According to Douglas Sidialo he was “at the wrong place at wrong time” in Nairobi, Kenya on August 7, 1998: “It was a bright Friday morning and I was on my way to work in a heavy traffic snarl-up on a busy Haille Sellassie Avenue.”
He continues: “When I reached the (United States) Embassy I saw a truck that took a turn and went towards the Embassy. Suddenly I witnessed an altercation between the occupants of the truck and the security personnel from the Embassy. Then I heard what sounded like gunshots but which turned out to be hand grenades being thrown at the Embassy.”
He thought that he was witnessing gangsters robbing the Embassy. “Then I saw a man run with a walkie-talkie on his right hand towards the heavy traffic and that’s when the huge blast went off … from that moment I have never seen the light of day again.”
Sidialo was blinded by a massive bomb that had been detonated by al-Qaeda in an attack on the Embassy. A total of 213 people died in the blast. A simultaneous car bomb attack on the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, claimed another 11 lives.
In spite of losing his sight, Sidialo was determined to live a full life, and many might suggest he has done even more than that. And in 2018 he intends taking on the huge challenge of the Untamed African MTB stage race, the Absa Cape Epic.
“In life there are challenges that want to knock us flat onto our backs, but we must confront those head on, breaking them and living a life full of purpose,” he explains. “I am inspired to experience extreme challenges in life and the Absa Cape Epic is the ultimate bike challenge close to my heart.”
The Kenyan lives by the philosophy that “a life without challenges is life standing still” and says he wants to show the world: the power of the human spirit; that what is “inside you is much bigger than what is outside you”; courage in the face of adversity; and the virtues of “trust, faith and tolerance” as expressed in relationships.
In this case his key relationship is with his tandem “pilot”, 22-year-old John Kiriko Mwangi.
“I met Johnnie four years ago and have cycled with him in major MTB stage races in Kenya and abroad,” he explains. These include the Rift Valley Odyssey, the Laikipia Extreme Challenge, the 10-4 Mount Kenya Mountain Bike Challenge and the past three editions of the joBerg2c.
He also completed the 2007 Tour d’Afrique, cycling the 12 000km from Cairo to Cape Town in 96 days. In 2003 he cycled in the Face of America bike ride from Ground Zero in New York to the Pentagon in Washington DC in honour of the 9/11 victims.
The challenges of riding in extreme conditions on a mountain bike without sight can give rise to some terrifying – and sometimes amusing – times, says Sidialo.
On the Tour d’Afrique they were charged by an elephant which they somehow managed to escape and in 2015 he and Mwangi had to be evacuated by helicopter after a huge crash in a race in Kenya.
Part of Douglas’ untamed experience has been covered by Magalies through KAP Sani2C organisers who have offered to sponsor the full entry fee into the race, along with PG Bison Kenya who will cover some of his expenses in South Africa.
* The 2018 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from 18 to 25 March.