Paul Sherwen showing myself and my friends Edi Amin's castle in Kidepo Valley national Park
Paul grew up just south of Mt Elgon and loved Karamoja
Words cannot describe the beauty of Karamoja or it's people. Ride Karamoja is about continuing the work Paul loved in the area he loves most. This video captures a bit of the beauty of Pauls Karamoja, enjoy.
Every great journey begins with one small step
History of Ride Karamoja
In a million years, there should never have been a Tour of Karamoja, but 2 years ago it became reality and last year, it became the largest cycling event in Ugandan history. Crazier still, is that until a few years ago, the region had no roads, no electricity, no hope for a better life and it was an all day drive from the capital of Uganda.
15 years ago when I founded Bicycles for Humanity, a friend Steve Jennings introduced me to Paul and when Paul heard the Bicycles for Humanity story, he immediately joined me and along with Phil Liggett, they volunteered their time for numerous fundraisers to help our fledging grassroots movement get off the ground. As our chapter based movement grew globally, and we delivered over 160,000 bicycles to Africa, Paul kept telling me, we had to bring the program to Karamoja, Uganda.
Karamoja, was literally isolated from society, Edi Amin wanted the Karamojong to wear proper British clothing, blazers, ties and cuffed pants and when they would not, he started killing them. They ran away, then came back and took over the military outposts in the region and took the guns. They successfully fought of Edi Amin and when he was out of power, they turned the guns on their neighbors and stole their cattle.
As the government was taking away the tens of thousands of guns, Paul was even more excited by the opportunity to bring bikes to the region. Paul moved to Uganda when he was 6, his father ran the fertilizer plant in Tororo, south of Karamoja. As a child, Paul traveled the region for months on end with his uncle on hunting safari's. Paul fell in love with the Karamojong, thier incredible culture and the beauty of the region and he knew that bikes would change their lives and so begins the journey of Karamoja, the Tour of Karamoja and the creation of a world class cycling region.
Over the next 4 years we brought 4500 bike to the region, we established bicycle support and service centers in every community and with the local people we kickstarted a society that until then had depended on handouts from government and NGO's. The expeditions to the region with Paul to visit the centers and ask the people what else was needed, were simply out of this world, Paul loved Karamoja and more importantly he loved the Karamojong.
As the bike program grew, the government kept increasing the tax's until we could not longer afford to bring bikes. the people wanted better education and healthcare and so Paul and I developed and delivered a program, iempowerment.org, that has changed the lives of many in the region and all across Africa, again as volunteers.
I'm a mountain biker from Whistler and no matter where I went in the region, the terrain or mountain biking, downhill or gravel bikes was world class. Paul loved the idea of bringing cyclists to the region, to experience the incredible terrain, but more importantly, the culture of the Karamojong and the incredible beauty of the region and it's game parks.
The first Tour of Karamoja has 23 riders and it was a trip, no one will ever forget, riding into Kenya and then spending the night in a cattle krall with a mixture of Karamojong and Turkana warriors. Last October, it was more civilized, we had established a campground on the lands of the Tepeth people, just south of Moroto. Paul cared about the people, protecting the culture, land while creating opportunity that empowered the people. this past year, we had 63 riders and our goal for next year was to make the tour longer and hopefully attract over 100 riders.
All those that were there, decided that to honor Paul we would build out the trail network across the region from Mt Elgon to Kidepo, and this year's Tour of Karamoja would be a multi day event
If you want help Paul Sherwen's legacy of a better Kramoja through cycling and trail building, please sign up here