Africa journey beset by perils

Oregon State sophomores Tate Koenig, left, and Keegan Warrington are traveling across western Europe and Africa to raise awareness about three Africa-based non-profits (contributed photo)

Oregon State sophomores Tate Koenig, left, and Keegan Warrington are traveling across western Europe and Africa to raise awareness about three Africa-based non-profits (contributed photo)

When we first caught up with OSU sophomores Keegan Warrington and Tate Koenig in October, they were scrambling to gather donations and get their 1986 Suzuki Samurai ready for a long charity trip through Europe and Africa starting in December.

But as the new year begins, the adventurers are getting more than they bargained for, and the fate of Team COW is still in doubt.

The two men are the only student team in this year’s Africa Rally, a charity-based competition that began in London in mid-December. Their goal was to raise awareness and funds for three Africa-oriented non-profits, including The Rain Forest Foundation, Ape Action Africa and Send a Cow.

They shipped the Suzuki to London in late fall, and arrived in England in early December, only to learn that the Africa Rally had been canceled due to terrorist activities in Mali, Algeria and Mauritania. Officials in the United Kingdom feared that participants in the rally might be targeted for kidnapping attempts during the race.

But after an adjustment to the route that skipped over Mauritania altogether, the rally was back on. However, the re-route proved only the first obstacle for the team. A dramatic winter storm that threw Europe into a tailspin created serious problems for Warrington and Koenig. They made it to Paris, but their Suzuki, which was supposed to be shipped across the Channel, did not.

After several failed attempts, their vehicle was finally scheduled to be shipped from London to Senegal, but not until Jan. 4. Stuck in Paris, one of the most expensive cities in the world, they made do through the Christmas holidays with some new and old friends they made, and a lot of creative thinking.

“It is worth the trip to a local market to buy noodles and vegetables to cook up a decent pasta,” Warrington wrote in his blog. “You can then spend the night watching the free light show at the Eiffel Tower, and instead of spending the eight Euros to visit the top of the tower to get a view of the city, you should head over to the Sacre Coeur, which has an amazing panoramic view of the entire city and is absolutely positively free.”

By Christmas Eve, the team had made it to a hostel in Barcelona, enjoying the 75 degree weather, which was a nice break from snowy Paris. One advantage to the delay in their trip was the people they are meeting along the way.

“We have met a lot of very nice people who after hearing our story have joined the “herd.” COWS are joining from all around the world stretching from Brazil, to Spain to Australia,” Warrington wrote. “This unexpected layover in Europe has helped us spread the word to far more people then I could have ever imagined.”

But not everyone they met has been friendly. In fact, Warrington suffered a close call in his Barcelona hostel when he woke up a few days before the New Year with a stranger’s hand around his throat. The man, who was not a guest of the hostel, had found his way into the room and attacked Warrington, who was able to throw him off and pin him to the ground.

The man eventually escaped and ran off, leaving Koenig and Warrington with yet another adventure to add to their long and bizarre journey.

Finally reaching Morocco, the pair teamed up with a new Team COW member, Luke Brossete, a photographer from New Orleans whom they met in Barcelona. Luke was so interested in the team’s mission he decided to come along and document the trip.

After motorbiking in the Atlas Mountains, the team made their way to the coast, and then to the Sahara, as they headed toward Dakar, Senegal to retrieve their car.

“I will be so relieved to finally get our car back, it was way back in October that we dropped off our car with the very incompetent shipping company, and now half way across the world we will finally have it back again,” Warrington wrote.

As the rally portion of their trip finally commences, we’ll keep following Team COW’s adventures through Africa. To learn more go to http://www.beacow.com/

~ Theresa Hogue

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