Mount Moroto rises above the northeast corner of Uganda in the country’s remote northeast region of Karamoja. There, the Tepeth people have been living for longer than recorded history can confirm. For much of the 20th century, these people have been oppressed by neighboring clans. Only recently, after a massive disarmament, the region has seen peace. Now, the Tepeth wish to get up to speed on the 21st century and interact with the global economy.
Oil companies have begun to explore the region but as we all know, business intentions are not always pure in terms of helping out locals. But the pressure to earn an income is great, even in this remote corner of one of the world’s poorest countries. So instead the Tepeth are looking to another industry that might help lift them out of their impoverishment: tourism.
The world has only tuned into Karamoja recently. But those who have discovered it have found one of the world’s most raw, beautiful, and hospitable places on the planet. That’s why Paul Sherwen has taken notice (you may know him as a Tour de France announcer), and with a few other westerners, wants to show the world just how amazing this region is. The avenue with which to do it will showcase Mount Moroto in one of the most accessible ways possible: mountain biking. We’ll be participating in the Tour of Karamoja, a bike event designed to help bring awareness (and fun on bikes) to the region. Then we’ll spend five weeks mapping out the landscape and teaching the locals how to build a trail network. This will be different from other bike facilities in the world in that the locals will take ownership of the trails. Tour companies wishing to visit the area will be required to pay a trail fee which will go directly to the locals.
We truly believe that the sport of mountain biking has the ability to create a new economy in the region, one where the locals are in charge of the outcome and can make a good living doing so.
But the Tepeth are new to this sport, and need some help getting up to speed. That’s why I’m heading out there to teach them how to build trails, with the goal of helping them build an economy around mountain biking from the ground up.
My intention is fairly straightforward. I’ve learned some good skills and lessons while living in Whistler, one of the world’s foremost mountain biking destinations. Building sustainable trails is one of those lessons and my goal is to empower the local Tepeth people to take charge and develop a world class trail network that will draw attention around the world.
But getting to Africa isn’t cheap. That’s why I’m reaching out to you, the readers who I’ve been lucky enough to write for over the last few years here at The Inertia, to help out where you can. There is a lot to do in a little amount of time and funding a trip like this isn’t easy, especially on a volunteer mission when I won’t be making any money while there. So I’m humbly asking for some support in the hopes that the mountain biking—and on a broader scope mountain loving—western world could throw in a few dollars if they can.
I started a Gofundme page and am humbly asking for any support. Even a few dollars helps, and it goes a long way there. Any money raised beyond the goal will go directly to employing the locals to build trails for as long as they can. If money is an issue, we also need bike parts, tools, and anything else that will help these people be self-sufficient hosts in the world of mountain biking
Thanks in advance. You know I’ll be sharing the stories from over there. Let’s do this together!
Editor’s Note: Steve Andrews will be providing updates to The Inertia on his project.