Archive for April, 2010

Race to the finish! 23rd March to 4th April

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

4th April
So, we made it to Havana. It seems a long time ago that we started planning our challenge, and it has been amazing how people’s faith in us has grown as we have gone through 16 countries and experienced experiences we never imagined. Personally, I’m so pleased to be able to support my brother in this way after his cancer battle, and he is the one person who made this privileged adventure possible for me. I hope we have shown what is possible (although the Mexican hills nearly not!), and you can achieve anything you want to achieve. We are lucky to have someone watching over us, and my eternal gratitude goes out to everyone who has prayed for us, helped us along the way, supported us and believed in our successful quest to cycle round the Tropic of Cancer. So until the Saudi leg, it’s over and out :o ) Dom x

I must admit when I came up with concept of cycling around the Tropic of Cancer for Cancer 18 months ago I didn’t know how far I’d get, I was unfit and undergoing radio therapy treatment. I didn’t even have a decent bike and began training on the same bike I had when I was 12! I was fortunate to have my fiancé Holly to give me strength and to keep the belief alive- not many women would put up with she has and my brother who helped ambition become reality, to be honest if he hadn’t have come I’d still be cycling around Dover somewhere looking for the ferry terminal!
As support grew for the challenge it all became very real and when our sponsors came aboard and people started to donate their hard earned cash we had more people relying on us which made us more determined to succeed! I thoroughly enjoyed building up the brand of the TCC Challenge alongside my brother and with the help of friends in India (Rohan Kapor, Kaylen Sen, Anthony Biswas) Sami and Fathi in Libya, the Tapken’s in Dubai, Susaina and Simon Powell in Hong Kong and Rich and Lizzy in Mexico we helped to raise awareness through media in 7 countries around the world.
6 months after leaving from the Bank of England here we are, in Cuba reunited with Holly drinking mojito’s! Huge heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported the Tropic of Cancer for Cancer Challenge either directly or indirectly. Jon x

After only 3 months of being together Jon dropped the C word on me, so when he revealed his plans to cycle across the world with his brother i wasn’t shocked more relieved that Jon was so enthusiastic & not defeated after all he’d been through in the past 2 years. I suppose the selfish side of me wanted to discourage it & keep him to myself but knew that our love would be strong enough to handle being apart for so long. I was lucky as Jon kept me involved via text, email or video call as we were a team before he left & that would never change. I soaked myself in the TCC Challenge , organising events & generally plugging the arse out of the challenge. I found myself engrossed & obsessed & set myself daily challenges to achieve the ultimate for the boys. Now 6 months on i sit here in Cuba ( Very badly sunburnt) & with tears in my eyes i wonder what we the future will bring but one things for sure, i’ve got my man back!! Holly x

3rd April
We have been amazed how friendly Mexicans have been, and today was no exception as we tried to track down two cycle boxes for the journey home. Reception suggested we try the nearby shopping mall, and after wandering into a department store’s sports department, Enrique trekked across the parking lot to fetch us two brand new bikes, just so we could have the cardboard boxes for Ronnie and Reggie.
While we were laughing at two German lads by the pool who had clearly been out in the sun far too long (Sven and Helmut), they very kindly sent over two cold beers for us. Legends – and we thought they were after our sun loungers and towels! They were out for Spring Break, and made a few suggestions of places to try that evening.
Well, the Cancun strip is like a teen disco – on far too much Budweiser and Vodka energy mixes. So many good looking girls, but Jon and I felt well old, and probably the least stylish ones there – we’ve never been out clubbing in grey tracksuit bottoms before, so one too many tequilas later (3am) we headed off, ready for our flight tomorrow.

2nd April
Today’s the day – come rain or shine, wind or wild animals we are going to get to Cancun. Jon likened it to a spinning class in a steam room with sandpaper for pants, while my legs felt about as hollow as easter eggs. The road was massively boring, especially with hardly any traffic about (being Good Friday) – I was trying to see where the next iguana was going to jump out from!
About 100 Harley Davidson bikes screemed past which made things a bit more interesting, especially when we caught them all up at the toll, high fiving a few too! 10 miles later they raced past again, this time cheering us on, one bike even had a horse sound for his horn – brilliant!
I forgot to charge the ipod, so my planned tracks for our finish didn’t happen, but Jon was chilling to Erika Badu, as we both tried to absorb what we have just achieved over the last 8,300 miles. Luckily the hotel we booked was a really chilled budda influence, and we were upgraded to a MTV crib/ pimp room with a huge bath. Our plans of getting stuck into the Corona’s failed miserably, we managed two each before crashing out – still we have the last day of Spring Break tomorrow, and we can finally get a another break from cycling – I think we’ve earned it!

1st April
10 miles into today’s cycle, my energy level is rapidly dropping to zero, and my arse feels like I’ve been sitting on a seat of nails. Jon is now cycling on ahead and then having to wait 5 minutes for me to catch up. Listened to 3 Coldplay albums today, singing along (badly) which helped the next 30 miles pass by.
With my slow progress today another stint of night time cycling was inevitable (luckily only for about 45 minutes), but was proper scary stuff, with wild scank dogs, Larry the huge locust landing on my glove and Jon almost running over a 3ft live snake, which nearly made me fall off my bike!
Praying no last minute dogs would chase us, we found a nice hotel with a supermarket next door, and with a stunning Mexican girl on reception, she certainly took my mind off my creaking legs!

31st March
Now the hard work really begins. It’s what we’ve been training for. 313 miles in three days – brilliant! More dull toll road cycling, I kept myself interested thinking about American cheerleaders on Spring Break and counting road kill – two obvious extremes! One scank dog had been hit so hard that his teeth were 5 metres on from the rest of his splattered remains!
Still guzzling through the water, it gets hotter and less refreshing as the day goes on. Suddenly the dream of a full fat ice cold coke dilutes the cheerleader thoughts in my head!
Jon had another little wobble on the bike, but understandably so – he was in the zone listening to music (we are now sharing the ipod to keep us going), when an unexpected burrito munching bug flew straight into his spam. I saw the 3 inch monster tumble to the roadside, dazed and confused. Jon was more worried about his forehead, thinking that he would find bits of bug guts, but luckily just a little red mark!
We rolled into the outskirts of Merida, cutting short our cycle today (not looking forward to another 10 miles tomorrow), but found a good motel with a pool. Shame it was also the location for the annual mosquito conference with Pedro as chairman, and they were delighted to have two ‘neapolitan tanned’ volunteers for tonight’s banquet. They were completely un-phased by 2 smoking coils and the 18 degree air-conditioning, which meant a sleepless night for us both.

30th March
We opted for a shorter cycle today, rather than risk ending up in another nothing town. Campeche is a lovely Mayan influenced colonial town, and we found a cool little place which happened to have Man Utd vs Bayern on TV (shame the useless gits lost!). Nice to have another afternoon chilling out of the heat, and Jon was able to speak to Holly at a time other than 5am!
We found a traveller hostel for dinner, and amazed a group of German swingers with the amount of food we ordered!

29th March
It’s so frustrating when you get up to leave early, and then taking 3hrs to go. A right mince this morning – trying to help Jon by putting the offending inner tube to the side, he then picked it back up and put it on his bike. Funny as he realised, but was well pissed off at having to change a puncture for the second time and pump up tyres 3 times!
A long cycle aside the Gulf today, we keep having to remind ourselves how far round the Tropic of Cancer we have come. A mexico bike touring company has given us some invaluable advice on where to stay along this part of the route, and while Champoton was as hillbilly as they come, at least we found a cheap motel and restaurant next door (although the mother-in-law did have to nip off to the shops to get our food!) While we are working hard on the bikes, Holly is in full swing doing a fantastic job arranging diaries and events for when we get back to the UK.

28th March
A well earned rest day and another chance for washing the stiff sweaty cycle jerseys and Jon’s funky pants! Certainly not what staff wanted to see at the five star hotel was thermal cycle shorts hanging off the balcony!

27th March
If yesterday’s ride didn’t finish me off, another 110 plus miler today certainly will do. Bit of sat nav mincing, and trying to get round Toni’s 4×4 who desperately needed some parking lessons, but lucky we did have the route out of the city locked on the Garmin, and we were on our way.
I shouldn’t be so specific wanting a can of coke from a chilled refrigerator in a petrol station, as we decided to ignore the manky looking coolbox of a roadside seller. Because, 20 miles on, in the raw heat I was shaking through my lack of energy. The only option was some flea attacked mouldy orange drinks from El Rancho’s Culinary Disasters – we swerved that too! Luckily the next lookie lookie drinks dispenser we saw waving ice cold drinks in the air, thought all his Christmases had come at once when we nailed 4 cans in quick succession.
It still seemed like a long way as the sunlight faded, and when we stopped to put the lights on, we realised what we had been chewing on for the last 10 miles. Bugs – millions of them, swarming round our faces – we were quickly covered from head to toe. That will explain the menacing looking toll booth attendants in balaclavas, as we raced passed to the 3 mile bridge to Cuidad island. The dive bombing bugs onslaught intensified just before we left their mainland, and onto some cleaner sea air.
The first hotel we stumbled across happened to be a 5*. Oh well, needs must, but I wasn’t letting them charge me full rate. Actually I think they just wanted to get the dirty, sweaty, bug splatted person off their reception desk, and 50% off later it was a done deal. Meanwhile Jon had told Pedros the security man the whole challenge (between you and me he didn’t understand a word of what Jon was saying!) – “as long as he looks after the bikes bro, I don’t mind how your pigeon Spanish is coming on!”

26th March
A monster cycle today – 115 miles, and our ridiculous tans are coming on a treat. Our feet actually look like we’ve stood in a bucket of white emulsion! Heading for Villahermosa today, one of the bigger cities in Mexico, luckily all the truckers on fine form today, with more air horn encouragement.
Villahermosa is in the tabasco region, and we definitely noticed it at dinner with some more insanity sauces! We found an apartment style hotel, although Ronnie and Reggie were stuck in the parking lot, alongside some massive 4x4s.

25th March
Another long day – 95 miles to Minatitlan, but it seems now we can take these in our stride. Also amusing was the nickname we had for the town – “Mini tities”. The toll roads aren’t the most exciting, but getting us to Cancun quicker – still seems a long way when we spotted 1,100km sign to go!
We found a very over generous 4* hotel, but almost passed out in their sauna heated restaurant, after a cheeky Chicken Royale in Burger King. Well that almost didn’t happen as we were sharing the restaurant with 100 burrito munching Mexican kids, with the party girl serving burgers behind the counter. A big fat headache I could have done without!

24th March
We were looking forward more to this 1,200m descent, a bit shallower for my Miss Daisy cycling style over 70km, but it was a bit of an anti-climax as it just seemed flat. But we were rewarded with our first views of the Gulf of Mexico, and a smack of humidity on par with China, but with blazing sun thrown in too. It felt like our heads were in an oven on full wack. And this is also Pedro the mosquito’s heartland!
The long flat highway was tough, only a few bridges were helping protect us from the sun, and 7 litres (each) of water later we arrived at Cosamaloapan, hopefully our last hillbilly town. Hotel Central was more like a rough motel, doubling up as a car workshop, but at least we had our own rooms, and sanctuary from Jon’s arse trumpet all night!

23rd March
Boy we needed that rest day, and today we reach the huge milestone of no more hills! Bit of a trek out of the city of Puebla, but we are well at home now on these toll roads – despite the numerous no cycling signs! So we’ve been looking at our elevation charts, and we have 1,400m of descent as our reward. We thought it was going to be easier today, but no such luck. Our first punctures in Mexico struck twice on both bikes, from picking up little wire splinters off blown out truck tyres, and despite fixing Jon’s front pannier rack, it also broke off again, meaning I had to carry another one on the back of the bike.
And then a stomach rumble – shit – literally, as I dashed across a farmer’s field, looking out for snakes on the way. I’d done so well up to now, so it was gutting to have to go through my first outdoor poo, avoiding the cactus’s, and praying that no spiders fancied a bit of English rump!
Once the stomach settled, and we’d climbed back up to 8,000 feet (I thought these bitchin hills were over!), it was downhill all the way. The views were immense, and seemed much closer to us because the road was so steep, but there were worrying signs how dangerous it was as we saw a laden lorry lying 100m below, having smashed through the barriers probably just a day earlier. Then as I was nearing a hairpin corner at 25mph, there was a bang, followed by a screeching dragging gravel sound from the back of my bike. As I pulled up on the hard shoulder, a 4 inch nail had kebabed my rear tyre twice, jamming the brakes and ripping the mudguard. Luckily, another new inner tube later, and we were back on the descent, across sticky wet tar for good measure, before arriving in one hillbilly town, Orizaba and collapsing into a plate of tacos!