Riding the last day!

23 03 2011


We often get asked what we wished we had taken with us. Until Sunday I would have said nothing, but as of Sunday I would now most definitely say a peloton. Nothing quite cuts the wind or motivates the legs like being preceded by a front pack of muscle hardened lycra clad bicyclists! Last Sunday we found ourselves whizzing along the bulk of the final 60kms packaged tight in something akin to the Tour de France. Felling not a tad incongruous in our baggy tops and with our lumbering bicycle-mules we managed to hold our own admirably and I guess after 9 months of training my muscles have finally stepped up to the mark.

We ran with the pack all the way from Pattaya to Ban Chang stopping along the way to be joined by other cyclist groups, to collect money for the Cammillain Center, listen to various local dignitaries give endurance speeches in Thai and to be photographed photographed… and then photographed again.  The cyclists were outstanding; outstanding in their generosity, their support and their really super wonderful camaraderie.

In Ban Chang we were joined for the final 8km run by a heaving jumble of cyclists of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Each one getting on their bikes to cycle through the streets of this town to say that they are not afraid of this disease, nor are they are not afraid of those who have this disease. For this run we were joined by a gang of HIV pos kids from the centre.

I’m afraid I can’t describe how emotional this was and is still for me. I am humbled by this reception. I am humbled by the storming kids we have met and am reminded of all of those we have meet on our journey who are crushed by society’s response to this disease. They are broken by ignorance and fear.  HIV isn’t the disease stigma is.


The end of the ride… the day began exceptionally early – so that we could get to Pattaya to meet up with a few cyclists who’d pedalled down from Bangkok to accompany us on the final 60k from Pattaya to the Camillian Centre in Ban Chang.  Those motley few, turned out to be around 150 – 200 lycra clad cyclists who were milling around Pattaya town hall waiting for the mayor to ‘officially’ start the ride.  In true cyclists before a race fashion – this lot were stocking up on carbs, there was the most enormous vat of rice porridge for breakfast and mountains of sandwiches and bananas to keep the carb levels up on route.  Rounds and rounds and more rounds of photographs ensued, we were snapped with all the different cycling groups, with local dignitaries, with staff from hotels who were sponsoring who knows what… perhaps the rice porridge…  Anyway the mayor arrived and after a few words of encouragement, and a couple of jokes cracked from Catherine (which didn’t/weren’t translated) we were ready to go.  At this point we had been waiting around at the town hall for about an hour and a half.  So with the mayor ready to blow his hooter to start the ride – Catherine decided to look for her cycling gloves… splendid – 200 cyclists raring to go, waiting for us to set them off, and we are back to our good old ways of life on the road on our own… digging through our bags for bits and pieces of kit at inopportune moments!


Anyway finally we were off – with no real idea where we were off to… but there was a police car flashing its lights and wailing its siren… so we decided our best bet was to follow that car.  Which we did, as it turned out – for the next 60km.  We got into a great rhythm with the wonderful peloton of lycra clad thighs giving us a great chance to duck out of the wind for a change.    We’d been on the road for about an hour when a sea of hands shot up in front of us… and we were wheeled off the road to a welcome cold water pit stop.  Speeches, photos, cold water and 20 mins later the pack set off once more.  10k down the road and we were once again wheeled off the road, this time into a park.  Where banana cake, isotonic sports drinks and orange swiss roll awaited our arrival… more and more photos, a quick (ish) speech, another pistol start – and we were off again.  Police car in front, ambulance behind.  To the town of Sattahip, where we all (200 of us) dismounted and walked our bikes slowly through the town as a handful of the group took collection boxes into the market and secured donations from all and sundry.  Once out of Sattahip – we pretty much pedalled the rest of the way to Ban Chang, and the Camel Pub – where we were greeted with a large banner and large crowd of people awaiting our arrival.  There were a line of bikes decked out with union jacks and Thai flags, ready for the kids from the Camillian Centre to ride the last 8k with us.

As 2pm – the appointed hour for our departure for the absolute final leg – drew near, the traffic police lined us up in order ready for the off – with me and Catherine leading the pack followed closely by a gaggle of kids and then taking up the rear were the lycra clad crew who’d supported us throughout the morning plus a whole wonderful array of the anybody and everybody.  Then for the fourth time that day – a hooter signalled the start of another and the final final section of the journey.  We pedalled slowly up the road – in the lead were 4 chopper motorbikes and a couple of pick up trucks complete with TV crews and photographers snapping the scene.

Rounding the bend into the Camillian Centre brought tears to my eyes, as a sea of smiling faces and waving flags welcomed us into the centre – all wearing t-shirts printed especially for the day with both our names on the front.  An amazingly lovely and fitting end to the ride, a really special day all round and truly lovely to be welcomed so warmly.  Thanks to everyone who joined us on the ride, in their cars, waving their flags, with speeches, gifts, certificates and dances.  And thanks to everyone who has followed our journey and supported us throughout. We will remember this day, and this ride forever.

Inconceivably … WE MADE IT!

19 03 2011

Cycling these last few days along the scrummy south coast of Thailand we have been able to enjoy near deserted beaches, an abundance of succulent fresh prawns, and spicy son tam to our hearts content!  The route ran us a roller coaster road from the far south east border crossing of Hat Lek, all the way round to our final destination of Ban Chang. This final 300km section of out 10,000km route saw us secretly cycling into Ban Chang at 5pm yesterday evening. Our ‘official’ arrival is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon where we will be joined by hundreds of other cyclists to ride a 60km section from Pattaya to the Camillian Center here in Ban Chang; though as we cycled past the Camillian center yesterday afternoon a small, hardy group of delightfully enthusiastic well wishers spotted us and rushed out to shake our sweaty hands:-)

We have been asked on a number of occasions how it feels to have finished… It is hard to concede that we have actually done so. And until tomorrow’s final 60km is clocked up it is clear we haven’t 😉