COME October, Kelso’s Dougie Smith will swap his customary place behind the bar of the town’s Black Swan Hotel for the saddle of a motorcycle to ride across some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring scenery in South Africa – and hopefully raise a substantial amount of money for children’s charities into the bargain.
The Enduro Africa 2011 event will see 60 intrepid bikers cover 1,000 miles over eight days in aid of four charities working in South Africa – UNICEF’s Born Free from HIV campaign; Sentebale, which was co-found by Prince Harry to help transform the lives of Lesotho’s orphans and vulnerable children; Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund and Touch Africa, which was set up to aid children in South Africa’s eastern cape – long regarded as the country’s most impoverished region.
Dougie has already started fundraising towards his personal target of £10,000 and earlier this month, together with friends and family, generated £1,100 from a sponsored cycle ride from Kelso to Berwick.
Dougie, who has been the licensee at the Black Swan for the past six years, told TheSouthern that, as well as the chance to raise money for deserving causes, the ride offers him the opportunity to push himself to his limits.
“The conditions I will tackle throughout this challenge ensure that I will be tested to the limit, whether its negotiating one of the amazing river crossings, riding flat out up the beach past the spectacular Jacaranda shipwreck, or tackling a steep ascent with the waves roaring 200 feet below,” he explained.
Dougie says, as the father of four healthy children himself, he has long been interested in getting involved with the work of UNICEF – the United Nations’ childrens agency.
“I have four wonderful children of my own who are all healthy, grown up and full of life, unlike the children I’m looking to help out in Africa.
“I’m hoping that, as this year goes on, my personal challenge will encourage others to get involved.
“I have been looking for a way to get involved with UNICEF, primarily, for the past few years and help children a lot less fortunate than my own.
“So after passing my bike test a few years ago and enjoying the pleasure of riding to the north and south of Britian, I decided to marry them both together and was fortunate to discover Enduro Africa – a fantastic organisation that will allow me, in October 2011, to do just that.
“I was inspired watching people like Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor when they rode bikes across Africa and Asia and this is a great opportunity to marry my love of bikes and biking, and also helping some of the world’s less fortunate children.”
Dougie’s fundraising efforts, along with those of family and friends, have garnered just short of £5,000 – the minimum the 60 Enduro Africa bikers, who will come from all corners of the globe, have to collect to take part.
“But I have set myself the target of doubling that,” explained Dougie. “Of the first £5k, 80 per cent goes directly to the four charities. Of the second £5k, the whole 100 per cent will go to the charities. All those taking part pay for their own fuel, food and water to maximise the amount of money going to the charities.”
The riders will all be issued with 230cc Honda bikes on arrival in South Africa. These will eventually be donated to local community organisations and individuals such as doctors and nurses.
“During the eight days, there will also be a rest day and on previous Enduro Africa events, the riders got the chance to use those days to help at local schools, building desks and stuff like that and I really want to be involved in that kind of thing while I am over there,” added Dougie.
Between now and October, Dougie intends organising a number of fundraising events centred round the Black Swan, so there will be plenty of opportunities for people to enjoy themselves and at the same time contribute towards the campaign.
One of the most popular could well be the raffle Dougie is organising, in which the winner will have the pleasure of mine host at the Black Swan cooking a barbeuce in their own garden as the first prize!
After his return from southern Africa in October, Dougie plans to continue fund-raising events in aid of UNICEF.
“I intend keeping on doing events and possibly other adventures to help fund the work of UNICEF. It’s a massively important organisation.”
Over the next few months Dougie will be looking to improve his off-road biking skills as some of the terrain he will encounter in South Africa will be far removed from what he is used to on the UK’s roads.
“I was down in London in February, meeting up with the 20 or so British riders who will be on this year’s Enduro Africa ride and one of the guys is from Moffat.
“He’s a very experienced enduro rider, so I am going to link up with him for some training days over the summer. The riders that I have spoken to and who have taken part in this event in previous years all talk about it being a truly life-changing experience.
“I’m now 46, so not only is this experience getting me a bit fitter and healthier, I think it will be a real life-changer for me and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Anyone wishing to donate to Dougie’s campign can do so in person at The Black Swan or through his website at www.dougieschallenge.co.uk