Thursday, 23 August 2012

Day 29 onwards – We've FINISHED!!!

Day 29 onwards –  Ho Chi Minh City

Ahhh what a feeling to have finished. Over the past 29 days we’ve cycled 2,200 km… spent 139 hours in the saddle… burnt 117,403 calories … sweated out over 114 litres… turned the pedal 1,235,400 times… and climbed over 11,225 metres ( that’s 1 ¼ the height of Mt. Everest)!! Together our friends, family and the wider community have helped to raise just under £17,000 ($26,000 USD) for Saigon Children’s Charity.

Cycling into Ho Chi Minh City during the morning rush hour was unimaginably exciting. We joined thousands of motorbikes as they swarmed into the city arriving at the Charity’s office in the centre of Ho Chi Minh and after a quick meet and greet Cal, George and myself were taken to Thang Long School. Over the next two days George and I got the opportunity to meet many students aspiring to get a place at university, along with visiting an orphanage for disabled children. The lady in charge of the orphanage was delighted when we presented her with a bag of items we no longer needed from our trip, such as pots, pans, pasta, noodles, pens, paper and two footballs.

These last few days since finishing our epic cycle has confirmed two things in particular.

 Firstly how terrific Saigon Children’s Charity is, from their ethos to their professionalism and helpfulness Ride4Education couldn’t have wished for a better organisation to have planned this trip with. Secondly, how beneficial the money we’ve raised will be to the potential University students studying at Thang Long School. Many have such inspiring stories already that it is hard to imagine anything other than success from them when provided with the opportunity to attend university.

I would like to say a big thank you to EVERYONE that sponsored our cause, together we’ve provided the platform from which 16 able students can take them and their families out of poverty forever.

The Biggest thank you of all must go to DHL for providing us with an invaluable support van and brilliant driver, Khan. Also to Freddi from Saigon Children’s Charity who spend countless hours helping to plan and organise our trip, you’re a real superstar!


Cal in the swam of bikes.
George loving the rush our buzz!

Arrival at Saigon Children's Charity's office. 
Being asked about British fashion by a year 11 English class.
George being interviewed by a Vietnamese reporter doing a documentary on one of the charities partners.

George at the orphanage 

Freddi who helped us plan the ride, answering our many questions 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Photos - Day 28

A River village

Smiling faces

George navigating through the busy traffic

Within touching distance to Ho Chi Minh City - only 45 km to go!

Photos - Day 27

In awe of the mystical mountain

Sam posing for the camera

Callum giving an elephant branded rucksack to a school child on his way to school

Happy to have a school bag like his friends

The mountain we descended from

Monday, 2 July 2012

Photos - Day 26

Ominous clouds ahead......

Not long until the rain hits us.........

One of the many obstacles we faced

Progessing well toward 'Bao Loc' before the mighty climb

The end is in sight - only 202 km to Ho Chi Minh City

Day 26 - 'Lam Ha' to 'Bao Loc'

Stiff legs and tired bodies were the main moans of the day as we assembled around the daily stew of porridge, beautifully prepared by George - a task he will have to complete for the next 3 days, after losing a fatal round of magnetic darts.

The plan we were discussing was to cycle a shorter distance than we had originally intended to a closer settlement called  'Di Linh' - (Callum had said after yesterdays 120 km, he's rather shit in his hands and clap) which was only 60k away.

Spoiler alert... we didn’t end up cycling 60 k and thankfully for Sam and George, neither did Callum...........

The Vietnamese Gods were smiling on us, however, and we made stunningly good (and unexpected) progress down the Ho Chi Minh Highway covering 28k in the first hour - a stretch which was mostly uphill. Thus prompted the inevitable conversation which always seems to pop up on our  ‘shorter’ days:
 ‘Shall we cycle a further 80k, to get to Bao Loc?’ Still obviously half-asleep, we were tricked into this devious trap, and decided to 'go for it' knowing that the extra cycle today would leave us a much easier journey for the final three days.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail- normally such a savage instigator of stiff bums and poor road surfaces, was not up to its usual tricks. However, the improved road surface was not all plain sailing as there were a number of extremely steep hills to contend with but we did have stunning scenery which help us all going. We cycled on, climbing from 750m up to 975m- barely a scratch on the surface of the previous day’s exertions, but hardly a walk in the padi-field!

So caught up with the beauty of the scenery and enjoyable downhill stretches, Callum finally managed to pass wind aloof the bike saddle for the first time (an achievement Sam and George managed barely a couple of kilometres outside of Hanoi all those weeks ago)!
High spirits accompanied our speedy journey into the outskirts of 'Bao Loc' - so did some rather menacing rainclouds. Of course, no days ride is complete without an unexpected, spirit-dampening, 12% incline - and this was exactly what was waiting for us leading us into 'Bao Loc'.

Having waited 3 hours in our hotel room for the power to come back on, we had time to reflect on 2 pretty painful days work, but also how much we are going to appreciate the extra effort- which leaves us with a much lower distance of 202 k to do in 3 days, before we reach Ho Chi Minh City. Can’t wait!

If you have not donated already.... it is not too late!  It certainly keeps us going to see our 'Just Giving' total steadily increasing.

Photos - Day 25

5 km of this road surface wasn't helpful for our bums!

More navigational trouble......

The start of the climb......what lay ahead of us was beyond our wildest dreams.....steep or what!

Powering up the mountain

Finally at the summit!

Descending from the roof of the world -

Day 25

We awoke with the prospect of 70 km of fairly straightforward riding with one large climb at the end of over 1000 metres. As we assembled in usual dazed fashion by the van in the morning, we attempted to explain to the driver where we wanted to stay. He did not agree with our suggestion as he pointed out that there was no civilization where we had proposed to stay which was a fair point! 

What wasn’t fair enough was the fact that we had to now cycle 120 km....... including another 1200 metre climb. The previously lackadaisical stretching had turned into an intense session. No words were said..... the task that lay ahead of us would surely be our hardest day yet.
It begun.... the first stage of the ride started with undulating hills that had not appeared on our gradient map, which didn't bode well for us as if they hadn’t shown up on the map, the mountains to come must be gargantuan in scale. The hills, however,were enjoyable throwing up spectacular scenery at every turn.

After 20 km or so, we decided to take (in hindsight)  a premature stop and sat in a road-side house, quenching our thirst. To our huge surprise, we saw our driver casually cruise past us without a backwards glance. Believing him to have seen us and our bikes, we thought he was pretending to have not seen us and would be waiting round the corner, so we thought nothing of it.

As we set off again worries grew into fears and fears then turned to reality as 30 km on from our stop, there was still no sign of our driver. He obviously had not seen us at all and was still expecting us to still be ahead of him!

Fast running out of water and food in the scorching 38 degree heat, we started to grow desperate and use our supplies sparingly, mentally preparing to ‘Bear Grylls’ the day through.
To our immense relief, we saw the comforting sight of our yellow DHL van heading towards us - we were saved..... and not a kilometer too soon. The climbing was about to begin.....

Before us lay a climb starting at 300 metres spanning the dizzy heights of 1200 metres, with gradients of well into double figures. As we fought our way up the mountain, our muscles started to rebel and we really felt the affects of the 20 days of cycling we had done so far. Still we battled on. Barely any motorists passed us, as this was even too great a challenge for them. The  one of two that did, drove by in stunned silence or gave us the thumbs up - they must have all thought us to be totally mad! 

We finally reached a plateau where we rested and replenished ourselves. Another climb loomed in the distance, its peaks covered in thick cloud. We climbed again, mist fogging up our glasses making it hard to see. We were running on reserve fuel now. Each turn of the pedal warranted a medal. After what seemed like a lifetime, we were greeted with the sight of the top. A lifeline of a downhill followed taking us into our stop of 'Lam Ha'. We had done it. By far the hardest day of the tour and another day closer to our finishing point of HCMC!!