The last few days have been an amazing experience, meeting the Riders for Health team and learning about their work. The operation is incredibly professional and far larger than we had anticipated. The Riders centre occupies a large compound in Banjul, where operations, servicing and vehicle management of the two and four wheeled fleet takes place. In addition to the roughly 130 motorcycles, work is carried out on vehicle fleets on behalf of the Government and a number of other aid agencies. Riders has become an important part of Gambia’s medical transport infrastructure.
A field trip was also taken, with our Motorcycle Outreach team braving the challenging ferry crossing of the Gambia River once again, to visit a Riders field centre and to talk to health workers about their activities.
The commitment of people here really shines through and it seems clear that with more support, much more could be done to improve essential basic medical coverage in remote areas. The roads here are absolutely appalling and as a result even small distances are challenging. The challenge for health workers is clear, though without Riders, things would be much, much worse.
Check out www.riders.org for more details about their work in The Gambia and elsewhere.
While we have been here, a decision was taken to bury the Milward family time capsule at the Riders centre rather than at the place that Simon had his accident. This was a decision that was not taken lightly, but governed by the serious concerns that both of us had regarding the safety of the capsule after it was buried. The Road to Kayes in Mali where Simon crashed is currently under development. Unlike the UK, when road works take place in West Africa, an uncontrolled melee of diverted vehicles tear through the bush or desert looking for a way around the obstruction. One concern was that it would be difficult to find a meaningful place the bury the capsule that would ensure that it did not get destroyed by passing traffic, or further road development work.
In addition, we have both noticed that whenever we stop – even in the deep desert – we are not usually alone. Someone invariably pops up from behind a tree, rock or some other feature of the landscape. We had both become concerned that two characters burying something by the side of road would be noticed, with the capsule perhaps being at risk of theft.
We have learned from people here that Simon had planned to visit the RfH centre in Banjul. So after discussing the issue with Simon’s family and Riders for Health, it was felt best to bury the capsule here in Banjul, where Riders can look after it and perhaps people in the future can come and visit. Riders are happy for us to place a proper memorial at the burial site in the fullness of time.
This has led to some adjustment of our itinerary for the journey home. Having achieved the joint aims of the run to visit Riders for Health and to bury a commemorative time capsule for Simon, we are both about to head north. The extra time that we now have means that Dave will realise an ambition to make a short tour of western Mali while I work my way up the coast, meeting Dave for the long jump across the Sahara.
Look out for more news in about a week’s time.
Dave and Craig on the road