Paul instructing a local in how to build a bush camp.
KAMBA Karamoja Mountain Bike Association
When I asked Steve Andrews to join me to help design and lay out trails in Karamoja, Steve immediately knew that to grow, a mountain bike association managed by the local riders and trail builders had to be registered and in place. The initial trail builders were super keen and this is now in place and we invite all trail builders globally tom come, stay with us, share ideas and help us together build the Warrior Trail network across the region into a world class indigenous biking destination
For the last 7 years, Paul and I kept looking at Mt Moroto and thinking that it had the potential to be a world class mountain biking and gravel bike area and destination. Great trails, incredible culture and the most beautiful game park in Africa would attract a new generation of people to come , explore and enjoy Africa in a new way. While driving through the region south of Moroto, we climbed onto a ridge and we knew, it was the perfect place for a camp and the start of a trail network. Paul sat in the truck enjoying the vast spectacular scenery and I hiked up to the top of Mt Moroto, exploring the potential of the region for mountain biking. I knew we had found the right terrain and Paul had found the perfect camping place for the second Tour of Karamoja and a base camp that would inspire all, while becoming a working and empowering legacy for the local Tepeth people.
Paul is about doing things right, being professional and respecting and honoring the people, their culture and way of life. The Tepeth, were not Karamojong, but members of the Teso tribe and as the Karamojong expanded thier terrain in search of better pasture lands, they forced the Tepeth to move up into the mountains and they only started to come back to the lowlands once peace came to the region. More than any group in Uganda or Africa, they were the most marginalized and had the least opportunity to create a better life. It just so happens that their lands were some of the very best for mountain biking in all of Africa.
Once we decided that the location was right, we began meetings with the chiefs, the elders and the local community members to explain that we wanted to come and bring others to their lands to share it's beauty. We did not want to take the land, mine it or cut the tree's, only to ride, enjoy the beauty and to pay them for the privilege . We then talked about how it would create jobs for the people building trails, youth could develop the skills to guide and all riders entering the area would pay a fee to the community. The camp we would set up would be managed by them, and again, we would pay and others that would come would pay for the privilege to ride Tepeth and the Warrior Trails.
Paul was at his best, explaining, telling stories in Swahili and his limited knowledge of Karamojong, it took a while, but the elders and then the community finally understood, but they remained confused, why we would you ride over the mountain when there was a perfectly good road around the bottom of the mountain. With having built Bicycles for Humanity and experienced the power of mobility and the impact on rural communities, iEmpowerment and the power of education and healthcare delivered on phones and tablets, we knew that mountain biking and the spin off effects of trail building and tourism would help empower a very marginalized tribe and help them on the road to a better life. More than anything, this was the most important thing to Paul, to respect their culture and provide opportunity that would empower them for generations to come.
With the second Tour of Karamoja about to start, we thought it might be a good idea to show up early, map out and build the trail network. I asked a friend Steve Andrews from Whistler to come over and help me lay out trails, teach the skills to build the trails and in 2 weeks, create a riding area everyone would be proud of. We arrived, with the locals we walked the trails, we hired about 60 of them, they were incredible workers and the more they saw us riding the better they got at understanding how to build trials.
The second tour was an incredible success, the local people loved being a part of the event. Watching my friend Paul Sherwen work with everyone from the chief down to the youth cutting the grass, watching him train people, encourage them to be the best and acknowledge their efforts was one of the highlights of my life. I have never seen Paul happier than when we had completed the riding facility, the camp and everyone, community and riders shared an incredible never to be forgotten experience.
To fund the initial trail build, we sold Tour of Karamoja jerseys and the profit from every jersey paid a trail builder for a week. To put things in perspective, we were paying $2.00 a day, a very big wage in this area, we needed about 60 people and over 400 showed up wanting to work. Since October, Steve and the local team have started a mountain bike association, Karamojabike.org, and we are actively fundraising to continue to build out the trail network until one day, it is the crown jewel of mountain biking globally.
Who would have imagined, a world class indigenous mountain bike facility, in the middle of nowhere, with a people and culture second to none and the world's best game park, Kidepo Valley in the north of the region. Riders are already coming from all over the world to ride the region and we have only just started.
We invite you to come to the 3rd Tour and experience the region Paul loved, if you are inclined to want build trails,, we invite you and if you just want to be a part of something very special and help us build out the vision Paul had for the region and it's people, we invite you to support us with the purchase of one of our fundraising items.
Paul and I believed that Karamoja, would Lead Africa Forward and bringing tourists and mountain bikers here, while exporting skills and a model of grassroots empowerment to all in Africa I believe is a fitting tribute to Paul and a legacy all of us that love cycling can be proud of.
Grassroots Trail building empowering an entire region
Incredible terrain, start immediately and build your signature trail, or support the building of one. If you are interested in empowerment through trail building, please sign up here