Epic cycle ride undertaken by unfit, overweight, not middled aged lady

I visited Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in 2002. One of the things that really struck me about the countries was the indefatigable people, the welcome extended to visitors and the simple joy taken in small pleasures. But, having visited the Museum of the American War in Ho Chi Minh City, seen the 'Danger UXB' signs in Laos and read the good news headline in a paper in Cambodia: ' Deaths from UXBs down to 3 this month. Only 40 maimed.' I was acutely aware of the toll still being taken on the population.

Over the years I have pondered the munitions still there and this year I have finally decided to get off my bottom and do something. So I have, somewhat impetuously and with little regard for my physical fitness, cycling ability or dodgy left knee decided to join the MAG cycle ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Ankor Wat. I will be doing this the first week or so in Feb 2011 and it does involve a couple of days of over 100km in 30 degree heat. Having signed up I have been told that neither a rickshaw nor an electric bikes are options and that doing the distance on my own pedals is expected.

Donation link is further down on the right - I have paid for my own flights and contributed enough to cover living expenses so all money raised from sponsorship will go to MAG.

This is my blog of my progress to get on the road and when I am there - assuming I will be capable of rational thought after a day of unaccustomed exercise.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Monday's update by text message

I've just had a text from Vicky on my phone, and all appears to be going well now:

No Internet found although I have been sent around half the town. All is OK and I managed a full day cycling... will try for a proper post after dinner.

I will update this entry if more information is received, but this sounds promising! I had started to worry after the episode yesterday with the bus...

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Plan B in action

Another missive just received:

My room mate arrived at around 1 this morning... how did I know the time? Well because the door was flung open, light turned on and an announcement that she was here rang out....

Had a massive fail on setting the alarm and got up at 5 instead of six this morning....

But boy did the day get better, fab brekkie followed by C Chi tunnels and a superb lunch. Started cycling at about 1230 (following lunch) and I went great guns. Near the midde of the pack, overtook a few people and was just about getting the hang of the gears (lever instead of grip and positive displacement)... then 14 kms happened. Spots appeared in front of my eyes, I lost feeling in my hands. Then I was being manhandled onto a shady veranda by two of the Vietnamese guides and having an ice bath.... after I had recovered I cycled to the next stop (every 16 kms) and was ordered onto the bus for the next 16 kms.... the shame of it ... the first person retired to the bus.

After the 16 kms doc came to check on me and suggested I stay on but determined not to let a mere case of heat stroke stop me I jumped back on. Very glad that I did as I flew through the rubber plantation and heard the silence. Then I realised this was because there were no birds, insects or anything else. But still lovely even if eerie.

When we got back on the road I was invited to coffee by a lady on a scooter, unfortunately I had to decline.

So, the only way from here is up although I have cycled today the same as everyone else less 16kms. Feeling exhausted mostly from lack of sleep but hoping to remedy tonight. We leave Vietnam tomorrow and enter Cambodia.

Finally Mrs S.G... sorry I doubted you, the camelbak is essential and riding a different bike is hell. Bringing my own saddle was brilliant as the ones here were designed by Torquemada... they never expect the Spanish inquisition


Saturday, 29 January 2011

And so it begins...

Hello. This is the entity referred to previously in the blog as "hubby", "hubs", and similar names. I am sat at home in cold Hertfordshire while my very brave wife is in Vietnam. I left her at Heathrow airport early Friday morning, after an overnight stay at a nearby hotel. A text a little later, saying that she'd accidentally tried to check in with Virgin Atlantic rather than Singapore Airlines, did not seem an auspicious start. However I got a text from her late last night to say that she'd got the plane OK and was now waiting for her connection.

This morning I have received an email missive from her, so I can happily confirm that she is now in Vietnam. Her message is below. I'd just like to say how immensely proud I am of what Vicky is doing, and feel a little ashamed that I'm only going there for the holiday bit at the end. Ashamed, yes, but also rather relieved...

Oh yes, and the Zaurus that she refers to is a tiny PDA-sized computer that I've given her with a wireless card to make it easier for her to keep in touch without lugging around anything too heavy.

More later, including some pictures I hope. Paul.

Vicky says:
Got here after the flight that took forever... negotiated a taxi at the airport for what is probably the average national wage and to add insult to injury then was asked for a tip as it is New Year. Bit grumpy as couldn't sleep on the plane and almost had a tantrum when I arrived at the hotel to find we had been moved to another one. A short taxi ride later and I was checked into a room on the eighth floor with a central open light well. Due to my inclination to throw myself off heights I am having to "mission impossible" round the walls to get to my room but other than that the hotel is better than I expected.

Now feeling refreshed after an afternoon nap followed by a foot massage... which went well until he saw his tip (over fifteen percent) but you would have thought I had smacked him from his expression.

It is not as hot as I had feared but still a bit daunting. In a wave of masochism I am looking forward to tomorrow and just hoping I can get some sleep this evening (its 7.30 pm here and I am a member of the really wide awake club which I shouldn't be only having had 2 hours sleep since Friday morning).

Apart from a few problems with punctuation and ridicule from colleagues the Zaurus is working well... although apologies for the lack of commas I can't work out how to get them and as for apostrophes... that is moon on a stick territory

ttfn ... I am hoping hubbie corrects spelling a little!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Do or not do - there is no try...

Well, I am off on Friday morning from Heathrow after a bit of a mad dash to get visas (yes obviously I left it to the last minute - life is more exciting that way) plus collating all the general kibble together. Spent an hour or so snipping labels off various items and packing them in my rucksack on Sunday, following which I can testify that while the special mossie repellent travel shirts may be 'iron free' this doesn't mean that that they don't look like they have scrunched up in a bag on the bottom of the wardrobe for a couple of months...

Packing essentials in my hand luggage (pair cycling shorts, MAG biking shirt, cycle helmet, bike saddle, buff and undies) just in case main backpack goes adrift. God only knows what airport security will make of that little lot!

Sadly I think that this may be my Karrimor's final journey ...
She has been a faithful companion for ten years and has survived much abuse including the bottom of the Mekong after a minor altercation between our motor powered canoe and a rather large rock. But, she is getting on a bit and after an unpleasant incident  with an airport conveyor (resulting in terminal loss of shoulder strap) is now merely a backpack instead of a 'multifunctional' bag; having said that a bag is there to hold your stuff, what other function does it need? There are also a number of non functional zips and overall she is looking a bit battered, not to mention a trifle unsanitary ... I did look at getting a few repairs, actually more like serious surgery, done by a specialist company but the cost of the postage was a bit prohibitive.  So, if anyone happens to be passing the Lake District via Hertford in March could you do a mercy dash to save her?

So getting to the nub of things:  How am I feeling? There has been a bit of frantic over training this week and I have a mixed bag of emotions ranging from quietly confident to 'OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! I want my mummmmmmy, '. But, the truth is, that I'll either manage to do it all or not and while I probably could have trained a little harder/quaffed a little less I have given it the best effort I could..... I am looking forward to the holiday generally and already have hubby on a schedule for the first few days after the ride.... 9ish  - bring wife brekkie in bed 930ish carry wife to sunlounger, 11ish arrange parasol over recumbent wife, 12ish feed wife lunch and margarita, 7ish carry wife to waiting taxi and take her to dinner...there might need to be a bit of work since there doesn't seem to be regular scheduled breaks for elevensies, afternoon tea etc but I think we can work on the details :-)

I will aim for a daily blog on the trip (technology permitting) but I know we are camping one night so that may be a challenge. The idea is that I will mail an account plus photos to hubs in the evenings and he will post onto the blog ....so there is the potential for all sorts of chaos from that followed by a domestic :-)

That's all - thank you again for all the donations and support doing this over the past months has been a truly wonderful experience due to everyone being so lovely


Sunday, 16 January 2011

MAG Party and final training

Finally - the food's out!
Following the revelation at Christmas that the date was getting a bit close which was underlined last week with a delivery of 'final' information plus a MAG t shirt  I have been concentrating a bit more on the training with several nights of 20-30 miles (all at about 17 mph) so feeling reasonably confident that the 40 mile days are doable.... but very scared about the 60-65 mile days.

Have managed to get various bits of equipment sorted out (mostly as pressies for birthday and Christmas) so now the proud owner of cycling shirts, socks etc and a camelbak (backpack drinking thing). Once I have done the challenge (assuming I survive the ordeal :-) wondering what I will do with all the stuff and decided that I will probably keep up with a less arduous cycling routine but have earmarked the camelbak as a 1.5 litre g and t, summer party delivery system.

Food glorious food
We had the MAG fundraising/birthday/fare thee well party last night which initially didn't seem to be smiled on by the party gods as I  picked the weekend where everyone I asked had other engagements and then a tube strike started.... But, we in the end we decided to run with it and had a great fantastic party with a lot of people traveling quite some distance - I certainly had a fab time which was perfect since I am on a strict no drinking regime until I fly on Friday week...

Yes some people braved the extra hot!
I did spend much of yesterday morning cooking up chili and similar items; did do the mild version of chili but my planned thermonuclear level for the 'brave it if you dare' chili didn't come off due to my super hot, only use one drop or die chili sauce had finally given up the ghost.... but judging by the comments and amount of alcohol consumed I think that the food was a little piquant...
The chili is THAT hot...

Tucking into chili....

We did run a collection and managed a whopping £140 towards the trip so very pleased with that; I'm still several hundred short but getting there so will be chasing all the people who have said they will sponsor me but haven't quite got round to it.... wondering whether the east end tradition of knuckle dusters might help :-) As well as the donations I was given lovely presents and also flowers which made me feel great - I was even given a perfect bike survival kit (first aid kit, deodorant foot wipes, cystitis medicine and a bottle of homemade blueberry voddie) 

Struggled a bit with formatting the pictures onto this but suspect it will be a sign of things to come as I will post whenever possible from the event itself.... although I suspect most of sentiments may be a little dismal....

TTFN and thank you to everyone who has attended a party, sponsored me and/or supported me in this endeavour - you know who you are and you have been marvelous