Kate and I had been wanting to align ourselves with a charity and as 2 passionate mums, we wanted it to involve children. Kate had a contact in her business network that was the CEO of the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation dedicated to breaking the poverty cycle through education and they were planning a 40km walk in coastal Victoria. When I mentioned that we should do it, Kate turned to me and said, you know I have a bad back, I can’t walk 40kms. I think we should cycle from Cambodia to Vietnam instead. How many kilometres is that? I asked. 400 she said. Cool I replied. Oh, and we need to raise $5000 each, no problem!
At this stage I knew my bicycle sat in my garage, rusted and with a flat tyre. Although it was recommended that we start training 12 months before we left, I took my bike to be renovated 2 months before we were due to leave. After taking one look at the bike I was told it needed major work. After getting it back 1 week later and deciding to go for a serious ride I promptly fell off the bike. I know that they say you never forget how to ride but I had definitely forgotten how to turn.
So, back to the bike shop, bike broken and Sonia bruised. The bike was quickly fixed and within one week I had fallen off again, this time, at speed and black and blue from knee to hip. The gentlemen at the bike store, sighed, put the bike back together and sent me off again. Kate and I raised $15,000 between us with incredible support from our families, friends and business colleagues so by the time I got to Cambodia I was feeling great! Until the first day arrived and we hit the jungle trails.
There was no bike path to speak of and dodging overhanging vines and roots across the trail made for a terrifying day. Combined with 37-degree heat and 90% humidity, I was convinced I was going to fail! We only rode 35 kilometres that first day and it took 8 hours. We started the day watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat and watched the sunset inside its sacred walls.
6 days followed of amazing scenery, beautiful people and a bond between the 10 riders that has led to lasting friendships. Never have I been so challenged physically, mentally or emotionally. Kate and I never gave up, despite heat rash, destroyed muscles, pressure sores and yours truly experiencing 5 days of gastro. Oh, and I never fell off, there are such a thing as miracles!
Our last day was spent meeting the children supported by the Christina Noble Foundation and the real motivation for our ride. We were so humbled to be able to spend time with such beautiful children that desperately needed support to change their lives. I cried so much as I held babies in my arms that were blind and disabled from the lasting effects of the Vietnam war. My heart broke as I sang to the children twinkle twinkle little star, just as I did to my own children when they were little. We were so proud that the Aussies in our group raised over $50,000!
We left Vietnam with so much more than when we started. A true sense of pride that we had achieved something so physically and mentally challenging. A better understanding of a culture that had truly suffered and a knowledge that everyone can make a difference to others, you just have to try.
And yes, we are planning our next ride with the Christina Noble Foundation, in 2020 we are hoping to do it all again in Spain, anyone up for the challenge?