Two wheels, lots of weight and 3,000 miles to go |

Two wheels, lots of weight and 3,000 miles to go

Shauna Farnell
Special to the DailyStan Havlick, Garry Kiljan, Dan Foster and Joe Foster started their 3,000-mile journey across Africa off the coast of Capetown last spring. Havlick will present slides and details of his adventure Thursday at the Vail Library.

VAIL – Saddle sores are the least of your concerns when you’re cycling through Africa for 60 days.You’ve also got to think about prevailing winds that feel like they’re blowing you backwards, malaria, food poisoning, questionable drinking water, scorpions, AIDS, lions and angry elephants flapping their ears.Last spring, Stan Havlick and three other cyclists launched into their 3,000-mile two-wheel journey from the coast of Capetown and rode between 65 and 85 miles every day through South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania, wrapping up their journey on the northern coast of Africa and took a finale trek to the 19,340-foot summit of Mt. Kilamanjaro.”We look at maps of various countries; the idea is to go from A to B across the continent, factoring in safety concerns,” said Havlick, who lives in Boulder and is the regional directory for El Dorado Springs Nature Water company. “You don’t want to cycle into Zimbabwe for example, or the Congo. Some places are very politically unstable. We chose the four countries that were the most stable. Most of the roads were paved but there are always some unknowns so it’s best to take mountain bikes.”

Creatures of the bushSome such unknowns included the tall grasses of the Savannah Desert, where lions crouched alongside the road and elephants appeared through thickets, threatening to charge.”In parts of Zambia and Tanzania we went through areas where there’s certainly a lot of wildlife,” Havlick said. “We were cycling through Zambia and there was a huge elephant – a huge, huge elephant. It came out of the brush flapping its ears and scratching – all the signs that it wanted to charge. We were probably 30 feet from it. We moved very, very slowly.”

The trip was Havlick’s fifth with the goal of raising money for the Colorado Cancer Foundation. He has also cycled across North America, South America, Asia and Australia. Havlick and the rest of the team on the African journey – father and son duo Dan and Joe Foster and Garry Kiljan – stopped at various hospitals in towns and villages to take a look at some of the oncology equipment and to provide medical staff with the opportunity of improving it.”There’s a tremendous amount of cancer overshadowed because of the AIDS issues,” Havlick said. “So much of their equipment is really primitive. We asked them to give us a wish list, so we come back to the University of Colorado (in Denver) and take a look at our stock to see if we can send them something. There’s always conflict there between private hospitals and government hospitals. You have to be careful sending things over because if it’s opened up, it could land in the black market.”Unforeseen obstacles

Havlick and the team had some first-hand experience with hospitals when the Fosters came down with a serious bout of food poisoning.”The trauma of Dan and Joe, I can’t say how frightening an experience it was for all of us,” Havlick said. “It was the big fear of not knowing what it was, not knowing how it would impact the rest of the trip. Would we stay longer? Would we have to leave? It was a draining thing for all of us.”Yet day after day, the trek began all over again. At dusk, the team shielded itself with mosquito nets. Somebody got a flat tire just about every day as the team carried with it the weight of all of its supplies.”It’s a demanding trip realizing you have to get up early before the winds kick up and put in 65 to 85 miles a day cycling with panniers,” Havlick said. “Colorado is full of great athletes – climbers, cyclists, skiers – but it takes a special person to get up in the morning, whether you have a stomach ache, diarrhea, the flu. You get on that bicycle and cycle, day in and day out, week after week. Physical fitness is maybe 20 percent of it. Most of it is determination and desire.”

At the end of the cycling segment of the trip, the team’s families flew out to join in a six-day trip up Mt. Kilimanjaro. The weather worked out in the group’s favor, but mountain sickness weakened some of the team, as did the wear and tear of the 3,000-mile bike trip.”I do a lot of high altitude mountaineering,” Havlick said. “My big concern for the team was that we had been cycling for a long period at sea level and now we had to acclimatize to over 19,000 feet. The whole combination takes its toll.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or, Colorado

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