26 November 2012 These challenges really get under your skin! I have just signed up for the 2014 Challenge, cycling from Tanzania to Zanzibar 1st-9th November. Visit my new web-page www.justgiving.com.cyclingheeley
9 November 2012. So - our final day and a free day to explore Granada. We walked up to the Central Square where Dawn and I booked a horse and cart ride around The City. It is a fabulous city - colorful and bustling with a Moorish feel and wonderful architecture. I climbed 70 steps (stupid woman - with my jelly legs) to the top of the church tower. It was worth the climb to get a 360 degree view over the red roof-tops. The tour finished at Lake Nicaragua where we hopped on a boat to tour some of the 365 archipelogos. The outward journey was like a fair ground ride, but as we turned in to calmer waters, beautiful properties dotted tiny tropical islands, many owned by Americans. We hopped off to tour a Spanish style fortress before making a photo stop at Monkey Island. The monkies were real show-offs, posing for the camera! On the way back the landscape changed with overhanging trees, water lillies and lots of exotic birds. We were slightly concerned to be dropped off in a different place but the guides clearly worked some tourist magic, as a taxi pulled up to collect us. Dad (the driver), wife and two kids were delighted to take us back to the hotel for just $2. We wandered back in to town and had a drink before having some lunch and two very large Pina Coladas :-) We spent the rest of the day by the pool and then really pampered ourselves with a massage at a nearby Spa. It made you realise just how sore your muscles were. The top to toe treatment was just what we needed and we wandered back to the hotel truly relaxed.
We had a celebration dinner tonight. The support crew went to town with a $5 challenge - to buy fancy dress outfits. They looked great! All of us clubbed together to thank them for their hard work. They really have been amazing. The local crew (Coast to Coast) left Nicaragua last night with our bikes. They were still stuck at the Costa Rican border this afternoon, with a journey back to Panama ahead of them! Thank you speeches followed the dinner, including the announcement that as a group we have raised £288,000 for The Genesis Reseach Trust. Combined with the 2 other Central America trips the grand total is £432,000. Only 2% of charitable funds for medical research support women's health, so your contributions really do have an impact! The evening finished with a selection of poems, songs and some funny stories from some of the girls before we headed in to town for a final drink. The atmosphere was brilliant, with live music in the streets and rum flowing well. A 9am departure tomorrow to get to Managua airport, flying home via Houston. It will be a shock to return to the wintry weather and come down from the amazing high of this trip.
See pic above - completing yet another adventure!
8 November 2012. 6 were sharing 3 beds overnight but we were all so tired we had a good sleep. I don't think I moved all night. At 5am the wind was still very strong but the rain had stopped. More importantly the view of Lake Nicaragua and the volcanoes - spectacular! We watched the sun come up before breakfast and got back on the bikes by 7.30am. The wind eased but it still made riding tough. Although the terrain was flatter than previous days there was no respite from the pedalling or the traffic. We had to do several stretches in single file, through busy towns where American style trucks thundered past locals with horses and carts, whilst cattle and pigs were herded on the road-sides, tended by men on horse-back. We did 55km to lunch. It was exhausting and treacherous! Sophie and Dawn had watched one truck have a blow out and narrowly miss the girls in front. We had our packed lunch before the final stretch to Granada. We finally had a change of terrain as we turned off the main road but it seemed to get busier! At one stage Dawn, Sophie and I were driven off the road by a 4x4 overtaking a bus - scary!! We all made it safely to the next stop and after one final "undulation" we enjoyed the 10km descent in to Granada. Riding in to the cobbled streets was beautiful, with all the colours of the rainbow, busy shops, horses and carts, rickshaws, cafes and a bustling market square, before we finally reached the finish line. It was an emotional end, with an amazing group of women and a fantastic support crew. Lots of hugs, champagne, photos and cheering followed, along with a few tears. WE HAVE DONE IT!!!!!! We have crossed 3 countries. The logistics of moving 78 women and their bikes through this part of the world is a tall order! Combine that with 42 degree heat, pouring rain and a tropical storm - quite an achievement! So chuffed!
Tonight has been our first night of freedom. No instructions to follow, no wake up call booked and the choice of where and when to pee! We even have clean white sheets and hot running water - fabulous! After completely emptying our bags, we washed out the wet and muddy kit in the bath (wow) and headed to the bar for a large Cuba Libre ( they certainly know how to serve rum over here). 6 of us wandered into town and found a lovely restaurant for dinner. Starters, mains and mojitos all round $20pp. The best food we have had - happy days!! Needless to say we are now all struggling to keep our eyes open, so off to bed. Looking forward to a swim in the morning before a free day to enjoy in Granada.
P.S Professor Robert Winston left us today as he had to get back to a meeting in London. It was certainly an experience to watch a member of The House Of Lords on his knees at my feet, laughing his head off in the pouring rain, as he tried to bash tent pegs in to the ground with a wrench. "I should have trained as an orthopoedic surgeon" he said. He gave a very touching speech before his departure thanking all of us and all of YOU for the fund-raising. The research The Genesis Research Trust do WILL save the lives of women and babies, not just in the UK but also in countries like Nicaragua. He said he would truly miss our company on the journey home!
7 November 2012. It was a very sleepless night! So many people were getting up - each one turning on the light and at 4am people started getting up, showering and chatting away as though they were in their own room. The church group re-appeared with big pots at 6.30am to serve breakfast - rice and beans, scrambled egg and tortillas. Our shoes, bikes and saddle bags were still caked in the mud from the previous ride so we were seriously relieved to have a dry tarmac surface for the start of the day. We quickly covered 50km to the Nicaraguan border. We negotiated a long stretch on the Pan-American Highway, cycling in smaller groups in single file. There was a gusty side-wind which combined with the back-draft from the passing vehicles required complete concentration. At the border were long lines of huge American style trucks. We had to overtake them, look out for doors opening and be aware of similar trucks heading towards us. The queue to cross the border didn't seem too bad to start with but getting 85 people and bikes through the system was slow. We eventually re-grouped and pushed our bikes through the border in to Nicaragua. Sadly, they decided to be as awkward as possible. It took over 4hrs (from Costa Rican departure) to finally get our bikes through. This left limited time to complete the final 25km to camp but the lead group flew! It was the fastest pace thus far with dramatic views over the lake and volcanoes. Sadly, just as our luggage started to arrive and we collected a tent, the heavens opened! In howling winds and torrential rain we some how managed to get 40 tents erected, set up our beds and queue for 2 (cold) showers before dinner. During dinner a thunder-storm set in. The rain was unbelievable. Needless to say when we eventually plucked up the courage to venture back to our tents - they were soaked. When furniture started to fly about and glasses smashed Marco arranged with the hotel for us all to move in to a communal area, if we wanted to. Sophie and Anne's tent had collapsed and the rain had poured through our broken zip. When we saw the crew setting up under-cover (one in a hammock) we decided to pay for one of the rooms on site. The hotel staff were grateful for the terrible weather as more and more people reached the same conclusion. Although 6 of us are sharing we hope to get a more restful night. Google has just confirmed we are in the middle of a tropical storm, so we certainly made the right choice!
6 November 2012. I sat next to Professor Robert Winston on the 1 1/2 journey to San Rafael. We discussed Lauren's very long wish list for a prospective husband and the Prof's first question was "does he have to be fertile"? The time passsed quickly and we were soon reunited with our bikes. The support crew had left at 4 am to get them set up for us. The morning pace was quick and we soon covered 21km before a quick water stop. Things got hotter, hillier and rougher as the road quality deteriorated! We think it was pushing 40 degrees. I felt like a piece of bacon being slowly fried. The lead group reached the 50km point just after 11 am and we had a long break for lunch. After lunch was the (much talked about) off road section. Helen (one of the Discover Adventure leaders) gave us some general advice on riding off road and off we went. Her advice was invaluable. Dawn described this section as "hell!" Dawn is the Queen of hill climbing so her description really is a statement! It was like riding a bike through a quarry - dusty, pebbly uneven and steep requiring a much higher gear than you would like, to avoid the wheels just spinning from under you. Jugonault style trucks use this track so as well as trying to stay upright you had to avoid the two way traffic. It sounds corny, but as I anxiously started the first climb, I thought of all the people that have supported me with fund raising. I made it to the first break after 6km. We clapped, cheered and sang as each person arrived. The climbing continued on the next section and just to add to the fun I was chased by a rather aggressive dog. I lifted my feet onto the crossbar and hung on for dear life as the handlebars shook. Thankfully he gave up! At the next stop the skies darkened, the wind picked up and the temperature dramatically changed. A downpour followed and the dusty, pot-holed track became a mud-bath for the final 8km! We were literally soaking wet and caked in mud from top to toe, with the prospect of camping ahead! The highlight however was a young horse running alongside our bikes, leaping with joy! At camp, although the water was freezing we were relieved to find two showers. With 90 mud laden bodies, you literally walked into the water in your kit and scrubbed the mud off as quickly as you could before calling the next person in. The local children were fascinated and delighted with our selection of sweets and snacks. Two large rum and cokes and lots of singing followed in one of the local bars before the people of the community church arrived to provide us with a meal. It was delicious and the people wonderful. We ate well and are now going to sleep in the open sided community hall. A local chap arrived with a hugh plastic pole to clear the tin roof of sparrows. It is quite a sight - 78 women sleeping on mats and bags in one big room! The men from the support crew have left to give us privacy. We think they are sleeping in the trucks, guarding the bikes! We have a lie in tomorrow with breakfast at 6.30am but I don't expect there will be much sleep beyond first light! The chatter has just stopped and some snoring has already begun. Who said women don't snore! Night Night.
5 November 2012. After a traditional dinner of rice and beans we headed back to our room (4 of us sharing this time). The light in the room was so poor that we had to don our head torches. As we started to get ready for bed (another early night) we discovered our rather dirty beds and were soon joined by a cockroach!! You simply had to laugh as Anne used the lid from her moisturiser to trap it and I ripped the back off the Yellow Pages. He was thrown out but the noises on the roof, the fluttering of the wooden slatted windows and the noise of the howler monkeys made sleep tricky as we were all absolutely paranoid! This proved to be justified at 4am when we were awoken by the most horrific scream, closely followed by a second. We later found out that one of our ladies had been bitten by a beetle :-(. Needless to say we were glad to hit the road and took a steady ride alongside the coast. Our first stop was on a beach where we enjoyed fresh pineapple and water-melons. We passed through a Sloth Nature Reserve (didn't catch signt of any) and finally reached Limon. A serious logistical operation followed as bikes were dismantled and loaded on to trucks and we got on (yet another) coach to make a 5hr transfer to Fortuna at the base of the Arenal Volcano. We stopped for lunch and were surprised to be greeted by Professor Robert Winston. On the onward journey we watched with horror as they used a log to jack up one of our buses (after a flat tyre) but spent the majority of the journey laughing and playing scrabble. On arrival at Arenal we were in for a treat with an optional trip to the Hot Springs - a series of pools at varying temps, heaven for aching limbs. Finally with a 10 minute turn around, dinner in a local restaurant. What a day! Another 5am start tomorrow and 75km to do.
4 November 2012. Sophie, Dawn, Anne and I met in China so it was quite ironic that our meal last night was in a Chinese restaurant! We all enjoyed a good meal and were in bed by 8.30pm ready for another 5.00am alarm. We were on the bikes at first light, with the intention of completing the hilly stretch in slightly cooler weather. After 50km we reached the Costa Rican border. They certainly adopted the slow approach and it took nearly two hours to clear the checks. The border crossing itself was an experience - pushing the bikes over a wooden planked bridge (see picture above), with huge gaps down to the crocodile infested river below! A tropical downpour followed as we took shelter for lunch before riding another 50km to our hotel. The lead group arrived early and ventured straight to the Carribean Sea, where we saw monkeys playing in the trees. After checking in to our hotel we all ventured to the beach for a swim - fantastic!
3 November 2012. We had breakfast on the bus this morning and made the 3hr trip through the beautiful Fortuna reserve to the start of our ride. We were writing "get me off this bus" in the condensation. It took some time to get the bike fitting complete, but I am really pleased with my snazzy trek bike. The ride was very hilly right from the beginning but the toughest part was the humidity - it literally takes your breath away. With one or two mechanical blips we made it safely through the ride and saw some amazing insects and birds, including a giant beetle, as big as the palm of your hand, a black and white spider and a black and orange bird as fluorescent as a hi-viz jacket.
"Promises and lies" has been the phrase of the trip so far as everything seems to be further and longer than the support crew say, however Marco (our tour leader) was honest about the standard of our accommodation, describing it as a declining line on a graph. Tonight we have 5 of us in a rather gloomy room with a rather temperamental shower, but to be honest we were all grateful for any running water to get clean! It has been a tough day on the bike, particularly after 72 hrs of relentless travelling, but good to finally be on two wheels and enjoying the amazing scenery and jungle like surroundings. The local people are living in extremely basic wooden / tin shacks but they are so happy, waving 78 mad women on. Today was independence day so children were taking part in parades, including lots of beating drums providing a welcome rhythm on the hills.
2 November 2012. The grey-ing towels and yellow-ing bed-linen of The Hotel Roma Plaza were soon forgotten as we headed off to The Panama Canal. Our timing was perfect as a huge cruise ship passed in front of the viewing gallery! Hard to believe that work started in 1880 and by 1884 over 17000 workmen laboured on the huge trench, many dying of yellow fever. 88 sluice gates and nearly 250 valves control the water needed to operate the locks. We had a quick tour of the museum before heading to the coach. We travelled nearly 350km over 8 hrs, passing deep tropical vegetation through flat plains and finally through the stunning hill-tops (although I won't call them that when I'm on two wheels!). We passed the time playing scrabble on the ipad, watching the huge variety of birds and thunder storms which included some spectacular fork lightning! A 5am start tomorrow with a 3 hr coach trip before we finally get to ride :)
1 November 2012. We left Heathrow hotel at 6.15am and met up with the rest of the group at Terminal 4. With the support crew our party totals 90. The flight to Newark was on time with no signs of any disruption to service. An impressive 7 hours and 7 mins. We had a 4 hour wait in the US before the onward journey to Panama. I have to admit that we were so tired by this stage that the flight seemed to last forever (5hrs)! A short bus ride to our hotel in Panama City and we have finally arrived, just before midnight local time, 24 hours since our departure from Blighty. Good to finally be here :-). We have to be up at 6.30am prior to a visit to The Panama Canal and then on to David.
31 October 2012. Dawn and Ann arrived in Overbury at 1.30pm to collect me. Ann gave Dawn and I a gift for our travels - 2 saddle covers from www.bikeanimals.com. We are not quite sure what they are - a sheep, a cow, deer, dogs??? Our overwhelming urge was to put the covers on our heads (photo on FB). No doubt the first of many laughs! The covers will certainly appear in many future photos but will also protect our saddles from overnight rain (thanks Ann). We had a good journey to Heathrow and arrived at The Raddison Blu Edwardian just in time to meet Sophie and Anne in the bar (cycling pals from China 2011). The hotel is a welcome dose of luxury before we head off. After a couple of drinks and a good catch up we headed to the nearby Marriott for a meal. Good food and lots of funny stories! Ann has just left for her journey back to Leicester. Now an early night before a 6.15am cab :-) Tune in tomorrow.
Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page.
FOLLOW MY CENTRAL AMERICA BLOG HERE FROM 31ST OCTOBER 2012. Scroll down for the pre-trip count-down and updates.
I have just returned from 5 great days in Portugal with Dawn Hunter. We cycled on four consectuive days in wonderful sun-shine! A huge thanks to Dawn and Ann for putting Adrian and I up and hiring a bike for me (that was so much lighter than my own)! Great food, great company and great preparation for Central America.
Another £47.38 received from Music Magpie today - thanks to a second set of CD donations from Sandra Holden. Cheers Sandra!
In May I started a Silent Auction to win a 4-ball at Little Aston Golf Club. Congratulations and a huge thanks to Jill Church for her winning bid! Thanks also to Glyn Ridley (Secretary/Manager at Little Aston) for donating the voucher.
£80 raised today at The Kemerton Country Show. A big thanks to Emma Lowe (my cycling buddy from China), for helping me run the golf activities and sell lots of home-made cakes. The wind blew (very hard) but the rain stayed away - a good day!
Another £9 from The EWGA Gang today - from CD sales. Thanks to Sandra for donating the CD's and filling my car (again) with car boot goodies!
My Mum and Dad have raised £40. Every few weeks, Mum baked a cake or pavlova and Dad took it to work, selling to his colleagues at £1 per slice. Thanks to Mum, Dad and the staff at South West Highways. Dad retires next week and I am sure they will all miss him (and the home-baking)!
£76.90 received in the post today from Music Magpie as a result of Sandra Holden's CD sales. Thanks Sandra.
A great Charity Golf Day at North Wilts Golf Club on 28th May. The golf club staff and members were brilliant! The competitors enjoyed a beautiful sunny day on a wonderful golf course, followed by great food and everyone was digging deep to support the Charity - thanks to everyone x
A huge thanks to Sandra Holden for donating her CD collection for car booting! And thanks to the team at EWGA, who raised £38 buying their favourite CD's for £1 each.
A huge thank you to Emma Lowe for letting me raid her garage for a weekend of car-booting. Thanks also to Adrian for helping me man the stall and getting up at 5am on both mornings!
On 8th May 2011 I completed a 450km ride though the Beijing province of China, raising just over £4,000 for "Women for Women" (the charitable arm of The Genesis Research Trust). The entire experience, from the training to the fund-raising and finally to the ride itself was such an amazing experience and one which I will remember forever!
On 24th May I was invited by Professor Robert Winston to attend a celebratory reception at The House of Lords, where the attendees were delighted to learn that the Cycle China Challenge had raised £600,000! This is a significant amount of funding and goes some way to supporting the largest UK-based collection of scientists and clinicians, who work tirelessly to help find the causes, and therefore the cures, for many conditions that affect the health of women and babies. Many of us were inspired to do more, so it didn't take much persuasion for me to sign up to another challenge. For those of you who think I am completely bonkers.........all I can say is that drinking at lunch time is never wise! In November 2012 I will be cycling from Panama in to Costa Rica, finishing in Nicaragua.
1 in 18 babies in the UK are born prematurely. 1 in 4 babies are miscarried. 1 in 175 babies is stillborn. 4,370 women die of ovarian cancer each year. 1 in 10 women suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome. The Genesis Research Trust need our help to fund vital medical research.
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