Merseyside bikers complete 14,700 mile ride through west Africa raising money for children's charity

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Two Merseyside bikers, Derek Charlton and Paul Gee have reached the end of 14,700-mile motorcycle trip down the west coast of Africa, raising vital funds for a children’s charity.    

Related: Veteran quartet embark on 5000 mile ride to Cyprus to raise funds for Armed Forces charity

Battling intense heat, sometimes terrible roads and the occasional corrupt cop, the pair tackled what is quite possibly the longest Easter egg run ever.  

Setting off on Tuesday, January 02, they visited 20 countries before reaching South Africa after three months on the road. After visiting Cape Agulhas – the southernmost tip of Africa, the pair turned their wheels towards Cape Town and reached their final destination on Tuesday, March 26. 

Derek and Paul on their Yamaha Tenere 700s

The challenge has been in aid of Claire House, a children’s hospice who provide end of life care to young people and offer support to affected family members. At the time of writing the fund raiser is approaching £10,000 but is still live for donations. 

The pair opted for the cause as they typically take part in the Wirral Egg Run each year, a ride out that often raises funds for Claire House.  

Charlton told MCN: “We knew we couldn’t attend the Egg Run this year so thought we would do our own unofficial version through Africa. I know Claire House quite well and it just seems like the right cause to raise money for.” 

Derek among a group of local children

Both men tackled the trip aboard Yamaha Tenere 700s, which reportedly performed with flying colours: “We put those bikes through everything we could, and we couldn’t fault them. If I was doing something like this again solo, I would have opted for something lighter. Working together though, we managed to get through everything,” Charlton said. 

Despite challenging border crossings, wildfires, flooding and more, the pair reported an overwhelmingly positive account of their time on the continent.  

Charlton recalled: “What stood out was how friendly everyone was. You get the odd corrupt official but no matter where you were, people just wanted to come over and speak – they would usually do anything to help you. 

Derek exhausted after miles of tough trails

“We stopped and had a laugh with almost everyone, even the cops were usually friendly. These people have a lot less than us but they’re willing to help. That was the highlight for me.” 

Interacting with local people, exploring new cultures and taking in breathtaking wildlife was part and parcel of the journey, but it wasn’t always straightforward motoring. Whilst the duo recalled an overwhelmingly positive account of their time in Africa, but no great adventure is without challenges. 

“We were stung with a bribe in Senegal when we were still green to the continent. The officer said we’d been speeding. Naively, we handed him our documents, so then he gave us a ridiculous fine to get them back. I took out my dummy ‘theft wallet’ and we managed to talk him down to the little bit of cash in there. At first it knocked us for 10, but we soon got into the rhythm of Africa and then nothing fazed us. 

Derek Charlton with his Yamaha Tenere 700

“Riding through some of the cities was horrendous, the traffic was crazy and fumes where awful, but oddly, we quite enjoyed that too. 

“In Guinea we had to break camp because we were spotted by some guys who didn’t look quite right. We had to pack up and ride 70 kilometres in the dark down a dirt road, which is a bad idea in west Africa, but it was better than being robbed. 

“There were a couple of times with police that were a bit hairy. Normally we just ignored the roadblocks and blasted straight through them, but one time we got blocked in during a stop in Nigeria. He was demanding money, but we managed to haggle him down to a couple of Polo mints! 

Derek in an old Angolan tank

“We took a wrong turn somewhere in Guinea too and ended up down some back street. We were pounced on by a mob and they demanded money from us. I got on the intercom to Paul and let him know the plan. I told him we’re just going to gun it, if someone gets in front of you don’t stop. I never felt truly threatened though and you could usually talk situations down to nothing.” 

Despite the trials and tribulations of the journey, the pair claim never to have fallen out. They are now back in the UK having arranged return shipping for their bikes and intend to spend some time now reflecting on their achievement. 

The fundraiser can be accessed here