Mark and Kenny’s trip of a life­time

The Galloway News - - DISTRICT NEWS -

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.

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