Travelling for more than 20 000km on a motorcycle through Africa in 100 days is a challenge on its own, but travelling while protecting a rooster from being eaten is a whole different story.
Ben Hadfield had always dreamt of taking on a personal challenge such as motorbiking through Africa, but never did the accountant from London think his dream would turn into a such an adventure.
“I’ve always wanted to ride a bike throughout Africa, London to Cape Town, and so I did,” Ben said.
Having passed through countries such as Congo Brazzaville, Guinea Bissau, Cameroon, Gabon and Nigeria, it was in Ivory Coast where Ben met a companion that would spice up his adventure.
Ben supports an international development charity called, Tear Fund. They partner with and provide funding for small local charities in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. They have different project streams working on a number of issues.
But in the Ivory Coast, they partnered with a local charity called ADIAS, which supports and provides training to local cocoa farmers.
“When I told them I was doing this trip through Africa, they suggested I pop into the village and visit the project, which I did,” said Ben, who works as an accountant for the charitable arm of a property developer that builds rehabilitation centres for injured soldiers, servicemen and women in the midlands in the UK.
It was during a naming ceremony where Ben received a local name and was given some Fanta to drink to start off the ceremony. But rather unexpectedly, he was also given Roderick the rooster.
Roderick became Ben’s companion for the next part of his adventure, a companion that would change the entire outlook of the trip.
“He was a good travelling companion, there’s no back chat. He let me make all the decisions. He was my alarm clock, but that is a double edged sword. He was a good conversation starter. There are pros and cons to having him at border checkpoints as sometimes the officials laugh, and sometimes they want to eat him. He doesn’t really clean up after himself,” Ben laughed.
The pair have been through their fair share of challenges throughout Africa, from the motorcycle giving in, waiting for nearly two weeks for a part to arrive, battling with climate change and even dodging bandits trying to get money out of Ben.
“The main things were keeping the bike going and also dealing with corruption, especially from border officials. Bandits held a rope across the road to make me stop while they demanded money, but I didn’t give them any,” said Ben.
Despite trying to fend off hungry stomachs and people looking at Roderick as a meal instead of a companion, Ben worried about the rooster’s future, so he immediately made contact with a friend back home who put him in contact with Hout Bay’s Alice Cropper, who had postedBen’s story on various Hout Bay groups.
Alice explained that one day, a mutual friend in the UK suggested Ben contact her for help as he was travelling through Africa with Roderick, but was concerned about his fate once he reached Cape Town and Ben returned to the UK.
“I posted their story on Hout Bay Organised and there were a few offers, but I chose the best, which was Rea on her gorgeous chicken paradise stronghold. I also invited them to stay at my place. There were some hairy moments, like would Roderick make it through the SA border (other checkpoints had wanted to eat him),” Alice said.
And then on Monday evening, Alice heard Ben’s bike rolling up outside her home and there he was with Roderick on the back.
“Roderick made himself right at home by putting my dog in her place and in no time had snuck into the bathroom and was throwing my make-up off the counter. I loved getting to know Ben, he has so many incredible stories and yet he is very humble about them. A very interesting person indeed,” Alice said.
Ben and Roderick ended their journey at Hout Bay beach before heading off to Alice’s home.
Roderick will be joining 33 other pampered chickens in the “chicken paradise”, a far cry from his origins in the village in Ivory Coast.
After spending nearly four months with Roderick on the dirt roads through Africa, Ben said it would be quite hard to leave his new chick behind.
“He has been my only constant companion on this trip. Each morning and evening he has been there with his needs. When he was given to me on December 23, I was considering eating him on Christmas Day,” Ben smiled.
Roderick’s first 180km with Ben saw the chicken bouncing around in a box on the back of the bike, on a dirt road while Ben tried to figure out what to do with his new chick.
“Since then, he has upgraded boxes a couple of times and is now treated like royalty,” Ben said.
His arrival in Hout Bay was met with a whirlwind of emotions, as a trip he had been dreaming of was coming to an end, but meeting Roderick along the way had put a special twist on his dream trip.
“I have planned this trip for quite some time and there were so many elements that could derail it. But to have made it here in one piece at last, it’s amazing,” he said.
Ben added before saying good bye to Roderick: “I did not expect when I left London that I would have a chicken as a companion. But I recommend this journey – everyone should do it….with a biker chick!”
The Sentinel News asked Roderick about what he felt about the long journey through Africa, he replied: “Cluck cluck cluck cluck” and then waltzed away confidently into his new dream home.