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13,000 miles from Belfast to Bangor

Dad and son battle floods and deserts on trip of a lifetime

By Linda McKee

Father-and-son team Harry and Chris Watson have just travelled 13,000 miles - starting in Belfast and ending up in Bangor.

The Bangor pair fulfilled Harry's boyhood dream by driving a Land Rover from Belfast in South Africa all the way across three continents and 18 countries back to their home in Northern Ireland.

The Ulster or Bust voyage was charted online at the website of Prospect, a charity which supports people with learning disabilities and is keen to show what 25-year-old Chris, who is learning disabled, is capable of.

"All his life Chris has been told the things he can't do, but by completing this fantastic trip with his dad, he has shown what someone with learning disability can achieve if given the right support and help," a spokesman for Prospect said.

Chris's father Harry said the journey was one of those challenges that seem overwhelming until you face up to them and find they are not so difficult after all.

Chris has a developmental age of seven to 13, depending on the skill, but is relatively independent, he said.

"I knew Chris was able to do it and I wanted to let people know that he was able to do it," Harry said.

"It was a single vehicle, just myself and Chris, although we were careful to meet up with other travellers - we were never really on our own."

The pair set off from Belfast, South Africa, on June 23, eventually arriving in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on September 21.

"We encountered floods, we encountered deserts and we encountered elephants that came close to trampling our tent," he said. "We heard a lion when we were in our tent at night and discovered it not far from camp the next morning - there were no fences, no guards, no lights, no walls, it was just open ground.

"We encountered bureaucracy that would really numb the mind, we encountered long roads, blue skies, good people, bad people.
"The roads were anything from as good as you get here to just driving across the desert following a line of telegraph poles.

"We encountered sand storms, we went on microlight trips and helicopter rides. We travelled three continents and 13,000 miles in 90 days. We encountered the pyramids, the Victoria Falls and the Blue Nile Falls."

Harry said Chris coped well and made friends quickly.

"He cooked and helped with the tents and generally got on with things.

"He learned how to exchange money, learned about the fact that different countries used different currency and he generally had a bit of an eye opener," he said.

"If you don't actually get on and do it, you never know if you can or not.

"We took the decision early on to say we're going to start this as if we could do it and see how far we can get," Harry said.

Belfast Telegraph


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