The internet is literally on fire over the decision of Kunle Adeyanju, a Nigerian and Rotarian, to embark on a charity ride from London to Lagos – a distance of about 12,000 kilometres. A life of adventure is what people like Adeyanju wear as a second skin.
He reminds me of Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire entrepreneur, who founded the Virgin Group of companies – over 400 companies and still counting – who has had close shaves with death in his nearly 71 years from his several adventure series and risky publicity stunts. Branson’s hot air balloon crossing of the Pacific Ocean and bungee jumping off Victoria Falls are just two examples that nearly took his life.
Adeyanju is not new to the world of adventure. He is an explorer and has rich experiences in outdoor and adventurous sports in addition to being an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, blogger, cyclist and biker. He has visited over 70 countries and cycled from Lagos to Accra, Ghana and back.
He has also skydived, bungee jumped and summited Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa at a height of 5, 895 metres (19,341 feet) and the highest single free-standing mountain above sea level in the world – twice and ran several marathon races.
On this historic adventure from London to Lagos, Adeyanju did his homework and got himself a Honda CB 500X motorbike – where X stands for the adventure model, designed for on road and off road capabilities – in London that cost him 6,500 pounds sterling (about N5.1m).
The bike weighs about 200kg without any add-on and accessories. It has a tank capacity of 17 litres with a range of 490km depending on the riding style and weather condition – wind and temperature. The bike has been giving a performance of 26km/litre, which means 15 litres can take the biker from Lagos to Warri.
Adeyanju knew from the onset that the ride would be the ultimate test of human endurance and anything could go wrong. This was what he wrote in his blog: “To make the ride colourful, exciting and impacting, I will be flying a banner on my motorbike all through the ride”. Well that banner, measuring 2ft by 3ft, announced to the world that Adeyanju is a Nigerian. It contains the Nigerian flag at the top of the banner followed by End Polio Now logo and Imagine Rotary theme logo.
I have written about what Rotary and the organisation’s partners are doing about eradicating polio – a virus that causes paralysis in children – in the world and the effort continues. The next Rotary International President from 1st July, Jennifer Jones – the very first time we are having a female as President of the global humanitarian service and fellowship organisation – announced “Imagine Rotary” as her presidential theme for the 2022-23 Rotary year.
The theme imagines a Rotary where members act to make their dreams become reality and make the most of their club experiences. Jones is a member of the Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland, Ontario, Canada. Rotary International (RI) presidents usually come up with their themes every year, which is a statement of purpose expressed in words, colours and creative designs for visual impact.
Interestingly, Nigeria’s District 9110 will also be producing the first female District Governor after 41 years, the same time Jones will be RI president. She is Omotunde Lawson, a major feat and glass shattering achievement. By 1st July, Lawson will assume office as the 42nd District Governor of Rotary International District 9110.
Adeyanju, our biker and global celebrity, will also be assuming office as president of the Rotary Club of Ikoyi Metro in District 9110. The “Imagine Rotary” year (1st July 2022 – 30th June 2023) is when Jones, Lawson and Adeyanju will serve together as “Imaginative Rotarians” at the global, district and club levels respectively.
Initially, Adeyanju wanted to enlist as a volunteer foreign fighter in the war in Ukraine. He had planned to serve in the counter-intelligence unit, operating behind the enemy line as his contribution to assist in ending the grave humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
But he changed his mind because it was also about the same time that the ground invasion by Russian forces was stalled due to the fighting spirit of the Ukrainian forces with support from over 20,000 volunteer foreign fighters.
The charity ride was how Adeyanju re-directed his energy, time and effort for a cause dear to his heart. As a Rotarian who will lead his club for one year from 1st July, Adeyanju is achieving three objectives with his ride from London to Lagos.
First, he is flying Nigeria’s flag making him a Nigerian “global brand ambassador”. Second, he is creating awareness for the End Polio Now global campaign. And third, he is raising funds to solve pressing problems in our communities. He set up a GoFundMe account for donations. Payments are also being made directly into the account of the Rotary Club of Ikoyi Metro.
Adeyanju said that 20 per cent of what he is able to raise will go to the PolioPlus fund, while the remaining 80 per cent will be used for club projects in primary healthcare, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and rural empowerment schemes when he assumes office as President of the Rotary Club of Ikoyi Metro. He plans to match all donations with 10 per cent from his pocket as his contribution to grow the fund.
The leadership of District 9110 under Remi Bello, FCA, the District Governor, and the Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee (NNPPC) are pleased with Rotarian Adeyanju for his service to humanity through his charity ride which is a major public image tool for Rotary. A reception is being planned to welcome him to Nigeria at The Rotary Centre in Lagos.
Adeyanju began his charity ride on 19th April in London which he said was going to be “an amazing trip through the desert, freezing cold weather, stunning forests landscapes and terrains”. He confessed that he was not expecting the ride to be easy but it was a risky adventure all the same.
“This road trip will take me to the remotest points of the earth that will test my will, strength and character,” Adeyanju shared in one of his posts. This was his confirmed route pan: London – France – Spain – Gibraltar – Morocco – Western Sahara – Mauritania – Senegal – Gambia – Mali – Cote d’Ivoire – Ghana – Togo – Benin – Lagos, Nigeria.
Based on his original itinerary, Adeyanju would have arrived Lagos after 25 days but that plan was affected by Rotary Clubs insisting that they must host him to receptions in the cites on his route plan. Apart from the reception being planned in Lagos for him, Rotary Clubs in the following cities confirmed that they will host Adeyanju: St Louis, Dakar, Bamako, Yamoussoukro, Abidjan and Accra.
Biting freezing temperatures in Europe, strong winds in the Sahara desert and a burst tyre have truly tested his capacity to cope and overcome obstacles as a continental biker. Adeyanju has been filming his adventure in real time by using a high tech bike camera to capture important moments of his trip.
Before he embarked on the ride, two friends – Soyinka and Dapo – hosted him to English breakfast and Turkish dinner respectively and wished him well. The topic of discussion at both encounters was the ride and Soyinka said he was honoured to touch his bike prior to the start of the ride. He promised to join the teeming crowd that would welcome him to Lagos.
“Please note that we are rooting for you all the way on this historic adventure and may God be with you”, Soyinka assured with his prayer. Dapo noted that the charity ride from London to Lagos was “bold, courageous and unique”, and promised to donate generously to the charity fund. He also touched the bike and remarked that the story of the adventure would be told for the next 100 years and more.
On the first day of his charity ride, Adeyanju rode his bike from London to Dover where he went on a ferry to cross the English Channel to Calais and then Bourges in France. He rested after covering a distance of 745 km – about 18.5 km short of the distance between Lagos and Abuja.
The next day, it began to rain heavily and Adeyanju was worried. The temperature was close to freezing point with very strong winds. He set out anyway but it was a difficult ride for a distance of 704 km from Bourges, France to Girona, a city in the north eastern Catalonia region, besides River Onyar in Spain. The Rotarian-biker struggled to control the bike due to the cross winds, cold temperature and heavy rain.
In spite of the inclement weather, Adeyanju looked on the brighter side as the ride took him through interesting landmarks such as the Millau Viaduct, the multi-span bridge with a design life of 120 years that was completed in 2004, costing 394 million Euros. At an impressive height of 336.4 metres, it was famous for being the tallest bridge in the world.
By the third day, Adeyanju rode a distance of 458km from Girona to Valencia. It also rained heavily on that day. Even after drinking hot coffee and doing warm up exercises, he still shivered. He prayed to God for the rain to subside. Luckily for him, his prayer was answered. In less than five minutes, the rain stopped and brilliant sunshine followed.
Maneuvering efforts due to many heavy duty trucks on the road and the cold weather made riding out of Girona difficult but he arrived Valencia and checked into his hotel at 1700Hrs. He was able to explore the city and explained in his blog that Spanish people are friendly and hospitable. Adeyanju also observed that their ladies love to smile.
When he woke up around 5:00 am the next day, he ran down to the lobby of the hotel to be sure his bike was still where he parked it. Apparently, the self-parking arrangement advertised on the hotel’s website was unsatisfactory; it turned out to be a street parking, a risky affair because bike theft is rampant on that route from Europe.
He tried to switch to another hotel but the hotel’s policy did not allow for a refund. He slept with one eye wide open and eventually made it to Cartagena, a city in south west of Spain, covering a distance of 329km, the same distance between Lagos and Benin City. The weather was good with clear skies and it was not terribly cold but the wind was strong. However, the direction of the wind was good; it was a headwind and he used the opportunity to press harder on the throttle.
By the time he arrived Cartagena, his bike had logged over 2,000 km since the commencement of the trip. He washed and oiled the chain of the bike. He also washed the bike and from that moment, named it “The Eagle”. Adeyanju confessed he began to fall in love with his bike (machine).
On the fifth day on 23rd April, the biker rode from Cartagena to Algeciras, a major port city about 19km from Gibraltar. He stayed at a hotel on the Marina in Algeciras where he booked his Ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar that would take him from the port of Algeciras in Spain to Tangier in Morocco the next day, Saturday 24th April. By the sixth day of his ride, Adeyanju arrived the shores of Africa! That was a significant achievement!
He spent one full day resting in Tangier which is part of his journey management plan (one day rest after six days of riding) but the news of this charity ride was everywhere in town. He used the opportunity to explore the city on foot, enjoying the ambience and good food of the city. Members of the Rotary Club of Tangier Marina Bay hosted him to a dinner reception.
I spoke to Adeyanju after settling down in his hotel in Tangier and he was happy to share his experience. In spite of a few disappointments, the Ferry ride was a wonderful experience and perhaps the most challenging for him since he commenced the trip.
In his own words, Adeyanju said: “The route from Cartagena to Gibraltar/Algeciras traversed the Mediterranean coastline. The deep blue water of the Mediterranean Sea was beautiful, captivating and charming. However, the wind was something else, what I have never experienced before. It was a combination of headwinds and crosswinds, travelling at different altitudes but close to each other which is what creates double impact on people and objects simultaneously.
“On one occasion, I was hit by these winds, almost knocking me off my bike which veered sharply off my lane into the other. Miraculously, God helped me as upcoming vehicles slowed down and I was able to regain control. That experience created fear of the worst kind in me as my whole body – from my legs to my hands – vibrated non-stop. I dropped my speed for the rest of the ride and continued to thank God for sparing my life”.
Adeyanju has continued his charity ride to Marrakech, Agadir and El Ouatia – cities in Morocco. It was at El Ouatia that a “tall, slim, elegant Moroccan beauty” told Adeyanju in a love note that she “likes” him. “I want to be your fiend and you must come back and get me,” the mystery friend, clearly besotted with the biker, wrote in her note which was delivered by her younger seven-year-old sister.
The journey continued from El Ouatia to Laayoune (299km) which is deep into the Sahara Desert (Western Sahara) where there is no margin for error because the environment is tough, harsh, dry, dusty, windy, hot during the day and cold at night.
On the 12th day, Adeyanju rode from Laayoune into Nouadhibou in Mauritania – a distance of 1,002 km; the longest ride yet. It is the same distance from Lagos to Kano and from Kano to Kaduna – in one trip. Our celebrity biker was approaching Dakar, the capital of Senegal, as at the time of writing this article. He is expected to arrive Lagos by 22nd May.
After his university education at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he was a Rotaractor, Adeyanju commenced his working career as a management trainee with British American Tobacco, working mainly in northern Nigeria with responsibility for Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa and Katsina states.
In 2004, he moved into the oil and gas sector and was hired as head of marketing at Oando Gas and Power where he led the team for the development and expansion of the Greater Lagos Industrial Area Natural Gas Pipeline Network.
Adeyanju joined Shell Petroleum in 2006 as Fuels and Bitumen manager and subsequently moved to occupy other roles in the organisation. Three years later and with an MBA degree, he decided to go solo and set up a venture capital firm, Pelicans DNO where he is the chief operating officer.
He is presently a doctoral student at the University of Arizona, USA, where he is aiming to bag his PhD Business Administration with specialisation in social entrepreneurship.
Braimah is a public relations strategist, publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng) and District Secretary (2021-22), Rotary International District 9110.