Archive for the ‘Check Point Updates’ Category

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

The Grand Finale- The Hertfordshire sponsored bike ride

With promises of sunshine and 20 degrees luck seemed to be on our side for the finale of the TCC Challenge but that all changed the night before the ride when we were putting up the colour coded arrows around the routes.

Dom and I had been up at Pacha in Victoria on the Saturday for the Pukka Up (Dom’s club promotion business) Ibiza launch party getting home at 7am the following day. 3 hours sleep later and we were in a car with Holly heading down to Clacton to help break a world record for the largest number of men standing in one place checking their testicles for abnormalities at the same time- certainly had more ‘normal mornings’ but all for a good cause; Holly and I have been asked to be trustees of the Testicle Tour when it’s established as a charity later on this year. Throughout the day the wind gradually picked up and by the time we’d spent 4 hours driving round the routes putting up the arrows it was clear that most of them would blow away by the morning!

People started to arrive and with a quick check of the tyres and a photo with the local paper we were off… all of us except for Batman that is (whose bat mobile broke down before we’d even left!) Dom lead the pack and I hung back with Batman, Batgirl & Robin with the intention of picking up anyone who got confused by the lack of arrows but by the time Batman got a replacement bike we were two hours behind the rest of the pack! We did manage to catch up with Amy, Alex & Andrew, some students from the college, though on one of their custard cream breaks. We soon began to realise that the 50 mile route wasn’t going to happen for us, Batman and Batgirl were having bike problems so we opted for the 25 mile route.

While we were plodding along Dom was up at the front of the pack with Dad being led by Holly’s step father, Phil and the Hadham Hamsters along with Charlie, Katy-Jane and her two friends she’d dragged along after convincing them to join her (while intoxicated) the night before. Holly and the rest of the people on the 10 mile route were arriving back at the hall with the exception of Ata who was determined to do the 50 mile route, he showed an amazing amount of passion and drive to continue evading a persuasive Holly to stay with her on the 10 mile route. The poor guy had to call it a day when the arrows got the better of him!

By now the smell of the BBQ was in the air for me and the bat crew, a right treat at the end of the ride- although it reminded me of the strung up sheep for Eid in Tunisia! Mum, Lynne and Molly all did a great job and helped us organise things back at the mission hall. The best snack was some of Cheryl’s mars bar slices, a calorie disaster but seriously delicious!

Fortunately fun was had by all on the day the only minor accident was Katy-Jane getting in a tangle on the loose stones as she turned into the mission hall for the finish- a minor graze but as she’d just achieved the 50 mile monster she didn’t seem too fussed. Holly’s step dad Phil got a bit too excited also when he went to meet the Hadham Hamsters for a ride the following week- he tripped over his bike on his way to the meet and cracked a rib! Nice one Phil.

As it stands after costs we’ve been working to approximately £60,000 of distributable funds;
- £42,000 has been donated to Macmillan which will be used to fund a Chemo Therapy nurse in Cumbria
- £9,000 to Orchid which will be used to support their cancer research lab and marketing material to raise further awareness of male cancer
- £4,500 to Willow Foundation to fund special days for seriously and terminally adults
- £4,500 to Starlight to fund special days and trips abroad for seriously ill children

Funds are still coming through in drips and drabs so the above amounts are likely to be slightly more but a huge heart filled thanks to everyone who has dug deep into their pockets to support our crazy challenge

So that’s the TCC Challenge all wrapped up. Going forward we will be assisting Darren & Richard with the fantastic work they do with the Testicle Tour ( and Holly & I have the honour of being Trustees to the charity. In the meantime please keep an eye on the facebook group ‘my cancer journey- TCC Challenge’ for photos of the May 31st bike ride and additional photos of us distributing the funds.

Thanks for your continued support and helping us to raise awareness over the importance of early cancer detection- DON’T BE BONKERS CHECK YOUR CONKERS!!

Jon & Dom.

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!

30th January to 7th February

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

7th February

Excellent, Chubbs knocked on our door and he was only 45 minutes late. We had packed Ronnie and Reggie into two small boxes, so we needed a third just for the wheels. A bit of jigsaw arranging, and I squeezed in the boot, while Jon was in the front with Chubbs and the driver. Jon had to put up with him mumbling away, trying to talk without the spit dribbling out of his mouth!
Navigating the traffic, the driver tried to squeeze onto a slip road that was already packed. A cracking of bumper plastic followed, as our car’s bull bars rammed into the car in front. The driver was not happy, but Chubbs pretty much told the driver of the other car that it was just a scratch (his bumper was hanging off!), stop making a meal out of it and go on your way with wild hand movements – legend!
A bit of excess luggage blagging was required at the airport, luckily we had a newspaper article with us, as we checked in 3 bike boxes, two rear panniers and three other bags! We then amused ourselves watching an Indian having a proper barny at another check-in desk. He got himself so worked up, that I think his friends had to get him a bottle of water to avoid his head from exploding.

A quick transfer in Bangkok, and it wasn’t looking good with the connection as they had mislaid one of our bags. Some frantic calls later, they had tracked it down and we were on our way to Chiang Mai. We were looking forward to our stay at the Amari Rincome Hotel, which had been arranged through their PR company. 4* deluxe room with wi-fi and a hot power shower, now we are talking!

6th February
Our ongoing Nokia mince is finally over. The impounded Nokia 6710 Navigator by the jobsworth parcel company (an Indian one isn’t pretty) is now safely in our hands. Thank you to Angus at Wunderman, Young and Rubican and Nokia for providing us with a device holding all key city maps, which will certainly help us when we arrive in Hong Kong.
Next stop was a bike shop for some packing for Ronnie and Reggie. It looked like another Egyptian nightmare of cereal box packaging, until we stumbled upon an 80 year old bike shop came to the rescue. Actually the manager had seen us on TV and was pleased to help.

Saying goodbye to Anthony, he was a bit more chilled today, although still insisted walking very slowly all the way round the stadium to get a street tea – our stomachs have just about got used to this drink. We hope he can arrange a big car to the airport tomorrow otherwise we’ll need to go tutuk customising!

5th February
Anthony was running an hour late, not ideal with our schedule today, but explained it was his drivers fault. Not surprising seeing how the traffic is here – it feels like we’ve spent 3½ days of our 4 Kolkata days stuck in a traffic jam!
First stop was Mothers House, Jon upset a nun within about 30 seconds  of arriving by taking her photo, but we felt a huge sense of peace standing next to where this great woman was buried. Next stop was one of her centres for the retarded and mentally handicapped people, who would otherwise be suffering out on the streets. Rows of beds lined up in the large dorms, certainly not the nicest place I’ve visited, but at least it was clean and again very peaceful – in contrast to the mayhem of Kolkata’s streets outside the walls.

Back in the car we realised that we were in the midst of another fully absorbing whirlwind of a day – all traffic jam eyes on our car, I really did feel like a celeb. Rocking up at a children’s orphanage, all the frantic phone calls received by Anthony and his assistant (I’ve named Chubbs, as his cheeks are always packed with tobacco) made sense. We walked into a room packed with about 100 children, patiently sitting on the floor waiting to be given a present from a huge santa style sack at the front. We were honoured with flowers and a Bindi, and then had the privilege of handing out the bags of presents to the kids. Complete bedlam was an understatement, but what an amazing moment.
If that didn’t push the kids hyperactivity into overdrive, we then went outside to hand out bars of Dairy Milk, Wispas and Natural Confectionary sweets to hundreds of outstretched arms, before being quickly ushered back into our car and some relative calm! Thank you to PHD and Cadburys for arranging this (we did stash some bars for us too!)

Back to Chubbs – his cheeks are so full of this mouth tobacco (oral cancer is the biggest cancer problem in India), that he could barely speak in case his red saliva dribbled out of his mouth. Every now and again a bucket full of his red spit was projected out of the car window! We just had enough time to woof down some rice and ropey old goat/ chicken or something else (which we obviously left), before getting back to the stadium to collect our bikes for the press conference. We opted to load up the bikes with our luggage before following our driver into the traffic chaos. He informed us that it was just 2km down the road. Well 3 motorway junctions, two flyovers, 45 potholes, several cows, a two wheeled tutuk (work that one out) and a 10 lane roundabout which the police stopped just for us, we arrived 40 minutes late at the entrance of Kolkata Press club, for our press conference. About 40 photographers and cameramen packed the driveway, and before Jon could make it inside, he had to battle 5 TV mics!

The press conference was arranged by Picasona, a healthcare company responsible for funding new hospitals with cancer wards in Kolkata. This was the best conference yet as we were able to really push home why investment and education into early cancer detection is so important, especially testicular cancer. There were top doctors, a bishops and the former Indian Davis cup player/ coach (not my most intelligent question when I asked if he had ever seen a match at Wimbledon – he probably played in several!)

Hold onto your pants bro – the press conference finished after dark and we had to make the same journey back to the stadium – certainly up there with the scariest cycle on the challenge (although Cairo still tops it!)

3rd and 4th February
Today was my birthday and after completing the huge milestone of cycling across India, we felt worthy of a double celebration courtesy of Mum and Dad. We headed south from Kolkata for one night and two days of safaris by boat in the world famous Sunderbans, a vast network of narrow rivers and mangroves. The land is dead flat so in low tide a muddy forest floor is revealed, home to tigers, monkeys, deer, wild boar, crocodiles and many species of birds. But once high tide reaches, much of the visible land submerges, forcing all the wildlife deep into the forest. The tigers often swim between the islands, but sighting are still rare, they have a taste for the ocassional human when they fancy something different, and the last death was just a week before we arrived – a local fisherman was seen as easy prey.

The camp was all-inclusive, we took that literally and were keen to get our monies worth. So we turned up with a dustbin bag full of our funky washing, which hadn’t been washed properly since Nagpur. You should have seen their faces when they opened the bag to reveal filthy diesel covered cycle jerseys, salty sweaty shorts and crusty socks. As one guy examined the clothes (at full arms length) he said something in Bengali to his colleague, tears rolling down his face from the odour, I think it translated to something along the lines of “Ganesh, get the masks and that industrial strength powder, cancel your plans for tonight this might take a while”.

Dom had already negotiated 20% off the cost of the tour, but we caused further bemusement when we only had half the cash on us, miles from any ATM. We agreed to settle the remainder back in Kolkata where there could be room for further negotiation. The camp was awesome, it had won a number of awards for creating jobs, being eco friendly and preserving the natural habitat.
The local villagers put on a special play for us before dinner, telling us a mythical story about some prince who didn’t wish to share his birthright land, at least I think that was what it was about, as it was all in Bengali.

The bungalows were comfortable, Vijay and his army were kept at bay by the trusty mosquito nets, although there was an annoying 500 decibel frog outside our room, but that didn’t stop the best night sleep we both had in ages. Probably helped by the two large bottles of strong kingfisher to celebrate my birthday!

We did get a great shot of a tiger swimming (ok, so it was a picture hanging on the wall of our bungalow, but it came out really well), saw lizards, crocodiles, kingfishers, hawks, deer and wild boar. An amazing two days, we have to say a big thank you to Help Tourism ( ) for their generous charity discount, and it was great to learn more about their conservation projects across India, when we arrived back at their office in Kolkata.

2nd February
Got up early today, food parcels at the ready, excited at a monumental milestone of reaching Kolkata. Along the way we amused ourselves by shouting “small cock” at any beeping moped driver, but after at least 100 went past, it became a tad boring! 70 miles later and we hit the outskirts – one word – mayhem! We were meeting our contact (Anthony) at 4pm at Salt Lake stadium which was a good spot that all the taxi drivers knew, and arrived early about 2.45pm.

Wembley stadium it wasn’t, although there was almost the same police presence at the main gate. This was one crumbling football stadium (worse than any I had seen in Argentina or Brazil), but we were told the accommodation was good, so we held our breath as Anthony guided us through the damp corridors to the state Youth Hostel. Actually there was a match on (which explains the police presence), but 1,000 rupees a night, you are having a laugh mate!

We bit our lips as we were very appreciative that Anthony had rearranged his work schedule to meet us. And slowly it sunk in how respectful we should be. This very old formal gentleman, worked with/ and was a very good friend with Mother Teresa and is now president of her International Awards Committee. Amazing. An old school Roman Catholic, he said that God’s wish was to clear his diary of appointments today so he could met us – our late Grandfather would have been so proud.

Later that evening, two of our parcels arrived from England. It was the consignment from Cadburys, packed with Dairy Milk, Wispas and Natural Confectionary Sweets, and our visas for the next countries. Thank you to Tommy, Charlotte and the Cadburys client – you made my day and Jon has some chocolate for his birthday tomorrow. We do have to try and save some, as Anthony is arranging for us to see all the areas of Mother Teresa’s work, and two hospitals on 5th Feb when we return from Sunderbans.

1st February
There was another guest who was staying at the resthouse, and he told us that we must inform the local police when entering West Bengal as it is a very dangerous stretch of road. After volunteering Jon to go inside the police station, they were grateful to us for letting them know and off we went. A few kilometres on we could see why. Passing the riot policevans, burnt out lorries and cars littered the road, which was tightly lined by very dense forest, and we put 2 and 2 together. Renaming it “hijack highway”, we were pleased not be cycling this at night.

As it was a shorter ride today to Kharangpur, we got there about lunchtime, and after dismissing one hotel which was like a truckers knocking shop, we found ourselves in a very raw town, with lots of creative descriptions of lodging. Our first hotel mincing in India isn’t bad, and luckily we found a nice garden restaurant and motel shortly after.

31st January
Bit worried about today’s cycle. We need to cover 94 miles to get to a town where we think there might be a hotel. Everyone we’ve asked has said yes, but we now know that the Indians say yes to everything!
We set off early, with the committee of hotel workers asking loads of questions – I think it was about 6 staff to 1 guest. We were also loaded with our veg bryriani food parcels, which we are getting the hang of, but they kicked off about an accidently smashed sprite bottle, and tried to charge a security deposit – jokers – in no uncertain terms we told them no!

Jon’s turn to struggle a bit, especially as we hit the worse type of hills for him – long straight gradual inclines, but after lunch make up for it with great downhill through thick rainforest today. The road opened up into a dry, rugged landscape with jagged rocks lining the road. And perfect perches for the wild monkeys. I was actually quite nervous that one would jump up on the panniers, as a few hissed and made snarling faces as we raced past. A little like our first day of the challenge cycling through areas of Kent, avoiding the chavs and their pushchairs!

When a motorcycle pulled alongside, we thought it was another “heading for Kolkata, from Bombay, with my brother mate”, but actually turned out to be our shinning light. Although my initial impressions were cold after he gobbed out some pan spit (looks like blood) onto the road in front of me, Kumar guided us 1km to a government resthouse and showed us where some restaurants were on his motorbike – legend. At only 150rupees a night (£2.50) it was our best deal yet, although another visit from the cops meant more explanations of exactly what we were thinking to cycle the National Highway 6 across India.

30th January
We braced ourselves for the monster hill climb today, which we had seen on the map three weeks ago. The breathtaking scenery continued, and even when we started climbing up the 1km elevation, and the blue coloured mountains rolled into the distance, our love for India grew even stronger.
A small village didn’t know what had hit them when we stopped to get some well earnt sprite, although I don’t think kiosk man was too happy that I dumped our 8 empty water bottles and lunchtime rubbish on his sprite crates!

Racing down the hills to sea level, we found a government hotel on outskirts, but I don’t think they’ve had any guests before. They didn’t know what to do, 6 people hanging about were trying to help, but being more annoying than anything, I felt sick and faint and just wanted to collapse in the room. And then no power for an hour – brilliant, so we sat in the dark waiting for something to happen. Luckily the one redeeming point of another shabby digs was that they had sat TV, so able to watch the Dark Knight in English!

22nd to 29th January

Friday, January 29th, 2010

29th January
After 3 continents, 9 countries and 5,000 miles, we have finally found roads worse than Italy! We were kind of expecting it, although we were struggling to see the bottom of some craters! Ronnie and Reggie Ridgeback were being pounded today. But for every bit of poor road (and there was an awful lot), the scenery was worth it. After a sweaty climb we passed through Badrama Wild Life Sanctuary home to Elephant, Tiger, Gour, Sambar, Black Panther, Deer, Wild Boar and many other species. The animals didn’t fancy coming too close to the national highway- don’t blame them with the twattish bus and lorry drivers- but we certainly got a feel for it, cycling through lush tropical jungle/ rainforest, hearing all kinds of birds and other animals, with butterflies darting around our handlebars, we just had to soak it all in. Holly would have loved it especially the signs all over the place of quotes from famous people; one from Leonardo De Vinci read “there will come a time when a man who murders an animal will receive the same punishment as a man who murders another man.”
Reggie’s gears were playing up, but after quick Dom’s diagnostics, we identified a lose handlebar bag which was blocking Jon from changing up. All sorted and we were on our way. The road meandered through large flat rice fields, and then we hit the most amazing village. So many bright clothes, this lively place had a big noisy market, and most women were carrying stuff they were either selling or buying on their heads. I was pleased as we got some gold video footage, Jon still snapping away like a possessed Japanese tourist!
On arrival in Deogarh, things looked bleak, and the only accommodation on offer would have struggled to pass as a stable. But the newly refurbed Hotel Manta Palace came to the rescue with another bargain £10 a night rate.

28th January
Lots of people turned up at 7.30 this morning to see us off, including the electrical store owner and one of the cops from last night. Even the mayor turned up! And everyone wanted more photos! Today we were heading for Sambalpur, but as the Italians had been road surfacing some Indian bridges, our progress was slowed up.
This is real India, with lush forest lining the road, monkeys bouncing over the tarmac, lots of hillside temples, and loads of rice fields. And the friendliness continues – we even got a keyring from a petrol station, despite handing him a bag full of our rubbish!

27th January
Not a good start – Kalyan very kindly guided us out of the city, but after leaving him we realised we had left the map behind at his house. At least it is one road (national highway 6) to Kolkata so we should be alright.
First stop was Arang (about 40km), where Kalyan’s brother lived. He is a doctor and we met at his pharmacy. The celebrity status continued with people crowding round, recognising us from the paper, and the first person diagnosed with cancer in the town even popped in to say hello. We had a quick veggie lunch at his place, and then off we went, with 6 hours to cover 72 miles to Sarai Puri before sunset.
Around 5pm and still with 14 miles to go, a police Jeep pulled alongside, with the chief asking where we were going. We pulled over and it transpired that he had seen us on TV being given our honour by the Cultural Minister and wanted to help. What a touch – he was in charge of Sarai Puri and we said we were looking for the resthouse. Our understanding was that he would go on ahead and show where to go when we reached the town.
3km to go, and a shout from a roadside restaurant (shack), and the police chief and his officer were waiting for us. This celebrity status is really growing on me. On his instruction people gathered around giving us tea, biscuits and water while we told him about our travels. We thought this was the guesthouse, and were preparing for a war with Vijay and his mosquito mates, but they said we still had 3km to go. On with the bike lights, the police put their lights on and we had our very own escort.

We pulled up the driveway to a crowd of 10 helpers – the chief wanted his photo first, so we all sat on the Jeep’s bonnet. (last time I tried to do that on a police car I almost got arrested!) You see, this guesthouse is for government officials and ministers. It was like our own private house. Then we were asked what we like to drink (alcohol), Jon opted for whisky, me for beer, and off one of the helpers went. Platters of fruit were laid out, and another helper took our dinner order. Chief and his officer were loving it, looking after us, seeing all the photos of our travels, and at dinner were especially interested in our Garmin calorie counter. It turned out that chief was into his fitness, and despite a rounded belly bursting through his rollneck jumper, was very pleased with himself doing 8km of powerwalking a day. He demonstrated this by marching round the table like an Indian Benny Hill. I say blame the iphone, which regularly appears at the dinner table, for what happened next. Jon’s latest ‘app’ is a health calculator, and chief wanted to see how fit he actually was. Plugging in his height and weight, Jon already knew that the result wasn’t going to be pretty. “Too Fat” was its verdict for chief, and the whole dinner table burst out laughing! Possibly the funniest reaction I’ve seen on a persons face for a long time, chief was well put out, and before deciding we should all call it a night, did another 10 laps of power walking around the dinner table, trying in earnest to suck his belly in.

26th January
Today was India Republic day, the anniversary of the date where India officially achieved its independence. Kalyan rocked up at our hotel with an abundance of newspapers under his arm, we took our breakfast and went through the articles following the press conference. We managed to get coverage in every major media publication in Chhattisgarh – in total 22 newspapers and 7 TV channels including local, national and international. We were soon recognised by people who had read the articles and either wanted a photo or an autograph- very weird.
The days schedule was much less frantic than yesterday and we took some time to visit a cultural site before the evening event. Kalyan had arranged for us to receive an honour from the Chief Minister in front of 50,000 people; BONKERS doesn’t quite sum it up. Kalyan had briefed me in that I should explain the link between him and I, I had asked Ruhan if he knew anyone in Raipur and he put me in touch with Kalyan, a music director who had worked with Lata Mangueska (India’s most famous signer), I was given a few names to memorise and we had been learning a Chhattisgarhi phrase to say so my head was full to bursting.
We were given seats near the front and when I heard ‘cycle’ mentioned I knew we’d be up. Kalyan got on the mic and said a few words in Chhattisgarhi then invited us up onto the stage. I used to get so nervous speaking publicly even to small rooms of 10 people and before this challenge I would have crumbled for sure but I did my thing told them the message we are sending out is that if you feel something is out of the ordinary, not quite right or you’ve noticed something strange then speak to a medical professional, early detection is vital. You should also speak to family, friends, colleagues anyone you trust, the worst thing you can do is try to fight cancer alone and the most important thing is positivity no matter what your situation positivity is the secret. Dom also said a few words then we said the one phrase we had learned ‘Sable Baria Chhattisgarhi’ which means Chhattisgarh is number one! The audience applauded and cheered and we were shown back to our seats but the crazyness just got more extreme. Soon after we sat down an entire class of public school children came up to us and touched our feet (a sign of respect to elders) and gave us more flowers to wear round our necks. We watched a bit of the show, some children had arranged a dance routine telling the story of Indian independence, and then left. With the show still going on in full swing when we stood up every man and his dog wanted their photo taken with us- we tried to please everyone but after a dozen or so photos we headed past the stage to where the car was parked. Funnily enough the car had been boxed in which left us like sitting ducks to the rapidly expanding crowds, neither of us minded though, it was our moment.  One lady came up and congratulated us on a ‘wonderful thing’ that we are doing and said how proud of ourselves we should be and another teenage boy had bought all the newspapers we were in and stood and starred in admiration. Despite our heads inflating bigger than the elephant man it really makes it all worthwhile when people can see and respect that you’re doing a good thing and that they understand your message. The most random thing though had to be when a girl asked us to sign her hand!
Over dinner Kalyan and Krishna talked about how they would like to make an album with Holly and Ruhan to raise further awareness in India- definitely something to look into once the cycling is finished. I’ve been blown over by India and am really keen to come back to do some charity work (but not without Holly next time).

25th January
Kalyan had planned the whole days schedule precisely, not even enough time to scratch our arse. Ruhan had told him that we needed maximum awareness in the media and boy did Kalyan come through with some magic. The day started with a live news program where we were connected to a studio in New Delhi- even though the anchor was translating everything I was saying into Hindi without any problems Dom annoyingly kept tapping my leg telling me to slow down which knocked my concentration, fortunately I didn’t trip over my words and the piece came across well. From there it was onto Raipur’s cancer hospital; Mekahara Government Medical Institute where we met some of the cancer patients and spoke to Dr Choudhary; if you think your job is hectic then think again, this guy sees 300 cancer patients everyday!
The biggest cancer problem in India is mouth cancer from people chewing tobacco, but Dr Choudhary also pointed out that there is a need for sanitation awareness as women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer has often stemmed from sexual transmitted diseases from poor hygiene.
After the hospital it was off to press club for our news conference. We received another honour, as well as the traditional bouquet we were each given a trophy, and I was also presented with a fantastic art piece. (see gallery)
Next it was a visit to the India National Congress Party, for yet another honour. Kalyan has been telling everyone that Holly is a famous pop singer in the UK, as big as Michael Jackson! Congress wanted to hear some of her music which captured their full attention – Holly would have loved it. I was also asked to play one of Holly’s tracks on TV talkshow interview later that day. We really need to do some Indian homework – Dom was caught out by Bollywood, and we both know diddily squat about cricket.
Another random one was the evening function we attended – a kids painting competition. Again we were invited up on stage to receive…wait for it…yet another honour – this time from the Cultural Minister. So a brilliant day of publicity for the Tropic of Cancer for Cancer Challenge, and full credit to Mr Kalyan Sen for his coordination. The poor guy was shattered after running around with us all day, and having to translate everything.
24th January
Woke up by the world’s noisiest chef literally throwing pans around the kitchen next to our room!. At least we only had a 45 mile morning cycle to Raipur where we had arranged to stay with one of Ruhan Kapoor’s friends, Kalyan Sen. We later found out that Ruhan had asked Kalyan to arrange lots of publicity for us – little did we know…
Trying to understand the directions from Kalyan, we managed to negotiate the tight bustling streets lined with jewellery shops, and meet with him outside the local police station. He was a big friendly greying Indian, with a very relaxed attitude. He had recovered from throat cancer two years ago, and showed us this massive scar on his neck, and with both his parents sadly passing away from cancer, our challenge was very close to his heart. He lived in a large music academy which his father had set up in the 1950s, and after being shown around (also had an auditorium for 1,500 people attached), time for a quick cup of tea and biscuits and then it was off on our press schedule!
First stop was a folk music festival at the school his late father set up. The performers had to contend with two dirty cyclists rocking up and distracting the whole audience. We saw three children perform traditional songs, and when they finished, we had to sign autographs and their school books with our words of wisdom – weird!
We did a quick TV and press interview there, and then lunch was brought in for us – we had to hide away to have a break from the autographs! Kalyan then took us to a pan stall – this is like an Indian mouthwash (weird stones with a brown leaf cover which you are meant to chew), which is very popular – no surprise with the amount of spicy food they eat. Well you should have seen what it did to the pan seller – he would have been less stained if he had tipped a tin of Ronseal wood stain over his head! Needless to say my one went straight in the rubbish bucket, but Jon was happy munching away on old stained leaves for a good 5 minutes.

Then the most random press we have done on the challenge so far. We headed down to the Raipur Flower Show, where we were going to meet the Raipur Mayor and receive an award. We sat at the back, but spent 10 minutes splatting Vijay’s mates, and then over the mic “will Mr Jon and Mr Dom please come up to the stage”. Talk about embarrassing, we sat up on stage with the Mayor and four other judges, while about 100 people came up to collect different awards and trophies for their flower displays. We felt like a couple of prize lemon plants, and then we were invited to say a few words to the audience of around 400! Jon volunteered me, so I reluctantly took the mic, and then had to make up how proud everyone should be of their work, my first impressions of Raipur, and how much my mother would like the plants and flowers on display! Certainly not a highlight of my public speaking career, the interpreter had a bit of a job translating that lot!
We rounded off one manic day with a lovely vegetarian meal (can’t wait until we can eat some red meat again!)  

23rd January
4am and shouting kids, tearing up and down the corridors. Brilliant, nothing like a bit of Indian parental control! So that’s where the packed tutuk of people stayed last night. We counted at least 20 people in one room, and I’m sure that is one funky town bathroom!
The hotel was all locked up, so we got our own back as we wanted to leave at 7am, waking up all the staff to unlock the shutters. Cycling off into the morning mist, the scene was stunning, with the sun rising ahead. Lots of cycling through forest today, so we needed eyes for any threatening wildlife as well as those w**ker bus drivers!
We found a cheap hotel just before Raj Nandgaon, but the owner took it upon himself to befriend us, and when he saw the screensaver on Jon’s phone (Holly in a couple of small bits of fabric), he wanted to talk about her. Jon was not amused and in the end, we had to tell him to do one, so we could get some peace and quiet!

22nd January
Short cycle to Bhandara today, managed to find an uber cheap hotel next to an internet cafe on the national highway 6 (the road we’re following all the way to Kolkata). As I was checking in I noticed two western guys with a laptop, Dom started talking to them and it turned out Franz and William were travelling across India on motorbikes promoting womens football. Franz had been in India for a couple of years teaching kids in villages how to play football. Their masterplan was  arranging 20 womens matches across India, and then take this key development case to FIFAs head office in May before the World Cup. Ironically they had travelled along the national highway 6 in the other direction so we were able to swap some advice on what lies ahead.
In the evening we were just chilling in our stable, when a knock at the door led to 6 policemen inviting them into our room. They wanted to know what we were doing, and then proceeded to go through our bags. One bloke tried to look like he knew how to use a computer in front of his captain, but just about succeeded to open up my documents. Actually, it turned out that they were local political people, nervous of four westerners arriving in their small town.

13th to 21st January

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

21st January
An early 3am start today, but well excited about the safari which Dad very kindly gave to us for our xmas present, and we headed off to Pench, in a battered taxi. Any chance of some more sleep, quickly evaporated when we hit the first pothole 10 meters down the road. I think Ronnie and Reggie have more suspension than this car!
We arrived in good time, but it was freezing and we had granny blankets wrapped round us in the open top jeep, trying to keep slightly warmer. It was a bit like a treasure hunt – I thought these safaris would be quite straight forward to see the main prize, the Indian Tiger. However the guide informed us that it is only a small chance, as they are so elusive. Lots of phone calls between all the jeeps in the parks, and some fresh tiger footprints was about it, until around 8.30am. We had parked up for a toilet break (as I was about to burst), and suddenly our driver and guide came running back to the jeep where we were waiting, leaping over the bonnet Dukes of Hazard style! A tiger had just been seen, and three jeeps raced off in hot pursuit. One Indian family had clearly got their money’s worth on the jeep hire, packing in 3 or 4 generations into the back, but they lost out when speed was of the essence.
In the trees a female tiger gracefully made her way into the forest and we had prime view. This made it for me – a wild tiger in its natural habitat – it really doesn’t get much better. We saw deer, monkeys, tracker elephants, tortoises, kingfishers and even a racy mongoose. On the exit of the park, we somehow found ourselves being interviewed by New Delhi TV, who were making a tiger documentary. Again the press coverage we are getting is so exciting and far exceeding what we thought we would achieve from the Tropic of Cancer for Cancer Challenge.

20th January
Today was a much welcomed rest day and a much needed clothes washing day, we spent the day in our pants drafting emails while our clothes were being washed. At one point I had to go downstairs to send an important email (much to Dom’s amusement) in my thermal cycle shorts as that was the only clothing I had. Hard to sleep in the evening due to political rallies, a generator outside our room, a night club below us and a dodgy live PA in the restaurant nearby.

19th January
Woke up bright and early in preparation for a long cycle to Nagpur, I was a little nervous setting out to do 100 miles in the heat and with the poor quality of roads (not to mention the super dangerous truck and bus drivers slowing us down) but we were able to leave promptly just after 7am so we made good ground before lunch. Despite Dom nervously ordering some takeaway lunch at the hotel (we weren’t convinced that they understood Dom’s nut allergy and our limited Hindi to ask for nuts in our food) the veg biriyani we ordered went down a treat and fortunately contained no nuts (excuse the pun!). We had a speedy lunch because we very quickly attracted another crowd of mopeds, lorry drivers and rik shaws. One girl got off her moped and kept asking where we were going, Dom’s chat got her so excited she nearly wet herself, he had to let her down gently when she invited him to meet her parents; ‘whoa that’s jumping the gun a little bit’ but I think Dom’s saving himself for a certain lady in Dubai.
Actually made it to Nagpur in good time and a friendly Indian old chap who bared a striking resemblance to Mr Mnuaggi from Karate Kid guided us through the traffic chaos to our hotel, another £10 delight and another dilemma of pouring a jug of hot water over your head for any kind of warmth in the shower but good to have reached central India.

18th January
So off we left the hotel in Akola but it wasn’t without another several hundred photos with various staff members while we tried to eat breakfast and while we packed up our bikes. They enjoyed trying on our shades and helmets and taking more photos which we found good fun and have got some photos too for your amusement.
The hotel made us some veg sarnies for lunch but we had to dig half of it out as it contained salad; cucumber and lettuce. Not that we’re salad dodgers but you need to stay away from salad, dairy, only eat peelable fruit such as bananas and definitely avoid meat. The trouble is india is prone to many power cuts so you can’t guarantee meat and dairy has been stored properly, the last thing we want is to have to hold up for a week in a dodgy one star hotel like the one in Khangaon and nurse a round of Delhi belly, some foods are best avoided.
We found a good spot in the shade under a tree for lunch being careful not to tread on any snakes- another thing we certainly don’t want is a nasty snake bite miles away from any medical care. It was nice to find some shade, the heat has picked up since UAE and it’s now consistently 32oC + during the day. It doesn’t feel so bad when you’re riding but it hits you like a train when you stop. As we are now pretty much heading due east the sun stays on one side of us all day, as if we don’t look stupid enough already with our cycle jersey tan lines now we look like a strawberry and cream as well. One side of Dom’s face is really red and his sunglasses marks make him look like a teenage mutant ninja turtle, the fingerless gloves have left an interesting two tone on his hands too! I can’t talk I’m equally as bad, I wish I would have had more hair cut off in Bombay, the wings of my mullet are now so bad when my helmet pushes my hair down at the back it looks like I’ve got bunches!
One sight which did make me feel sad was a dead monkey on the road, it must have just been hit by a lorry minutes earlier because there was fresh blood pouring the monkey’s head. A posse of monkies was gathered round looking on from nearby trees obviously grieving for the loss of their friend.
As we approached Amravati two students on a moped pulled alongside Dom and started chatting away, they took a couple of photos of us and even asked for our autographs, we obliged and in return they escorted us to our hotel which we’d never have found without them- touch
It was my turn for the hotel blag and successfully negotiated a 25% discount- kind of feel like you’re robbing them when it’s only £10 a night but hey it means more for charity so what the hell. When I came back out to tell Dom it was fine he was crowded round by about 20 people, being offered cups of tea and all sorts, Dom’s definitely the more in demand of the two of us on the potential fame front- perhaps Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was big in India a few years back!

17th January
We thought we had an cunning plan by returning to the hotel restaurant from last night for breakfast. The muppets at our hotel had safely locked our bikes in a room, but couldn’t find the key which annoyed Jon immensely! Anyway all the other hotel could offer was bread and jam – toast and tea was well out of the question due to a powercut. The manager was screaming at a porter and making a real scene – comedy moment! At least we had a short ride today to Akola. We arrived at our recommended hotel at lunchtime, after being mobbed 3 times asking for directions, and I simply went in to do my usual hotel blag/ negotiation. Next thing we know it is bedlam.
We had a crowd of 25 people surrounding us, with all the hotel staff wanting photos of us on their phones. A local TV station came down to film us, and the wedding photographer from the party next door even wanted some snaps! Eventually we got some peace and quiet in our hotel room, but not for long. Chilling out over a curry in a restaurant, the waiters suddenly turned up the TV, and there we were being interviewed and me talking very very slowly! See the video here –  

16th January
Starting at 7am, we had some bread and honey in the room, and tried to cover 25 miles before stopping for an early brunch. Pulling into the roadside café, we soon had a village of people all wanting photos with Ronnie and Reggie (not us!) and asking how much they cost. We have the universal answer now of “they were free”, which avoids too much envy. Getting used to the Indians saying yes to everything, we ordered a substantial amount of food, and 10 minutes later we got a lovely starter. We said same again, but that was that on their menu front! Crisps, biscuits and bread rolls kept us going on the 82 mile ride today.
Pulling into Khangaon, we arrived at a hotel for a princely sum of £8 a night. Yes, it was that bad. Kim and Aggie would have struggled with the bathroom, and power shower round 2 was cold water in a glass. We found a restaurant for dinner at the hotel we should have gone to – far more presentable and only £2 more!
We crashed out at 9pm as no wall sockets worked, but our eyes were streaming from the three mosquito coils we had burning – Abdul the mossie’s Indian cousin, Vijay didn’t know what had hit him, although he did get his own back on our feet the next morning!

15th January
A better night sleep after the rough camping, this roadside hotel even made us lunch – well tomato splattered something! We headed for Jalgaon, but as the good roads left us, we had to cycle along single carriageway, tree lined roads with more trucks than the M1. They were slowing down for no-one especially two sunburnt Englishmen, so we kept having to jump off the road and onto the littered gravel verge. But it is the bus drivers which are the worst – they think they are in sports cars and the buses are treated accordingly! We both saw a good sign which made us think – “there are those who are destined to succeed and most who are determined to succeed” – Jon and I would say we are the latter, although with some of the remarkable things which have happened to us so far, maybe there is also something in the former.
Heading into Jalgaon, we experienced how hectic an Indian city is on bikes. Luckily we had a hotel recommended near the railway station, so weaved through the sea of tutuks trying not to be mobbed by all the onlookers, and avoiding the odd cow and goat walking themselves to market. We settled on Bombay Palace for our curry, and while waiting for the food wondered if we had made the right decision. As coming from the toilet was the sound similar to ripping cardboard and whooping cough, this man had nearly brought up his lung lining. I think he had a few too many chillis, so we emphasized “Tikki Nahi” to the waiter (not spicy!) A couple of 8% Kingfishers for 50p each helped keep everything flowing smoothly!
On the way back to the hotel we tried to track down an internet café. I tried to ask at a few places but with no luck, so Jon popped into a restaurant, and did a keyboard impression on the table. The manager then said “of course sir. We have nann, roti or chipatis!” Funny!

14th January
About 85 miles to cycle today to Dhule, but unfortunately we were cycling a bit blind without sat nav. The scenery was amazing, with the road climbing over arid, rocky hills and then weaving down into the valley below. Not making the same mistake as yesterday, we parked up at the most presentable restaurant we could find (Little Chef it wasn’t, this place barely had walls). Ordering curries at lunchtime for some afternoon cycling isn’t a great idea, but this is our staple diet for the next 20 days!
More comedy on the roads, and it wasn’t the meandering cows that had us laughing today. It was how/ what Indian people use their mopeds for. A family of four with their two young kids at the front, acting as airbags for their parents, driving the wrong way down a dual carriageway! There were two farmers carrying a very wriggly goat, a granddad with his zimmer frame on the back, and to top it off, a family of 3 using their moped to tow a fully grown reluctant bull – he didn’t look particularly happy with the situation!
And the road safety signs are classic – “be smooth on my curves”, “shortcuts cut life short” and “slow is a four letter word, so is life”

13th January
“Just a short ride today bro to Nashrik”, Famous last words! Still getting used to the quality of Indian hotels, we headed for Ginger resort (Ruhan’s suggestion), about 35km away. Turning our noses up at all the hotels along the way, we realised at about 55km that we must have gone past it. Rubbish.
We were also getting used to road safety (or lack of!). Firstly a driving school jeep packed full of about 15 driving students swerved out in front of Jon. Then a lorry overtaking literally ran us off the road causing Jon to brake suddenly, causing me to crash into the back of him and fall off into its path, the back wheels skimming my cycle helmet!
A bit shaken up and kicking ourselves for skipping lunch and not taking an earlier hotel, we saw Renaissance Wines bar and family restaurant, which looked welcoming and 10 times more presentable than the other roadside shacks. We had lunch (4pm) while we pondered our next move, as the sun started to set. Jon cheekily suggested that we could pitch the tent in the restaurant grounds. Not such a stupid idea and 1 hour later the son of the restaurant owner (AB) confirmed it was ok, just at our own risk because of the snakes about! Brilliant – I really do love camping!

10th to 12th January

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

12th January
We needed two cars to take our bikes to where we were going to start our India adventure. The Kapoors live right in the centre of Mumbai, and it wouldn’t be our most cleverest idea to try and start cycling from there! It was a good way to see some other parts of Mumbai without fearing for our lives – plenty more time for that. 30 minutes later and a £1.50 taxi fare (UK taxis take note!) we pulled off the motorway and into a layby.
Getting used to cycling on the correct side of the road again, we headed off towards Nashrik. The Indians seem a bit more reserved and inquisitive than other countries, but they were soon wobbling their joyful heads from side to side from the overflowing buses and fairground style trucks with the best horns yet – some played a whole tune!
We were hoping to find a hotel around 40-50 miles, but despite the new signs, most of them along the highway would have struggled to pass as a garden shed! And I didn’t fancy being a mosquito feast! The landscape was lush and green, but it was very humid compared to the dry desert heat of our previous weeks. We ended up having to climb to nearly 2,000 feet and cycle for an hour in the dark (not what we wanted to be doing in a new country) before we found a hotel. Well I thought it was a hotel, as I charged up the steps and into the reception. It wasn’t. It was a temple and the people there were less than impressed that I still had my dirty cycle shoes and socks on. Luckily we did find one further down and Jon even managed to get a 40% discount.
So end of my first day in India. Obviously so different to the western culture, the class divide is really highlighted not only by the servants of the more privileged, but the daily struggle with life. It’s difficult to understand a life where there are very few aspirations, ambitions or dreams. Living life is a challenge in itself. Sometimes it feels like us cycling!

11th January
After a bit of a lie in and a little bit of Internet work it was off to get a haircut before meeting Jankidas Mehras sons and to have a photoshoot at a remembrance plaque in his honour. It was great to meet the sons of another great Indian legend and inspiring to read some of the newspapers cuttings, the man had met Ghandi who asked him to raise the Indian flag in the Zurich games during the British occupation, despite sparking controversy he was hailed a hero and played a key role in securing Indian independence.
The rest of the day we relaxed, listened to some of Sidhants music and sent out a few emails.

10th January
We arrived in Mumbai at 4am. We hadn’t slept since Thursday 3 days again so we were shattered. We had a job making sure our bikes came off the plane safely; our baggage belt was mixed with 3 other flights so it was an absolute market. We had to fight our way to the entrance onto the belt as the supervisor was adamant they would come through on the belt rather than being bought through as fragile items (like the stickers read which were plastered all over the boxes). I was less than impressed when one of the baggage handlers plonked one of the bike boxes on the belt then realised that it actually wasn’t the most sensible thing to do and had to leap to grab it to stop it toppling off the side.
It was funny navigating through the busy airport terminal with a wide load of 2 huge bike boxes, we managed to upset a few people including Dom himself when he stubbed his toe on the trolley losing a toe nail in the process-ouch! Despite persistently being told not to, a tip seeker insisted he push my trolley with all our bags only to somehow crash spilling the bags all over the road- what a doughnut! No tips for you then pal.
We got to our friends Ruhan (and family’s) place around 7am. Holly and I met Ruhan last summer when we got engaged in India, he is the son of a very famous Bollywood composer, Mahendra Kapoor, and Ruhan himself has played the lead role in successful Bollywood box office films, he also sings, composes and performs with his son Sidhant who has an amazing gift of being able to compose and produce he is even in his final year of an animation course father and son make an awesome team! The talent doesn’t stop there though, his beautiful daughter Rishika studied to become a chocolatier and now hand makes and wraps delicious chocolates from home and has been working to build up her business for the last 5 months. Ruhans wife, Witty is a fashion designer- Indian dresses are amazingly colourful and sparkly really pleasing to the eye, holly will vouch for that. They also live with Ruhans mother who has endless fascinating stories about life on the road and her travels with her late husband, the house is filled with trophies ranging from golden jubilee (50 weeks at the box office) to lifetime achievement awards to Indian equivalent of Grammys. I found in really inspiring as we too are trying to achieve something although on a very different scale, I still found it motivating and encouraging.
We caught up for a few hours battling heavy eyelids but soon crashed out for a couple of hours. Once we got up Ruhan helped us find a map of India and he and his son helped us plan our route to Kolkota. I mentioned to him that I’d read about Jankidas Mehra the legendary Indian freedom fighter and cyclist an ironically it turns out Ruhan knows his sons, between them they managed to get some interest from mainstream publications for the following day.
Later Ruhan took us on a small tour of Mumbai and then it was back to his place for a delicious home cooked curry something Dom and I had been dreaming of since we left the UK. He also arranged for a massage for me which was awesome, Dom foolishly declined.

30th to 9th January

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

30th December to 7th January
Our first cycle for 8 days, we had 65 miles to travel to Dubai. It was amazing approaching the towering city, although the roads weren’t exactly bike friendly.
Holly had arrived a couple of hours ahead of us and was on the private beach at Ash’s place on The Palm. We wondered down Dom catching another emotional reunion on film (yes with little violins playing away), the first thing she said to me was “you look awful” thanks baby. She did have a point though; I had grown my facial hair since Rome (7 weeks), had just cycled 70 miles and looked like I’d just been wrestling with Dom in a sand pit. I couldn’t wait to lose the face fungus (as my Gran calls it) but I wanted to give Holly a flavour of what it would be like to be engaged to a Hobo. We all went up to Ash’s place for some coronas and wine and for a good old catch up, the evening spilled onto a bar and then we somehow managed to blag our way onto a huge yacht party. Suspicion soon grasped us when we noticed the boat was full of overweight middle aged men and a group of 7 young girls who can’t have been older than 19 all huddled together. We quickly left, fortunately the boat hadn’t set off otherwise we’d have been in trouble and maybe even featured in some dodgy blue movie somewhere.

The following morning we met the City Seasons media manager, Loka. She was in the process of arranging a press conference for us at the Hotel and wanted to hear more so she could prepare a press release. We also had a chance to meet Thomas Tapken the hotel group General Manager as well as Issam Nizam, the hotel manager. Thomas is a wonderful person and I am in awe of the great charity work he does for childrens charities. He has set up a Bangkok night time run, built villages in Thailand and cycled from Thailand to Dubai in aid of Little Wings Foundation who helps African children get medical help in Dubai. Thomas recognised the great cause we are cycling for an instantly picked up the phone to speak to all his media contacts, this is where the Dubai media whirlwind began, minutes we had a radio interview and within hours we had TV as well as the region’s biggest newspapers confirmed.

The New Year celebrations were amazing. Not only did I get to spend it with my soul mate, a good friend, brother and other good company but I was in Dubai, wearing jeans and shoes and did not think about cycling all night. We went to another friends place for a house party and some cocktails before seeing in the New Year at Media One hotel, unfortunately for us no-one told us it was a white party and we were the only ones in non white outfits!! We had a great view of the fireworks at Atlantis at midnight and Dom got a cheeky New Year kiss with a stunning girl called Amie. Cupid was sitting on his shoulder that evening!

New Years day was a right off; we chilled out watching movies and nursing sore heads, a good time to relax especially as it chucked it down outside.

We used Saturday to do some filming – we needed some takes of Jon’s story ready for our friend Adam to help with editing. It was tough for Jon talking about it with a crowd watching, and wasn’t helped that he can’t concentrate with no food – must be his caveman hair!

Our first round of media started on Sunday morning with Jon being interviewed on Dubai92, followed in the afternoon with Abu Dhabi TV filming interviews and lots of cycling round car parks! We managed to fit in a cinema trip to see the 3D film, Avatar and we were totally blown away!

Dad arrived in the hotel lobby at 8am (the hotel arranged a pick-up), and if he thought it was going to be a nice rest, he was very much mistaken! It was so nice to see him after waving goodbye over two months ago in Beavais, France. After breakfast we rushed off to Wolfi’s bike shop to get the bikes serviced, and then I had lunch with Amie, while the others chilled at the hotel. So embarrassing though as I couldn’t get any money out of the ATM, so she had to pay! At least it was a good excuse to try to see her again before I leave Dubai. Jon and Dad tried to do some video editing with Adam, but with all the files in wrong format, Adam arranged for a professional studio edit on Wednesday.

Our Tuesday morning press conference was amazing (like a footballer signing), with over 20 people from TV, radio and press publications all wanting to interview us, take photos and film us on the bikes. A proud Dad even got interviewed by a flirty Filipino! Dad paid for us to have an afternoon off on a desert safari, including dune bashing, sand boarding and camel riding. I was keen to get back to the city as quickly as possible as we were meeting Ash, Jodie and of course Amie for some goodbye drinks. By calling the driver Schumacher, that was all the incentive he needed to hit 140 on the highway! Dad came with us (so second date with Amie involved me bringing my Dad!), but it was nice for him to see another area of Dubai and meet with everyone. As Holly, Jon and Dad headed back to the hotel, Ash, Jodie, Amie and I thought a rerun of wii bowling would be a good idea (no of us could remember the last series on NYE!), but finishing another wine bottle at 3am probably wasn’t! At least I got to spend some more time with Amie. She is an amazingly gorgeous girl and I hope we continue to stay in touch while we finish our challenge.

Probably not what I wanted to be doing with a hangover, we spent most of Wednesday in the edit studio doing the promotional video which Jon wants to send out to TV companies to try and get a documentary commissioned. At least “The Colonel” came to the rescue with a Zinger Tower! The studio also happened to be next to PHD’s office, so it was cool to pop in and see everyone who worked there. Trying to fit everything else in today was a struggle, and Jon didn’t get back to the hotel with the final edit until 11pm, but it was brilliant and fingers crossed that someone might be interested.

7th January
So off we go. Lots of mincing around this morning meant we didn’t leave Dubai until about 11.30am, and navigating the 6 lane (each way!) motorways was interesting. It didn’t help seeing “no cycling” signs and getting two punctures on the hard shoulder as we headed for Hatta. We had tried to keep fit by swimming in the hotel pool, but quite frankly that was never going to cut it! With a headwind, slight incline and the heat of the day we struggled along route 44, and made the 55 mile journey to the holiday hotel just before sunset over the jagged hills. My first UAE hotel negotiation saved us about £20, and our last mixed grill platter was a £10 bargain!

8th January
Probably the most civilised border crossing in the world, entering Oman couldn’t have been easier. We left at 7am, so saw the most amazing sunrise over the continuing hills from yesterday. A blue mist hung over the valley, and soon we were blasting down the race track smooth roads towards Muscat. With a 95 mile cycle today, we were all set for ‘roughing it’ on the side of the road. We found a suitable area about 4pm, and set up camp, before completing all the equipment videos to upload to youtube at our next web point.

9th January
Our first 24 hours in Oman have been impressive. Apart from trying to sleep in a sweaty tent, next to a motorway, with boy racers getting firecrackers out of their car exhausts, a mosque giving it large at 5am, we were ready for another 95 mile monster day. I love camping so much!
Back to the people of Oman – they are so warm and polite. Even a supermarket assistant wanted a chat! Another steaming day, it went up to about 27 degrees, so our cycle tans are coming on a treat!
As we approached Muscat, our achievement so far dawned on us. After 98 days and 4,300 miles we had reached the Tropic of Cancer. We filmed (badly) a iphone video as the light was fading, before arriving at the airport. It must be said that we weren’t smelling of roses after 190 miles and no shower! Dad had managed to source us a bike shop where we could get a couple of boxes, which meant no dodgy Egyptian packing in sight! I went to collect them as Jon waited at the airport, which was well funny as I proceeded to take the taxi driver’s car apart to try and get them in. In the end they were hanging out of the boot, and the 20 minute drive back to the airport was filled with an annoying “your trunk is open” warning voice! A two for one blag into the business lounge meant we got a shower and buffet dinner, before hearing the final call to Mumbai.

28th to 29th December

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

29th December
Today’ main aim was a trip to the Indian embassy to sort out of visas, this proved to be a touch simpler than the Saudi process. Within two hours we had arranged for our visas to be couriered to Dubai in 5 days time. This left the afternoon free to relax, we discovered that our hotel partnered with the Radisson next door, so we went off to enjoy a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi-lush! The area was filled with relaxing aromatherapy oils and the music was so calming, a million miles away from the busy stressful Cairo we left the day before.
In the evening some great news came through – the hospitality in Dubai for 8 days was confirmed by City Seasons hotel. We couldn’t wait!

28th December
Finally left the hotel in Cairo after a week and a great cost failing to get our Saudi visas. Our friend (who we thought was our friend) presented us with a list of things we owed him money for – like scotch tape, and EGP25 a metre for micky mouse cardboard packaging, that wouldn’t even be suitable for a cereal packet. I’d had enough of Cairo and Egypt, I was really looking forward to leaving, but it wasn’t going to be the end. At the airport, every Egyptian man and his dog wanted tips from fetching trolleys to pointing where to go. I eventually lost it with one cheeky f@*ker and told him in no uncertain terms to “do one!”.
This actually broke the ice with some other English fellas who were travelling to India and asking all sorts of questions about our challenge.
It was so nice to arrive in Abu Dhabi – a civilised, clean society, although I was still in Egypt mode as I tried to negotiate the price of a fixed price taxi. The cheapest 3* hotel we could find (more like an Egyptian 25* hotel!) was situated in a stunning position overlooking the F1 race track in Yas Marina, and even then we still managed to drive the price down further.