Months after hanging up her stethoscope, a well known Trail doctor was pedalling across the African continent in a trip of a lifetime.
Retired Dr. Brenda Trenholme cycled 12,000 kilometres in a four-month journey from Cairo to Cape Town with a Canadian tour company and a core group of 18 international bicyclists.
This week, Brenda is sharing her trip and captivating photos in two events at the Warfield Community Hall. The first is slated for Wednesday (Nov. 16) at 1 p.m. and the second on Sunday at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation, the sessions are a fundraiser for KEEF (Kenya Education Endowment Fund), a charity that funds Kenyan students through high school, and a cause Trenholme has long supported.
“I do a lot of cycle touring and have done for some years both home and abroad,” says Trenholme. “You don’t travel the same distances as in a car, train or bus, but I love cycling because you are actually interacting with the locals, the animals, the scenery - I feel it just puts you right at the same level of what you are looking at, and you can see more than when you are walking.”
Before retirement, the doctor would pack up her gear and head out on her own for a few weeks, but self guidance wasn’t an option with something so ambitious as a tour through 10 African countries.
“It’s a continent I’ve been dying to visit, but travelling across vast tracks of dessert, you can’t carry enough water,” she explained. “And one of my good friends was afraid I’d take off on my bicycle alone and never been seen again, so he sent me a link to this Canadian tour company called Tour d’Afrique (TDA Global Cycling).”
Photo courtesy of Brenda Trenholme
Cycling mostly off road on dirt paths amongst the lions and other wildlife certainly presented challenges such as many popped tire tubes, bent rims and worn out brake cables.
The touring company kept bike mechanics close by, Trenholme chuckled that she likely replaced her entire bicycle during the course of the ride.
But it was the cultural differences in the Muslim nations, like the Republic of Sudan, that posed the most peril, especially for women who were in bicycle shorts and not the traditional hijab.
So how did she bicycle safely across a country legally ruled by Islamic Law?
“Women do not wear pants in the Sudan,” she said. “It’s a highly militaristic regime, we had about 20 police surround our little group the entire way and everyone was highly surveyed,” she added. “We were kept under close tabs, you couldn’t take photographs … it is a very harsh regime but the people were probably the softest, nicest people we met.”
Tour d’Afrique organized the logistics of safety and security, which included a full military escort throughout Egypt as well as full police escorts into every major city.
On top of riding an average 120 km each day with temperatures ranging from zero to 46 degrees, the tour strategically planned two or three day stops at month end so the cyclists could visit local attractions.
Trenholme went on a three-day safari through the Serengeti and took in a natural phenomena, Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall located on the Zambezi River, bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“I retired in December and was planning on going to Kenya in January to work for KEEF,” she said. “Then I saw this ride and was planning it as a fundraiser for KEEF. But I went so quickly after I found about it, basically I was scrambling to get ready and left a few weeks later, so I didn’t have time to fundraise.”
The charity is Canadian-based with 100 per cent of proceeds given to Kenyan children to complete high school ($600 a year supports the students’ education, medical costs as well as room and board).
“Teachers refer their brightest kids to this program who can’t afford to carry on in high school … they are impoverished kids, mostly orphans, and by supporting them through high school, most get a full scholarship for university,” Trenholme added. “I have former students and one in university, so it’s a really worthwhile cause."
Admission is by donation and tax receipts are available.