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.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Day 2...... Spicy Girl!

Vietnam... it's a bridge :-)
Apologies to all who were expecting a full day by day blog over the last week or so but had serious internet issues from the second day of the cycle ride onwards. I have decided to supplement the brief accounts posted by long suffering hubby from the frantic text messages between us with a full account which I will post day by over the next week. So, with apologies for the spoilers on the ending, back to Day 2 of the cycle ride.......

Rubber plantation - Vietnam

Caidai temple (after a few drinks :-)  struggling to load photos)
Got up quite early on the second day of the ride feeling reasonable which was a bit of a relief after the massive fail of the day before. This would be our last day in Vietnam so I was determined to enjoy it (and take lots of photos). Due to the heat between 1100 and 1500 we were scheduled to undertake most of the cycling in the morning on 15km legs between breaks with a 10km before lunch then 10km legs after lunch. This was set to be the standard format of every day with a lunch around 1130/12 to around 1300/1400 dependent on the total distance we were to cycle. 

To try and avoid a second onset of heat stroke decided not to wear my buff in my customary alice band style and resorted to what I believe is referred to as the sporty wee willie winkie look. This has the advantage of keeping my hair up, my head covered and most importantly allows all the massive amount of 'lady glow' to be soaked up by the buff. All I can say is that I think the buff has done a sterling job soaking up at least my body weight in water and I cannot imagine how bad it would have been without it.

This morning started having problems with my hands about 5kms into the ride; basically I am having to lean far further forward and lower than I would on my bike which is set up as a 'sit up and beg' this means I am putting more weight on my hands. This was being exacerbated by the fact that my saddle had been put on tilting forward which meant that I was having to push my bottom up the seat using my hands. I suspect that the Vietnamese cyclists had not realised that as ladies have a bit less padding at the front you generally have the seat parallel to the ground. By the first rest break the fingers in both hands had severe pins and needles,  I had no feelings in my palms and my wrist felt like they were on fire. Established at this stop that nothing could be done about the height of the handlebars but at least the struggle had been registered for the set up on the Cambodian bike (we would change bikes at the border). 

Around 10 am I was peddling along merrily, beetroot faced and with the start of eczema coming up on my upper lip when I was sexually harassed by a Vietnamese chap on a moped - he yelled 'you are very spicy girl' which made me laugh and wonder how terrible someone would need to look in order to not be a 'spicy girl'

Short photo stop at the Caodai Temple then onto the border arriving about 1030 ish. Crossing from Vietnam to Cambodia the difference between the countries was highlighted by the architecture.... on the Vietnamese side there was a concrete communist monlithic and on the Cambodia flaming stupas. That is not all that was different between the two countries - we left the Vietnamese side easily and entered onto our first attempt at entering Cambodia, all queueing  up in terribly British style (allowing for our token Colonial from Oz and a German) at one of the five booths handling people coming in. We all had e-visas for Cambodia and this proved to be a bit of a mistake; once we had got through the initial crossing which handled 'traditional' visas we then all formed an orderly queue in front of the single e-visa desk to be checked on the single computer. Which took a little time. Once the first few had been checked we all thought that they would be able to enter Cambodia, but no. Rith (our Cambodian lead cyclist and one of the chaps who had manhandled me onto a veranda the previous day) swung into action. Our passports were all collected in and we walked out of the side door on the Cambodian side, round to the side we had just come from and hung around in no mans land waiting for our passports to come back. Which they did one by one over the next 40 mins or so and we got into the country eventually.

Our first Cambodian lunch was about 50m from the border and boy was it good but I had little appetite so just forced a little down. Over lunch I realised that while most of my hands had recovered my left thumb had swollen to about double size and no longer possessed the ability to bend. As I had a fantastic nights sleep the night before my brain was firing on all cyclindars and after a bit of a think realised that this was probably due to my thumb ring cutting off circulation. Congratulated myself on my Sherlock abilities and after a 10 minute soaping I managed to get the ring off....

Tending the Fields

Got the new bike and managed to get them to put the seat on properly. Hoped that this would do the trick as the handlebars still could not be adjusted and got on. Sadly I was wrong, not having to prop my bot on the seat helped but by the next break my wrists were on fire and my hands were swollen, my left one so badly that I daren't take off my cycling glove since I knew it would not go back on. Iced up my hand as well as I could and spoke to the marvelous Rith who promised to see what could be done. By the last break of the day Rith had a solution; he would give me a larger frame bike which would have the higher handlebars but by this point things were so painful that I couldn't cope with making any changes. Asked Rith to sort this out for the following morning. 

Buffalo cart - Vietnam
Got in that evening to Kompong Cham feeling that I had achieved something since I had stayed the distance, but was worried about Day 3 as we would be doing around 111kms and I knew that I was really going to struggle with this. Decided to enjoy the evening anyway so went on a wander around the town in a fruitless search for the internet then off to dinner; this was a bit of a fail since as soon as the food arrived I felt a huge wave of nausea so I left the table and took myself off to my room failing asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

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