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Magnificent men on their flying machines
- BIKE RIDE ACROSS TWO CONTINENTS FOR FUNDRAISER

How can you transport a Bullet from Calcutta to London' You could ship it or stick it in cargo. Or, you could ride it. That was the thought that gave birth to the Future Hope Challenge. Last year, Christopher Luke Proctor, a volunteer at the Ballygunge home to over 100 boys, bought a Royal Enfield. Now Chris will be riding his bike back home — accompanied by another employee, Mark Lewis — across two continents in a fundraiser for Future Hope, to be filmed by a National Geographic crew.

The 12,000-mile journey, to be completed by “mid or late August” starts off on Thursday, 4 am. First stop: Varanasi. “We wanted to cover the 680 km to Varanasi in one day, so we don’t have to stop in Bihar,” explains Mark, the 27-year-old property manager. Then, it’s on to Agra and Delhi, where they will have to wait a couple of days as they have to drain their vehicles of engine oil before they are flown across to Kazakhstan.

“We were first going to ride through Nepal to Tibet and onwards, but after the SARS outbreak, the overland borders have been sealed. We can’t travel through Pakistan and Iraq for obvious reasons, so we have to fly this leg of the journey,” says Chris. The 23-year-old discovered Future Hope after his mother — who was born in Calcutta and lived in Ballygunge for 14 years — “found it” during a vacation in 2000 and told her son all about it. In Kazakhstan, the two will be joined by the National Geographic crew, before which they will be filming on their own with a hand-held video-camera. From there, they will set off through Russia to Belarus, Poland, Germany and Holland, before boarding a ship bound for England.

The young men — who drove up to Darjeeling two weeks ago to prepare for the sojourn — are hoping for an easy ride, but the path is fraught with uncertainty. Besides a few sets of clothing and first-aid supplies, they are carrying a collection of spares and will have two jerry-cans for back-up fuel. It is imperative that the bikes remain in good condition. “Once we reach London, we will auction them off to raise some more money for Future Hope,” says Devon-boy Chris, who has been the sports development officer for a year, “off and on”.

Mark, based in Calcutta, who has been working at the home run by Tim Grandage for the past four-and-a-half-years, cannot afford to stay back in London for too long, though it is his “first trip abroad”. He will have to rush back to make the arrangements for his wedding in October. His fiancée has been assured that this is the “last wild ride”, though his mother is “praying things don’t work out”. But, her prayers seemed futile, because on Wednesday, the team’s last travel papers came through.

Chris, too, plans to return soon. “I will be back here for sure… Too many friends to leave behind,” he says with an exhausted grin. He has been planning the trip since last October, when he started raising funds for the project while in England for an ankle operation.

The kids at Future Hope bid their friends an enthusiastic farewell on Wednesday evening, some wishing they could come along, others concerned that Mark and Chris would not return. But the bikers left with a smile, knowing that soon they would be back home.

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