Kiwi Brothers on Intrepid Ride in Vietnam
Kiwi Brothers on Intrepid Ride in Vietnam
Four New Zealand brothers are among a group of intrepid riders about to undertake an epic journey through the back roads of Vietnam on 45-year-old motorcycles.
Riding the entire length of Vietnam on The Great Honda 67 Ride, the Seton brothers from Auckland will be raising eyebrows, lots of dust and, they hope, plenty of cash to fund women’s and children’s healthcare in rural, central Vietnam.
“It’s a cause we feel strongly about and it’s going to be a great adventure, and anyone who supports us will be helping make a difference to folks that could use the help,” said David Seton, the man behind the ride. Seton is executive chairman of the mining group Besra and has been in Vietnam business a long time during which he became aware of the circumstances of village people, particularly near Besra’s operational sites in Quang Nam province.
“Women’s and children’s healthcare is an area where we can have major impact.” Seton says donated funds will go to a project in conjunction with a health organisation ‘East Meets West’ that has the expertise and networks to deliver exactly what’s required.
The three-year project has two main
- To decrease the maternal mortality rate through improved emergency obstetric care in district hospitals and training for traditional birth attendants.
- To decrease the level of infant mortality and morbidity across two districts through improved newborn care services at district level and communal health centres.
Normally a Harley Davidson rider in New Zealand, where Besra is headquartered, Seton fell in love with the relatively small Honda 67 that for many Vietnamese is the only motorcycle they know.
“For many Vietnamese it was the first motorbike they ever saw, rode or owned. Honda designed it as a stylish little commuter motorcycle for city people and could never have imagined that these little bikes would become a nation’s workhorse both in cities and far beyond in mountain villages.
“They carry all manner of people and goods on their backs, fording streams like a fish takes to water.”
“When we came to Vietnam in the early 1990’s as entrepreneurs looking for adventure and opportunity in this colourful country slowly opening up to the outside world we started a 25-year long relationship with its people. We’ve become the leading gold mine operator in Vietnam, which has not been without its trials and tribulations. We work today with thousands of people in central Vietnam.”
Seton said his interest in the role of the Honda 67 was sparked by a conversation in Da Nang with a Vietnamese business owner who told him her father had used a Honda 67 to take her mother from their village to a medical centre in time for her to give birth to their daughter. Nguyen Diem drove his bike across country to take every person from their village needing to get to the medical centre.
At 6ft 2in tall Seton, 57, thinks he should know better than to attempt such a mission. The moral support comes from his older brothers Richard, joining the Ride from London, and Paul, Besra’s chief commercial officer, and younger brother John, Besra’s chief executive officer. Another family member teaming up for the Ride is Alexandra Seton, from the company’s public relations team.
Besra director Kevin Tomlinson, an Australian citizen living in England, Jim Hamilton, Besra’s V-P investor relations from Toronto, and other Besra staff are on the Ride. They’re joined by Phuong Huu Viet, chairman of VietABank and a member of the National Assembly Economic Committee and other Vietnamese, including a guide from Explore Indochina who claims to know every pothole and twist in the road.
The riders will travel more than 2,000kms through mountains, lush jungle, past great beaches, busy cities and remote villages. Seton does not expect the journey to be all fun and photo ops. “Some of the roads are going to be extremely difficult and the weather can be very unpredictable. Add to that, mosquitoes, the inevitable upset stomachs and some very sore posteriors.”
“We’ve got ten Honda 67s, a support van, a cameraman, Google map, a medical kit and a sense of adventure. Thankfully, there isn’t one village in Vietnam where someone doesn’t know how to repair a 67!”