For voluntourists, Zambia on two wheels
Anybody with money can buy a bicycle. And anybody with a lot of money can go to Africa. But not many travelers or philanthropists get to do what the Chicago-based charity group World Bicycle Relief is proposing: Fly to Zambia, help build bikes, give bikes away, ride bikes with locals and top the adventure off with a brief Zambian wildlife excursion.
That’s the itinerary on a pair of nine-day Zambia tours offered July 23-31 and October 8-16 by World Bicycle Relief. The July trip appears to be sold out, but some spots were still open for the October trip, a spokeswoman said last week. Similar trips are tentatively planned for next year in May, July and October.
The tour cost is $2,750 per person, excluding international airfare or a supplement for travelers lodging alone. The price includes meals and hotel in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, and a brief safari or stay at a lodge near Victoria Falls.
The idea is to boost and show off the nonprofit’s programs, which provide bicycles to rural workers, students and healthcare providers worldwide, especially women. In the bargain, these trips also give travelers a rare look at the Zambia that awaits beyond the postcard views of Victoria Falls. This sort of hybrid trip, combining plain fun and philanthropy, is sometimes labeled “voluntourism.”
World Bicycle Relief, founded in 2004 after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, has built and distributed more than 75,000 bikes in Zambia, which lies south of Zaire and north of Zimbabwe in southern Africa.
On the tours, travelers are scheduled to meet local bike assemblers, help put together a bike and ride along with rural HIV/AIDS caregivers, students and entrepreneurs, mostly women, for whom bicycles are crucial tools. Travelers will ride six to 10 miles per day, organizers said; alternative transportation can be arranged.
Individual itineraries will vary, but most travelers will ride to a student’s home to get a glimpse of her daily routine, join in a bike-distribution ceremony and finish up with a two-day trip that focuses on Zambia’s wildlife and scenery. Those retreats might include a safari in Mfuwe or a visit to Victoria Falls, near the town of Livingstone.
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