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Go-Pro video featuring clips from the cycle through Vietnam to the Cambodian border.
Distance: Who’s Counting!
Last day & the Challenge will be achieved! 🎉🎉🎈🎈🎈🎈🍾🍾🍾🍾🍾
Again we were up before sunrise, but we had a 2 hour transfer to our starting point via coach, so a chance to grab some much needed sleep.
Today was a short run, around 40k but tiredness is now really kicking in!
We set off on a short stint that led us straight to lunch on the outskirts of Siem Reap, and it wasn’t even 10 am!
The restaurant was beautiful with hammocks to relax in after, but there was no hanging around today, back on bikes and a final push to the ticket office for Angkor Wat. The road was open with little shade and it was hot! We arrived at the ticket office where we collected our tickets that allowed us entry to the Temple complex and decorated our bikes with balloons.
In close convoy, the 100 ladies decked out in balloons & Women V Cancer t-shirts cycled the last few k to the main area in front of a temple where a banner, bemused clapping tourists & at least one partner of the ladies cycling greeted us.
A few cheers & hugs, a quick photo and it was all over!
Bikes were returned, a quick change of clothes on the coach and we had an hour & half to explore Angkor Wat before transfer to our hotel where a celebratory dinner awaits.
So that’s it – done & dusted!
Thank you for all those who have supported me, either by making stuff for me to sell, helping make a Moon Dance the success it was, buying, donating or rocking out with me!
If you haven’t yet donated or feel so impressed with my achievement that you would like to give more, head over to my http://www.justgiving.lisa,,,,. and show me the money!
So far the ladies on this challenge have raised over £360,000!
Distance: 70 miles
The penultimate day of the challenge had arrived; 110 k/70 miles, with temperatures expected to reach 36 degrees by lunchtime.
We gathered just before dawn at the front of the hotel waiting for the sun to rise before mounting up and setting off for Kampong Thon.
To help combat the heat & dust, the crew had organised water & ice stops every 10k at the roadside, with a rest/water/snack/toilet stop at Buddhist temples every 20k and lunch would be at 72k.
So myself & Clare, my new found cycling buddy, broke the mileage down into stops. Before we got to the hotel there would be 9 stops so we just had to cycle the 10k and then move to the next.
Once we had cleared the town of Kampong Cham, it was one hot, dusty, tarmac road that seemed to stretch into infinity.
The scenery was parched, occasionally we passed through busy villages otherwise the road was lined with stilt houses, yellow grasslands dotted with cattle, rubber plantations and the most interesting a street full of stone masons. The air was filled with the sound chiselling & grinding as huge blocks of stone were transformed into enormous Buddhas, Gods and every kind of statuary.
My bike did not cooperate today, had to have an unscheduled pit stop with one of the bike mechanics from the crew, as there was squeaking & grinding. A fix was made but it lasted a short while, and I lost several gears early on, then in the last 10k, gear changes were fraught with problems.
But despite my bike not playing ball, I am happy to say I smashed it!
Tomorrow there is a 2 hour transfer to our next start point, please God, let it not be a long, straight tarmac road!
Sorry no photos, internet can’t take the strain!
Distance: 38 miles
Another horrendously early wake up & then a 2 hour transfer to our start point outside of Phnom Penh, a local service station, where you could buy coffee, savoury & sweet snacks, fried bugs, some kind of maggot & crispy tarantulas. They seemed to be going down a storm with a group of monks whose coach had also stopped.
The day started out at 6 am refreshingly cool, enough for our guide to mention he was cold ( I think it was in the high 20’s) but the temp rose rapidly as the morning progressed. Our first 20k was a long stretch of dual carriageway followed by main road. Whereas Vietnam was hot, wet & green, Cambodia was hot, dry & very windy.
The fierce headwind slowed our pace drastically and as the temp climbed to 36, it also sapped our energy. The wind was very strong & gusty, pushing the bikes off course and at the rest stops, the bikes were constantly blown over. We stopped at a Buddhist temples for rest, cooling & re-watering.
The streets were lined with children, there cannot be a child in Cambodia we haven’t said hello to! The Cambodian kids were much more forward than the Vietnamese and as it was the weekend, they were out in force. Every child waves, shouts hello and some ask your name, so you are constantly shouting hello & waving back whilst smiling. This was not a problem in Vietnam, but here the weather made it a mouth drying, dust filled experience. Hopefully they will all be back at school tomorrow!
By now it was hitting 36 degrees, and we were off the main drag, passing through village after village. Stilt houses lined the road, the underneath used as a barn, workshop & utility room. Most families had one or more Brahman type cattle that were either grazing the roadside or tethered in the front yard. Every house had a dog and at least 2 children!
Distance: 80+ miles
Today wasn’t about cycling, but it was about traveling.
Up before dawn, we were shuttled to the port at Chau Doc to board our Hang Chau Express boat for the 6 hour trip to Phnom Penh. Initially worried that 6 hours on a small boat kitted out with airline type seats (think EasyJet without the Orange) would be purgatory, but tiredness saved the day. Can’t tell you a thing about the journey apart from this:
It was a very wide river
The boat went fast
With all windows and doors open it was cool
We stopped at the Vietnamese border post & changed money.
5 minutes later we stopped at the Cambodian border post and were counted by an official where
The flag on the boat changed from Vietnamese to Cambodian, as did the crew. 🇻🇳🇰🇭
For the rest of the time, dear friends I was out like a light, sparko, comatose, dead asleep, so we could have passed the 7 Wonders of the World & Buddha himself, for all I knew.
On arrival at Phnom Penh, we had lunch in a fantastic waterside restaurant and then had the choice to go straight to hotel for bike fitting or visit The National Museum (unfortunately Royal Palace was closed to visitors as the King & Queen Mum were celebrating a Buddhist holy day). For those girls looking for a Prince Charming, don’t bother wearing a glass slipper to a ball at the Silver Pagoda, the King is unmarried, in his 60’s and is a classical ballet teacher, his father said ‘he loves women as sisters’.
The National Museum is small and our tour concentrated on statuary from the Angkor Wat era. Our guide was a funny & fascinating lady, who had been orphaned at 11 by the Khmer Rouge and was sent to work in the rice fields. The museum was abandoned during this period and a huge colony of bats moved in. After the defeat of the Khmer Rouge, the museum had lost many artefacts from theft but also irreparable damage to exhibits made by the bat droppings.
After our tour we returned to the hotel for dinner and then jumped into a Tuktuk for a trip to the night market. As with most markets, full of tat, but a small couple of purchases made and we were also entertained by what looked like ‘Phnom Penh’s Got Talent’ on a central stage. A couple of Cambodian rappers were so good I would have bought their CD.
So tomorrow we get a bit of a lie in, breakfast at 5.15 am, before a bus ride out of the city to the start of the final 3 days cycle to Siemens Reap!
Dawn at the port
The Royal Palace
Distance: 44 miles
A horrendously early start with a 4.15 am alarm, really felt tired this morning as only got a few hours sleep last night. After breakfast we boarded buses for a 3 (?) hour transfer to our start point. I dozed through most of it so have no idea what time we arrived but sun was out, out, out.
After a pit stop of mid-morning snack it was time to hit the road. Today’s route ran alongside one of the Mekong’s tributaries, but this was no sleepy backwater, both river & road were busy with traffic. Huge narrow draft boats, painted with the ‘lucky eye’ on the prow, carried cargoes of building materials and stone. Stilt houses lined the banks, water hibiscus grew in abundance. Although the plant is useful as animal fodder & fertiliser, it is a rampant weed that threatens to overtake the river, making it impossible to navigate.
Gradually we moved away from the riverside, to cycle through acres of paddy fields and in the distance through the haze we could see hills, our final destination.
The heat was incredible and just as you thought you couldn’t go on, you suddenly saw the waving arms & friendly smile of one of the Vietnamese support team, complete with cold water & ice. After refilling water bottles, the cold water & ice were used to bring down body temp. Cups of freezing water were tipped down shirts and over heads. Everyone dunked their cycle helmets, and filled their buffs with ice to rest on the back of necks. Many of us stuffed ice cubes into our bras or into the holes in your helmets so it would gradually melt. We all kept an eye on each other’s water intake, as yesterday several ladies were taken ill after drinking so much water on the long road that their sodium levels dropped dangerously low. Thankfully our support team has 2 doctors so overhydration was quickly recognised rather than the dehydration the ladies thought they were suffering.
Lunch was again amazing, the roadside restaurants we have stopped at, have all provided fantastic food, and here we had the opportunity to thank our Vietnamese support team who would be leaving us at the end of the day. We had cycle guides, the mechanics , the water stop drivers all of whom went above & beyond the call of duty. Always happy to point out a ‘Happy Bush’ or if indeed there is no convenient outdoor location for a roadside wee, then asking local families if the stricken lady could use their toilet facilities. Ahh the toilets you may ask, pleasantly surprised, somewhat smelly but doable, but have experienced worse in French ski resorts circa 1980!
As you cycled closer to the border, you could see subtle differences in the people & were surprised to hear for the first ‘party political messages’ being broadcast from speakers along the roadside, why it was deemed necessary in this area, I have no idea.
The last run to the hotel was a steady climb into the hills, but with the route scattered with pagodas, buzzing villages and the ever present shouts of ‘Hello’ from local children, it was interesting rather than arduous.
Our reward, a night in a fantastic hotel with views that stretch for miles over the valley we had cycled through.
Tomorrow we have a day off the bikes as we take a 6 hour boat journey upriver to Phnom Penh, crossing into Cambodia.