A CYCLE shop owner has returned to Sunderland after scooting off for charity.
Along with a group of bike-mad friends, Peter Darke travelled thousands of miles across the desert to help a struggling African hospital.
Riding alongside pals Will English, Ian Pattison and Debs Simpson, he tackled a 4,000 mile-expedition to the aid mission.
The trio braved a war zone and minefield, as well as acres of parched sand, to donate their time and equipment to Bansang Hospital in The Gambia.
There they handed over the 90cc bikes and helped continue the dream of campaigner Anita Smith, who founded a charity to rebuild and fund the over-worked hospital.
The 13-strong group offered their practical skills, with Peter helping out with the hospital maintenance and dentists on the team giving medical care.
He also set up a temporary bike repair workshop, where his jobs included fixing a tyre with about 20 punctures.
The scooter squad rode out with a dedicated team called Scooters in the Sahara, which has completed three expeditions, crossing seven countries.
Peter took a month off work to complete the journey, which followed a route through France and Spain, across to Morocco and through Africa.
Now he hopes to ship vital supplies over for villagers who live around the hospital and is collecting hand tools, which are in short supply, from businesses.
Poverty levels in The Gambia mean the health service is always under pressure to offer even basic medical services to the community.
Peter said: “It is the only hospital in the Upper Gambia and cares for 600,000 people.
“But there is a lack of hand tools in the village and the hospital.
“As soon as I got back, I went down to the Kier building site and told them about it all.”
He also got a chance to see some of the harsh realities of life in the Third World, where nurses earn £40 a month, street vendors sell food cupboard basics like vinegar by the spoonful and a canned soft drink is considered a luxury.
Companies already on board with Peter’s plans include O’Brien Demolition, Gibbons International, Clark’s Coachbuilders, the Kier Group and Gentoo.