Hayden Wallis .. Martin Wallis
Penventon Farm, Helston TR13 ORA
Tel/Fax 01326 572714 email: martin@newpotatoes.net
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The purpose of my visit to India was threefold.

To raise money by sponsorship for LEPRA, to cycle over 400 miles to visit the Leprosy Research Centre at Hoina to see how your money is being spent and to report back to you.

Well, I've been en' gone an' done it - as we say in Cornwall'.

So much has happened to me in the last couple of weeks I am not sure if you want to hear it all
but I will just tell you about one or two experiences - good and bad!!

We flew from Standsted to Amsterdam - then Amsterdam to New Delhi and on to Calcutta.We arrived at Calcutta about 3.00 a.m. and went through customs OK and found our bikes. However 3 bikes were impounded because they came over by cargo hold and not luggage hold and we had to leave 3 people in Calcutta to try and get their bikes out of the stores. I really felt for them because no way would I have stayed behind in Calcutta. It is the pits - we were taken by coach across Calcutta at 5.00 a.m. and the sights were unbelievable but there was worse! When we arrived at the Station we were told to carry our own luggage and as we were late for the train because of the problems at the Airport we had to 'leg it' to the train.

You try to keep up with someone in front carrying a rucksack, stepping over bodies sleeping on the ground, dodging beggars and trying to absorb everything. I lost the person in front at one stage while crossing the road and nearly went in the opposite direction but fortunately one of the Indians directed me in the right direction but to be honest I was not sure if he was telling the truth!! However, we reached the train all 30 of us and we only had 10 minutes before it pulled out of the station. I got on the train put my luggage on the floor and noticed that the floor was covered with cockroaches - so 1 pulled my socks over my trousers put my feet on my rucksack and thought what the hell am I doing here!!

However, from then on it improved and the train journey was 8 hours to Bhubaneshwar -where we again had to dodge beggars and Station People TO get to the Coach and then to our Hotel. We had two nights at this Hotel and it was perfect - hot showers, white sheets etc.
We had a reception and were taken the next day on a sightseeing trip to the Sun Temple at Konarka and onto Puri on the Coast. On our return the bus stalled somewhere in the countryside and within minutes we were surrounded by faces peering in at the windows. Then I felt the bus move backwards slowly - then it went forwards slowly - yes all those Indians were actually bump starting the bus!! It worked and we continued on our journey back to Bhubaneshwar.


The next day we went to Nayagarh by Coach to assemble the bikes and start our journey.Group A went north and my Group B of 17 people went South We were escorted by three Landrovers and 8 Indians (3 drivers, bike mechanic, nurse and 3 medics or social workers) who were wonderful and looked after our even, need to be extent that the Head Guide slept outside our room every night on the floor to protect us. We were escorted by one of the Guides whenever we went into the Villages at night and I felt completely safe in their hands. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of cycling around India through little villages where the houses were small bamboo huts with mud plastered walls and thatched with banana leaves and usually a cow or goat tethered nearby, with the little children waving and saying:" Ta Ta" and their mothers hiding behind their colourfulsaris or in the doorways of their homes. I felt very privileged to be sharing the roads with ladies walking along with their colourful saris carrying their heavy loads, men riding their bikes, ox carts pulling their heavy loads, children laughing and shouting, cows and buffalo herds roaming at will.

We were given leaflets to distribute as we cycled through the villages about leprosy and how it can be cured by the Multi Drug Therapy in 6 - 18 months and people should not be afraid to come forward and seek help We were there in Leprosy Awareness Week and we were anideal way of advertising because we were so different with our white skins, black cycling shorts and funny bikes. The village people were so gentle, so quiet and kind. We never once saw a beggar or were hassled in any way. They were genuinely interested in who we were and why we were there cycling around on the funny bikes. Whenever we stopped for a break we were surrounded by these quiet people just watching us.
The first part of our journey was through the lowlands on Orissa where there were paddy fields, corn fields, buffaloes, cows, goats and sheep roaming freely everywhere. The roads were mostly single track roads with the traffic going both ways!! Vehicles come towards one another until the very last minute then they each put one wheel on the sandy verge blow their horns and carry on going! We had to be very careful to get off the road onto the verge when any large lorry or coach came either way. I had a mirror on the bike and found this invaluable because I could see the size of the vehicle that was coming up behind.


On the third day we started to climb when we reached Taptapani and spent a night here sleeping under the stars because the bedroom allocated to us would not sleep 9 woman so Angela, Sue and I chose to sleep on the balcony. Accommodation was on the whole rough. We slept in a disused Leprosy Hospital. Schools. Health Centre (with no water or toilet facilities!!), a hostel where we all slept in one room (men and women) but I can assure you we did not mind because that night at least we had a bed and a mattress! Most of the time we slept on the floor but my mattress was very comfortable and I slept well every night.

From Taptapani we went to Padmapur but as the Government had taken our hall for their elections we had to leave our bikes in the Leprosy centre and we taken by Landrover 45 miles to Hoina. We left Padmapur about 6 p.m. It was dark and the Landrovers went like mad. We could not understand why they went so fast. However we were told when we reached our destination that it is dangerous to be on the road after dark in this area because of the bandits in the hills and they wanted to get us to Hoina as quickly as possible!! However 7 of us still wanted to complete the full cycle course and went back with the Ambulance the next day and cycled along the same route to Hoina. We had to cycle hard that day because we did not start the ride until 1.30 p.m. and we knew we had to get to Hoina before dark. I think this was the only day I felt vulnerable.

Hoina - The Leprosy Research Centre - can only be described as a little piece of Heaven. It is run by Eliaziah a tall man of6'5 who is a gentle giant. Both his parents had leprosy when he was a little boy and he has dedicated his life to this centre. He has built it into one of the most modem centres that you can image and planted trees and shrubs around to help the patients.

At the hospital there is a surgical unit, physiotherapy department and wards for the patients. There is also a large dormitory for the patients to be assessed and to get primary treatment for ulcers and a school for polio victims. When a person with leprosy has been located they are sent to this hospital to receive immediate treatment for their ulcers, shown basic hygiene and started on the Multi Drug Therapy. They spend time at the farm and are taught about crop rotation and how to make tools safer for them to use - i.e. by covering all wooden handles with rubber from old bicycle tubes to prevent them getting splinters. When they are stabilized they return to their village with a packet of seeds a trowel and a postcard stamped with their name on to post if they have a serious problem. They continue to be monitored by their local social worker until their leprosy is cured when they return to Hoina for corrective surgery if necessary to their hands, feet or eyes. We met patients who were recovering from operations on their hands and feet and they were delighted to show us how they can move all their fingers again and can walk like a normal person . The joy in their faces was indescribable.
There are several 'out posts' in the area and medics hold surgeries in the community for all the tribal people to visit. There is still a lot ofTB and Polio as well at Leprosy. Eliaziah is now expanding this facility to try and educate the woman in basic first aid and hygiene and is encouraging them to join a savings scheme run from this centre.

We spent 2 days at Hoina and after having an Official Reception, when we met the Head of Police and the Chief Health Officer who had both made it possible for us to come into the area which is usually forbidden to tourists, we were on the road again to travel up to Balingurha through some beautiful forests and on to Kalinga when we started to drop down and pass sugar cane fields and back to Nayagarh. We were meet on many occasions by school children who had made garlands to put around our necks - one was a large private school and another just a little tribal school with less than 20 pupils but each time it brought a lump to my throat! At one town the town band was there to welcome us and we were toasted
with Coke.
1 enjoyed every hour spent in India and found cycling through the Countryside enables you to be at one with the people and 1 was never afraid. 1 have wonderful memories of stopping at the Local Market to snap up a bargain, seeing a man making Ox Cart Wheels with a primitive forge, watching young men firing bows and arrows, admiring the beautiful women washing at the water hole and little boys tending their flock of sheep, cycling around a comer on my own to see a large white monkey about 4ft high sitting in the middle of the road - the list is endless. However, I would add that cycling was not easy and there were one or two tumbles but fortunately no-one was seriously hurt. I found myself on two occasions in soft sand on the hard shoulder and my bike came to a sudden halt! However, we all pulled together, healed the wounds as best we could and carried on going. We cycled between 45 - 67 miles per day and cycled officially 418 miles but I did a few extra miles because I took the wrong
turning a couple of times but the Landrover soon found me and pointed me in the right direction!