Sometimes the most obvious questions are the hardest to ask and so it was the first time I met Kiwi Brendan Best!
The occasion was the kick-off “meet and greet” for Rally IndoChina’s trip down North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Trail and the location was the poolside bar of Hanoi’s Army Hotel.
As the beer flowed and introductions made, we were all quietly weighing up our companions for the next two weeks… I have to say that I was drawn to Brendan and his zen-like calm, but the elephant in the room was how on earth was a guy in a wheelchair going to ride the trail on a vintage Russian Ural motorcycle?
Brendan, as I later learned, was in a wheelchair as a result of a horrendous motorcycle accident in his late teens. I also came to understand how he simply refused to let this disability get in the way and when I eventually summoned up the courage to ask about that elephant, Brendan calmly assured me that “no worries, we have sorted out a few mods to one of the Ural sidecar outfits”.
We commenced our journey down the Ho Chi Minh Trail with a grand tour of its museum on the outskirts of Hanoi and I think its true to say that whoever designed the museum had not given a great deal of thought to wheelchair access. None in fact!
At the end of the tour we were invited to watch a documentary film in the museum’s auditorium – up a steep flight of stairs. Brendan’s crutches had already been loaded in his sidecar, so he calmly slipped out of his wheelchair and crawled up the stairs, declining requests to assist with the one-liner “not usually on my knees this early in the day…”
So it was over the next 12 days as we made our way down the Ho Chi Minh Trail – never a complaint, always cheerful, a nice retinue of one-liners and a positive inspiration to all on the trip.
In these days of instant connectivity it’s easy to forget how far New Zealand is from everywhere and that its not that long ago that the quickest you could get stuff sent there was about 6 months.
I think this isolation makes Kiwis special people who find a way to overcome problems and just get on with things – just like Brendan Best!