Introduction to Africa With Autism

Africa With Autism – The Challenge
Africa with Autism is a challenge first.   It is mother and daughter travelling from the UK to South Africa on a motorbike with a side car.  Starting 10 November 2015, the trip will be slow to ensure Sofia’s autistic needs are met and may take as long as 9 months.   

Our principle aim with this challenge is to raise awareness of autism.

All funds will be going to the Adventure Autism Foundation, which we have set up to manage the funding this challenge.  The excess amount raised will be donated to National Autistic Societies who does a huge amount of work to promote better understanding of autism and support people with the condition, their families and carers..



Here are some facts and statistics about autism, and how it can affect children, adults and their families.

The term ‘autism’ is used here to describe all diagnoses on the autism spectrum including classic autism, Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism.

· Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling condition. Without the right support, it can have a profound – sometimes devastating – effect on individuals and families.

· Autism is much more common than many people think. There are around 700,000 people in the UK with autism – that’s more than 1 in 1002. If you include their families, autism touches the lives of 2.7 million people every day.

· Autism doesn’t just affect children. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism.

· Autism is a hidden disability – you can’t always tell if someone has it.

· While autism is incurable, the right support at the right time can make an enormous difference to people’s lives.

· Over 40% of children with autism have been bullied at school.

· Over 50% of children with autism are not in the kind of school their parents believe would best support them.

· One in five children with autism has been excluded from school, many more than once.

· Nearly two-thirds of adults with autism in England do not have enough support to meet their needs.

· At least one in three adults with autism are experiencing severe mental health difficulties due to a lack of support.

· Only 15% of adults with autism in the UK are in full-time paid employment.

· 51% of adults with autism in the UK have spent time with neither a job, nor access to benefits, 10% of those having been in this position for a decade or more.

· 61% of those out of work say they want to work.

· 79% of those on Incapacity Benefit say they want to work

National Autistic Society –

46 thoughts on “Introduction to Africa With Autism”

  1. Hi Mel, are you guys travelling to Cape Town at all. I cant find your route. I have a son that has Asperger and it was his 17th birthday yesterday. It would be so cool if we could meet up. Look forward to hearing from you. Regards Glen

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Be real good Mel if Ural SA slotted a brand new motor in, or better still provided you with a complete new bike to use until you finish your trip then have it returned to them to use as some sort of advertising bike with a story of the trip. Could be good for them–& you. Cheers Mo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Costs too high I suspect – otherwise they probably would have suggested it already.
      From a personal point of view – would prefer to finish trip on our bike 🙂


  3. Hi Mel – welcome to Zimbabwe – amazing you have come so far! While you are in Harare if you would like to take Sofia to this (I am happy to sponsor your visit): Mwanga Lodge 22km from Harare along the tarred Shamva Rd . Day entrance into BallyVaughan Animal Sanctuary, two course lunch, game drive in BallyVaughan Gamepark in open vehicle, tour of the feeding of the predators at 4pm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Thank you Anne – we get into Harare later today and once we have a plan sorted on bike fixes etc we can put in a day. Pls message me through Facebook page – Africa with Autism – so we can swop contact details. X


      1. Hi Mel hope you are getting on well in Harare! Mwanga Lodge were wondering if you could come out today for an elephant ride at 11 before lunch?? Please call Debbie on 0772226854 to let her know how you are getting on? thanks Anne

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Just reading on the facebook page where you’re having continual niggling problems & i’m no help from half a world away but just wish you had someone mechanical with you that could just go–ok it’s doing such & such so we need to do ‘X’ to fix it. Not doubting your ability with what you’ve learnt after pretty much being thrown in the deep end so to speak & impressed doesn’t come close!!. But ‘gosh’ [tame word lol] i wish you were having a better run. How far left to travel–time & distance approx?. All the best–for the rest. Mo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep it is a real downer to have yet another problem! Albeit a minor one but really sick of my familiarity of the road side! Still about 5000k to go – compressor clean of carbs at every opportunity now as inline filters clearly aren’t effective! 😀


  5. Me again Mel, ignore my ramblings regarding wheel bearings. Just google imaged the set up & can see they have an adjustable taper roller set up which is ‘good’, so understand how they can be overtightened. Different to the normal run of the mill ordinary bearings with no adjusting till they’re worn out. All good, carry on the good work. Cheers Mo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep there are a number of different things for Urals – it has been an uphill struggle as a woman and having to tell mechanics they have to learn the bike and not assume it is the same as others! 🙂


  6. Hi Mel, talking wheel bearings, unless Ural have something out of the ordinary, you shouldn’t be able to overtighten them purely by tightening the axle–which must be done up tight of course!!. The bearings–one on each side of the wheel has to have a spacer between them of the correct distance to keep then under ‘no’ pressure when the axle is fully tightened. Maybe i’m misunderstanding just what’s going on. Only saying this incase the wheel bearings have fallen out when the wheel was off for some other reason & the spacer from between the bearings is still lying in the dirt, in which case tightening the axle would stop the wheel wanting to turn or would break the bearing. Bearings would only drop out–only take one to drop out–if they were a loose fit in the hub, not likely but possible with all the rough roads you’ve done. Sorry about the essay &don’t feel you have to reply but is nice to get a few words back, then i know my message arrived lol. Cheers Mo. [real name Morley–wifey hates Mo lol, whatever].

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I worry every day & look for better news every morning here in NZ. Someone buy that lady a new bike ‘please’ to hopefully have a trouble free run for the rest of the journey. New Ural the same would still be pretty reliable surely as they’ve probably updated any weak points by now. Hope the worst is behind you both. As a ‘very’ retired motorcycle mechanic i understand what’s going on which may be causing me to worry all the more lol–that’s a nervous lol not a laughing one sorry. Admire what you’r doing so very much & best wishes to you both for the rest of the journey. Mo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mo, Thanks for your concern a good wishes. Don’t worry about the bike, it is all part of the journey, and most of the problems are human related not the bike itself 🙂 Issues would no doubt have happened with any other bike for the same reasons. Ultimately we are fine though, and the biking community in Southern Africa are helping us with making sure that should any further problems occur that we will be well looked after.
      For our part, it adds a dimension to the adventure we are having and gives us the opportunity to meet and interact with a wider variety of people in a way that wouldn’t happen if we had no problems at all. For Sofia this is important, she is learning so much from this and I wouldn’t change anything at all if I could go back in time and do so.
      Personally, I love the bike, I think it is fit for purpose, my lack of experience both generally and specifically regards to motorbikes plays a huge part in the the out come, and has to be expected not to be always a great one 🙂
      Main thing is though, we are still on the road a going strong, and we are being well supported by the wonderful people we are meeting on the way, who we wouldn’t have met otherwise.
      I hope you continue to enjoy our journey with us! and fingers crossed good fortune continues to ride with us! Melx


  8. Laura and I are watching on Netflix and are about halfway thru “Long Way Down” the BMW motorcycle ride from Scotland to Capetown done by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in 2007, though it was 9 years ago and was done with sponsors and a support team it’s giving us some idea of what the terrain, the people, the borders are like and what it will be like for you two.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a brave,amazing Mum you are! Huge respect for what you are doing for Sofia as a life experience and for autism awareness. Have a wonderful journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Melanie and Sofia,
    A friend posted a picture of you both with the sidecar on Facebook s he thought I’d be interested. I thought he was referring to the fact I always wanted to race in sidecars but then I read the email address and realised it was of even more interest. In January I started working in a SEN resource, in a main stream secondary school, for children with high functioning autism.
    I am going to tell them about your adventure and we will follow it with great interest.
    Good luck and enjoy your trip


  11. Hi Melanie and Sofia,
    Read the launch article and follow up in Bike magazine, I am a lifelong biker.
    Your aims resonate with me as my Daughter Katy who is now 31 has A.S. which was only diagnosed at 16.
    Acceptance and understanding by society, rather than ignorance or bullying, can make so much difference to a persons quality of life and feeling of self worth.
    I am pleased to sponsor your journey through Africa and wish you both an exciting and safe adventure.
    Take Care,

    Kind Regards,
    Dave Johnston

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Mel
    I love what you are doing. I am a keen biker, member of the Salvation Army and work for the Hesley Group – who provide education and care for children and adults with Autism.
    I would love to help please let me know how?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Matt – PR is what we need most at the moment so any help you can give in spreading the word would be great. Sorry took so long to reply – things are getting hectic with now only 8 weeks to go! Xx


  13. Hello Melanie, we met at the ATFF15 over the weekend. Contact me by mail and I’ll forward contacts in Kenya and yet more pictures of good things to come. Mail address is ‘’ Lovely to meet you. Andrew

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Tidworth (North Tidworth) on A338 one km to west on Bing maps a convergences of white tracks is the test area with slopes inclines and water (go north A338 take a left past new estate find your way to ridge looking down onto expanse of treeless all less than 3km) Question

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi. We met when I was buying bits for my boat restauration project in your nearby hardware store. Very impressed with your project! Hope it comes together! And the bike! Remiss of me not to offer some help at the time.. J


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Raising Awareness for Adventures with Autism

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