to say that this 10-day, 400-mile adventure was amazing, incredible, absolutely awesome, life-changing...would be an understatement. i'm not even sure how to put it all into words but i'll do my best over the coming weeks.
we departed from our hotel at 10 AM and headed straight to usa river academy, where many of the TFFT-sponsored children are attending school. there, the riders were greeted, applauded and encouraged by the children and staff -- and of course, we were equally inspired by all of the children. and then the riders were off -- biking approximately 40 miles (every day). my 8+ hour ride was in a landcruiser with my awesome driver, hamisi (and sometimes joined by the doc and ben, who had a bad shoulder injury).
i wasn't really sure what to expect this first day or how i was going to shoot the ride, but i kept reminding myself that i'm here for a reason and i just have to do my thing and -- and so i did.
day one culminated at maji moto, where there is one of the coolest hot springs i've ever seen, imagined or dreamt of. definitely not a tough way to end the first day. the water was warm and crystal clear blue. there were cold beers, swimming, barry jumping into the water from way-too-high in the tree, lots of swinging from the tree swing, staying up till 2 AM, learning about taking showers in dribbling water and discovering that we had some killer snorers amongst the bunch. all-in-all -- an incredible first day.
one of the things i so loved throughout the entire ride was seeing and visiting the different villages. some we stopped at; others we just drove through. i will share various encounters as i blog the photos, as i feel there are so many thoughts and stories i want to share. one thing that was huge in every village was gaining their trust. there were plenty of times when the children ran, hid and even cried. sometimes the men and women would simply tell me no photos.
the riders, all set to depart our hotel.
kaitlin (the one who asked me to photograph RIDETZ and whom i can never thank enough) and joyce, the beautiful young lady that kaitlin's parents sponsor.
mike is a pilot and brought wings for the kids. the children couldn't get their new wings put on their sweaters fast enough.
all the students lined the road of the school, cheering on the riders, as they officially departed usa river academy. each RIDETZ, one TFFT student is selected to do the ride. this year, 16-year-old, simon, was selected (pictured below). i can't wait to hear about all the stories he has to share.
there were two land cruisers -- one that i was in and then this one, which pulled a trailer of bikes and equipment. there also was a large truck that carried everything else (tents, kitchen, bathrooms, showers, etc.) directly from campsite to campsite.
we passed by lots of corn fields, which often were sprinkled with beautiful sunflowers.
sometimes (although not often), we had to ask for directions. this was one of those times.
our first village stop.
this woman really wanted me to take a photo of this little boy.
the kids loved getting silly bands.
so many people came to see what the bikers were all about, as they rode by.
in most of the villages we drove through, children herded the goats and cattle. it's pretty incredible what the children do here and how free they are. it really has had me thinking about how we raise and (over) protect our children in the US. more on this later, after i can put my thoughts together a bit better.
the roads were often shared with others.
fixing the RIDETZ sign on our vehicle.
our first lunch stop.
another village stop.
lots and lots of dirt and dust. and yes, you should see my camera and computer equipment.
first night's camp site -- magi moto hot spring.
and last but not least, our fearless leader, ake (sounds like orca) -- of adventure international. ake and his entire staff were so kind, hard-working and truly, truly amazing. i can't wait till my next adventure with ake and his team. ;-)
ETA: i'm still hoping to reach my $5000 fundraising goal for TFFT. all money raised HERE goes directly to the foundation. maybe -- just maybe -- i can do it before heading home on the 26th. every bit helps and is so greatly appreciated. thank you! thank you!
also, if you have any questions as i post, please ask in a comment. i will do my best to answer each and every question (although might take me a bit because internet is very spotty here and often too slow).