Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15th to 24th February

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

24th February
To do another 100 mile day we thought would be unachievable at the start of this challenge, but with good roads…well! Everything was ok for the first 20 miles, apart from the oily, coal sooted streets made us and the bikes look like a couple of seagulls caught in an oil spillage. The roadside cafe came to the rescue when they understood “omelette”, but when rocks started appearing in the middle of the road, and turning a sharp corner onto mud covering it didn’t look good. This unfinished road surface was like cycling on sticky parcel tape, and where it turned shiny the bikes were sliding like ducks on an iced pond.
I looked up just as Jon’s bike slid from underneath him and he faceplanted the muddy surface. Reggie’s front wheel had as much tread as an Indian truck, and he now had a broken bent handlebar to match. Jon looked like he had been mud wrestling and understandably was a little shaken up. At 4.30pm with just 1½ hours of light left, we still had 38 miles to go – the daily average of 8mph so far meant another 4-5 hours of cycling and nightime riding which I hate, especially with only cookies and sour sweets to keep us going.
Now a two badly tanned cyclists is like a couple of T-bones to the wild dogs and boy did we soon know it. Apart from the traffic danger on the Alex-Cairo desert road, this was the most terrifying cycling of the challenge. Every little bark got louder and louder as dogs raced towards us across the landscape – all we could see was their eyes in the darkness, until they were at our heels barking and foaming like they were possessed. We needed a few selected kicks, but on the whole a good English shout of “F**k Off” seemed to do the trick and we ploughed on.
The city of Mong Cai couldn’t come quick enough, and we located a hotel close to the border control for tomorrow’s crossing into China. I hope the food gets better as we had to make do with another night of fast food chicken!

23rd February
Hurrah – on with the cycling today Turkish! Just a small matter of 100 miles and navigating through a million motorbikes on a gloomy day in Hanoi. Thank you to all the staff at Moevenpick – we were probably their most demanding guests yet, and the cherry on top had to be us making sandwiches at the breakfast buffet alongside posh Americans on their Asia cruises.
We were really noticing the humidity today, so the pollution and dirt from the roads stuck to us like glue, but we made good ground and especially helped by the gaggles of giggling school girls we passed on the way.
The town of Halong looked bleak when we arrived, and didn’t improve after we found our hotel. Searching for food, all we could find was ropey pavement kitchens (stoves, woks and a few dirty chairs) and a fish restaurant which didn’t have a menu, just a few buckets of live fish on the roadside who didn’t look particularly happy about their impending slaughter. I don’t fancy naming my fish before eating it! We didn’t fancy either, so had to make do with the worst fried chicken we’ve ever had, and then supplemented with tuna sandwiches and crisps in the room – basic!

20th – 22nd February
We don’t want to moan – there are definitely worst places we could be waiting for a wheel than at a 5* hotel, and with concierge at the ready, we certainly utilised their services. From sending someone around Hanoi looking for a bike shop who could change the gear cassette onto the new wheel, collecting buckets and sponges to wash the bikes, and helping with directions for the tenth time, we were soon the talk of the hotel staff!
We used Sunday to do a bit of sightseeing – never seen so many motorbikes as we visited the ancient literature museum and Ho Ming’s temple (old ruler), upset some ladies carrying baskets of bananas by getting photos with them, and then sought sanctuary in the only place we could understand what we would be eating (we hope!) – KFC.
We successfully extended our stay by speaking to the manager (we were taking the mick out of his pastel pink golf outfit at breakfast yesterday!), and he arranged a quick photoshoot for us before we leave tomorrow.

18th – 19th February
We were slightly relived when our lift arrived to take us across the border, although we spent the first 3 hours of the journey gazing out of the window at the perfect sweeping cycling roads which followed a windy river through the hills. Passing through the villages we saw crowds of kids knowing that two badly tanned cyclists would certainly brighten their day. We should be cycling – this sucks! No “sabaidees” or warm smiles – instead we were narrowly missing squashing goats, babies, chickens and pigs. I gasped as we actually went over the top of a black puppy, fortunately the high wheel base of our 4×4 meant that the puppy could see another day.
As fate would have it the conditions soon turned nasty, when we arrived to a road submerged in water and we had to cross with the help of a tugboat. From there, the road went from bad to worst, and we were now not only glad we weren’t cycling, but simply wouldn’t have been able to. Thick sand and rocks covered the road for the next 15 miles, and then the road literally ran out! Even the 4×4 was struggling – we were in amongst diggers and labourers, who were still carving the road through the hills.
Lots of lost brain cells later from banging our heads on the rollcage, we made it to the Vietnam border, where we stood shivering while trying to explain why we had two passports each. People travelling by bus, stood by fires made from bits of cardboard lying around, as they tried to keep warm in the damp, cold mountain air, while staring with bemusement at two badly tanned cyclists in shorts and t-shirts! Bonkers conkers!
Our driver took us as far as Dien Bien Phu, the first town inside the border where we could catch a connecting bus to Hanoi. Keen to get the hellish journey done as quickly as possible, we jumped straight on a bus. Unfortunately this meant no time to get food, just enough time to get some cash out and take a quick leek in what was undoubtedly the worst toilet I have ever seen. It looked like a herd of elephants had passed through, following a hearty feast.
The bus journey wasn’t much better – crying babies, old Vietnamese men hocking up greenies and seriously annoying grinding pop music blasting out of the speakers. It was clear any kind of sleep was out of the question. Despite not being entirely sure what the exchange rate was, Dom began arguing (rightly so) with them trying to charge us the same price as a seat for each bicycle, but it turned out to be an hour long, language stalemate over £3.
At least dinner was included – we stopped at a roadside shack, sheltering from the rain with rice and a few other dishes laid out. One of them looked a lot like sliced spring roll, so I tucked in to discover that it was a finally sliced chicken, bones and all! Another dish was some unidentifiable rubbery meat – best avoided. Our luck did change when I received a text confirming that the Tapkens had arranged a room for us at the 5* Hanoi Moevenpick – get in!
We were dumped at Hanoi bus station and not knowing where in the city we were, and how far from the hotel, we found ourselves in our next mission of trying to arrange a large taxi at 4am, and we were pooped! All we could see was pony little Daihatsus which would have struggled with our tent, let alone with two bicycles and 8 items of luggage! Luckily we were helped by a Vietnamese girl who said she was trying to improve her English, but I think that was an excuse as she clearly fancied Dom. And after chasing a 7 seater taxi down the road in our flip flops, we got ourselves to the hotel, and just in time for their international breakfast buffet – fan-kin-tastic.
The only small problem was that the expected wheel hadn’t been delivered yet – at least its Friday, so should turn up this morning. Wrong! We’re still hitting hurdles – because of Chinese New Year, customs weren’t working today, and although we can see that the wheel has arrived in Hanoi (via Manchester, Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Bangkok) it can’t be delivered until Monday. This is so frustrating – we just want to get on with the cycling!

17th February
A forced rest day meant we could catch up on some admin (especially route plan Mexico in detail), but what we thought would be an easy solution of getting a bus to Hanoi wasn’t! Struggling through the language barrier at the Tourist Information office, with lots of scribbled maps and pointing, we established that we would need to catch 3 different buses to get to Hanoi and Ronnie and Reggie would be on three different bouncing, banging roofs. This is going to trash them.
So our other option would be to get a taxi – surely we could negotiate a deal with a tutuk or a people carrier! Well they didn’t have a Timbuktu what we were going on about – god this is hard work! Luckily a cycle shop came to the rescue with the owner’s nephew agreeing that he would drive us in a 4×4 jeep to Dien Bien Phu where we could get one direct bus to Hanoi. But not without having to settle on paying $250 – well annoying knowing that the buses are only about $40, but at least the bikes should be in one piece.

16th February
A monster of a day with 4,200ft of assent, so we started early, and we were actually cold for the first time in a couple of months when we noticed a big drop in temperature. Every bump and dip in the road was even more noticeable as I tentatively tried to protect Ronnie’s cracking wheel, but a third of the way when we turned off the asphalt and onto unpaved road, with Ronnie’s spokes creaking up the inclines, our worst fears were realised that this would be our last day of cycling in Laos. Such a shame, especially with all the kids running through their villages smiling and shouting bye bye as we cycle past – really gives us such a lift.
We no longing were hoping to wing it to Hanoi, now we’d be lucky to see it through the day! Another puncture for Ronnie wasn’t helped when a Spanish cyclist stopped at the worst possible time to investigate, but we did take some comfort knowing that he was the guy we’d heard about who couldn’t make it up a hill 2 days earlier (which we nailed) and had to lie down on the pavement waiting for a lift. The last 20km of unpaved rocky road went on and on, and resembled trying to cycle along a train track – not the best place for our touring bikes.
Arriving at the hotel, we needed some quick thinking to arrange for a new wheel to be sent from UK to Hanoi – they are stored at Jeremy’s, but unfortunately it couldn’t be picked up today, so DHL were booked for tomorrow, and we took a gamble on being able to stay at Moevenpick, putting the package for the attention of the general manager! He who dares…

15th February
Today we had a short ride to Luang Martha but not a good start after some puncture mincing and then had to make do with some vegetable noodles for breakfast. Jon was happy though because he got some gold footage of about 100 school children with colourful sun umbrellas and even managed to “lao five” a monk! The comedy moment of the day was when Jon pulled over to speak to a 75 year old Ali G style cyclist with luminous shorts and shades to match with a wheelie suitcase as his rear pannier. Later we were still kicking ourselves for not getting a photo but were too busy laughing.
Shame the luxury guesthouse was full but at least we got them working when they offered to still do our laundry – little did they know, “that is some seriously funky sh*t in there love!” Picking up an email from our bike mechanic, Jeremy after we asked his advice about the buckle, he said “please don’t ride that wheel anymore, it’s definitely been compromised & could totally fail at any moment.” We tried in vain to get a new wheel for Ronnie but it clearly wasn’t happening as the only places available were mountain bike rental shops. We are going to give it another day and assess from there.
As our energy levels were low we headed off for some much needed food – in fact we ordered so much food that chef had to come out for a tea break half way through!

8th to 14th February

Monday, February 15th, 2010

14th February
Valentines Day – no loving today – these hills are going to be right bitches! We left at 6.30am and soon settled into our new surroundings – a big orange sun rising above the wooden houses on stilts – families boiling up their tea kettles on little campfires.
First word – everyone is so smiley. After failing to get our Thai Five, we managed to get a double Lao Five off two kids running out to wave at us (although they did try to nick the crisps). In fact all the kids in the little villages along the way either ran out or just shouted “Bye Bye” at the top of their voices. Well sweet, it’s another good and much needed energy boost for the hills of Laos.
After the first bitch (500m of ascent),  Kat and Laura shouted out as they passed us in the bus on the way to the Gibbon experience. With our heads pounding from the heat and our hearts bursting, I wish I was in an air conditioned bus!

We stopped briefly to chat to two Spanish cyclists (, but then off we went on the final bitch of the day, rising to 1,200m, and the highest point on the TCC Challenge, although the sandpit hill, water-truck and steamroller almost finshed Jon off.
We made it to Vieng Phouka and found a cool guesthouse (huts overlooking river), although I’ve had a warmer wash in plunge pools. We also felt pretty pleased with ourselves as one traveller explained that the last cyclist to make the same journey we had just done, needed a lift over the last hill – what a lightweight!

13th February
Picked Ronnie up from the bike shop, I did try again to ask the twenty something Thai bike mechanic whether it would make it to Hanoi, but couldn’t understand and had the added amusement that he was wearing a kids Liverpool shirt, which looked more like a crop top!
At least we thought that two travelling girls should know where to go for the boat across the river to Laos. Well they didn’t! They were Oz students (Kat and Laura), travelling around Asia – luckily we did find out where to go and packed all our stuff onto a narrow long boat. One passenger (a kind of mix between Hulk and Jaws), had clearly spent the last week at the Hall of Opium, and didn’t know what day of the week it was! Ronnie and Reggie almost had their own joke of tripping him into the river!

We are feeling a bit James Bond as we now have two passports each (the new ones have our Vietnam and Chinese visas in), so we tried using them to get into Laos to make our next border crossing easier. Well we caused a right pickle. Jon told the customs man that we had lost our previous passports (not very clever), and then they thought that we had a set of fake passports. Luckily we quickly changed our story and an hour later we were in Laos (on our old passports – note – we need to explain situation in full at the Vietnam border). Now on our way to spend over a million in our next country – 13,000 Laos Kip to 1 pound!
Felt a bit like two travellers in the afternoon as we hung out with Kat and Laura, and although we were seriously tempted to go on the Gibbon experience they had booked for the following day (zip wire entrance, treehouses and campfires), we had to remind ourselves that we are here to cycle, and have one monstrous day of cycling tomorrow. Ordering food at the restaurant was funny too. We wanted to be prepared, so ordered dinner, breakfast and lunch – they couldn’t believe the amount of food – even granny had to get off her rocking chair in the corner to help, while the 8 year old son jumped on a moped to zip off and get our sandwich fillings!

12th February
Really tough ride to the Thailand/Laos border at Chiang Khong today which easily surpassed Wednesdays day of hillage, we had to tackle these hills in short bursts then had to flop over the handle bars, pant for a few seconds and crack on. We were helped on the sugar levels with some sour sweets sent to us by Cadbury (ok so we didn’t give all of them to the Kolkata orphans) and were given sympathetic waves and often chuckles of ‘rather you than me pal’ of passing Thai moped drivers. To give you an idea of how slow we were going we only just managed to overtake a farmer with his herd of cows. The climbs were on par with the tour de france training climbs we did in the alps- seriously tough work especially each carrying about 30 kilos of luggage on the bike and with the added spanner in the works of the heat too.

The climbs also took their toll on Ronnie whose wheel is getting worse, Dom had to detach his rear brake as the wheel had re-buckled and had a nasty wobble, he limped to Chiang Khong and managed to find a small and rather limited bike shop before it shut. Although they spoke no English Dom managed to get them to look into it and have it back to us for 10am the following day, not looking good for Ronnie to hold out to Hong Kong which is still 3 weeks away, not even Hanoi (Vietnam’s capital) our next big city we’re due to reach on 22nd Feb-this could be a serious problem.

Staying at the same hotel was a group of happy go lucky British motorcross drivers aka The Chiang Mai Road Warriors- annual trips organised by Chris and Steve. Every year they go to the far east for a couple of weeks of motorcycle madness. They were really impressed with route through the hills as well as our challenge and the story behind it- they grouped together and very kindly donated us around ฃ160. Steve gave us some good advice about the roads in Laos and places where we could stay he also very kindly gave us some US dollars which would help us get a visa in Laos much easier. The hotel was right on the Mekhong River which was really scenic- just 300 metres to the other side was Laos and country number 11.

11th February
A short 40 mile ride today to Chiang Rai meant that we could ping out lots of emails and upload a few more photos, it would be nice to get out and explore the cities a bit more but no time for that today. Found a nice little Italian restaurant for dinner where we were served by a way over the top camp Thai waiter which we found rather amusing and continued to impersonate him on the way home.

10th February
So our first days cycling in Thailand and initial impressions are all good- smooth roads, people only too happy to give a smile and a wave, no rubbish or cows wondering in the middle of the road- the main hurdle we’re tackling now is the climate, 36oC and 86% humidity! At least the morning cycle was flat so we had the breeze to cool us down but the afternoon was where the hills came, arguably the steepest climbs of the TCC Challenge so far these were monsters. Not like other mountain roads where they bend and weave working their way up slowly, no, these mothers went straight up. At the top was the highest natural hot spring in Thailand so we parked the bikes up and took a couple of photos, a friendly Thai chap offered us a bottle of water and a banana (we must have looked shagged) stupidly we left the bikes against a wall around the spring and soon realised that poor Ronnie and Reggie were getting soaked- probably not the cleverest place to park but they soon dried out. We clocked 46 mph coming down the hill which was lush but the assents weren’t done with us yet. We were heading for a resort called Suan Thip some 70 miles from Chiang Mei to break down the long journey to Chaing Rai but the last 10 miles was all up hill which nearly killed us. We finally got to and just for a final nail in the coffin the reception was up a final steep hill.

Suan Thip is a stunning mountain retreat, where the bungalows are built sympathetically on steep slopes around a forest, so the balconies are like tree houses. An air of calm and serenity greets you here, which we think sets the tone for Northern Thailand as a whole – a hidden emerald gem and a real treat to find after such a tough cycle. The manager kindly gave us a special TCC charity rate to fit into our budget and even threw in a complimentary authentic Thai a la carte meal which I’d say was the best meal of the TCC Challenge so far.
The problem we had was with our little annoying winged friend. Vijay was still held up at Bangkok airport so he seized his opportunity to continue the mosquito offensive by getting a Thai bride, a quick exchange of vows over the phone and the plan was set, he briefed Ping Pong to launch a full scale attack on us in Thailand and she and her posse caught up with us at Suan Thip. She spent the night munching away at our feet (rather you than me love) although we gave as good as we got and managed to decorate the wall of the room with a few of her friends!

9th February
Today was an internet day, plotting our route through Thailand and up towards the Tropic of Cancer. Dom’s still having issues installing the Garmin World maps program given to us by dad’s partner, Sue frustrating as it’s conflicting with some other free mapping software we tried to install and can’t find the source file. Had a great photo outside the Amari Rincome hotel with some of the staff for their website (and ours- see our gallery).
Nice to have a couple of days away from Vijay the mosquito- he must have got held up at immigration coming into Thailand, hopefully he’s been sent packing.

8th February
We’ve been looking forward to a fairly chilled day, the main thing we had to do was give Ronnie and Reggie some bike love. After somehow using some wizardry to fit them into 3 kids bike boxes we had to reassemble them from scratch and spent the morning doing so in the hotel’s tennis court keeping our fingers and toes crossed that the baggage handlers in Kolkata hadn’t man handled them. After that it was off to a bike shop nearby for some repairs; we needed a replacement wire for my handlebar pannier and the wheels needed some straightening after suffering a hammering on the Indian roads. One nasty buckle on Ronnie didn’t look too great following another prang from a van which also had a hairline crack in it. They managed to straighten out the buckle and reassured us that it would last to Hong Kong (when we can get a spare sent out) so we kept our fingers and toes crossed once more and headed back to the hotel.

We chilled by the pool for a couple of hours in the afternoon (not quite enough to rid ourselves of the two tone tans- we still look like a tub of white & dark chocolate swirl ice cream) before heading out for a bit of Chaing Mei nightlife. Dom had been eager to ride in a Tuk Tuk since we got to India and now was our chance, this wasn’t any Tuk Tuk though we nick named it disco Tuk Tuk, it was like something out of Pimp my Ride- 12 inch alloys, a big bore exhaust, multi coloured flashing lights and even the seat backs were replaced by speakers and subs.

We found a cool little restaurant by the river- great to have free reign on the menu again and not have to dodge salad, meat or fish. I couldn’t help but notice two old boys with a young Thai girl on the table next to us, there is a lot of old white men with a young Thai girlfriends around but it was the first time I’d seen two men and one girl- they must have been using to keep the budget down on their holiday! After dinner we headed over the road and saw a really good band doing loads of awesome covers also took a chance to wash down a couple of vodkas mixed with M150 (the rocket fuel energy mixer banned from most European countries.
The Tuk Tuk we got home wasn’t so racy and struggled over speed bumps and hump back bridges, we thought we might have to get out and push but made it back home, eventually.

7th to 13th December

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

13th December
Woke up this morning loving this whole villa action! The only annoying thing is that it is so big, it’s just too ‘echo-y’, and I didn’t know which bathroom to use – I think I can live with that though! We were still undecided on whether to start cycling today or ask if we could stay another night. Then Fathi (number 2) arrived – he was a friend of Sami’s and informed us that he had a lot of things arranged for us, so our decision was made. First stop was to visit the main hospital in Tubruq, where we met the director. There were loads of people around, and about 10 in his office. We soon established that these were sports TV channel, newspaper and radio companies ready to interview us. Sami certainly came up with the goods here. It was all a bit surreal walking around the hospital in a big ‘media’ group meeting various doctors and consultants, as everyone wanted to say hello to us. We had our first TCC TV interview in the grounds, causing many more people to stop and stare.

We had a couple of hours to catch our breath back at the villa, before our next round of media interviews at the Tubruq football stadium (this time with the bikes). We met the manager, coach, and some players before cycling down to the corner flag and back to the goal for the TV camera. We also took a penalty each – Jon’s just saved by the keeper’s trailing arm, and I was denied by the crossbar. Now in Libya everyone is so friendly, and so they think nothing of offering to show you around their city, but what is weird is that someone who Fathi (number 1) has just met, takes it upon himself to drive his car (badly). Anyway it was the football coach who then drove us around before paying for dinner at an amazing fish restaurant for us. Back at the villa, Fathi’s back was causing him serious grief, so I had to administer an Arabic treatment. Not particularly comfortable with the situation, this involved putting a burning piece of paper in a small jamjar, and quickly applying it to his back, causing a vacuum and drawing blood to the skin. After massaging more blood into the area, I then slowly took the jar off and made 8 small cuts to the skin.  Another burning piece of paper and jamjar back on the same area then started to draw the blood out of the cuts. Only when we removed it 10 minutes later did we realise that this procedure separated fluid from the blood – in other words Fathi had fluid on some muscle and this was the desert way to resolve it. One weird day!

12th December
A big target today of 160km to Tubruq, I started off nearly falling from my bike with laugher at some of the states of cars on the road. One struggled to pass Jon, went for a gear change and nearly lost his engine. Another looked like its body panels were constructed from road signs, and one 1970’s Peugeot had more polythene than glass for windows.
Pulling over for our usual break stop (well a piss for me), Fathi pulled his back and was in some serious discomfort. He explained that he should be ok, but it didn’t look good. Jon popped in for some JoJo’s (chocolate cake bars), but the tin shack only had some nuclear swiss roll. I think this pushed Jon’s stomach over the edge, and let to his first roadside desert poo. Luckily he found a wall to shelter from the side wind, and quickly finished before some wild dogs came for a sniff!

More slow progress due to the wind, this is really grinding us now, but a quick change of direction at 72 miles, and it was on our side. Shame about the Italian road signs which still showed 60km to Tubruq. As the light faded, we faced another leg of nightime cycling. Not my most favourite pastime, especially with wild dogs wanting to chase us, and every wall, tree or scrapped car saw us tense up in case of a dog jumping out.

Big Dave had sorted us out the digs again, and we met the housekeeper on a roundabout on the outskirts of Tubruq. Again the driver wasn’t briefed, and not realising that we had just cycled our longest day ever (115 miles), raced to the Aecom villa, one of the biggest in Tubruq. Pimping!
Jon had the east wing and I went for the west wing, and after explaining to the housekeeper that we could both eat a camel, showed us to a Turkish restaurant, where we were actually refused the amount of food we wanted to order. Three kilos of kebabs was clearly a step too far, so we had to settle for 2kg instead!

11th December
A short 58 mile cycle to Derna, we followed the Green Mountain plateau, before a long windy hill down into town. We got some brilliant footage on the camera, but Jon was almost blown off bike while filming. Our upbeat moods were even matched by the checkpoint police today, with them offering us coffee – although they were all in dire need of a dentist and some aquafresh.

Fathi then offered to show us the town’s great waterfalls, or should I say an 8 meter trickle. Apparently this was going to fill the next big dam, but when we arrived we could barely see a small stream dropping from the rocks. Well Victoria Falls has no need to worry – we just tried to appear as interested as we could, not wanting to be ungrateful. We had a frustrating afternoon wasted in another pony internet cafe and poor old Fathi had to wait 2 hours for us to do some admin which should have taken 10 minutes. Our casual outfit no. 2 of swimming trunks and flip flops drew some strange looks in the soaking high street, with more potholes than tarmac.

10th December
A bit of bike love this morning as mum and Holly had very kindly sent out 4 new tyres – our bikes certainly needed them after 3,300 miles on the old set, and straight away they were put through their paces in driving rain (not seen since Sicily) – certainly a lot of Libyan school kids found it funny as clothes soaked through.

A much more energy draining day with gradual hills and windy roads, but the landscape was stunning – Fathi described it as European Libya, and we could certainly see that. We used our European knowledge to find a half constructed bus shelter to shield us from the pounding rain, but luckily no punctures this time.
As we arrived in Al Bayda, we realised that the other car following us was in fact a police escort, so felt very important as we parted crossroads where cars literally come from all directions! With the sky getting blacker by the second, we parked up at a dingy hotel and I prepared for another night of bugness! But we actually got an apartment with wi-fi, so we ended up helping the manager with his google maps – our good Libyan turn! Before bed we saw a sheesa room like Bob Marley’s house, and I reminded Jon that we need to make sure we aren’t cycling the next day before getting involved in that!

9th December
Jon is really not good in the morning – everything he does is in slow motion, so we had a mad rush packing up/ making use of internet before leaving the apartment. The reason for rushing is that Sami had arranged for an interview in Libya’s main newspaper ( owned by Gadaffi’s son) and we really didn’t want to be late. We were treated so well we felt like celebrities as we cycled round the courtyard for the photographer, before meeting the director and editor.

A shock to the system with the cycle next – Libyan hills! We were heading to Al Marj today, 90km from Benghazi. As we rose up above the Mediterranean, the landscape suddenly changed to lush green hills, which we didn’t know Libya had. Apparently they have been known to get snow here before!
The only hotel in AL Marj was a rip off (well £25 for the room), and after being stung with a 75 dinar bill for dinner (should have been no more than 25 dinar), Fathi confirmed our first Egyptian sting!
Boosted our morale after relooking at our itinerary and we could get to Dubai 2 weeks ahead of schedule.

8th December
It was brilliant waking up in a brand new apartment, rather than a bug hotel, and we just used the morning chilling out, watching bad yankee films and rinsing the internet connection. It was a result being able to send videos back home, including Jon’s cheeky request to Sir Richard. We even got our washing done with minimal hassle.

We met Sami from Ocean Tours – , and it was really good to put a face to the name. We honestly couldn’t have done Libya without him, and he was so generous and kind towards our massive charity effort. We filled our lunchtime boots at a Turkish restaurant – more kebabs, but I stupidly tucked into the houmous without checking first. True enough it had peanuts in, and I thought I was going to have an anaphylactic reaction. Luckily after throwing up and drinking plenty of water, a couple of hours lying down did the trick. 
Later on, Sami gave us a tour of Benghazi and had a private tour of a stunning Italian/ Libyan townhouse, before making it back to the apartment for another buffet dinner.
Watching the live Man U game, we began to route plan Egypt, which looked bleak for first 250 miles, and without a guide started thinking about our next TCC hurdle.

7th December
After a fawlty towers experience, 4 honey and chocolate croissants (each) should have done the trick, but as soon as we left the town we hit headwinds which reduced our speed to 10mph. At 35 miles my back started knotting up, and it was my turn to hit a wall. Especially when we knew there was at least another 70 miles to Benghazi, where we were meeting big Dave. The rest of the day was mind over matter, pushing ourselves to the limit, breaking down the distance into 10 mile chunks.

Eventually we hit the street lights of Benghazi at about 6pm. With bike lights on, this was our first experience of night time cycling – Libya style! Trying to see Fathi’s hands with the direction was so difficult, but at a city centre swamp, we parked up, got eaten alive by Abdul’s family and waited for big Dave’s driver. I don’t think Dave had explained to him that we had just cycled 105 miles, as we were instructed to follow him with Fathi behind. I think he was Schumacher’s Libyan cousin!

It was a big lift seeing Big Dave, our first friend since Holly flew to Rome. And boy did he come up with the goods at the Aecom apartments. We had 1 penthouse (each), open-plan, New York hotel style, and after putting down the bags had just enough energy to get downstairs for a buffet dinner – we like this place!

29th to 6th December

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

6th December
This morning we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise although it didn’t stop me and Dom arguing like a couple of bitches over the need to do an xmas newsletter, Dom felt it had to be done in the desert.
Really tough days cycling today 70 miles into a strong headwind and I hit my first wall of the challenge, I occupied my mind by focusing on positive thoughts- the finishing line next year, Holly, family and of course to give strength to those people fighting cancer.
We stopped at a shop for some Jo Jos to boost some energy and a lorry driver wanted to give me his number saying if there was anything I needed while I was in Libya I should call him- a hotel with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and all you can eat buffet would be nice.
As we were approaching Ajdabiya feeling shattered and longing for the first shower in 3 days the town never seemed to appear- it looked like it was just down the road for a good 45 minutes. We found the only hotel in the city and were directed up the stairs to the room, the trouble was they hadn’t finished building the staircase and health and safety wasn’t big on the agenda either; sparks coming out of the tv socket, a wardrobe that fell apart when you opened it and suspicious curly hairs on the bar of soap in the bathroom were best avoided.

5th December
Today was a good day for cycle stats. With the wind gods on our side once more we managed 95 miles in 5 hours, an average speed of 19mph and clocked 30.5mph at a peak
Not much to report on the cycle day itself today, just one long straight road of nothingness again with unpaved sections of loose gravel and pot holes- not the easiest terrain but our trusty Ridgeback warhorses saw us through. The day’s highlights were camels, donkeys and goats by the side of the road.
Another really starry night accompanied by a traditional spicy Libyan dinner.

4th December
The wind gods had turned from giving us a supportive tail wind to a punishing head wind. Dom soon felt faint and dizzy so we stopped for an early lunch, despite slow progress we still managed 81 miles before finding a place to camp.
While Fathi cooked another delightful meal of lamb and pasta we recorded a video to send to Richard Branson to appeal to virgin to help run a huge awareness campaign.
A full moon illuminated the sky; the only thing that’s missing is Holly.

3rd December
Today we headed for Surt, we even got there in good time to wash our sweaty cycle gear. As we approached the city huge billboards lined the sides of the road promoting Gadaffi’s vision of a United States of Africa. There was a massive sense of pride in the air, one guy pulled up alongside us and said with a huge beaming smile “welcome to my country” another friendly chap got into Fathi’s car and guided us to the hotel when we stopped to ask for directions. Later on another guy in a cyber cafe didn’t want to stop shaking my hand; he genuinely seemed so pleased to speak to me.
Dom forgot to sign out of my skype account so when I returned later to speak to Holly she saw a Libyan guy on the other end of the webcam, I went over and signed myself out of my skype account on his machine, I think the whole experience of Holly, me and skype had confused the hell out of him.

2nd December
Reached the true bleakness of Libya today lots of wind (fortunately tail) sand sweeping across the road which was almost ghostly and large sections of road completely unpaved with JCB’s either side of the road. Despite the obstacles we still managed just under 100 miles. We camped tonight under a starry sky, Fathi cooked up a good amount of lamb and couscous and we watched the moon rise up over the desert. Spent the evening watching some of Fathi’s tourists videos on his laptop.

1st December
Today’s cycle took us along a busy 3 lane motorway, lorries were only allowing a couple of inches despite Fathi driving behind us channelling the traffic out of our path. There was drums full of sand in sections blocking one of the lanes, one Vauxhall Astra driver didn’t pay attention to Fathi’s hazard lights and tanked it past him straight into one of these drums, glass went everywhere but fortunately the driver was ok, a stark reminder to us of how alert we need to be and how vulnerable we are on bicycles. The busy roads did clear up a little and later on in the day with a good tail wind behind us we managed to clock 28mph!
After Sabratha we had to stop at Leptis Magna, a supposed must see, the pride of Libya. Leptis is the best preserved Roman runis in the world. I could see the excitement build up in Dom’s eyes like a 5 year old on Christmas eve. We understood the crack this time and agreed the guide rate before entering, the photos speak for themselves and you can see them on the gallery section. We were kept amused by the guides language/accent . As he was describing bronze pans it sounded just like he was saying ‘prawn pants’ and when describing bricks he’s say ‘pricks’ classic. My personal favourite was when he was playing Dom some of his music on his phone which happened to be U2, as I rejoined them after recording a little video blog all I could hear was “I like you too”. The jokes rolled off seamlessly for the rest of the afternoon.
When we arrived in Misratah I helped guide Fathi into a parking space right outside our hotel, I was waving him back in and I’m not sure if he saw more hold up my hand or say stop but he reversed straight into the managers car! Fortunately the car wasn’t damaged and the manager didn’t notice but not surprisingly that’s the last time Fathi let me help him park!
After a shed loads of dust particles in my eyes today I decided enough was enough and went shopping for some sunglasses, the best of a bad bunch I emerged from a pharmacy with a pair of Stevie Wonder style sunglasses which Dom found highly amusing. We also went shopping to a supermarket to collect some food for the next 4 days of bleakness ahead, no hotels, no restaurants, few shops, just desert. Our shopping list included 8 packets of crisps, 8 cans of drink, a huge bag of boiled sweets and 30 Jo Jo’s (cake bars) & that was just for snacks! Imagine the dentist bill when we get back to the UK.

30th November
Had a great brekkie across the street, hot chocolate/honey croissants x 4, had to wait a Libyan hour to get out passports stamped (must be done within 48 hours of arriving into Libya) so didn’t get on the road till well after 10. Today I occupied my mind by thinking of ways and means to approach companies for more sponsorship, we’re still short of our final logistics target and our Just Giving site isn’t stacking up as quickly as I’d hoped. I think a big PR push is in order once we reach the Tropic of Cancer late dec/early Jan and to get all the charities involved too. Not that the key objective of raising awareness isn’t being met, I’m really blown over by the profile the challenge is getting back home through the support of friends, family and of course fiancé be it through events or simply word of mouth.
Dom’s now lost his 3 top gears, they keep slipping and my bike seems to have made a surrogate home for an invisible mouse- a squeak that I can’t locate and oil/tightening of bolts and screws won’t solve. Hopefully the bikes will hold out until Benghazi when we’ll take a rest day and have some time for a bit of bike TLC maintenance.
Some tough hills as we approached our stop for the evening- unfamiliar territory as it’s been flat for the past 2 weeks! Also not a great welcome from some mouthy school kids swearing at us, a wave and a smile is generally better after having cycled 80 miles. We got a nice hotel at a bargain price, well, it seemed nice marble floor in reception chandellers etc but all came clear when we got to the room which is where the good impression dissolved. According to our lonely planet guide the hotel had been undergoing renovations since 2005 which were obviously still on going- that’s Libyan time for you.
The towns only restaurant of rather the only one we found was a health buster- a few dodgy kebabs and the spiciest chicken sandwich that even a Mexican hillbilly would have been proud of.

29th November
Today our guide suggested we visit Sabratha an ancient city of well preserved Roman ruins. Dom was reluctant as he was keen to get the days cycling done and far less keen when it comes to looking at ‘rubble’ but we decided to have a look as it was on our route and we needed to break up the chore of cycling through Libya somehow. We were glad we did too, fantastically preserved ruins dating back to 600BC and a really impressive museum, our favourite was an original fully preserved statue of the head of Zeus. Dom was in his element and had found a new love for ancient mythology and ‘amazing artifacts’ rather than ‘rubble’.
The highlight of the tour however had to be when I quietly suggested to Dom that he tip the guide who had been great. When Dom rejoined us Fathi asked him how much he paid him to which Dom replied “1 dinar” (about 50p) which would just about buy a bottle of water and a jo jo cake bar- not really enough to feed the family!  Fathi quickly scurried over to make amends and seeing as we had a rushed half length tour due to our time restraints we agreed to pay him 25 dinar; you see in Libya at tourist attractions it’s mandatory for one of their guides to take you around at a cost of 50 dinar. A group of European tourists spoiled it for the rest of us in 2000 when they tried to steal a piece of rock art 6000 years old from southern Libya in the desert. In our defence however we didn’t know we needed to pay the guide and all friends again we headed onto Tripoli. For the next few days there would be reoccurring 1 dinar jokes at Dom’s expense.
We were intending to crash with Dave in Tripoli tonight apparently he’d arranged our own apartment through his company but despite consistent trying I couldn’t get in touch with him and we had to settle for a cheap bug infested hotel room. We’re talking bugs in the shower, climbing out of the sink, on the floor, up the walls- not pretty. At least there was a good restaurant across the street that served lovely lamb and couscous, we even caught a bit of the Barcelona v Real Madrid game on the tele, also got a chance to speak to mum and Holly on skype. I’ve asked Holly to marry me at the end in the carribean, a lot of work to do now for a cyclist with no budget, on come the blagging skills.

13th to 22nd November

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

22nd November
Making full use of another rest day, we thought we’d try a bit of hotel blagging and headed for the Zone Touristique (tourist area!), where all the posh hotel complexes were. A world away from the hostel, this is more like it! A bit of blagging later, using media and documentary stories, we had got ourselves an all inclusive 4* one for £50 a night – right on budget. Bring on the buffets! I think that thought rocked Jon’s stomach too much, and we had our first illness of the challenge.
Actually tracking back, we think it was a dodgy draught pint from the afternoon before. I headed off to a live music bar with the two ozzies, which was good (although there were only about 10 locals there, and probably much better in the summer), and we spent the evening catching up on all our travelling stories – a nice break with different company, and away from Jon’s constant circular flow!

21st November
 No days are easy on this challenge, so we shouldn’t have had this thought as we battered headwinds through a bleak desert landscape. There was nothing for miles around apart from regular shacks offering water and petrol (we think) from some horrible looking drums and plastic bottles. It took ages to reach the ferry, and as the landscape was the same, I just kept counting down the miles on the GPS – a sure thing to make it go slower!
We jumped on the short 10 minute ferry to Djerba island, and even avoided paying, saving a grand total of 20 pence! As we disembarked, the holiday atmosphere hit us, but still a tough 15 miles left to go. The hostel was really difficult to find, luckily someone guided us to the heart of the medina (town/ market centre), where it was located.
The manager, who Jon described as a Sith Lord from the Dark Side (Star Wars) which is ironic as it was filmed in Tunisia, didn’t know what had hit him when we had to use all the plugs in reception to charge the laptop, iphone, video camera and digital camera. Leads everywhere!
The hostel was basic to say the least and more rubbish cold showers, but our room was a cool little cave, although the walls crumbled the second they were touched. We were having quite a peaceful evening chatting to a couple of older Ozzie travellers, until a Tunisian school party turned up. Bedlam followed, with someone having a full body wash in a sink, in another someone’s feet, and they trashed the toilets.

20th November
After an unscheduled rest day, we could finally jump back on the bikes and off to Gabes -  a mere 86 miler! We hit 32 miles in 2 hours (our best pace yet – not quite Cracknell and Fogel, but getting there!) We were really warming to Tunisia as we cycled through bustling market towns , the air smelling of spice and roadside BBQs. I don’t think Flossy was too happy that her friend Dolly has just been gutted and strung up above her. And to really rub her nose in it, one of Molly’s legs was already on a skewer and cooking on an oil drum BBQ next to where she was grazing on dirt!
The kids  were on fire today (not literally, that was Molly!), running out waving and cheering as we cycled past, which gave us lots of well needed energy boosts along the way.
We rolled into Gabes and I turned my nose up at the first budget hotel Jon pointed out. I shouldn’t have as I spotted the Atlantic Hotel, a freshly painted blue and white building in the centre. The first impression was good, and after seeing the rate of 30 dinars with breakfast (about £15), it was a done deal. However, I think a previous guest had mistakenly used our bath as a toilet and our room was above a night time jet wash garage. (I’ll take Jon’s suggestion next time)

19th November
We got up early and headed straight for the Libyan embassy – it was weird being in a car for the first time in 6 weeks, and terrifying driving at the same time! We heard that the embassy could do a 1 hour express visa, but unfortunately we also needed an invitation number which we didn’t have. So we tried calling all the Libyan tour operators we could, but were struggling to get through and our tempers were getting frayed.
Back at the hotel, we hit the email and got an instant reply from Sami at Ocean Tours. It looked like we were making progress, and after speaking to him on the phone, we had a confirmed police escort and tour company representation through Libya. Now we just had to wait for the invitations and visas to be processed, which Sami said could take upto a week, but we were hoping for 5 days. A celebration Chisha was in order (Jon’s wish since we had arrived in Tunisia)

18th November
We left Monastir at 7.30am in thick misty fog – this isn’t right, we were boasting how hot it was yesterday, but it soon warmed up. We were getting used to vehicles carrying absolutely everything! One small pick up had 12 sofas piled up, another had 4 donkeys and we were both almost slapped off the road by a 6ft sheet of plywood this bloke was holding on his moped! Well he was clearly going to fast as a wobble or two seconds later saw the plywood snap in two, spinning off and hitting a brand new taxi (not many around in Tunisia). The driver was a little upset!!
Showing off and without a town centre map we tried to navigate into Sfax just on the sat nav, and when we thought we were at the hostel, we were actually 2 miles away. After 80 miles of cycling we were nackered and so settled on this hotel with free wifi (and Jon actually managed to negotiate a discount!)
When Jon finally got off the phone to big Dave , I knew it wasn’t good news. Unfortunately no progress had been made with either our visas or sponsorship for Libya. It was only 4 days away until we planned to reach the border, and we were now on our own.

17th November
We were kicking ourselves this morning after realising that we had left Jon’s sunglasses in the Internet cafe last night, and unfortunately as it was closed, had to head off without them. We had a 77 mile cycle today to Monastir, and now getting used to the 28 degree heat, our strawberry and cream tans were coming on a treat! Fully prepared for terrible roads, we were pleasantly surprised as they were 10 times better than the rubbish in Italy.
We arrive in a beautiful marina where we had booked the apartment for £25 at 3pm, so making use of the warm Mediterranean sun, we recorded a video for the TCC fundraising party at Host on Jon’s iphone. We then rinsed a restaurant’s wi-fi to send the video to Holly (60mb file) – gotta love technology! The best bit was being able to cook our own food in an oven instead of out of a trangier on a hotel roof or damp campsite.

16th November
The morning started with someone wanting to buy Jon’s bicycle for 10 dinar (about £5), and then someone wanted to give me his address so I could buy him a bicycle! Africa was seeming strange, but we were relishing our new environment.

We then set about trying to navigate out of Tunis towards Nabeul! Interesting to say the least and we were nearly squashed by 3 trams (admittedly we shouldn’t have been cycling on the tracks). Luckily we eventually found the right road and the 40 miles soon passed. We arrived in good time at the hostel, with a supermarket, pizzeria and internet cafe all in close proximity. Jon got talking to a friendly Tunisian, Sammy, who was working at the hostel in exchange for free accommodation – a cracking £4 each a night.
Sammy seemed pretty keen on catching up with us, so we agreed that we’d meet up back at the hostel after dinner. As he didn’t speak any English, Jon suggested that while he had a cold shower (they were freezing!), I should show Sammy some of the pictures so far. It was hard work, but Sammy seemed to be understanding all the places we’d been to so far. However when Jon joined us he quickly suggested that he did Thai massage and would we like one. We politely declined and tried to carry on showing the photos. But when I showed him a picture of me having a piss over the side of a cliff in Italy, he said something in French followed by the words; “sexy time”. Initially, we didn’t understand, but when he kept saying it, we realised he wanted a bit! We were out of there quick smart and if that wasn’t bad enough, we then had to put up with Abul the dive bombing mosquito who continued his cycling adventure with us.

15th November
Starting to come to terms with the fact that we have now cycled to Africa! (bar a couple of ferry crossings). Tunis is a hustling and bustling city, even on a Sunday. As we left the hotel to find the cheaper hostel alternative, we found ourselves in the thick of the market streets. Luckily another touring cyclist spotted us arguing like a couple of schoolgirls at the side of the road, and helped us navigate to the hostel. It was an amazing little ‘den’ of a hostel, and Jon and I had our own room off the central courtyard for a bargain rate of £10. All kinds of people were there including an annoying Canadian Santa Claus on his holidays (he said he was a seasoned traveller, so it made sense!) A little Chinese man who had been there a few weeks, and some Algerian boxer and his over friendly mate, who loved stroking Jon and my faces for the group photos!

14th November
After 1,970 miles, the day has arrived to leave Europe behind and head for the next leg of our challenge, Africa. Now there are markets, and there are markets, but I have never seen a ferry embarking like this before. One car had two dining tables & 12 chairs on its roof, another had a moped and larder fridge/freezer! The foot passengers weren’t much better either, each person trying to carry 4 large suitcases each. And that doesn’t include a blender, 36 piece tea set and a 40” colour TV (old style!). So much junk, it was unbelievable. On our sparkling Ridgebacks we fitted in perfectly. Stick out and sore thumbs are words which quickly spring to mind!
When we arrived in Tunis (late, about 10pm), all the luggage we saw going onto the ferry had to then go through the Xray machines. As you can imagine this took a while, although we were kept amused when a bloke was required to push his moped through the bigger xray machine – that was funny!
Now with a year of planning you would have thought we’d have a plan next – well we didn’t! We had no currency, no map, no hotel booked, and no idea where we were going.  So we jumped on our bikes (it was 11.30pm by now), and headed for Tunis city centre. Not what we should be doing, and certainly not something I fancy on doing again. We had broken our first rule not to cycle blind in Africa, although not helped by the hostel which was fully booked. It was a 20km ride, and every second we had our fingers crossed for a hotel. Luckily we found one as soon as we hit the centre, and there seemed to be about 10 people working there who all wanted to help. There was also a party going on, but we didn’t want to cycle blind anymore. Despite a deaf DJ in the club below the hotel, we were so tired that we crashed out with the walls shaking and the beds vibrating!

13th November
We ate so much breakfast today, we added it up according to the hotels over inflated prices and worked out that we ate around €65 worth of food!
We then cycled 10 miles to a bike mechanic for a last check over on our bikes before Africa. We killed some time by trying to balance out the horrendous tan lines on our arms down on the beach – I actually look like a dodgy Neapolitan ice cream. Had a right touch though as the bikes were serviced and tweaked for only €40 total, which was brilliant. (wish we had put that saving into the wifi in the hotel!)
Spent the afternoon mincing about trying to find free wifi, but no success – at least I got my Smarties Mcflurry. A couple of supermarket Peronis helped too, and finished the day finding out that our waiter had lived in Bishops Stortford for 5 years – how weird is that!

31st October to 12th November

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Saturday 31st October
Flew like eagles into Rome, managed to get there before 1pm and even saw Holly’s Ryanair flight coming into land as were flying past the city traffic. Pretty excited about seeing Holly and Dom was really supportive about us spending some time to ourselves.
In typical TCC style we chucked together some food we had for our lunch today was jam rolls, we ate them in the hostel as we had to wait an hour before they’d let us into our rooms. We were kept amused by the receptionists ridiculously loud ring tone of Celine Dion’s ‘I am your lady’ which kept going off.
After an emotional reunion with Holly we went for a celebratory beer in the city.

Sunday 1st November
Enjoyed a lie in this morning and planned to go and see the Pope. We were told he was on at 12pm by one of the less than helpful hostel staff but in actual fact he was on at 10am. Holly and I still went to the Vatican while Dom befriended some Mexican lads he’d met on the bus and went to go and see AC Roma play. The guys were media students and had won an award for a documentary they’d made which was showcased in Rome a few days earlier- good contact to keep as they seemed interested in doing something for us when we get to Mexico.

Monday 2nd November
Left Dom in the hostel doing some admin stuff while Holly and I went off to celebrate her birthday. We started at the coliseum but decided it was not worth €24 to see a large pile of rubble. We had a walk around the outside and then soon had enough of the tourist zone. It started to rain so we darted into a restaurant for some lunch. Food was pretty dodgy and ironically it cost €24- perhaps we were destined to waste some money today..
I wanted to take Holly to the opera as she’s always wanted to go but it turned out a film was being shot in the Opera house and nothing was on anywhere else.
Not having much luck so far we ventured off to our hotel our friend Silvia had arranged. It turned out we had a suite, luck had finally changed. Drank lots and got reacquainted with my fiancé, the rest of the evening is censored for parental purposes.

Tuesday 3rd November
Dom did some tourist stuff this morning while Holly and I took a bus to find out where she needs to go tomorrow to catch her lift to the airport. We ended up taking the longest possible route but at least we got a city tour although Holly did get stuck next to a smelly tramp!
Dom got talking to a drunk Aussie who gave us €10 for the cause which was a bit of a touch because we didn’t have any money for breakfast.
Another yummy hostel meal for dinner- cold lunch time left overs (or perhaps the previous day) hostel staff still couldn’t give a shit.
Some evening bike maintenance found that I’m missing a really important bolt from my brake lever so we did a bodge job to fix it, fingers crossed it will hold out to Palermo where we’ll try and see a bike mechanic.

Wednesday 4th November
Left Rome after putting Holly on her bus around 12, can’t believe the time went so quickly, missing her already but feeling fully charged again now and ready for the challenge ahead.
Nightmare navigating out of Rome, terrible signposting and roads weren’t great. We followed one of Dom’s short cuts along an authentic Roman road which probably hasn’t been resurfaced since the Roman empire, was like cycling over stepping stones.
Got caught up in some bad weather which cut our journey to Terricina short by 20 miles which we’ll make up tomorrow. Conveniently stopped outside a cheap roadside hotel when we were preparing to put on hi-vis bands as the main road was pretty dangerous and no place for two cyclists, plus there was pot holes everywhere – hard to spot at night. Dinner was a bargain pasta dish, steak dish and a large Peroni for €15. The hotelier who can only be described as a Philippine sumo wrestler offered us salad or veg to go with the steak, we both said veg but got salad. Not to self must practice the lingo!

Thursday 5th November
Waved goodbye to the Philippine sumo wrestler at 7.30am – our earliest start yet, and proceeded to cycle a massive 110 miles to Naples, where we were meeting a warm showers contact – Dom did the quickest supermarket sweep yet, only to discover the card got declined – not happy, but we ploughed on. Cycling into Naples Dom thought he had found some new cycle buddies, but quickly realised the situation was a little hostile, and surrounded by 6 illegal immigrants on bikes, we had to cycle as fast as we could to escape an inevitable mugging.
We found the meeting spot for Francesco easy, and while we were waiting an older Dutch couple started talking to us and very kindly bought us a beer each – the most deserved one yet!
We met up with Francesco fine, and although we didn’t really didn’t really know how this all worked, we had a home cooked meal in the most stunning 300 year old flat conversion, and a decent shower and bed for the night.

Friday 6th November
Francesco guided us onto the road out of Naples, which was probably the worst road in the world (he did warn us!). They will not repave the roads as they are historic, so we figure that they are authentic Roman roads, unchanged in over 2,000 years. I thought I had lost a couple of teeth, and it was hardly a good way to promote the safeguarding of your nuts!
This continued for over 25km, before arriving in Pompeii for lunch, and then sent round in circles with rubbish road signs (again!), and realised by 2pm, we had done a staggering average speed of 5mph.
Then came the rain again!
Got to Agropolis just before sunset, and luckily the rain held out long enough to pitch our tent and cook a delicious tuna pasta!
Then came the thunderstorms…

Saturday 7th November
Wet tent, wet bikes, wet pants!
Friendly Italian cyclist called Luca helped us navigate out of Agropolis (a futuristic sat nav!), and through stunning mountain scenary. Poor signposting kept leading us onto roads we weren’t allowed on, especially one road through a valley. Thinking we had found a cheeky short cut, we actually ended up shit alley!
Did a keeno racer in all in one lycra after he overtook us (he wasn’t happy), and as the light was fading, Dom got his first puncture, probably one of the most incovient times to get a puncture as we still had 30km to go. Slow cycle downhill in pitch black followed, and we were looking for a left hand turn which couldn’t be missed, else we would have ended up where we were 2 hours before.
Jon felt like the gods were testing us, as it was Holly’s birthday.

Sunday 8th November
Weather looked dismal this morning, I thought it would be a good idea to create some waterproof socks out of a bin liner which were great for about an hour then it was like having my feet in two goldfish bowls! Boy did it rain.. all day..torrential monsoon style.
Dom resembled a pizza delivery guy carrying last nights left overs on the back of his bike in a pizza box which did us for lunch with some cookies.
Horrible headwind and winds along with the rain slowed us down for the first part of the day but we ploughed on and still managed 70 miles by the end of the day.
Found another deserted faulty towers type hotel and climbed out of a window onto the roof to cook some tuna pasta trouble was the gusty winds meant it took nearly 2 hours to cook.

Monday 9th November
We left the hotel reasonably early after managing to get our room for €40 cash – felt a bit guilty with the negotiation, but call it a TCC charity donation! Continued our pikey journey by stopping at MD Discount supermarket, eating our breakfast out of a shopping trolley, and listening to very bad Italian covers of Radiohead’s “creep” and sheeza sisters on their outside PA system. I certainly didn’t feel like dancing!
Made really good progress until a monster hill hit us just after month (basically the boil on Italy’s foot), but once at the top we enjoyed some distance across the plateau. Quick stop for some more camping fuel saw us purchase some very dodgy looking flammable liquid, and while topping up we were amused by a bad Italian driver reversing his Alfa into a CInciquento, reducing its length by another 10cm! The funniest sight was watching him blame the car park, lack of signs, weather and anything else which averted the blame from his cock up!

Tuesday 10th November
Exciting day today, as we were leaving Italy mainland and heading onto Sicily. We had 35 miles to cover first, and got to Villa Giovani in good time to find the ferry. Well typical Italian signposts saw us try a train station, goods yard (where a train was coming out of a ferry!) and cafe before finding the ticket office. And even then we weren’t convinced until we actually got onto the ship. Got pretty tangled up when we arrived in Messina, and I nearly ended up in a Smart car, when a foxy chick opened her car door straight into my path.
Followed the coast road (25km more than required), but it was beautiful scenery, and it was different to see mainland Italy from the other side. We found a campsite just as it started clouding over, and after another negotiation (33% off), got the tent set up & food cooked, just before it started hammering it down. We got about 2 hrs of sleep each as the rain continued all night, but Jon was also worried about slugs and worm juice on his flip flops – tart!

Wednesday 11th November
After a terrible night sleep because of the rain, it didn’t get much better today. The light drizzle when we started quickly turned torrential. I didn’t need a bike now, I needed a canoe! At least the road was reasonably flat. Well until we turned a corner on the cliff edge and a landslide had blocked off the road. A large part of the road had actually disappeared into the sea! We then had to follow a diversion up the steepest hill you can imagine, climbing to 2,500 feet. No chance of cycling, so we pushed the dead-weight bikes to the top! We found a tin shack for lunch, which helped escape the rain, but a flash then a crash of thunder – shit, it had just been struck by lightening!
Just as we were about to leave I jinxed it in typical style saying “what we don’t need now is a puncture” just as that was said Jon got a puncture- probably the worst place and situation anyone has ever had a puncture.
Shivering and soaking, we braved the dripping gloves and water logged socks to another fawlty towers coastal hotel marking it a 64 mile day where we enjoyed a feast of wieners and pasta cooked on our trangier .

Thursday 12th November
Woke up early negotiated a cheaper rate by excluding breakfast and were on the road by 8am. Come rain or shine we were determined to reach Palermo today to the sanctuary of our 4* hotel our friend Silvia had arranged, the buffet ‘fill your boots’ breakfast has kept us going this last week.
The weather actually turned to be good and we nailed the 85 miles to Palermo by 4pm. Found the hotel easy although Dom was disappointed with the poor quality of the room. When I ran a bath to find brown water coming out of the taps, we knew it was time to call reception for an upgrade. We were given the best room in the hotel- sometimes it pays off to be an arse!

15th to 22nd October

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

14th October (Day 6)
Making good progress today – lovely sunny day. although a definite chill in the air. All going well, until we realised that we weren’t on the road we should have been. And had been cycling for at least 12km in the wrong direction – rubbish!

Anyway, we decided to head for Ancy-Le-Franc, and found a lovely warm hotel there with internet access. With a takeaway pizza (essential cycle food!) we crashed out on top of the computer!

Day 7
Jon wasn’t feeling too great today, so used morning to catch up on internet stuff, and then planned to do 50km to Vittreaux where we found a deserted campsite. But it was so cold when the sun set, we were in bed by 7.30pm, after a dinner of pasta and frankferters! Rocknroll!

Day 8
No wonder we were so cold last night – the tent was actually frosted up this morning! And my bike was frozen, so the gears weren’t working that well. Anyway, we set off, even though I couldn’t feel my fingers and I was almost wearing all the clothes I had! But we made good progress through Beaux and lots of vineyards.My first blag was to negotiate a 1/3 off a hotel room for charity, which I did, and we then followed it up with €5 off our meal. – Touch!

Day 9
Big 110km ride today to get down to our hostel in Lyon, and planning the route along the Rhone river was a result as it was quite flat. When we got to Lyon we were directed up a very steep hill to get to the hostel. Jon nearly got to the top, but I was struggling with the weight on the bike. We found we were sharing a room with two Aussie winemakers, who were working for 8 weeks in the Rhone, which was quite ironic as that is one of the things Jon wants to do later on in life. The weather started getting misrable, and we witnessed a pizza man sliding off he moped (he was ok), and some very bad parking in the city centre.

Day 10
Brilliant – our first rest day. Managed to catch up on loads of admin, and update the website etc.and then we had a wonder around Lyon. We do look funny (well tramp funny!) in our matching casual clothes and flip flops, but luckily the weather was really sunny so we had fun taking lots of pictures of unsuspecting french people! We have been dreaming of home cooked burgers when cycling along, and for dinner we found a little Irish bar making home made burgers. It also had 3 lookalike film stars which was very amusing – Mini Me, Jason Statham and Jackie Chan!

Day 11
A complete bitch getting our of Lyon, partly as Jon’s ankles were really sore and I was so cold that my fingers and toes went numb – it was only 5 degrees! But the cycling was ok again as we were following the banks of the Rhone, and we were making good progress. So after lunch where I went into a supermarket 3 times as I kept forgeting things, we put our heads down and decided to go on past Valence (our planned stop). We then spent 2 hours mincing around trying to find somewhere to pitch up the tent, but with no success. Even the owner of a closed campsite wouldn’t let us use a small corner – jobsworth! Jon got the hump as it got dark and his ankles were hurting. But luckily we found a hotel, although I upset a mad frenchy south african lady suggesting the €50 would be a good room rate for her to accept! However she soon flirtly warmed up when she saw Jon and gave us some home cooked stew (which was lovely). Unfortunately when she extended this hospitality to desert we had to accept. She brought out two dishes which looked like ice cream, but in fact was a popular french desert of cheese and cream. Well it was mouldy cheese and lumpy cream and totally minging.

Day 12
I think she put us up in the coldest room of the hotel, but we woke up glad that last nights desert didn’t churn our stomachs too much! She very kindly gave us tea and french bread with lovely homemade apricot jam before sending us on our way. More flat roads, but after lunch the clouds got darker and then we had 3 hours of rain to deal with on our way to Chateau Neuf du Pape (Jon’s favourite wine). We pretended that we were interested in purchasing a case, and blagged wine tastings in two shops, before buying their cheapest bottle to enjoy over a supermarket buffet in our double room – cosy!

Day 13
Gusty winds – this day is going to be trouble! Well it was. The bikes were being pushed all over the place, and stopping at an Intermarche provided the only break in the day. It got much much worse in the afternoon, with the wind gusting to 50mph, the torrential rain battered us sideways.We both nearly came off our bikes when f**kin french lorry drivers added another 20mph of wind into the equation. We had to draw on all our strength and push on to get to our revised destination, Pertuis. Clearly camping was not an option, not only because of no campsites, but also everything was soaking. This was as tough, if not tougher than London to Dover, so we felt a great deal of satisfaction, when we found the budget of all budget hotels (which can only be described as a cave!). We found some morrocan food, with mountains of coucous and meat, which was just the ticket!

The Big Build Up, October 2009

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Well I knew this challenge would be tough but boy have we been tested in the last couple of weeks- we’ve been tethering on the edge but being a bit of an adreneline junkie that’s where I perform best.

After a year of planning we finally secured a lead sponsor- Plurimi Capital 10 days before the start date, with cash in the bank we were able to purchase some of the equipment we had not been able to source through sponsorship. By the time the money came in from Plurimi we literally had 3 days to make all our purchases along with final packing, goodbyes etc. Final purchases included outdoor gear (tent, stove, sleeping bags etc) and camera/video camera for documenting the challenge.

We did manage to source a net book, a 500gb hard drive and 10 4gb memory sticks from Technology Group which arrived at 5.30pm the day before we left so not a lot of time to upload software, transfer tracks etc. Other equipment we sourced was a Power Gorilla and Power Monkey (solar pannel) from Power Traveller, this awesome and vital kit provides us with power when there’s no plugs. Also we were povided with sports wear and emroided fleece tops from Otis Sports, cycle jerseys from and most importantly bikes and all of our biking equipment from Ridgeback and Madison. Our sponsors have all been amazing without them our challenge simply could not have taken place.

I must admit I didn’t really sleep properly in the days leading up to the challenge. We were scheduled to speak on BBC Breakfast a day before we left but I unfortunately found out a 5pm the evening before I was due on that they weren’t going to run my story. I was really deflated and gutted as I was hoping that could have been a catalyst for the remaining funds we need in our contingency account. After drowning my sorrows in a whisky for an hour or so I picked myself back up- this trip was going ahead before BBC Breakfast was on the cards so the show goes on.

Friday 9th October seemed to come around so quickly, before I knew it we were at the Bank of England surrounded by some 50 family and friends including people from each of the four charities we are supporting; Macmillan, Orchid, Willow and Starlight. We posed for some photos and then were off on our merry way. Without even having riden the bikes fully loaded before (due to time restraints) we began the 11,000 mile journey, next stop Dover.

London- Brighton aka Europe’s most hectic bike ride / 21st June 2009

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

This year there was close to 40,000 cyclists taking part which was a fantastic turn out for the British Heart Foundation, although ironic as there were people smoking while getting ready for the ride and at every single stop off point (one every few miles) there were participants sat on the grass devouring burgers! I’m no doctor but I’m sure smoking and bbq’s result in anything but a healthy heart.

We were booked in for the 9am start time and met up with a couple of friends who had the same start. They were a little more inventive than us having hired a tandem & even tapped cushions to their seats to combat saddle sore- genius! The shere number of people cycling made riding conditions difficult, it wasn’t like the Orchid ride the week before with serious cyclists everywhere- no most of these guys were complete amatures. When ever we reached a mole hill some people would get off their bikes and walk causing huge congestion which resulted in 30 minute long queues. That was fustraiting.

Nonetheless the weather was fantastic and we breezed through the ride although coming into Brighton through Ditchling lead us up a monster 600 metre climb over a mile. We rolled into Brighton and crossed the line in a respectable 6 hours (bearing in mind the hold ups which totalled about an hour and a half).