Monday, 11 February 2013

Join one of our challenges and help to improve more lives!

L- R Steve, Mike, Doris, Graham, Sophie, Mark, Tessa, Judy, Phee, Bob and Will.

Congratulations to our 11 supporters for taking up this once in a lifetime challenge, for all their hard work in training and fundraising. They all completed the cycle route and have raised to date over £40,000 which will help to provide medical support and changes so many lives. A huge thank you to all their very generous sponsors who sponsored them.
It is not too late to sponsor the team - you can do this now!
Every donation will help to improve lives.

A message of support to the team from Mo Farah– double Olympic champion and the UK's greatest ever distance runner.
The Victoria Foundation's Cycle Challenge is an example of the Olympic Legacy becoming a reality by involving people both in exercise and at the same time helping the community. .....’ Mo Farah, September 2012
If you would like to challenge yourself and have the experience of a lifetime then sign up for a challenge in aid of The Victoria Foundation
Hadrian’s Wall Challenge 13th – 15th September 2013
Challenge yourself by walking 26 miles over two days and help to improve lives.
Cuba Cycle Challenge 3rd  - 11th February 2014
Challenge yourself by cycling 360km over five days and help to improve lives.

To find out more contact
Lorna Votier
T: 020 8332 1792

Friday, 30 November 2012

Day 7 Final day of cycling

29th November 2012
Phnom Penh – Kampong Thom (60km)

This is our last day on the bikes - a mere 70k and another early start. The bus picks us up from the hotel at 7am and it's off on a two and a bit hour bus ride to a Buddhist temple to meet up with our bikes. Our hotel last night was the first time we have overnighted in a semi rural environment. The hotel was a chalet style place just outside Batten Bag ( not certain of the name) - it made a very pleasant change to hear the sounds of the jungle in the night and to be able to sit outside.

Anyway back to the ride. It was after just before ten before we got on the road and immediately it was apparent that the road was exponentially prettier than yesterday. A small tarmac road to start with for the first 12 k and then we turned off onto a dust road for the next 25 or so. Lunch was in a temple! The interior of which had been prepared beautifully with chaise longue laid out for us with a lotus flower on each chair. The picnic was far better than yesterday and beautifully presented. 

Steve wobbled off his bike after lunch and there was some discussion as to whether he was a fully paid up member of the fally off club and it was decide he was as he had to use his hands on the ground to save himself! Much more spectacular was Mark who definitely qualified as he came off in maginicent fashion. A tree trunk he said. Mark was swiftly followed by Judy who failed in her negotiation of a bridge followed by a hill - tricky actually - too tricky for Judy anyway! So those three join Bob and Will as they fell early on - the club is now closed because as I write this we have reached our final destination.

After lunch we had mostly travelled on dirt roads which are a lot trickier and more prone to spills as demonstrated above.

We are all absolutely exhausted by the preceding week but we have seen some wonderful sights, parts of both countries that you would never see if we hadn't been on bikes. There were times when speaking personally I never thought I would finish - I know others felt the same, but we did and we have raised a lot of money for good causes in so doing - although we have more to do in that department when we get back. On balance a great experience, literally a once in a lifetime experience - never to be repeated (certainly by me) and a great example of the old adage - the more you put in the more you get out!

A tremendous thank you to all the challengers who made it possible and for being such great companions for the last 8 days. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to get to know you all - a great example of a team built of many disparate people of different ages and different skills and backgrounds being melded by the adversity of the experience and all for a great cause. What could be better?


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Day 6 - Cambodia!

 29th November 2012
Phnom Penh – Kampong Thom (60km)

Another early start, leaving the hotel at 7am on the bus to take us out of Pnom Penh and out into the country away from the city. A ride of some 70 km. on the way we stopped at a trading station where they were selling tarantula and sparrow amongst other delicacies. I think Tessa was one of the few if not the only one of us to have eaten tarantula ( as part of her five a day) - however many of us were lucky enough to hold them or allow them to crawl over us. We also stopped to take snaps of lily fields, irritatingly having got what I thought was the perfect shot - a field of lilies with a Buddhist temple in the background I realised I had no memory card in my camera!

We eventually began our trek just before 11.

It was only 55k today but after yesterday's day off when we had all felt incredibly tired there was an air of apprehension on the bus. As mentioned above we started our ride later than usual and so the heat was really intense, moreover it was uphill and to add insult to injury there was a headwind! That first 18km stretch was really tough and Judy and me took our usual position at the back - we were quite happy to stay there too riding at our own pace and let the fitter athletes keep up with our new guide - Chamrong  who was maintaining a cracking pace of around 22kph. In this heat that is a helluva lick.

The road we are travelling is the main road from Pnom Penh to Siem Reap and it is straight, busy, dusty and exposed to the sun and as I mentioned before slightly uphill. It is not a particularly interesting road although the further we got out into the country the more diverse became the agriculture. The majority of the agriculture appears to be without the help of machinery. You see the odd tractor  but mostly produce is moved by carts driven by oxon and harvesting is by hand.

The second stretch of a further 12 k took us to our lunchtime resting place a rather unprepossessing barn of a place with a TV blaring away in the background and showing a spy thriller where the entire cast appears to have got shot. Our lunch was effectively a picnic lunch provided byour guides consisting of chicken and beef on a stick, barely edible fish, a baked potato and the ubiquitous rice, one apple and two small bananas.

After lunch there were mutterings of taking the bus by some out of sheer exhaustion but these were quickly dispelled with - Sophie observed quite rightly that although when you are riding you sometimes feel that you can't carry on anymore as soon as you stop you feel fine again and manage to convince yourself that it's not so bad (it is in my view!) Judy begs to differ as she is convinced it is total purgatory all of the time.

The third leg of 25k was punctuated by one scheduled water stop and one unscheduled ( a puncture) it took us a further hour and a quarter to an hour and a half. It was getting cooler by the time we finished around 3.45 - an early finish for some; however four brave souls, Mark, Phee, Mike and Doris took up the option of pedalling a further 32 k . I don't envy them that decision because as we approached the city on the bus the road became gradually busier and dustier and night must have been near when they arrived at the hotel. At the time of going to press I haven't seen any of the athletic party so can't comment on that. You will have gathered dear reader that the writer is not one of those athletes for he is indeed none other than the Chairman who is writing this blog to stop other writers taking the mickey out of him!!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


28th November 2012
Chau Doc - Phnom Penh

Today was a day off the bikes. We set off at 7.30 in a 25 seater speed boat for the Cambodian border. Six and a quarter hours later we arrived in Pnomh Penh with our visas. 

After lunch on the quayside of the Mekong we set off on a whistle stop tour of the capital.  We saw the late King's Palace and the site of construction on his crematorium. 

The final stop was Security Office 21where the Khmer Rouge imprisoned and tortured thousands before sending them to the killing fields. 

Back on the bikes tomorrow for an early start towards Siem Reap.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


27th November 2012
Long Xuyen -Tri Ton - Chau Doc (65km)

The touching emotion of our last supper in Vietnam before crossing the border into Cambodia masked the shameful reality of what has been going on behind closed doors.

There are five women and six men on this cycle challenge and to hell with the old adage of what goes on tour stays on tour.

The final dinner in this vibrant and exciting country at the end of day six was a time to reflect on an enthralling cycling journey through the Mekong delta. But there were under currents.

Our day started in the thriving city of Long Xuen and involved a 65km spin in 35C heat before lunch.

Then it was on to the Killing Fields of Ba Chu, where Pol Pot's regime massacred more than 4,000 men women and children in 1978. It was a very sobering experience indeed.

Later that evening as we thanked the Vietnamese support crew who have nursed us through four days of heat that touched the 40C mark, the facts about some very unacceptable began to emerge. 

Two of what had been a united team, became so enraged by the "room mates" that they took the most drastic action imaginable.

Not only did they pack theirs bags and leave their sleeping partners - they moved hotels!

What a dreadful over-reaction to a gentle spot of snoring!

WICKED WHISPER: Which sad old fart failed his cycling 11+ by trying to start his bike in a high gear on a steep slope. And promptly fell off in a perfect imitation of a dying swan?

Monday, 26 November 2012


26th November 2012
Can Tho - Lai Vung - Long Xuyen (95km)

From Phee:

Day three was The Big One
After 5 am wake-up calls and a hasty breakfast, we paid a short visit to the famous Floating Market of Can Tho, where Steve, our eminent business whiz, was conned by a 6-year-old fruit salesman into buying an overpriced peeled pineapple. Sadly our doctor advised against eating it and Steve tossed it into the surrounding Mekong soup, almost closely followed by desperately drooling Bob. 

The cycling then commenced along the narrow concrete and dirt back paths of the delta,  through the vivid green rice paddies, and this day involved the most technical and arduous cycling so far.  The heat was relentless and humidity was high. We dodged scooters, children and livestock, negotiated over broken sections of concrete and muddy ground, and - Phee's particular nightmare - crossed scores of rickety, teetering wooden bridges and steep concrete ones without side barriers, over the numerous muddy tributaries of the Mekong. Phee narrowly avoided a collision with one of the many scooters which suddenly emerged from a side road without warning.  Bob was less lucky when his gears jammed shortly before the end of the day, and he had a nasty fall, cutting and bruising his leg.  His offer of a bottle of champers for our pretty doctor Jenny, if she visited him at midnight to kiss it better, was rejected.

The heat was relentless and humidity was high.  A brief rainstorm was a welcome relief.  At one stop point, four of our heroic members  displayed courage beyond the call of duty by following our guide Phat across a precarious "monkey bridge".......Will, Mark, Doris and Jenny. (See photographic evidence of simian skills).  It was a disappointingly failed mission: nobody ended up in the muddy swamp below.

After 96.55 km, the sight of our waiting bus was an immense relief. We retired to the Dong Xuyen Hotel for an Exotissimo Meal featuring..........(see photo)  

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Day 2 Complete- A tough one ....

25th November 2012
Tra Vinh - Can Tho (80km)

A tough day through some beautiful countryside. The Mekong Delta is the major exporter of rice and grows three crops per year.  The rice paddies were stunning to see fringed by palm trees laden with coconuts. The riding was tougher with hills and many steep bridges and sharp turns and we had some fallers today.  Five of us were afflicted by a virulent strand of bacteria which was particularly difficult to deal with given the toilet facilities or lack of!  Will, even though he was one of the unfortunate five still attempted a 360degree turn which unseated him to the cry of 'man down'.   The chairman, aka Borat, delayed the party by an hour in the toilet.  His condition was so bad that we confused the grunts of pigs living in the house, next door to the toilet with his outpourings of despair.   Other wildlife spotted included a viper falling from a tree closely missing Sophie, pink ducks, normal ducks and more pigs

Can Tho is the largest town in the Mekong so we had some r and r ready for our toughest day yet tomorrow.