At the end of July, we took part in a fun-filled 2 day 110km mountain bike fundraiser ride in the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. We entered a small team of 3 after hearing about the event from family friends. The initiative was started 11 years ago by Colin Gillies of Wildlife Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ) with the idea of raising funds to supplement the cost of pumping water in Hwange National Park as the National Parks Department had limited funds and resources to maintain the engines and pumps at the parks numerous water holes. The initiative has grown to around 200 riders per year and has helped replace the outdated, inefficient and noisy engine driven water pumps with solar technology which has thankfully kept the precious drinking water flowing for all the parks Animals. In the past the park relied upon donations for fuel for the water pumps etc.. but this became much harder as the country's economy declined under Mugabe's rule since many prosperous farmers and businessmen donated while the going was good but as the country fell into crisis so did donations dry up too.
This year there were around 165 riders and the initiative raised over $70,000 which is a great effort. Solar doesn't mean no maintenance is required so the money raised goes a long way keeping the pumps pumping. This is Africa and pumps etc.. do get stolen and sometimes some of the national parks rangers are involved so it is a constant challenge securing the equipment and ensuring accountability but at least there is no fuel for the taking like the old days.
The ride is really well thought out and open to all levels of experience as riders are grouped into slower or faster-paced teams that leave the starting point 15 minutes apart, each group is led by a vehicle with an armed game ranger on board as well as support vehicles taking up the rear. The most difficult part of the ride is sections of thick Kalahari sands which makes riding slow going with many falls into the soft sand which makes things rather humorous.
The next ride will take place at the end of July 2019 and we welcome anyone who is keen to join us as we will continue to ride it every year supporting this great cause. For more info please check out the link: www.pumpinglegsforwater.com