Njinga: Breaking the cycle in Africa

 Kate Leeming

A world-first 22,000-kilometre cycle expedition from Senegal to Somalia

Australian adventurer, Kate Leeming, is an extraordinary woman. The story of her astonishing 22,000-kilometre trek by bicycle across Africa is much more than a story of mental grit and physical endurance.

During her 299 day ride across 20 countries Kate dodged rebels, insurgents and Somali pirates as well as exotic and dangerous wildlife while battling extreme conditions from desert to jungled terrain on non-existent roads and faint tracks.

Her book, Njinga, takes readers on the life-changing journey with her, meeting the diverse people of Africa and getting an insight into their cultures. You feel Kate’s physical pain as she endures the hardship of life on the road and the joy and kindness and enduring spirit of the people she meets along the way.

We also meet determined faces of the African and international organisations who work tirelessly to create a better life for the people of the often-misnamed Dark Continent. During her ride, Kate investigated initiatives that give a ‘leg up’ rather than a ‘hand out’ to improve health and education as well as building sustainable agriculture and industry, providing dignified employment and opportunity.

Kate’s expedition was an official activity for the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Development (2005 – 2014). Many students followed Kate’s journey across the African continent and took part in a special education program developed and run by Kate in collaboration with the Victorian
 Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. The aim of the program was to ‘deepen students’ awareness and understandings of African cultures, geography, environmental sustainability and the causes and effects of extreme poverty’.

Plan International Australia was Kate’s lead partner NGO. During the expedition she visited three Plan projects: looking at the importance of girls' education in Burkina Faso, the Baka Rights and Dignity project in Cameroon and an HIV/AIDS project in eastern Zambia.

Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.

Njinga is a Zambian word for bicycle. It is also the name of a strong, courageous, compassionate queen, who led a four-decade resistance against Portuguese colonists in seventeenth century Angola.

Njinga is Kate’s second book. Complementing the book is a feature-length documentary, also entitled Njinga, which is now being entered into film festivals around the world. Njinga won the Best Documentary, Best Cinematography (Documentary) categories in this year’s Action on Film International Film Festival held in the US in August. The documentary’s director, Martin McCann, was runner up for the Best Director Award. A TV series will be complete by early 2015.

Kate’s first book, Out There and Back published in 2007, tells the story of her 25,000-kilometre bicycle ride through Australia.

Kate is a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society (UK) and a member of The Explorers’ Club (New York). In between expeditions, she works as a senior professional at the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club and is the current women’s world number two real tennis player.

Kate is currently organising and seeking sponsor partners for her next expedition, Breaking the Cycle South Pole. In November, December and January of 2015 and 2016, she plans to become the first person to cycle across the Antarctic continent, raising funds and awareness for AIDS in Africa – a response to one of the issues she learned so much about during her Breaking the Cycle in Africa Expedition.

Njinga, the story of Kate Leeming’s journey, continuously reveals the truth of Africa, its diverse people and cultures and its vibrant potential for the future. It is a perspective that could only be gained on a bicycle by an explorer who has cycled the equivalent of twice around the world at the Equator.

Njinga, published by Vivid Publishing, is 346 pages with more than 400 high quality images and maps. Njinga is available at bookstores nationally and direct from the author at www.KateLeeming.com for $49.95. $10 of the sale of every book sold from www.KateLeeming.com will support Plan’s projects to break the cycle of poverty around the world (until October 20th).