THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT! The Ambulance Rally team of Malvena Stuart-Taylor, Ben Allenby, Nick Eastcott and Bob Chaundy would like to thank everyone for their support throughout their entire Southampton to Ghana adventure and would like to report that they made it!! It was a trip involving unpredictable events, unforgettable moments and incredible memories, one that took them through 7 countries in 21 days, raising over £30,000 and delivering 2 reliable vehicles to the Upper East Region of Ghana to be used as Ambulances. There were times where due to the instability caused by the coup in Mali, it was thought that it was not going to be possible to keep going, but the Ambulance team soldiered on. They showed bravery, incredible team spirit, and immense perseverance. Here is some feedback from each of the intrepid adventurers: Malvena Stuart Taylor: ‘When agreeing on this exciting but possibly mad project I mused as to how much of an adventure and challenge it would be. Experience provided both attributes in abundance. The welcome and hospitality we received throughout the trip when we ran into mechanical problems was overwhelming. A coup had broken out in the capital of Mali, Bamako, the day before we set off - reports we received during our trip indicated only one thing, that it would be foolhardy to enter this country. We had no alternative routes available, either due to political instability in Algeria via the north or due to potentially hazardous terrain through Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire via the south. Therefore half-way through we resigned ourselves to abandoning the trip this year. At this point I was at an emotional low and I felt as though we were betraying Ghana and the generous donors for the project. However a few days later we received direct news from a resident in Bamako that all was well. This was when I felt my nerve was being tested. Whilst informing a few friends of our planned itinerary, in case anything untoward should happen to us, I did not let my own family know until we were safely through this country. What I hadn't bargained for was the immense physical test we were to face driving through Mali when both trucks broke down and we had to spend a night sleeping in them. We were filthy, dehydrated and hot (the ambient temperature that day reached 50°C). For the next few days we limped our way through this country, experiencing breakdowns and punctures daily but made it with the mechanical know-how and warm hospitality of the Malians. It was a sad irony that a country such as this struggles to keep going with difficult climatic conditions, yet they are industrious and care about everyone around them. It was a sobering experience.
On arrival at Ouagadougou, from where I was to fly home to catch up with my daughters, the relief was immense. However there was, and still remains, a deep sense of humility and compassion from individuals who, despite hardship, simply get on with life with a smile on their faces. That will remain with me for ever.’ Nick Eastcott: ‘We made it! Definitely makes the top 10 life time experiences! I feel that I have a different quality of connection with Bolgatanga now that I know every inch of the way from my own front door! The journey impacted on the four of us in so many ways. It was a real pleasure and a luxury spending so much time with 3 very different individuals. We, of course had our moments but we got on remarkably well and are still speaking to each other. As a team building exercise this type of experience has no equal. We travelled through 7 different countries, saw some amazing sights and camped far off the beaten track. We now know that there is huge variety in the landscapes of the Sahara and that there is a bush mechanic behind every other sand dune able to deal with almost any problem the harsh environment could throw at us and we also know that the people of the Sahara and Sahel are invariable helpful and will go out of their way to help strangers without a thought. Our two vehicles have been in Ghana for 10 days now. They have been going through their paces with journeys to remote villages in the Region. They are perfect for the terrain and have truly found their natural home. Next week they should begin their journey south to Kumasi where they will be converted to ambulances. I have visited 2 hospitals today, Sandema hospital has no ambulance and the single ambulance serving Navrongo hospital has been off the road for nearly 3 years, awaiting funds for a new engine. Everyone here is eagerly awaiting the return of our 2 vehicles from Kumasi so that they can start making a real difference to sick and injured people in the Region. Watch this space!’ Bob Chaundy: ‘I enjoyed almost every moment of what was an intense three-week experience embracing many highs and occasional lows. Above all, I enjoyed the laughs and the banter with my fellow travellers whose qualities shone through – Nick’s vision and steely determination, Ben’s huge joie de vivre and technical competence, Malvena’s feistiness, charm and endearing vulnerability, not to mention her coffee. I marvelled at the ever-changing Saharan landscape, the characters we encountered good and bad, the buzz of St Louis in Senegal, that blend of excitement and apprehension as to where we might end up each day. The bitter disappointment that our challenge might be ended by the turmoil in Mali was countered by the thrill of the decision to go ahead once we’d established that it was safe to do so. I’m in awe of the mechanics that came to our rescue time and again. They ensured the safe passage of the two vehicles – the stars of the trip – whose future use as ambulances in Ghana will aid the work of the medical staff there, the true heroes.’
Ben Allenby: ‘The trip for me was a very surreal experience. Starting out in England, buying and servicing the cars and then seeing them in Swanage made it all seem quite normal. Packing the cars up and getting on the ferry to Spain again felt strangely normal. It wasn't until a week in I was in the car, with Malvena asleep in the passengers seat listening to my Ipod, did it all suddenly dawn on me, I was in the Sahara, in a car we found, bought, fixed and drove there. One of my abiding memories will be the people we met. We had heard horror stories and were scared at entering countries and seeing what would happen. Never, at any point did I feel threatened or worried about what would happen wherever we were. In fact the complete opposite, I felt secure and safe in the knowledge if the cars did break down, some one would help us, talk to us or as it turned out many times, fix the problems for us. The trip seemed to go on forever. There is no way of describing how big Africa is to someone from Englandwe drove the equivalent of Scotland to Devon most days for 3 weeks straight with only subtle changes in peoples faces, landscape and weather day to day. But it would suddenly dawn on you that you had driven through the desert and were now having to stop and wait for warthogs to get out of the way and a casual warning of "if you see an elephant try and stay in the car, if you do get out just try and keep your distance". Moments like that make me feel the trip passed in a flash. The feeling of adventure from driving the cars to Ghana has inspired me to do more seemingly "ridiculous" trips in the future, I now like the idea of driving a home made camper van to the Northern lights for Christmas! To top it all off, arriving in Ghana and meeting everybody in AfriKids was a really wonderful experience. We got to see so much of the real Ghana and the work AfriKids do, something I don't think I would be able to have got anywhere close to experiencing if it hadn't been for the ridiculously lovely staff there (and I do mean ridiculous, you have never met people so nice, friendly and welcoming it felt like an act at first then you realise these people do what they do because that is their nature). Trip of a lifetime ? Definitely.’
I think it is fair to say that this was an incredible achievement. Thank you to everyone for supporting a fantastic cause. In addition to the two ambulances which will provide transport in an emergency to severely ill individuals, the funds raised will provide vital specialist training and also enable us to procure and ship key items of equipment to carry on with the successful work of the Partnership. To read more about the rally adventures (and the sometimes dodgy driving!) please visit Bob and Malvena’s blog at: http://bobchaundy.blogspot.co.uk/ or http://malvena.blogspot.com To donate to the Ambulance Rally, please visit: http://www.justgiving.com/Ambulances-to-Africa
The beasts in their new home…….