Villagers in the remote corners of Cambodia often share the same bemused looks when the National Malaria Center brings them a truckload of nets. There is general milling about, breast-feeding and smoking as groups of villagers wait to see what will come off the truck.
In December, certain villagers will be in for not just bemusement, but complete bewilderment, as dirt bike riders bearing nets descend upon them.
This year’s Caltex Extreme Rally Raid will be distributing mosquito nets. At least 50 riders and one or two 5-ton support trucks will make a circular route through four provinces where malaria is a problem.
“We have a charitable theme every year, something to give back to the communities we ride through,” explains Zeman McCreadie, coordinator for Angkor Dirt Bike Tours, which is teaming up with Caltex for the fourth annual rally. “This year it’s malaria and rice distribution.”
Although all the details have not been worked out, rally organizers will be working with the National Malaria Center and the World Health Organization to ensure that only villages in need of nets will get them, said Dr Stefan Hoyer, malaria expert for the WHO.
Possibilities even include a team of malaria center experts to ride along in the support trucks to some of the villages, Hoyer said.
“They’ll make sure we do it professionally,” McCreadie said.
In the span of 12 days, the road ralliers will cover Kompong Cham, Kompong Thom, and then the more remote Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri and Mondolkiri provinces.
The support trucks will be in charge of setting up distribution sites as the motorcyclists traverse the countryside.
In places where the trucks can’t go, riders will carry as many nets as possible on the motorcycles. In some provinces, the riders will carry literature.
“Hopefully, with the help of the National Malaria Center, we can leave some information material with them as well,” McCreadie said.
Tours will be sold for three-day legs of the trip, which will pass by Koh Ker temple in Preah Vihear, a silk weaving village in Banteay Meanchey and will include a night spent among hill tribe villagers, McCreadie said.
The final leg, from Banlung, Ratanakkiri, to San Monorom, Mondolkiri, will be “the extreme end of an extreme tour,” with nothing but rough roads, river crossings and, McCreadie said, the occasional shocked villager.
More information on the tours, which cost between $150 and $1,500, can be found at www.tours intheextreme.com.