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UK team bike 12,000 km for India's poor

Chris Proctor and Mark Lewis travlled on motorbike from India to UK to raise money for Kolkata street kids.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:21 IST

One man and his team-mate took a 12,000 km trip on a motorcycle from India to the UK to raise money for the street children of Kolkata.

Chris Proctor, 23, from Devon, not an average biker and Mark Lewis began their journey on two Royal Enfield motorcycles from Kolkata to reach Buckingham Palace in London, earlier this week.

About £45,000 was raised by the charity, Future Hope run by The Daily Telegraph to provide shelter, education and medical aid to the street children of Kolkata. It attracted support from celebrities like Jeremy Irons, Joanna Lumley, Sir Terence Conran and Hugh Laurie, but Proctor and Lewis hope to raise more for the charity by auctioning the 500 and 300cc Royal Enfields they rode.

The two-month expedition took the two men through India, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, before reaching London. The quick speed at which they completed the journey was because "Mark is getting married in October," said Chris.

The two, however, did not have an easy ride. They could not go through China because of the outbreak of Sars. They had to go through a motorcycle mechanics course, before they ventured out, which was quite problematic. "We did it in a tiny mechanic's shop in Calcutta and I barely speak any Hindi, so it was difficult to work out what I was supposed to be doing," said Chris.

Despite the training, problems arose on the road. Their scariest moments were in Bihar. The duo had been warned of night-time hijackings of vehicles and told to travel with an armed escort. But they decided to ride through the the day, but at 7 pm Chris's back tyre blew. "I was quite badly cut-up," he says. "We had to get three children to help us carry the bike for a mile and then we had to sleep on the side of the road, terrified that we were going to be spotted."

In Kazakhstan, Mark's 350cc machine broke down 100 miles from the Russian border. They somehow got it working and took the bikes over the border, only for it to break down again three days later in mountainous terrain. "So we got a lift with a mad Turkish truck driver to the nearest mechanic," says Chris.

The journey was exhausting in more ways than one. The two men carried spare parts and sleeping gear on their bikes and for a certain lap of their journey they also passengers - two cameramen filming them for a documentary about the expedition. "I just felt a huge tiredness all of the time. Every day we were riding from dawn until night," says Chris.

But the tiredness was wiped off completely when they arrived in London to be by a former street child from Kolkata who, with the help of Future Hope, is now studying in in London. "For me that just highlighted how important this trip has been," said Chris. A mission accomplished!

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST