Imagine if your dentist told you of his plan to jump on a motorcycle and speed off on an around-the-world adventure with a purpose - to show that it's possible to deliver basic oral health care anywhere, using a minimal amount of instruments and materials. You are hardly going to advise him against it, especially if he has a drill in one hand and a sharp needle in the other!
But that's exactly what New Zealander dentist Brendon Ball is planning to do in June, when he begins a three-month trip on a BMW R 1150 GS Adventure to raise money for his charity Smilemenders, as well as raising funds for a Chernobyl children's charity.
The Kiwi dental expert, who practises in Swindon, UK, has a "cunning plan" for this global ride with a difference. "The idea for a round-the-world journey has been an ambition of mine since long before Charley and Ewan did their own Long Way Round adventure - it's just taken a while longer to plan!" said 57-year-old Brendon.
"I have been taking aid to Ukraine since 1999 and have driven there several times including taking two fully-equipped mobile clinics with me. This has given me some experience with the crossing of borders and the challenges posed by the policing systems. However, I noticed that most of the really valuable items of aid we had delivered could have fitted into a top-box of a motorcycle, so I thought why not combine a trip to speak at a dental conference in September with a two-wheel fundraising challenge for our charity that provides dental and medical work for Ukrainian children."
Dental disease is a disease of poverty and since the Chernobyl disaster, what scant resources there are have been directed to treating cancer. A lack of investment in fighting dental disease has seen rates treble in the same period. Children have most treatment performed without any pain relief at all - including extractions - and having treated many Chernobyl children during his times in the area, Brendon wants to use the trip as a way of letting people know that the problems in Chernobyl still exist.
Brendon's proposed route is to ride - the `Long Way' - from the UK to Sweden to the World Dental Conference in September, where he hopes to deliver a `Miles for Smiles' scientific paper to demonstrate that targeted aid can provide access to care, even in remote areas. After flying to Halifax in Nova Scotia, he will travel to Vancouver to attend a `Horizons Unlimited' bike gathering. Then, after flying to Japan (to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki) Brendon will travel from Toyama to Vladivostok by ferry and negotiate his way across the massive landmass of the Russian Federation, before arriving in Ukraine. Fortunately, Brendon will have a pillion passenger accompanying him on the trip, who just happens to be a fluent Russian speaker, and his wife!
"I'm very lucky that my wife Natasha is an interpreter in Russian and Ukrainian, and can manage a smattering of Polish and German," said Brendon. "I wouldn't have gone without her, as she has already got me out of trouble over there plenty of times! Also, a couple of our friends recently set off for Australia on their 1150 GS. Now they are not youngsters, but they managed to negotiate Iran and Pakistan, so I think that their experience gave me the resolve to do this trip - and also persuaded my wife that it is actually `do-able'."
Brendon has the support of the FDI (International Dental Federation) for his journey and hopes to be able to speak to audiences of dentists in Canada Japan and Russia, as well as in Sweden. After its epic journey, the 2005 R1150 GS Adventure will be used in displays at dental exhibitions in UK and Europe, as well as a talking point, as Brendon believes that "most male dentists can be distracted away from the latest bit of dental kit by the mere whiff of oily things, such as motorcycles".
Brendon will be leaving on 3 June and is funding this trip personally. To find out more about the charities he is raising funds for, please visit the www.smilemenders.org websites.