Saddle-sore bikers rack up $43,000 for charity
The Australian-organised Rally Indochina has finished in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, raising $43,000 for the Blue Dragon organisation that helps fight the trafficking of children into sweatshop factories.
The trip, by 22 people, was put together by three Australians, all long-term residents of Vietnam.
One of the organisers, Glenn Phillips, said one of the best parts of the trip was seeing Blue Dragon's set-up in central Vietnam, where the group met some of the children the charity had helped.
Blue Dragon tries to prevent children from poor families being indentured to garment sweatshops in Ho Chi Minh City. 'There's a big problem with [child] trafficking in these areas,' Mr Phillips said.
'[Blue Dragon has] people go around and speak to the families, to warn them. Some of these children are only 12 and they're working in really bad conditions.'
Another participant, Digby Greenhalgh, wanted to raise money to help people after seeing the destruction suffered by poor communities in Vietnam and Laos by unexploded ordnance left behind after decades of war.
The trip, undertaken on restored 650cc Soviet-made Ural motorbikes, three with sidecars, followed the Ho Chi Minh trail, winding through mountainous country near the Vietnam-Laos border from Hanoi to the former imperial capital Hue, averaging 300 kilometres a day.
Along the way the riders had to circumnavigate upturned excavators and bogged-down buses, pushing their motorbikes through knee-deep mud.
From Hue, they flew back to Ho Chi Minh City, where Mil Clayton and Chris Cunningham from Brisbane visited the Cu Chi tunnels, an underground network used by the Viet Cong during the war and one of Vietnam's most popular tourist attractions today.
'Just getting on the bikes each day was amazing. And the countryside was fantastic,' Ms Clayton said.
'It was even better than I could have expected,' said Mr Cunningham. '[The Ural is] a really different bike from what I normally ride. I'm really impressed, actually. It's a really solid bike.
'We had a major breakdown and it was amazing the way the mechanics could just take it to the side of the road, break it down and repair it so easily.'
Sydney Morning Herald newspaper (Australia)