Archive for March, 2010

15th to 22nd March

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

22nd March
A forced rest day, but I think was much needed. We were able to skype the family, and then I left Jon at the hotel while I made my way to the bike shop. Problem! I can’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English. We had to communicate via google translater on their PC, and it didn’t look good when he said he didn’t have the part we needed. Luckily he then explained that another friend’s bike shop had it in stock, and it would be ready in 1 ½ hours. What a touch! If they weren’t able to help, the only way Ronnie would have made it to Cuba would have been in a box.
Even on a rest day there is always so much to do – we are trying not to think ahead of ourselves, but the week we arrive back in the UK is packed with press commitments (not trying to sound too nobbish!), but Holly has everything under control.
Another pikey lunch – this time eating footlong subways sat on the hotel driveway waiting for Berto who very kindly offered to put us up for the night (saves another hotel cost). Class! We felt bad when the security gate at his place jammed against his brand new jeep, but he was surprisingly chilled about it. It was cool being shown round Choluca (a lively student town), and we filled our boots with more inferno food, before looking round container city – as the name suggests it was a whole load of ship containers with bars and restaurants specifically for students – well cool.

21st March
One thing about downhill is the wounding realisation that we now had to make our way back up to 7,300ft today to reach Puebla. The heat is back and cooking us every mile we cover. Finding another toll road, we put our heads down and pushed down the thighs at a dizzying 9mph into a headwind – rubbish! When a landcruiser pulled alongside, Jon thought they had run out of petrol. I was more annoyed that they had stopped my sluggish rhythm. It actually transpired that Davide and his girlfriend Anna spoke perfect English and he was really keen on cycling and triathlons and wanted to hear about our adventure. They were so nice, and started trying to contact some friends along our route to see if we might be able to stay with them. It was refreshing for us to be able to speak English again to other people, and they really wanted to help us in any way they could.
One of their friends, Berto, lived just outside Puebla and Davide said to give him a call when we were nearby. Unfortunately we couldn’t get through so soldiered onto Puebla and decided to settle on a hotel instead. At our last breather (god these hills are killing me), I noticed a worrying wobble on Ronnie’s crank – it looks like the bearings have gone, and after kicking ourselves for not getting the buckled wheel changed in Chiang Mai, I knew that we needed to get to a bike shop quickly.
We hooked back up with Davide and Anna at our hotel and they very kindly bought us dinner (at least we knew what we were ordering), as well as introducing us to Berto who came along too. And he knew a bike shop owner in Puebla, and arranged for them to look at the bike in the morning. Another amazing occurrence on our challenge.

20th March
Explaining to the ‘Rodge the Yank’ that we were now heading to Cuautla, all he said was good luck. And when stopping at the traffic lights a Mexican yute driver raised his eyebrows when we told him. “Bro this aint a game of tidily winks!” You see today we were cycling cross country over a mountain range, off the safely of the more steady inclines of the toll roads, and up to the highest point of the Tropic of Cancer for Cancer Challenge – 10,400 feet, or 2 miles above sea level!
Luckily, the Mexican gang member Alberto cycled with us for 10 miles out of Toluca, which really helped point us in the right direction. We would have been proper lost without him, even though we were worried as we weaved through little shortcuts of his home town. We are in hillbilly territory now and I wasn’t liking the hills either, and we weirdly found ourselves in a Saturday morning cycle race. There were a few kids there who should have taken it a bit easy on the burritos, and Jon was loving racing them, until the map flew off his bike and got proper ‘trucked’ by about 5 artics!
He then got carried away and raced passed the junction we needed to turn left at. I was not happy having to chase him downhill, and then having to cycle back. Jon then lost concentration trying to straighten the tent and faceplanted the asphalt. Luckily he was going slowly uphill, but it was a stark reminder that even with just 12 cycling days left, we can’t take our eyes off the ball.
We are having to dig deep, harder than any training we have done, taking each 100ft of assent at a time, and after what seemed like an eternity (and several buckets of sweat later, we reached the magical 10,400ft peak! If we were in Europe now this would be a ski resort! Now it’s all downhill right? Wrong! We turned the corner and the best view in the world greeted us. We were literally up in the clouds and could see for miles across Mexico. Awesome! Squealing down the 1500ft descent (our brakes are cooked now!), Jon mentioned that we still had another pimple of a hill to do (250m) to get back to the toll road. More like a big angry puss-dripping hill bro, it nearly finished us both off. We managed 50m at a time, this was the steepest hill of the challenge – even a bloke on his rusty bike walked up the hill quicker than me!
But yes, we were on the toll road again, and had 35km of downhill. The view I can only describe as looking out of a plane window with your feet on the ground. It made you dizzy trying to take it all in. We could see two different vast plateaus, about 6000ft below us, and it was downhill all the way. This is without a doubt the most exhilarating cycling road on the planet, just trying to take it all in blew our minds! We just made it to Cuautla before dark, nailed a fajita feast and collapsed into our beds with the views of the day whirling around in our heads.

19th March
Left the stunning courtyard of the town centre hotel early, and headed off to Toluca. A 500m assent woke us up pretty sharpesh, but I was still struggling as Jon tanked on ahead. However the scenery was inspiring me on; the road weaved steeply up through pine forests, and the massive rigs gave us airhorn encouragement as we sweated like Mexicans in a chilli face off!
Toluca is one of the highest cities in Mexico at 2,700m, and 900m higher than our training in the Alps! And approaching the industrial city, we saw snow covered mountains glistening in the afternoon sunlight. Every day Mexico’s magical landscape continues.
Now onto Lonely Planet – we’ve downloaded about 10 chapters on the relevant parts of Mexico and we aimed for a hotel, El Gran, in the centre of Toluca, lured with the offer of free wifi. But could we find it? No chance, and even a taxi escort with the most useless cabbie I’ve ever met proved fruitless. Anyway, after a lot of huffing and puffing (just cycled 84 miles), pushing our bikes through the busy centre, we found the ‘renamed’ hotel (thanks useless LP), and Jon excelled himself in the first Mexican hotel negotiation.

18th March
3 days now without the right food was taking it’s toll on us, fortunately we did manage to find an internet cafe last night and re planned our route, we found a town with a choice of 5 hotels for tonight which must also mean good restaurants. We were right. We found a cool little authentic hotel cheap as chips with a good cafe restaurant on site, we also plotted a shorter cycle today which meant that we could eat twice after lunch and have a much needed rest. We filled our boots with delicious tacos, burritos, soup, cakes. It was awesome. We then retired to the room to catch a film on the laptop just in time too because it absolutely chucked it down.

17th March
After two days of not eating proper food we made the executive decision to stop short of another potential hill billy town and get to the slightly bigger town of Cuitzeo, well it was in bold on the map so it must be better right? Well yes and no. Again there was only one hotel and again the only thing we could find to eat was crap, nice crap granted, burgers with cheese, bacon and inferno insanity sauce but still not the right food for us. The cool colonial town was charasmatic where the streets were rows of terraced buildings and every one with the exception of the church was painted red & white. There was no advertising or shop signs anywhere and the only thing that distinguished the shops from one another was either by peering in or by the writing above the entrance which was the same small size and same font as the next shop.

The hotel we found was basic but good for one night. It was run by a Mexican/American family and the son was about Dom’s age, he gave us some advice on our route past Mexico City, we concluded that it’d be best to drop south from Toluca to Cuernavaca then onto Puebla. Mexico City is one of if not the biggest city in the world and skimming the outskirts on the toll road would be bonkers; lots of fly overs, junctions, traffic. We’d be knocked off for sure. That’s not even taking into account that it’s also one of the most dangerous cities on the planet.

16th March
Did some work this morning to catch up; Holly is going great guns on arranging PR for our return including a 6 sheet advert at Bank tube station! We went to town to grab our usual sandwich bits but realised after an hour back on the road that we forgot to get cash, this could be a problem. I found the cycle tough today, the pizza from last night didn’t sit well in my stomach causing me to loose my appetite which in turn drained my energy. Reluctantly I forced a tuna sarnie down which did actually help a little and gave me a much needed energy boost.

We ploughed on to a small ‘hill billy’ town called Panindicuaro within the bleakness of the hills, the next big town was beyond our cycling reach for the day. We did manage to find one rather shabby family run hotel but after having stayed in some less than impressive hotels in India it was fine. The town had one cash point which ironically didn’t work, so there we were in the middle of nowhere with only 100 pesos on us, the hotel was 300 and we needed to eat. We were in a bit of a jam.

We got Rich to send us a message in Spanish so we could show matey chops but he was too leathered on tequila to know what was going on although we did manage to understand that he could give us a lift to the next town in the morning. That left us with just enough money for a couple of firecracker inferno burgers from across the street, not ideal as we needed proper food but beggars can’t be choosers.

15th March
When we arrived in La Barca we thought we’d found a right touch in finding a hotel right on the toll road even better that it had wifi. Trouble was as it was a bank holiday weekend their restaurant wasn’t open and this was the same in the town. We did manage to get some pizzas though which isn’t the best food for two hungry cyclists but much better than some of the options in China. The pizzas weren’t great and didn’t sit well in my stomach, fortunately Dom was ok but I didn’t get much sleep and only a day after recovering from the dodgy mayo it was an episode I could do without.

6th to 14th March

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

14th March
In bad need of rest, we took an unscheduled day off today, although Jon’s stomach was a bit ‘chili-pickled’. Actually we found out that the mayo we used in our sandwiches the day before had been in the sun for 4 days, so definitely past its best.
We headed to some hot springs just outside Guadalajara – (I’m sure the sulphur springs will sort him out), and it seemed like the rest of the city had the same idea! Kids spilled out of the backs of pickups, singing and chanting as we followed the rocky road into the national forest. It was certainly different – the water was baking and lying back in the water with a chilled Corona, definitely took our minds off the coming days of serious mountain climbs.

13th March
Cycling over the cobbled streets on the way out of Tequila, people were still on it from the previous night, falling about all over the place. I saw one guy stumble across the road to his pick-up truck and get in the driver’s seat – I even noticed his wife in the passenger seat- crazy!

Rich’s wife Lizzy met us outside the city to guide us in – the poor girl didn’t know what she had let herself in for, with lorries and other traffic getting rowdy beeping their horns at her for driving slowly behind us! It was also a new experience for Rich who found it all really stressful trying to look out for his wife and also to hold onto his pants while he tried to avoid passing vehicles.

The evening was a little more relaxed and Dom was able to get some much needed rest, he enjoyed being the centre of attention at a table with Lizzy’s mum, her friend and her sister who wanted to know all about the challenge while Rich and I tried (being the operative word) to get the BBQ going- we had to use some petrol to give it a jump start in the end. Rich’s friend Stefan and his wife Marisol came along too – he had arranged the media in Tepic so it was great to thank him. We tried to go into town for a drink but lasted about 45 minutes before deciding to call it a night – party animals! I had a looming case of gut rot which kept me up all night, not much fun.

12th March
We were going to cycle the 85 miles to Guadalajara but Dom was even worse today. The last thing we want is to burn out so close to the finish so we made the call to stop in Tequila and make it a 45 miler, a good job too as we did 2,700 feet of ascents which took us up to our highest point yet of 5,000 feet.
As we rolled into Tequila the smell was recognisable straight away and took me back to my uni days; Tequila Tuesdays down at Casablanca.

We found a cushdy little Mexican restaurant for dinner and feasted on tequila chicken and cactus. On the way back we stopped off at a tequila bar for a rather generous measure which set us up nicely for a good sleep unfortunately though a group of rowdy teenage Mexicans on the lash were in the room next door and the ceiling fan didn’t work, also didn’t help having to cuddle up to Dom in his pants.

11th March
Rich arrived at our hotel an hour early (we all got confused with the time difference); it was really good to see a friendly face and a good boost for him to see some friends from England. He moved out to Mexico a few months ago after marrying a Mexican, Lizzy, she’s awesome and they make a great couple.

One of Rich’s friends had arranged a radio interview for us but she couldn’t do it any earlier than 11.30am – a little bit concerned about some inevitable night time cycling but hey it was good to raise further awareness in Mexico right? After paying Jose the cabbie to guide us across Tepic we arrived at the radio station to find we were to be interviewed by a group of very fiery self proclaimed porn stars. this should be fun! Fortunately they had a translator and the interview went well although I did catch Dom losing track a couple of times focusing on silicone! Everyone at the station wanted their picture taken which was a good ego boost and then we heard they arranged a TV interview for us too, more concerned about the time but we carried on, Rich got a little nervous as he was the designated translator but he pulled it off. Barnaby Bear even got his TV debut.

After the interviews it was a quick dash to Walmart (so good to be reunited again with western supermarkets, no offence China) where we embarrassed ourselves again by turning a row of trolleys outside into a banquet bar! Stocked up on food we were on the road by 2.30pm and on we ploughed. Dom was still pretty low on energy and clearly needs a rest but we decided to press on and take it steady. We called it a day in a town called Jala about 10km short of our destination as we were cycling in the dark and Dom was pushing himself beyond his comfort zone. Not the best place to stop but it’s only for one night we told ourselves.
This small town can be described as a trucker hillbilly wasteland and we later found out there is active witches who live there! As we cycled in we were going to ask for directions from a petrol station but when we saw it was being raided by police with AK-47s we thought it probably wasn’t the best idea. We found a dodgy motel with strange splattered blood stains on the sheets and I drew the short straw with a pillow that looked like it had skid marks on – think I’ll use a rolled up towel then! Dom and Rich went in search of food and I decided to guard the stuff in the room, they found a burger stall and amazed the folk there (who had never met English people) when they ordered 9 burgers for 3 people. It was great to have Rich with us and a good morale boost with us, also a bit of a bonus that he can speak a bit of Spanish.
As a treat we gave him a taste of home with an episode of Ramsay’s Nightmares on the laptop. I was happy (despite the poo pillow) as I managed to finish the TCC Challenge promotional video – not going to win any Oscars but conveys the right impression- you can see it on our media section its titled ‘my cancer journey- tcc challenge’.

10th March
Rich confirmed that we are allowed to cycle along the toll roads, so Jon wanted to get straight on it to Tepic. I was a bit more reluctant, knowing that we had another 80 miles to go today and didn’t want the mince of getting turned away from the toll booth. Well we should have just jumped on, as we spent the next 20 miles shitting ourselves as we saw dead and live 5ft snakes in the grass verges, cat sized iguanas, birds the size of small dinosaurs (nicknamed Terance the Terradactor ) and becoming acquainted with some seriously ‘small cock’ Mexican bus drivers.
Once we were on the toll road, the bikes were purring and after a few police cars and army trucks zipped past with no problem our confidence grew. We knew from looking at the elevation this morning that the big arsed 900m climb was coming, and sure enough we hit the start of it just after lunch, after hearing the big arctic lorries crunching gearboxes . It nearly finished me off, as I found myself really tired and low in energy, sweating like I was in a sauna, and while Jon powered on, the hotel on the hilltop couldn’t arrive quick enough. I’m sure a good dinner and sleep will sort me out and I’ll be back on track tomorrow.

9th March
So first day of cycling in Mexico – the finishing line is in sight, but we still have a long way to go. And cycling out of Mazatlan, past all the police and army vehicles, I’m not sure this is going to be easy! Actually we find out later that Mazatlan is quite a dangerous place (outside the tourist area), so I think we were cycling through the outskirts as a drugs bust was going down.
And boy is it hot – Rich (Jon’s friend) did warn us, but with the training of Thailand and Laos we thought we would be used to the heat. Well this is another level. 36 degrees today and cycling along the Highway 15 Libre, we got through 7 litres of water each! The scenery was stunning, but with the mountains looming in the background, we knew they were getting ready to batter us in the coming days. We still managed 100 miles today, but we could barely keep our eyes open as we rolled into Acaponeta, along the cobbled streets into a typically authentic Mexican town centre. Even eating was a struggle, and this was certainly a warning sign that Mexico is definitely going to be the toughest leg yet.

8th March
We scheduled a day off today, to try and get acclimatised to another country, and first task was to see how did the bikes fared on 3 planes, 16 hours of flying, and five different nationalities of luggage handlers. Not great was our assessment as we un bended pannier racks and mudguards, hoping that they will carry us through to Cancun.
The tourist area of Mazatlan is really quite nice – lots of restaurants along the beach side, and they have these novelty golf cart taxis, pimped to the max with neon lights, bass boxes and alloys! I wonder what St. Andrews would think about these at the next Open!

7th March
The next leg of the adventure was to fly to Mazatlan (right on the Tropic of Cancer), so we could start cycling across Mexico. After some repairs to the bike boxes (3 rolls of parcel tape from reception), we then had all the same ball ache of checking in our luggage, trying to avoid paying for excess luggage. Luckily Barry, ‘the baggage hander from Manchester’ sorted us right out, saving us about $200 – nice one Bazza!
Arriving in Mexico was unnerving – we had been warned about being ripped off, so were on guard when we needed 3 porters to carry all our luggage to the taxi. But all ok and we headed to our hotel in the tourist area, not before getting a look at the rougher end of Mazatlan, which is where we have to cycle! Crashed out in the hotel, while watching the Oscars which was cool as we had been standing in the same spot the day before!

6th March
This will be interesting! Our luggage seems to multiply every time we have to go to an airport, and the complimentary shuttle bus driver from Novotel wasn’t best pleased that he was also being used as a parcel lorry today! At Hong Kong airport, the China Airways check-in staff informed us that we didn’t have the right documents to travel to the USA, and needed to use the internet to download the required forms. Luckily she was really helpful and let me use their office to do this. An hour later and all sorted, we then confused the hell out of all the staff with the number of bags we had (8 plus 3 bike boxes, total weight around 80kgs!), which was a right touch as we avoided all excess baggage charges!
Our 13 hour flight left at 1pm, via Tapei where we had to go through security again (it isn’t easy with our hand luggage in binliners), before boarding a connection to Los Angeles. Weirdly we landed at midday, so in fact had gone 13 hours back in time! But our heads were saying it was 2am, so when Jon faced some sarcastic power hungry yank at customs, it didn’t please him that he was whistled at and directed to unpack all his bags for a pointless security check.
So to avoid the jetlag, we had to stay awake for the afternoon, so I thought it would be a good idea to head to Sunset Boulevard, as they were setting up for the Oscars the following night. Well with 3 buses and 3 metros just to get there, we were seeing stars already in our heads, and after a good old American burger and chocolate milkshake it was curtains!

25th Feb to 5th Mar

Monday, March 8th, 2010

5th March
King kong woke me up this morning crashing around inside my head – so lame on the drinking tolerance now. Our pikeyness continued when we rocked up at China Club (a private members club) for lunch with Simon and his wife, an old Stortfordian who is based in Hong Kong and who might be able to help on the fundraising front.
When we arrived, the house manager looked us up and down (yes the same flip flops, matching tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts from last night – well every night in fact!), and politely informed us that there is a dress code here, and we are breaking every rule (no collars, flip flops and sportswear). Luckily Simon is one of their best members, so some black house slippers and dinner jackets later, we are allowed into the restaurant!
Bikeman had worked wonders on Ronnie and Reggie – they were singing again, and we almost got a tune out of Bob Geldolf when we left the old chains and brakepads with him. Pouring with sweat in the 95% humidity, we got the bikes packed into the boxes for the 14 hour flights to Mexico and then found out it is the Oscars on Sunday, and we are flying via LA. Maybe a red carpet experience in tracksuit bottoms and flipflops – now that would be an outfit all the stylists would be talking about!

4th March
Headed over to another PHD office this morning and was cool to meet everyone there, although sadly missed Hannah who I used to work with in London. Next stop was the bike shop for a well overdue service, and met Bikeman (aka Ian) who looked a little like Bob Geldolf with no front teeth!
Then down to Holiday Inn where we were meeting Ruhan’s sister, Susiana, (who we met in Mumbai) as she lives in Hong Kong. We were a bit worried that we were going to have another whirlwind of press and appointments, but it was all quite relaxed as we headed to Kowloon Cricket Club for lunch. Back at her house she had made a birthday cake for me, and we had a quick press interview for Kee Magazine (fashion style mag), then a photoshoot using Hong Kong skyline as a backdrop.
Next we went up to the famous peak mountain for the amazing views of Hong Kong, but because of the mist, couldn’t see 10 meters in front of us! Cutting our losses, we headed down and across to harbourside to see the famous symphony of lights show which they have every night in Hong Kong harbor. This is more like it. The only word to describe Hong Kong at night is dazzling. All the LED advertising banners alongside the illuminated skyscrapers, again I just have to remind myself how privileged and fortunate we are to be doing this challenge.
Time to put on the party outfits, we got ready to hit some of Hong Kong’s best night spots – in our flip flops, matching tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts – I can’t wait to wear some decent jeans and shoes – I feel like an utter pikey, and it’s not helped by being alongside smart businessmen and secretaries. We ended up in a newly opened club called Lakage, and it can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a club or a strip joint. Well at least the free drinks, stunning blonde and flexible brunette cage dancers certainly helped with the birthday entertainment!

3rd March
“Where is everyone”, was our first thoughts when we arrived at the ferry terminal. Jon even managed to walk through a restricted area with the video camera before someone sparked into life. It was a wicked feeling arriving in Hong Kong, with the bikes still intact, and knowing that we had gunned 700 miles in 9 days. My first complimentary hotel blag at the Novotel was certainly up to my hotel standards, so thank you to Mandy and Shane for arranging this for us and the photoshoot outside.

2nd March
Sweeping past the south China hills, we were very glad to be following the river (and staying at sea level) on another 100 mile day today! Our chains are squeaking worst than ever, so it’s good that there aren’t any Laos style hills in the way – just keeping our fingers crossed that they hold out.
Bit more navigation required today, crossing over highways on the route into Jiangmen, and with no English on the road signs, we are doing more symbol matching. Actually I think Jon was studying them a bit too closely as he was nearly taken out by a bus on a roundabout, while trying to stop his completely bald front tyre sliding on the wet road.
Luckily we found the Overseas Capital hotel, and they spoke English which was great, so when they pointed the bikes to the elevator there was no misunderstanding. The fully loaded bikes were coming up to the 7th floor with us tonight! And they also had a western revolving restaurant. Fill your boots, although Dougie, the annoying Ozzie almost prevented us from eating our food when it arrived. “Struth fellas, I didn’t know all this food was for yooou!” – yes mate and if you got out of our faces, we might actually get a chance to tuck in!
We also had a bit of luck on the ferry front. The hotel had a travel bureau and we established that a ferry left from Jiangmen to Hong Kong every day at 9am and 2pm, which would avoid an inevitable nightmare of trying to find the port in the next city tomorrow. 2pm it is then, and just a 10 mile cycle tomorrow now. To celebrate we tried going to a couple of bars in the city – the first one was a Karaoke bar, with a very bad Chinese singer slaughtering Careless Whisper, and the next “Babyfeel” had a P Diddy’s Chinese cousin MC’ing to Bulgarian pop music. We were mildly amused by an Ashley Thornton lookalike, before we decided that we had seen enough for one night!

1st March
Pinch punch first of the month, and what more we can say that we will finish the challenge next month now (hopefully all going well). 82 miles today, and shouldn’t be a repeat of yesterday as we are on the right road already. Pretty non eventful day cycling, although we just have to get our heads down and focus on getting to Hong Kong for my birthday. But when a clap of thunder sounded from the heavy skies above, we knew we were in for a soaking! The last two hours of the day were spent in torrential rain, so when we got to Yangjiang thought we deserved another nice business hotel.
Receptionists must hate us (especially Chinese ones). I filmed Jon walking in like a bedraggled cat, trying to persuade them to let us check in before we paid the deposit, by gesturing in a ‘stacking shelf style’, that we would take our luggage to the room first. And they certainly didn’t appreciate Ronnie and Reggie being wheeled across their pristine marble floor and into the manager’s office (I think that’s where they wanted us to store them, but something might have got lost in translation!)
Safely in the room, the next task was another struggle on the dinner front in the hotel restaurant. No English menus in sight, we were seated on a round table in the middle of this enormous, crowded dining hall – I don’t think we could have attracted any more attention than if we had just walked in naked with one strategically placed sock! They could see us struggling with the chopsticks, so a full cutlery set soon followed, and we thought the hotel owner was going to start showing us how to eat our food when he came and sat at our table. He was almost surprised that we didn’t talk to him in Chinese, and without having a clue what we were saying thought he should go and do some hotel management; “good idea mate!”

28th February
At least they got the club sandwiches right today, although it did take all the willpower to get up and leave this lush 5* hotel for yet more cycling – 4 more days in fact until we can have our rest day. But I made a school boy error when proudly showing off the satnav to a gathering crowd outside the hotel as we prepared to leave. All we needed to do was follow the G325 for 55 miles and we’d reach tonight’s city. Not quite!
See the satnav guided us into the city centre, where it then told us to cross an estuary (and there wasn’t a bridge in sight) – really should have asked the hotel which was the best way to go. 22 miles of detour later via a crumbling road bridge, a rough deserted island suburb and a nuclear power station, we rejoined the G325, just 3 miles on from the hotel. Twats!
The language barriers aren’t getting any easier either. We did find a hotel in Shuidong (not the scheduled stop, but close enough), although we were both nearly blown off our bikes by 100 meter strip of the mother of all thunder firecrackers as we approached the city. We needed the full vocabulary of the iphone to check into this hotel, and when we went in search of food, we found a restaurant, but it was lots of private dining rooms. The teenage waitresses didn’t know what to when we tried to order, so the manager had to personally help us order some rice and pork. Actually it was Jon’s turn for the fan club tonight, they all wanted his picture on their mobile phones, and whooped for joy when Jon posed for a few photos as we left!

27th February
Chilli beef noodles for breakfast – I don’t think this is the right diet of touring cyclists! Quite frankly it is pretty wrong – where’s Mr Kellogg when you need him! As we thought our clothes were still wet, so this meant no padded shorts or gloves. We both soon got blisters on our hands and Dom on his bum- nice! After 40 miles the gloves and shorts were dry enough to wear, no privacy in sight we got changed by the side of the road Dom was stood in his pants when a Chinese geography teacher pulled up for a chat – proper funny even managed to whip out the video camera!
As we got close to Zhangjiang, we saw a sign for the ‘England Holidays Hotel’ and thought we’ll have some of that! I’m not a gambling man but they must speak English… we were wrong. It took Dom an iPhone, pen and paper diagrams and sketches with 4 reception staff, a porter and a hotel manager to get us a room and ordering food wasn’t much easier, 6 people took the order but they still got it wrong! Get me to Hong Kong!!

26th February
Woke up to the news from Holly and Cathy raised over £40,000 at the Blue Crest Capital fundraising party thanks to some great auction prizes and some very generous personal donations. Buzzing from the loot raised we peddled fast discussing ideas and really happy that with the help of holly, family and friends we have now raised about 60% of our target. The TCC Challenge is proving to be a great success but we’ve got to careful not to jump the gun, still a long way to go yet.
It was supposed to be a short cycle today but we got slowed down by shit roads, we tried to blag ourway onto the smart new freeway to give Ronnie and Reggie some love but the Chinese officials at the toll booth weren’t having it and sent us back onto the crappy road.
We were a bit worried about hotel situ tonight as we thought it would be a very small city, actually turned out it wasn’t but as we cycled in we didn’t know that and took the first hotel we found, squat toilet bed bugs and all. It was so humid the TV made very concerning noises and the floor of the hotel was really slippery. Our clothes were still disgusting from our filthy ride to Mong Cai so we tried in vain to wash them but as soon as we hung them up we knew they wouldn’t dry in time. It took us 2 & 1/2 hours to find food tonight; despite having the iPhone app at the ready restaurants were saying they didn’t have rice noodles or chicken and we kept getting moved on with people pointing further down the street. I think it was because they couldn’t be arsed with the hassle of serving two English jokers. After turning our noses up at a chicken feet noodle bar we found a hotel with a restaurant and filled up on rice and dim sum, Dom caused quite a stir again and soon had a group of girls around him at the table.

25th February
Still well muddy we brushed the worse off the panniers with the hotel towels and then headed down to give Ronnie and Reggie a hose down. We were both down to about 2 gears each as the gear cassettes were so caked in mud. The hotel manager wasn’t overly impressed when we pulled a hose from round the back and asked him to turn it on, reluctantly he let us carry on despite making a muddy mess of his driveway, the real fireworks went off when his wife checked the room when we checked out- she was screaming at the top of her Vietnamese lungs with two black with mud and dirt towels in her hand. She threw them down on the ground next to us and wiggled her finger to say ‘no chance’. We gave her the equivalent to £1 and made a quick exit towards the Chinese border.
As we thought massive communication barrier in China, really glad we got the mandarin translator which is going to prove our saviour. Found a bargain luxury hotel for £18 only problem was no dinner available because of a wedding, we had to use our best language skills to get a taxi to another hotel with a restaurant. The language barrier didn’t get much better the staff didn’t know what we were going on about so they wheeled out a trolley of food and we picked out what we wanted!