Mark and Kenny’s trip of a lifetime
STUARY GILLESPIE “The tagline was experience Africa and it was definitely an experience.”
That’s Mark Paterson’s view on the charity trip he and his uncle Kenny made to Lesotho last year.
The pair headed there as part of a journey organised by Two Wheels For Life, the official charity of MotoGP, which works to ensure even the poorest African communities have access to healthcare.
Mark and Kenny were members of a group which rode around Lesotho on motorbikes watching the country’s health workers in action.
And at the end of their expedition, their bikes were handed over for use by the Ministry of Health.
Mark, who runs Paterson ATV in Dalbeattie, said: “You could see how it was going to make a difference.
“They had old bikes that were needing replaced. Our bikes would help to do that and also allow other health workers to do more visits.
“Some of the places we were visiting were pretty inaccessible and really mountainous. You were up in really remote mountain villages with just a few huts and nothing else.
“There’s even places they couldn’t get to with the bikes.
“The terrain is so difficult so they ride as far as they can then they meet someone on a horse who takes the medicine or the samples or the rider goes with the guy on the horse.
“It’s quite a strange place because there’s been quite a few big infrastructure projects there. It’s got a high rainfall because it’s so mountainous, so they have dammed a lot of it and created a lot of reservoirs.
“Yo u ’ ve got this weird juxtaposition of all these big infrastructure projects and loads of amazing big roads serving them to get the equipment and people up and then just these wee remote villages with basically no road to get them. “
Lesotho has a population of around two million and the second highest percentage of population in Africa with AIDS.
It is also a high country, all above the height of Ben Nevis.
“It’s barren, rugged and seemingly inhospitable,” describes Kenny. “It’s an interesting wee country, not your average African country.
“When you say Africa to most people , they think of flat plains with lions roaming about.
“There’s virtually no wildlife – I saw one baboon. It’s nothing like you see in the films.
“The health workers try to do preventative talks.
“These villages are totally self sufficient so if an animal gets anthrax and falls over, if they don’t recognise it as anthrax they see it as a big source of protein.
“They cut it up and share it with everybody because that’s the culture and they don’t want to waste anything.
“If they don’t recognise it’s died from anthrax it could be lethal.
“AIDS, TB and cancer are rising as well which wasn’t really on their radar before.”
Mark and Kenny experienced everything from 30 degree heat to blizzards and a variety of accommodation.
Their South African-born guides also gave them the chance to experience some of the challenging trails used for the Roof of Africa offroad motorbike race.
However, it was a trip that was tinged by sadness when Two Wheels for Life’s chairman Paul Hocking was killed in a road accident.
“It was a total freak accident on a windy mountain road,” recalls Mark. “His son was on the trip and saw it all.
“We tried to save him at the side of the road for about an hour and a half.