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JJ “sticks it” for trees in Ethiopia

The Sault’s venerable “extreme cyclist with a cause” is off on yet another trek, this time to the far (and deep) reaches of Ethiopia.

JJ Hilsinger, Sault Ste. Marie’s veteran cycling excursionist, has headed to Ethiopia this month on yet another two-wheel odyssey.

One project of the organized adventure tour is to raise funds for tree replanting in that country.

Once the ancient fertile cradle of African agriculture and the river head of the great Nile, today 98 percent of Ethiopia’s tree cover is ravished.

JJ’s goal is to raise $10,000 through local donations, one hundred percent of which will be handed over to the Ethiopian Tree Fund Foundation (ETFF).

“A journey always needs a mission,” says JJ. “I became aware of the Ethiopian Tree Fund Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping farmers plant trees to re-build the soils in the farming areas of Ethiopia, when I signed up for this excursion. Since we are travelling about 2,000 kilometres, I thought about 10 trees for every kilometre travelled would be a nice goal. So, my target is to plant 20,000 trees. At about 50 cents a tree, that will amount to $10,000. That’s a good goal, I think.”

Seasoned cyclist with a cause

The local businessman is legendary for his 12,000 kilometre adventure from Cairo to Capetown in 2005, which helped to raise funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

In 2007, JJ’s 11,000 kilometre trek along Asia’s Silk Route was dedicated to encouraging Sault Ste. Marie residents to curb carbon emissions (one tonne for every kilometre he pedalled).

In Ethiopia, he joins 15 other cyclists on a shorter (2,000 kilometre), but quite possibly tougher, endurance trek.

The group will to be the first riders ever to bike the Danakil Depression, a vast area in Ethiopia known for its extinct volcanoes, with temperatures that are persistently 50°C and higher.

At 500 feet below sea level, it is the lowest and hottest depression on the planet.

“While this bike journey is not the arduous expedition-like travel of my previous challenges to Africa and to Asia, it will demand some careful body management in such altitudes and especially such hot temperatures,” reflects JJ.