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Photos & Articles Provided By Muslim Harji
E-MAIL: harji@videotron.ca

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Once-in-a-lifetime journey
A father and daughter return to Montreal after bicycling 11,900 kilometres through africa and raising $50,000 for charity
 
ANNE SUTHERLAND
The Gazette

 
"This is a thing you only do once," Ayesha Harji (right), with father Muslim and family friend Linda Sainsbury on Mount Royal yesterday, says of the bicycling trip she and her father took from Cairo to Cape Town.
CREDIT: DAVE SIDAWAY, THE GAZETTE
"This is a thing you only do once," Ayesha Harji (right), with father Muslim and family friend Linda Sainsbury on Mount Royal yesterday, says of the bicycling trip she and her father took from Cairo to Cape Town.

Saddle-sore and still pumped from their grand adventure, father and daughter Muslim and Ayesha Harji are back in Montreal after bicycling 11,900 kilometres from the top of Africa to the bottom in 41/2 months.

Amid a carnival atmosphere on Mount Royal yesterday during the annual World Partnership Walk for the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, the Harjis presented the foundation with a cheque for $50,000.

That amount represented the fundraising portion of their bicycle quest to discover their roots and to give back something to the community.

The AKFC supplies funds for education, health and rural development in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The younger Harji saw first-hand the fruits of her pedalling during the long journey.

"In Dar es Salaam (in Tanzania, where her father was born) I visited a AKFC project where they train teachers to go back to their communities. I was so impressed," Ayesha said. "I was able to put a face to the cause we were raising money for."

The Beaconsfield residents flew to Cairo from Montreal in January to begin their epic journey. They travelled through deserts, mountains, criss-crossed the Nile River nine times and were occasionally shepherded through by the local constabulary.

"In Northern Kenya there had been numerous hold-ups on the road we took so we had to have a police escort," Muslim said.

"And of course all through Egypt we were escorted, which I thought was overkill."

They experienced blinding sand storms, scorching heat and bitter cold, something they did not expect to find in sunny Africa.

A diet high in salt staved off dehydration and muscle cramps, but both said they drank at least five to six litres of water a day to keep going. There were a few tumbles riding through the sand but both managed to stay injury-free and only Muslim experienced a flat tire.

On one memorable day towards the end of the trip, Ayesha managed to bicycle 207 kilometres, a feat which still surprises the recent Mount Allison University graduate.

"That is one of my favorite memories. It was quite an accomplishment," she said.

Along the way, the pair built thigh muscles that are quite impressive and Ayesha managed to shed 20 pounds. After months of camping and showers, once they arrived at their final destination, Cape Town, the first order of business was a 45-minute soak in a bath, and shaving her legs, Ayesha laughed.

Throughout the trip, Muslim craved his wife Nevin's chicken curry and chapatis. Ayesha longed for her mother's simple yet tasty lentils and rice. In Cape Town they emailed Montreal and both meals were on the table their first night home.

Neither Harji harbours any desire to repeat the trip, but not because of negative memories. They said they could never recapture the magic they felt seeing so many wonderful sights and meeting incredibly kind people.

"This is a thing you only do once," Ayesha said.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you carry the memory with you the rest of your life," Muslim added.

 

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Last updated January 2008 Copyright Mahmood Fazal 2005 - All Rights Reserved