Charity cyclist attacked by machete gang in Africa

Dorset rider could be held up for a couple of months

by Tom Henry   March 26, 2010  

peter gostelow.jpg

The unpredictable nature of cross-continental cycle rides has been brought home by the experiences of Dorset cyclist Peter Gostelow, who was attacked by a machete-wielding gang in Senegal.

Mr Gostelow has been cycling across Africa since last August to raise money for the Against Malaria Foundation. His aim is to take in 25 countries and ride 25,000 km, but he's been held up for a few weeks while his wounds heal.

The 31-year-old was jumped by five men, who slashed at his hand and leg with machetes to steal his bag and camera. He wasn't actually on his bike at the time of the attack, but was walking along a street in Dakar.

“My assailants were wearing flip-flops,” he wrote on his blog. “It was the sound of their footwear along the pavement that I heard first. When I turned round the five bodies had surrounded me. They were all black, young and two were wielding large machetes. The blades looked old and rusted. There were shouts, possibly in Wolof, as hands began to tug at my bags. I was wearing a small black day-sack on my back and an SLR camera was in a bag across my shoulder.

“Those first few seconds were surreal. I didn’t accept it was a reality until I’d moved backwards into the road and fallen onto the tarmac.

“The bags were still in my possession at this moment. It was when the machetes started slashing in front of my face and one connected with my wrist that I let go. It was probably at this moment that my wallet, buried deep within a zipped pocket of my trousers, was taken too.

“Within seconds the five had run across the road and jumped over a wall on the sea-ward side of the corniche. I got to my feet in an attempt to chase them. One of the attackers had yet to jump the wall. I cried out from several metres away. He turned and looked at me nervously, then threw the empty camera bag back, before disappearing over the wall.

“It was then that I looked down at my arm and saw the gaping slash. My left foot had also slipped out of my sandle. I thought it was sweat that had caused this, but a pool of blood was collecting here too.”

A Frenchwoman saw the attack from her car and rushed him to hospital, where he had emergency surgery on three severed tendons on his hand. A doctor has now told him that he can't ride his bike for 'one month minimum' and he expects it to be longer.

“As much as I’d like to prove myself wrong,” he said, “I feel the reality of cycling on African roads on a solo trip of this nature means the time period will be much longer. I won’t leave Dakar until I’m 100%++ fit and strong.”

He is staying with an American couple he met at the International School in Dakar where he had given a speech about his ride and the charity he is riding for. And – bless her – his mum is flying out to see him.