A HUDDERSFIELD man survived being stung by a scorpion and the searing heat of the Sahara to complete a gruelling bike ride.
Paul Mulcock, who runs executive search and selection firm Broad Oak Solutions in Slaithwaite, teamed up with renowned adventure motorbike rider Nick Sanders and 13 others for a three-week North African odyssey.
The Huddersfield University graduate got a taste for long-distance bike rides last year when he joined friend Kevin Leonard on a 24-hour 800-mile journey through the British Isles to raise thousands of pounds for Cancer Research.
He said: “This latest adventure continues the theme – and took it up a notch or three!”
Paul, Nick and their fellow motorcyclists travelled to Algirciras, southern Spain, and took a ferry to Ceruta across the straits of Gibraltar to Morocco.
The expedition covered 2,500 miles over three weeks, touring every part of Morocco from the deepest parts of the Western Sahara to crossing the two of the highest mountain passes in Africa, Tiz n Test and Col de Tika.
They visited Volubilis, the oldest Roman ruins outside Italy, and the village of Ait Ben Haddou, where arena scenes were shot for the film Gladiator.
The riders travelled to Marakech and back to Spain and home – with vivid memories of a sometimes perilous journey.
Paul said: “We crossed the Atlas and Riff mountains four times and all the riders contracted severe diarrhoea. One rider got heat stroke in 46°C temperatures across the Sahara.
“On day one I crashed my Suzuki VStrom Explorer at 60mph on an acute gravel-strewn bend and rode on with a bent front fork, limited front suspension and bruises.
“On day four, I travelled into the depths of the Sahara by camel and intended to spend the night under the stars with a small group of Berbers.
“But I was stung in the night by a killer white scorpion and required emergency treatment and evacuation by quad bike to receive medical care.
“The sting from this scorpion is lethal to 95 % of children aged 15 or under and fatal to 15 % of adults. I survived and carried on riding!”
Paul’s reward at the end of the trip was to receive an award from Nick for being “tough, resilient and the most improved rider” on the expedition.
That’s high praise as Nick has motorcycled around the world seven times, ridden up and down the Americas seven times and holds the record for riding around the world in 19 days.
Nick has led client expeditions across the Himalayas, from London to Timbuktu, around the world and extensively along the full length of the Americas from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska.
By contrast, Paul is a relative novice.
He said: “All of this should be put in the context that I only got my bike licence in September last year. Now I have a stable of eight bikes, including two Harleys and a Triumph Super Bike.
“Prior to this trip, I rode through the Picos mountains in Northern Spain.
“Next year, I’m travelling 9,000 miles across America with Nick Sanders on my Harley and in 2014 I’m travelling through Mongolia off-road over seven weeks with Unicef when I will give my bike to a local hospital for the medical team to have as off-road transport.”
Paul said: “Each journey is a personal challenge, a chance to test myself, explore foreign lands and return with a deeper appreciation of life and the nature of embracing one’s goals and dreams.
“As I swept through the deserts and mountains of Africa, travelling to the Algerian border with Morocco in the south and back up to the French-owned Ceruta, which lies to the south of Spain, I saw people eking a living out of arid landscapes and showing more grit than I have ever seen in my life.
“The scenery was spectacular, the people warm and genuine and the food ... interesting. It’s best not to eat anything that hasn’t been cooked in front of you, though!”