Alvaro Bautista on his experiences in Africa with Riders for Health
In November 2011 Spanish MotoGP star, Alvaro Bautista, joined 18 other adventurers, including grand prix legend, Randy Mamola, on an adventure of a lifetime. Alvaro saw how he and the other MotoGP riders are helping people in Africa receive reliable health care.
Riders for Health’s Experience Africa is not just the usual motorcycle tour. It is a chance to witness the extraordinary work of Riders for Health. Participants were raising money to support the organisation’s work in Africa and they used the same bikes that health workers use across Africa to deliver health care.
Alvaro talks about his experiences in Zambia:
“People often wonder what it is that MotoGP riders do during the winter when there are no races. Obviously there is lots of training to be done, but this November I was lucky enough to visit Zambia with the amazing charity, Riders for Health and take part in their Experience Africa adventure.
We arrived in Zambia and had a day to get used to the bikes that we would be riding. They weren’t quite as quick as the ones that I am used to, but they were just right for where we were going.
Our first day’s riding was from Lilayi lodge to the Moorings campsite, six hours away, and we were on the bikes before 9am. This was my first time riding through Africa and it was a real eye-opener. When you see how isolated the villages are and how bad the roads and tracks are, it is really obvious what an important job the motorcycles do, and how much they help the health workers.
The riding was great fun and the tracks and off-road routes were all twisting, undulating, fast in places, across a wide variety of surfaces. We road past savannah grasslands, maize crops and into forests.
We were riding for a week and finished our adventure in Livingstone, just a few kilometres from Victoria Falls. I thought that my first days riding had been amazing, but the last two were even better.
We rode through villages and met lots of people, and what amazes me the most is how happy the children are that we meet. Although they have so little, they are so pleased to see us. It is the kind of excitement and happiness that children get in Spain when they see Santa.
I always knew that it was important to support Riders for Health when I donated items to their auctions at Day of Champions and met with fans in the paddock and pit-lane, but to see what they do with the money they raise is amazing.
We visited a clinic and heard how hard it is for the health workers. We met people who had had to walk for many hours to visit the clinic, which had so little.
One of the health workers told us they cared for a village 80 kilometres away. Without a vehicle, how would they ever reach it? The roads are so bad, and the villages are so isolated, it means that it is so important to make sure the health workers have a motorcycle.
We were also told about how Riders for Health looks after vehicles so they never break down. It is easy to see how the rough roads could cause a bike to break. That is why the technicians are so important.
What I will always remember about Zambia was how warm and welcoming everyone was. The children would stop and wave to us. But it was sad to think that these children do not have the chance to be children. We saw one girl, who must have been no older than four or five, carrying her baby sister on her back. She had to look after her sister instead of having the chance to be in school or to play with her friends. In Spain we live to enjoy. In Zambia, they live to survive.
Riders for Health gave me the opportunity to take this incredible adventure, and I would like to say a big thank you to the wonderful friends I met on the ride. They were a fantastic team and I will remember them all.
It has been very important for me to see just how important the work of Riders for Health is, and how the support of all of us in MotoGP is making a difference. It is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”