This is a record breaking adventure. A Nigerian bikes from Uk to Lagos to raise funds for a humanitarian aid organisation, Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF).
He has an innocent look that reveals a man at peace with himself. But it is a mistaken mien. Within that calmness lies a tough personality, ever so restless and desirous of breaking barriers. He broke one recently that has kept tongues wagging. It was as unthinkable as it was unimaginable.
On January 15, Omo Alokwe finally arrived Lagos from London. Not as a passenger on a flight or ship. Rather, he touched down in the commercial capital of the nation on a motorbike. He had spent one month, three days on bumpy roads across 11 countries. They include the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
It was a record-breaking adventure, one that no one had ever conceived or undertaken. It was a trip many thought was impossible. Yet, Alokwe didn’t just discard the doubts but went ahead to cover the 5,000 miles distance that spans several routes and harsh conditions. The UK-based business analyst said his many friends that he told about the expedition tried to talk him out of it.
“They wondered what was in it and if I would ever make it. There were genuine concerns but I was not apprehensive because I realised life is about taking risks and overcoming obstacles,” he said with a smile.
But there were a few supportive friends who gave their consent reluctantly. Much as they wanted him to embark on the record-breaking trip, they also admitted it would be fraught with difficulties.
Bumpy rides, tough difficulties
But difficulties don’t bow the Edo-born Alokwe. He rather revels in them. And they came in regular torrents, as if bent on breaking his nerves. But Alokwe, who grew up in tough environments in Warri, Delta State before proceeding to the University College, London, was more than prepared.
“I had everything well worked out. It took me over a year to think through and plan for the trip. I got information on the routes, the weather conditions, the cities and towns to have stop-overs and all that. I was pretty prepared,” he enthused.
But being prepared does not stop challenges from showing up. The harsh, cold weathers in many countries during the trip were killing. But Alokwe weathered through the storms. “I was travelling from morning till evening every day. Some days, I travelled long distance and some, short distance.” He shared.
In Morocco, Alokwe arrived late in the night. Getting a place to stay was tough. Communication with locals was even more strenuous. But a God-sent Italian, who was also biking, came to his rescue. He spent the night with a local couple the Italian connected him with.
There was also a tough knack with language barriers. “I only speak English and Pidgin. But most of the countries I visited speak Arabic and French,” he revealed. But through sign languages and gestures, Alokwe succeeded in scaling through again.
Joy in cultural diversities
But the excitement of meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds during the ride compensated for the difficulties. “What I experienced is better felt than explained. I was literally riding into places I never imagined. I was intrigued by how people live different lives.
“This was not about reading a book or watching a movie. I was right in the thick of these events. In Mali, I was received by the locals and given a mash of rice, spaghetti and beans to eat. I wouldn’t ever consider that as a meal but I ate it with much joy,” he explained.
Different races, same people
In Niger, Alokwe was exposed to practical friendliness that wowed his imagination. “It was as if they were waiting for me. I rode to a village to a wide applause. When my front tyre broke down, the locals used rice and garri to patch it up for me. It was such fun that money cannot buy,” he added.
While Christmas was in Morocco, New Year met Alokwe in Senegal. “I never knew I could celebrate New Year and enjoy myself with total strangers. Yes, we had never met before but we all felt happy and close.”
In all, Alokwe, who embarked on the trip to raise $20,000 for Doctors Without Borders, an international, medical humanitarian group, experienced the spontaneity of human kindness. “I realise people are generally kind and accommodating. I mean I was more or less bumping into them but without complaints. Some will take me in, feed me and give me directions.
“Some were attracted by the ride and the trip. They were amazed that I was biking from UK to Lagos. They didn’t judge or condemn me. We simply laughed together. They didn’t care who I was or what religion I was practising. They were just there to enjoy the moment with me and help out if need be,” he expatiated.
This, according to him, has exposed the big manipulation behind human differences. “I think everybody is just the same everywhere. We all just want happiness and peace. We don’t care what the other person believes or worships,” he started. “I believe some guys somewhere are fuelling the tension in the world with religion and culture. We are just basically the same.”
Alokwe is still way off the mark for the targeted fund. He has barely $2,000 in the kitty, less than ten percent of his target. “I wished I had more because Doctors Without Borders really need the funds to support people affected by wars, conflicts, epidemics and natural disasters. They did so much during the Ebola crisis. But the forex restriction has affected donation from Nigeria.”
Eyeing another world record
Yet, he is far from being discouraged. He has planned another trip in the next few weeks, this time in Nigeria to raise funds. He is eyeing the Guinness Book of record for longest bike trip within a country. The current record stands at 38,000KM in India. “I intend to do 39,000km to break the record. I believe it is doable,” he stated.
It is a feat that will not only put Nigeria on the global map again but further consolidate Alokwe’s place in the world of adventurers. But he is optimistic he will more than pull it off. “If I could ride in unfamiliar terrains among strangers in harsh conditions for over a month, I believe I will be better in my country,” he enthused.
On what the last trip has taught him, he said: “It has reinforced my belief in the fact that nothing is impossible to do for those who dare to venture. If one waits in life, many things will just get past one without participation. I had fears about security and attacks in many of the volatile nations I visited, yet I emerged unscathed.
“This means that most of our fears are unfounded and fake. I learnt that people are good and accommodating. We are all the same with a common humanity. I realised there is nothing to be afraid of and that possibility is just an effort away.”
Source: The Nation Nigeria