Charity ‘adventure of a lifetime’

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TWO Daventry friends have described their 300-mile bike ride around Madagascar as ‘life-changing.’

Mike Olsen and Ben Thompson recently returned from the six-day adventure, which has raised £6,500 for Transaid, a charity dedicated to building safer transport links in Africa.

The intrepid duo, who both work at the town’s Hankook Tyres, endured some tough challenges along the way.

Ben, 21 of Drake Close, says: “We thought we had done enough before we went, but Madagascar is very hilly, there are lots of mountains.”

Transaid was set up by Save the Children, when it became evident that bad road conditions were preventing aid from getting to where it is most needed.

Those same road conditions also added to the pair’s own problems.

Mike, 25, from Middlemore, said: “There were parts of the road that had just fallen away, there was just a drop on the side.”

The pair also witnessed more than one road traffic accident en route.

Living conditions were not what the pair had anticipated. Some of the hotels didn’t offer much in the way of luxuries and even toilets were few and far between.

Mike had not considered this when he packed for the trip.

He said: “I had an iPod, phone, camera, all sorts, but some places only had one plug socket so everything was running out.”

The humbling experience has brought home to them the importance of what they have achieved.

Mike said: “Seeing how people live and experiencing the roads first hand makes you realise how important it was for us to raise the money.”

“Everyone we met on the way was lovely, every time we passed through a village, kids were running alongside us, cheering us on.”

Ben said: “When we were going down a long hill, through a rainforest it gave us time to think.

“It made me really appreciate the life I have here, I am much more positive now when I have to get out of bed and go to work.”

In a last-minute attempt to raise a few more pounds for Transaid, Ben is planning on having a tattoo of a Lemur, Madagascar’s most famous resident.

The boys held a car wash yesterday (Wednesday) to raise further funds and are looking to organise a car boot sale. Anyone can make a donation by visiting www.justgiving.com/hankooktransaid.