Dubai resident prepares for record-breaking 20,000km bike ride from Africa to Europe
A Dubai resident aims to become the first woman to cycle a grueling 20,000km from South Africa to Norway.
Paula Ralph, 46, from Wales, is planning to travel from Cape Town, South Africa to Nordkapp, Norway next February.
The Sports Therapist hopes the trip, known as Cape to Cape, will raise awareness of her plan to create a foundation that will give underprivileged children access to higher education.
She spoke to The National about the challenge that lies ahead.
“One day I decided that I wanted to change not only my own life but also the lives of others,” Ms. Ralph said.
“I’ve always wanted to help children and create opportunities for them and help them create opportunities for others.”
Pedal powered project
Her project is all the more remarkable because she only started cycling two years ago.
“Every Saturday I cycle at least 115 km, but my coach has assured me that the number will only increase,” she said.
“I’m also on the bike every day, to be honest, to train for it.”
While Mrs Ralph has her sights set on the route from Cape Town to the North Cape, that wasn’t her original plan.
“Originally I wanted to tackle the route from Cape Town to Magadan in Russia,” she said.
“I chose to do this because if I was going to help change people’s lives, I had to do something big to get attention.”
The route from Cape Town to Magadan is a little less than 22,400km and is widely considered to be the longest walkable road in the world.
However, the plan changed when Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, meaning they had to come up with a new route.
“I decided I wasn’t going to give it up and instead diverted the route to Norway,” Ms. Ralph said.
She spoke about the challenges she encounters along the way.
“Each country is somehow unique in its challenges,” she said.
“In Africa, for example, we have to take into account what time of day and what animals are free to roam.
“We also need to bring specific groceries for parts of the trip where sourcing isn’t as easy.”
While keenly aware that she is a relative newcomer to cycling, she has no illusions about the magnitude of the task ahead.
“I know I’m a beginner, I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a child before I started again,” Ms. Ralph said.
“But this is about endurance, it’s not a race. You put in the hours and the work, and I do that.
“My coaching team is fantastic and I will be ready.”
Ms Ralph said she hopes any publicity or partnerships resulting from the trip would help build the foundation.
She plans to build the center in South Africa despite being Welsh as that is the country she grew up in.
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Updated March 18, 2023 3:00 am