London to Lagos: Kunle Adeyanju nearly died in the Sahara Desert on his bike ride
Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — Kunle Adeyanju is a self-confessed daredevil who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro twice and cycled from Lagos to Accra over three days.
But it is his latest adventure that is creating a buzz after he successfully completed a motorcycle ride from London to Lagos.
The journey took 41 days as he traveled 13,000 kilometers (8,080 miles) through 11 countries and 31 cities.
“Polio is a personal thing for me… as a boy, my best friend had polio and when we go swimming or play football, he could do none of those things.. Sadly, my friend passed away some years back. If he hadn’t had polio, he probably will still be alive today.”
The World Health Organization declared Nigeria free of wild polio virus in 2020, but there are still some vaccine-derived cases in the country.
Adeyanju’s dizzying ride through some of the world’s toughest terrains led to a few hair-raising moments in Morocco, he told CNN.
“The experience of riding the Tizi n’Tichka pass, that’s the path that take you to the summit of the Atlas mountain. It’s regarded as the most dangerous road in Africa. It’s packed with adrenaline and it’s a road where you take your eyes off the road for one second or you can go into the ravine…
“It takes about an hour 30 minutes to ride a mountain pass. And I can tell you, it is one of the most difficult one hour 30 minutes of my life.”
“But you know, after going through all that pressure, when you get to the peak of the Atlas mountain… the reward of the view is more than all the pressure you’ve gone through to get there.”
After the thrill of riding through the mountains, Adeyanju headed for the Sahara Desert, an experience he says he was dreading because of the extreme heat.
“There was a time I checked the temperature when I was on the Mauritanian side of the Sahara and the tarmac was 53 degrees Celsius (127 F). I was pushing my bike at 150 kph and it was an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
Riding 1,000 kilometers per day, it took him seven days to cross the desert.
“The Sahara is an unfriendly environment,” he said. “It’s not designed to support life. The Sahara is there to kill you. It doesn’t forgive. You make a mistake and you may not come back.”
During what was the toughest stretch of the journey he experienced two sandstorms and nearly ran out of water, Adeyanju said.
“The Sahara on the Moroccan side is totally different from the Sahara in Mauritania. On the Moroccan side it is extremely windy. I experienced a sandstorm twice which lasted for about 30 to 40 minutes. I had to lay the bike down and lie face down for 30 minutes until the storm passed,” he recalled.
Kunle Adeyanju (C) arrives at the Ikeja Rotary club in Lagos on May 29, 2022, after a 41 day trip from London, by motorbike, to raise funds and awareness for the End Polio campaign.
BENSON IBEABUCHI/AFP via Getty Images
After surviving the storms, he said he nearly didn’t make it out alive because he ran out of water.
“I got carried away and I was drinking as I was tired and by the time I realized I had only one liter left in my hydration pack and I had around 450 kilometers still to go.”
Dehydrated, disorientated and forced to ride slowly, he suddenly saw a Land Rover parked in the desert.
“Nature spoke for me,” he said. “Some guys were doing a desert Safari. I drove to them and I couldn’t speak… my speech was slurred… The guy just said ‘don’t talk, don’t talk’. Then he went into his car and gave me two 1.5 liter bottles of water. If I didn’t see those guys, I don’t know whether I will be here today.”
Adeyanju also experienced a few spooky moments in the desert, when he suddenly started hearing voices, even though no one was around him — a phenomenon in which atmospheric conditions in the arid terrain can carry sound over long distances.
“It brings the voice sound waves clearly to you… and you hear voices all around,” he said. “Many people think it is spirits but it’s just science,” he added.
Documenting his travels on social media, Adeyanju attracted many fans and well-wishers including Rotary club members and others from the biking community. He also picked up a few high-profile fans, including the prime minister of Mali, Choguel Kokalla Maiga, who requested to have a meeting with him, he said.
Adeyanju, who has visited 75 countries, says the most surprising thing about his adventures was making an unexpected discovery about Africa.
“Before going on this ride, I read a lot about the CIA World factbook on the countries I was going to travel to. For example I knocked Burkina Faso off my trip because of what I read about Burkina Faso, but the moment I stepped my foot on the African continent… I can tell you everything I read about the African people or the African country is false, he said.
“Africa is beautiful. It is a land of diversity. It’s a land of hospitality and people are friendly and nice… It was a big eye-opener for me to say that we have been underselling Africa… and we’ve been we’ve not been saying the right things about ourselves. That’s why I have launched a campaign called ‘Think Africa.’ My next vacation, all the things I want to do is in Africa. There’s so much to discover on this continent.”
Top photo credit: BENSON IBEABUCHI/AFP via Getty Images