image
The journey, unsurprisingly, has thrown up a few challenges – with solitude proving to be as much of an issue as the physical exertion.
‘It’s hard being alone and being a “stranger” all the time,’ Mr Cullen continues.
‘The constant language barrier means it is mostly impossible to find stimulating conversation.’
Take care: Derek’s route has taken him through fabled wildlife-rich countries such as Botswana, Kenya and – in this photo – Tanzania
Plenty to look at: A close encounter with an elephant on the road through Botswana
However, he has stumbled across a joke that seems to be widely amusing.
When asked by puzzled passers-by where he is going and why he is doing it by bicycle, he has taken to replying that he has ‘run out of diesel’.
No need for petrol: This gas station in Tanzania appears to be closed – but this is of no matter to our brave cyclist
I can’t believe you’re doing this: Plenty of people have been receptive to what Derek is trying to achieve
Mr Cullen is writing about his adventures at nohangingaround.com.
Here, readers can also donate to his chosen charity, Aoibheanns Pink Tie.
‘I see the trip as a platform to take on further adventures and encourage others to start making the changes that I myself was so afraid to make,’ he says.
On a line of latitude: A major moment during Derek’s journey as he crosses the equator in Kenya
Into the sunset: Derek hopes to conclude his journey in Egypt later this year