My name is Olaf Kula. When we arrive in Maputo Mozambique at the end of Bidii Yetu, I will be halfway through my 66th year. I have always loved bicycles since my first Schwinn. When I was 24 I rode my bicycle across the US, it was then that I became a cyclist. Even now while I can no longer walk, I remain one.
My dream of bicycling across Africa began Senegal in 1987 where I moved after finishing graduate school. West Africa is a land of people on bicycles everywhere. These were real workhorses and the loads that people carried on their bikes were unbelievable, families, chickens, goats, furniture, engine blocks and more. But there were also cycling clubs of wiry young men, on old French steel racing bikes kept together with baling wire, fortitude, and no small amount of hope and faith. Longing to join these young men, alas I had not brought my bike. I would not make that mistake again.
In the ensuing years I started to lose control of my legs, the ability to walk and ride. I have a degenerative nerve disease called Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT). With regrets, my dream to bicycle across Africa had reached a dead-end.
Then, three years ago a guy on a handbike rolled by. His name is Peter and in an instant, my dream seemed a possibility once more.
I spent most of my career working in Africa, yet before I became disabled, I was blinded to those around me who were. Bidii Yetu 2022 for me, is more than the personal challenge; it is the opportunity to pay it forward, raising awareness about, and resources for the otherwise unseen.
We cannot pretend away the barriers and impairments that emerge in our lives. But we do not have to be limited by them either.