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TEACHER Gareth Morris is well on his way towards completing a year-long charity cycle trek from London to South Africa.
Along with five friends from the University of Nottingham, Mr Morris gave up his nine-to-five and set off on the 12,000-mile journey on August 7 last year.
Mr Morris, a former teacher at St Gabriel's Primary School in Pimlico, has reached Kampala, Uganda, having completed a ride of about 400 miles from Nairobi, in Kenya.
It has been a stressful leg of the journey for the intrepid fundraiser, who was nearly run over and had to battle a painful knee injury and searing heat to reach the Ugandan capital.
Describing the near miss, he said: "An exuberant bus driver decided to overtake a car, approaching us fast on our side of the road.
"Loretta and Craig scraped past but the only thing Scott and myself could do was hit the ditch.
"Lying face down in the mud, pain shooting through my waist was not the start I envisaged that morning. We decided we should do the only thing we could and get back on our bikes and cycle the 50km to Kampala and then go to hospital.
"However, my long shorts had hidden a surprise. As I tried to pick up my bike I found I couldn't walk.
"Lifting my trouser leg revealed that my kneecap had swollen to twice its size in just 15 minutes."
With the whole trip in danger of being cut short, Mr Morris was driven to Kampala where X-rays revealed no lasting damage, so he was able to continue.
After a few days' rest and some anti-inflammatories, the group visited one of their chosen charities, Retrak, which helps Ugandan children find a life away from the street.
"We visited a nearby slum, shocked to see three-year-olds searching for bottle tops to earn money, and young kids sniffing glue," said Mr Morris. "Some of the boys followed us back to the drop-in centre where they could access services such as health, education and social work as well as wash their clothes, be fed and play games.
"Days like this really make us appreciate the importance of this journey."
The Cycle Africa team have been visiting projects of their partner charities - Street Action, Retrak, Street Child Africa and Railway Children - en route, and have been speaking at schools to raise awareness of their journey and the issues street children face.
By Greg Burns
01 June 2012
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