Student life. Pea Soup. Mountain goats on TV shows and hairless gorillas. The story of Day 10...
The day started early with us leaving the Hotel at 5:45am, when I say hotel, you may think glamour, holiday, relaxation, unfortunately with limited cycling equipment and long days on the bike my room is more like a laundry than a hotel. Before I left Nic gave me instructions on how to do my own washing and she proudly sent me on my way with a bottle of washing liquid. Whilst there's no way I can remove the stains I thought I was doing a good job cleaning my clothes, I was horribly wrong...I got in the lift at 5:40 and two friendly Vietnamese women were in the lift, what looked like an elderly lady (mother) and daughter. I put my bags in the lift and the door closed, as i looked at the numbers counting down (as one does for some unknown reason when in a lift) I noticed movement behind me via the mirror effect lift doors, the older lady had slowly lifted her hand over her mouth and nose, as she was very old I thought to myself that maybe she had uncontrollably 'dropped one' in the lift, then I saw her nudge her daughter and nod towards me, and then I saw her pinch her nostrils closed to stop the smell. OMG!, I was astonished but perhaps not surprised as when I walk back into my laundry room each night it is an assault on my nasal passages, with a heady mix of sweat, dirt, and dampness filling the air and sending me unconscious. As the lift bell rang and the lift doors opened I held the door open with my arm held high and armpit protruding, and in the style of a true gentleman I insisted on the ladies leaving first. The older lady refused at first but when I kept saying 'no, please, ladies first' she reluctantly accepted. I think I heard her gag as she crossed under the armpit bridge. I honestly may need to burn my clothes upon arrival into HCMC.
The student theme continued as we got into the van for the short transfer. As breakfast wasn't available at such an early hour the guys bought pizza the night before from a local bakery and decided to eat that cold for breakfast. A meal of champions to start the day Jon tells me, he reckons Sir Bradley Wiggins swears by it, and frankly after the morning performance I can understand why.
We pulled up at the start of the ride, and it really was a day where you wouldn't choose to ride. The rain was coming in sideways, a big headwind, low cloud, mist and fog and only 20 degrees. A real English day In Vietnam. We got our gear on and were ready to go, but there was a lot of nervousness amongst all of us as we got on the bikes, before we started we needed a talk. So I said; if we had to choose to ride today we wouldn't, but did the children who we are trying to help save choose to have congenital heart disease? no they didn't, so today for those children who didn't get to choose and for whom we are riding for we have no choice, we keep riding no matter what, today for us it will be tough but this is just like it is everyday for the children we are trying to help, so today we keep going. And with these words we headed off into the cold and wet like 4 NSW greyhounds going out of the traps for the very last time. We set an incredible pace doing the first 30km within an hour, and this pace continued for hour two when after 55km we had to reluctantly say bye to Mike. It is incredible to think I only met Mike for the first time 2 weeks ago at an AIS function, I am absolutely amazed that he committed to do the ride in such short notice after learning about what we are doing, and I am staggered that he has managed to raise over 4000 USD for cyclefor16 in this time. Truly outstanding commitment, effort and contribution Mike, you've made a huge difference, well done and thank you.
With our clothes soaked and our shoes feeling like full Wellington boots we carried on through the very steep rolling hills of the central highlands. We supposedly passed majestically views of the mountain range, with coffee plantations and pepper farms either side for us to view, for all we could see it could have been an industrial estate. We kept going. It was tough, we climbed into the mist and fog, we couldn't see the top of the hills we were riding up, the motorbikes overtaking us were disappearing into the mist as if being teleported to another sunnier warmer location in Vietnam, and with delirious hope that may be happening we continued to chase the mist in the horizon.
Just as we were ascending a rather large hill I started to feel something very wet running down my thigh, I thought back to the old lady in the lift and her potentially losing control of herself, I thought it can't be rain as I'm soaked through, this is a constant stream of water running down my thigh, what has this bike ride done to me?! And then I noticed my camelbak, the plastic top had come of and 3 litres of water was emptying itself onto my inner thigh... It wasn't raining today it was pouring. But it was good, it was tough, and this is what it should be, this is what was intended, this ride should partially reflect the extreme daily challenge every child with congenital heart disease goes through, and with this in my mind, we were off the seats and ascending the mountain.
With 10 climbs complete, Jon (aka hairless gorilla) took me to a place far far away, a place with sun, sea, sand and surf, a place a thousand years away from our world today... As we started climbing the 11th hill, the hairless gorilla said go ahead you $&#¥!@ mountain goat!, all I heard was Mountain Goat, a wonderful beer from NZ to be had sat on the beach watching the sunset and late afternoon surfers. Whilst in this daydream state, I forgot to change gears, almost lost control of the bike and nearly ended up in the storm drain, recovering, my mind drifted towards Saturday and the cold beer that awaits.. If anyone can find Mountain Goat in Vietnam can you send it to the Caravelle Hotel for Saturday please. And if anyone from Mountain Goat is somehow reading this I'm happy to add daily references for a years worth of beer :) I'm also happy to swap this last paragraph to James Squires if required :) :)
As we reached the top of the very long 11th climb we stopped for a drink at a roadside cafe and I quickly checked my emails, I was disheartened to receive one from Simon Breen who informed me his man flu has now turned into very bad man flu and he may not be able to join the ride in Nha Trang. I do hope he gets better and can join us for at least 1 day as Simon (& team at Geometry) have been such a huge and important part of this journey, Simon has been with me from Day 1 over 7 months ago, he has had to put up with me and together we have managed the meetings with Heartbeat, managed the schedule, created a wonderful campaign, attended all the hospital visits (excluding Danang), met families in the Mekong delta, etc...he has been an absolute legend, I couldn't have done this without him (or my wife) and I truly hope he can join me.
The next email lifted me immediately back up as it was an invitation to participate in a primetime national Vietnamese TV show which highlights how and why some foreigners are trying to help Vietnam and its people. I very much look forward to being on the show, but I'm not sure there is enough make up in the world to make me look acceptable for TV as I have a face for radio!!
As we set off again the hairless gorilla claimed he wanted a handicapped start for the next climb, claiming his additional weight was hindering him, I'm not sure if he was referring to his bike or himself, but as he's bigger than me and does Thai kick boxing i decided to give that question a miss, and let him set off with his handicaps :)
As we climbed the final hill we starting discussing the future, I have always said that I hope this initiative inspires others to do something, to try and make a positive difference to a part of our community in need of help as I have tried this year with cyclefor16, and the Guerilla and I discussed the idea of a Baton which would be passed on each year, a baton that would be inscribed with the name of the grass roots initiative conducted each year for Heartbeat Vietnam. So if you have an idea for an initiative and your committed to follow through to make a difference to many disadvantaged children who desperately need help, let me know your idea for your initiative. The person whose initiative it was in the previous year gets to decide which initiative is chosen for the annual Baton :)
Today was great, a tough ride but hugely motivating, it was a ride with meaning and we all felt it. Tomorrow will be fantastic as I get to see my wonderful and beautiful wife.
Off to Dalat for Day 11.
Thanks for making a difference and saving a life this year.