Epic African roadtrip aids poor ahead of 2010 WC
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Soccer's World Cup inspires many great feats, but not many reach the heights envisioned by Nomadic Nation founder John Lovejoy, who plans to lead an audacious pan-African roadtrip in the event's honor.
Hoping to raise tens of thousands of dollars for soccer-focused charities on the continent, 29-year-old Lovejoy in May will lead "World Cup Trek" entrants driving "the cheapest, worst, lightest cars" from Berlin, site of the 2006 World Cup, to Cape Town, where the competition kicks off in June.
Speaking to AFP in Washington before embarking on a nine-week "reconnaissance run" of the route, passing through 13 African countries -- via the Spain-Morocco ferry link -- the experienced globetrotter insisted the choice of transport was no mistake.
"We want to show that you don't need a four-wheel drive vehicle to go across Africa, that having a smaller car makes it half the adventure of getting there," explained the Washington-based Lovejoy.
What makes him think such an endeavor is even possible is that Lovejoy and friends undertook a similarly intrepid journey in 2007, driving cheap East German-era Trabant cars through 21 countries from Germany to Cambodia on some of the world's worst roads, raising funds for street children along the way.
"Drive half the world's circumference in plastic cars" was their pitch then, and the clarion call is similar now from Nomadic Nation, a community of travelers undertaking unique and "socially conscious" trips off the well-trodden backpacking trail.
"We've been saying to people, aren't you sick of your nine to five job, sick of living vicariously -- don't you want more adventure out of life?" Lovejoy asks.
"We want to show people that you can take the car you drive to work in, grab your mates and head down and have a brilliant time."
The response from charity recipients who work with the idea of development through soccer -- including Kick4Life, Grassroots Soccer, Coaching for Hope and PLAY SOCCER -- has been "overwhelming," he said.
"The excitement is based on the unique nature of actually getting people involved who are raising money for them and who can see where their money is going and the people they are helping," Lovejoy said.
He and a close band of five friends from across Europe hope to complete the reconnaissance run by December.
Their aim is to clarify the winding route down Africa's west coast, raise awareness of the event, get updated border crossing information and resolve visa issues.
And they want to "identify checkpoints to reach for a well deserved beer" after a long day of driving, he added.
Since the website -- www.nomadicnation.org -- was launched on October 1, the organization has been accepting entrants, who can join for 1,250 dollars.
While they expect at least 200 teams to sign up, Lovejoy said they are prepared for 500.
"It sounds like an amazing project, really exciting," said Steve Fleming, who works with the British-based charity Kick4Life that provides health/HIV education, HIV testing and life-skills education in Lesotho.
"The fact they're using it to raise money around the World Cup is a great fit," Fleming told AFP.
"For every 10 dollars raised, Kick4Life will be able to test a child for HIV, referring those who are positive to life saving anti-retroviral treatment."
A lot of people ask about safety, but the roads themselves look to be far more of an obstacle than regional instability, said Lovejoy.
"From our research on the route we've chosen, and talking to people who've done this route before, rebels are not the problem. Roads are our biggest concern."
For example, he admitted, "the road from Cameroon into Nigeria is the only route you can really take, and from the pictures we've seen, it's not a road at all. You can barely call it a dirt track."