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Sunday, 28 April 2013

From Zero to Zambia: a Riders for Health Adventure - Page 2

Written by Richard Warmsley
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On Day 1 I felt a lot like that tense first-time rider on my CBT. By the second day I was getting used to standing on the pegs of the BMW G 650 GS Sertao, growing in confidence and relaxing. However, there was one memorable moment on a steep and large downhill boulder where the instructor said “I was convinced we were going to be calling the air ambulance, I don’t know how you managed to save that.” Blind panic can bring out some excellent survival skills! Top tip, it’s best not to accidentally hold the clutch in and freewheel down (idiot!). The bruises were a decent shade of purple and green but nothing was broken.

 

Just before I left, I got to try out my skills again at Trailworld, Hertfordshire with Gary Taylor, the Zambia ride leader. I got some invaluable advice about the trip and the kit I was going to need. Since I was distracted by buying a load of gear for a little walk up a cold mountain, I ended up buying everything in one last-minute panic buy, but the gents at DirtBikeBitz.com got me sorted brilliantly with a new Shoei Hornet DS, Oakley O-frames, A-stars body armour, boots and everything else. 

 

Now all that was needed was half the sponsorship money, some local currency, quite a lot of jabs, and to get up and down a big mountain without incident. 

 

 

Lusaka to Livingtonse, the Sandy Way

 

I arrived in Zambia in mid-November having earned my Riders for Health sponsorship making it up Kilimanjaro If I could make it up that bloody great mountain, then off-roading between Lusaka and Livingstone couldn’t be that hard? As everyone began to arrive in Lusaka and share bike stories and off-road experience it was clear that we were all looking forward to the ride, but there was an underlying sense that no one knew quite what to expect. The Riders for Health team looked after us as they would for the whole trip, with no question too daft. 

 

There were 15 of us in total, including the original racing co-founder Randy Mamola, Gary and Jeanette from Riders, Marvin, our Zambian riders team member, Alan the South African support truck paramedic, and an eclectic bunch mostly from the UK, plus Jill from the US. We had enough different jobs and bikes to tick most boxes between us - firefighter to hotelier, Harley to Honda. 

P1000370 

Day 1: putting the pristine kit on for the first time felt like I blended in about as much as Dr Livingstone arriving in deepest Africa. I felt like I looked pretty ridiculous and probably had more gear than was necessary. Or more importantly, possibly more layers than were advisable in 37C temperatures. As I sweated my first bucket of salty water out (and a few beers), I already felt grateful for upgrading my Camelbak to take three litres. Fortunately, everyone looked as professional/daft as me. We headed off for a practice off-road ride to an elephant sanctuary; the first taste of wild Africa. 

 

The next morning we learnt more about Riders for Health’s work in Zambia from Constance Chibiliti, the Programme Manager. She explained  the difference motorcycles make when communities can be confident of a reliable schedule of visits from health care workers. She explained how Riders works with governments in Africa to maintain vehicles and train local workers. It’s a real contrast to some of the well-intentioned but flawed aid programmes of the past that gave hand outs which didn’t always end up in the right places and didn’t focus on local training and development partnerships. All Riders employees and leaders based in Africa are locals from the seven countries they work in. 

 

Randy also highlighted the work Riders is doing with the Bill Gates Foundation and Stanford University. This study is looking at four villages with Riders for Health motorcycle support and four without to compare the impact on health care results; building the evidence of success that could lead to funding for more motorcycles reaching more of rural Africa. It’s clearly something Randy is incredibly passionate about. During the week, we get the chance to talk about his career and his history with the charity, as well as our own motivations and impressions of Riders’ work.

 

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Tuesday, 30 April 2013

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