Sunday, 27 September 2009

2009/09/27: Brazilian photographer and environmentalist arrives in Cameroon on a pedal kart, on his way to South Africa

Joe's contact in the Republic of Cameroon:

After visiting 12 countries of Europe and West Africa, pedaling during 2.000 hours and 11.300 kms in a pedal go-cart (produced by the Dutch company Berg Toys) from Paris to Johannesburg, the cyclist, environmentalist and Brazilian photographer José Geraldo de Souza Castro (Zé do Pedal — Pedal Joe), 52, arrived in Central Africa in his first leg of the third stage of his trip bound for the homeland of Mandela where he hopes to be present at the first Football World Cup in the African Continent, in 2010.

Pedal Joe was received in Yaounde, Cameroon's capital, where he arrived under a strong tropical rain, by the Brazilian Ambassador in this city, Orlando Galveas and other members of the diplomatic corps.

Since the start of the trip (a total of 17.000 kms), in Paris, on the 10th of May, 2008, Pedal Joe already went through 11.300 kms: France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and finally, Nigeria and Cameroon. From here, Pedal Joe goes on towards Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Congolese Democratic Republic, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, in a journey of 5.700kms that will have its final day on the first of June, 2010, in the city of Johannesburg.

The pedal Go-Kart that is being used was based on the model BERG X-plorer X-treme, equipped with high durability tires, a polyethylene rim, reinforced transmission train, tortion bar, steel frame, disk brakes on the rear wheels, 7 speed gearbox, head lights, anatomical seat, Saint Anthony, anti-theft system, LED lights, solar panel, rear-view mirrors, and odometer.

According to the cyclist, the time from Lagos up to departing from Nigeria was the most difficult of all and he lamented the lack of security in the country. “It was difficult and stressful passing through one of the most beautiful countries of West Africa. When I was still in Lagos, confrontations between the police forces and members of the radical Islamic group Boko Haram (an Islamic radical pro-taliban sect in the States of Bauchi and Yobe) and propagated through the whole northern region of the country, it being the most brutish episode of religious violence in the country since November 2008, when more than 700 persons inside and around Jos died.”

The armed confrontation left a toll of more than 300 dead and only ended after the summary execution of the leader of the movement, Mohammed Yusuf.

Another great preoccupation of the cyclist while in Nigeria was the fear of being abducted, principally after passing the bridge on the river Niger and entering the state of the Delta, where extremist groups opposed to the exploration of oil by and for western conglomerates use abduction to intimidate (and to ask for huge sums of money for the purchase of arms and maintenance of the troops). The robberies on the roads are also a constant threat, and Pedal Joe was subbject to two attempts. “The first time, locals that were passing by in a mini-van realized that something was amiss and stopped. The second, a police car was passing in the neighborhood at that moment and I was able to ask for help.”

After crossing Central Africa, Pedal Joe intends to have a short pause in Angola, to assist to the African Nations' Cup, the main football competition on the African continent.

According to the environmentalist, the objective of the trip is to focus the attention of the international community on two of the biggest problems that affect the vision of children in the world, especially in the poorest countries: Cataracts and Glaucoma, and to get funds for the great campaign of the International Lions Club: the program SightFirst, launched by the club in 1989. (Pedal Joe is a member of the Lions Clube of Vicosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil)

To know more...

GLAUCOMA: a disease whose principal characteristic is the progressive loss of the visual field associated with an atrophy, also progressive, of the optical nerve. These symptoms can be, or not, associated with an increase of the intra-ocular pressure. Besides, the patient can suffer, or not, ocular pain. When there is no ocular pain, most patients only realize that there is something amiss in his or her vision when the disease is already advanced. The causes of glaucoma are varied, but the commonest is when there is an increase in the production of the aqueous fluid or a difficulty in its drainage. Depending on when the disease is detected, and how advanced it is, the treatment can include medicines, laser, or surgery.

CATARACT: A cataract is a clouding that develops in the crystalline lens of the eye or in its envelope, varying in degree from slight to complete opacity and obstructing the passage of light. Early in the development of age-related cataract the power of the lens may be increased, causing near-sightedness (myopia), and the gradual yellowing and opacification of the lens may reduce the perception of blue colours. Cataracts typically progress slowly to cause vision loss and are potentially blinding if untreated. The condition usually affects both eyes, but almost always one eye is affected earlier than the other. There are also countless other causes that can cause cataracts to appear before old age, for example traumas and metabolic diseases. In the beginning, one can try to improve the vision of the patient with prescription glasses, but there is going to be a time when the patient will lack useful vision, even with glasses, and surgery has to be prescribed. Surgery then consists in removing the opaque crystalline lens and substitute it for an intra-ocular lens. Some patients, even after surgery, still need to wear glasses.

For more information about SigthFirst:

Friends who have collaborated with the project:

Rosfrios Alimentos * supplements
BERG Toys * pedal go-kart
BERG Toys do Brasil * logistics
Deuter do Brasil * camping material
Foto Universitario * photographic material
Buynet * ISP - Internet Provider
Albergues Privados do Caminho de Santiago * food and lodgings
Caminho do Sol-Brasil * travel products
Fernanda Paz - Mindo Falcão * travel products

"In the last 70 years, the World's population has tripled. The demand for water increased six fold. If the present patterns are not modified, in 2025 four billion people will not have access to water."

"Water: a drop, a life... preserve them. For me... for yourself... for our Planet..." Pedal Joe (Zé do Pedal)

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