March 2013 presented me with a different type of challenge. I cycled 400km through Vietnam and Cambodia in 8 days. That’s right …
Not only was this a personal challenge, but it was one that supported girls’ education across the world. Did you know that there are 75 million girls who don’t have access to education right now – just because they are girls. I believe that education is the one transformative thing that everyone should have access to. It may not be formal education, but feeding into yourself to allow you to feed into other people is the basis of why human beings are where they are today. The fact that a class of people (women) aren’t being afforded that right is just not right and I stand against that.
Before this gets into the depth of my belief system, let me take you through ‘a day in the life of an African cycling through Asia.’
We’ll take it from day 4 ….
5:00am – alarm rings
5:09am – alarm rings a second time (totally love the 9 minute snooze allowance)
My eyes are bloodshot and swollen. My quads absolutely love me as they are being worked consistently. I jump into the hotel shower (the fourth one in as many days) and use the hotel shampoo on my hair. After the shower, I spray, no douse my hair with S-Curl No Drip and then cover my head with a hollow stretchy thick band, that really should be used to protect my neck from the sun.
5:30am – I start packing, as today my cycle will take me to another town in Cambodia. (Oh, I’m dressed in my cycle gear – a normal gym top and padded tights for extra cushioning, you really do need it) Then I start packing for the day. I need my electrolytes my water, my water bag pack, my lollies, my protein powder, my sunscreen, my bug lotion, my cooling towel … my passport and money.
6:00am – Downstairs getting my grub on. Made sure I always had two boiled eggs. The bacon in Cambodia is AMAZING … no A M A Z I N G … so I always had that. Their bread (cause of the French influence) is to die for as well. Juice and I add my powder into whatever juice I’m having (fun times).
7:00am – I’m in the bus with 33 other people as we are driven out of the busy town so that we can prep for the big day. Today we’re cycling 50km and are expecting a 37 degree day. We are told by our leaders that we should brace ourselves for another scorching day …
7:30am – it BEGINS! I had no watch, so I can’t break down the times anymore. But we prep ourselves up and offer each other support, give hugs …
Then I get my bike, who I’ve affectionately named … the bike … and start pedaling. It’s hard, it’s tough, it’s hot, it’s exhilarating… as we cycle through the towns, children run to the road from their homes, shouting HELLO HELLO HELLO and hoping upon hope that we would wave and shout hello back. Those are some of the most beautiful moments.
The toughest moments are when your legs are screaming out cause of the pain … the heat is beating down on you … no one is in sight, cause you happen to be going way faster than those in the back and a bit too slow for those in front … you internally scream and ask yourself … ‘what is an African woman doing cycling through freaking Asia in this heat!? I need to be on a beach somewhere with my boothang sipping on ‘ … and you quickly get back to reality as you realise that you almost got hit by a passing car that has been beeping at you for a little while … you push harder and harder … and your body goes beyond your pain threshold and then you start cruising …the pain stops … you push ahead … you love the breeze … you start realising just how much you love the freedom … and how you’ll love your legs when you’re done with this!
Lunch Time – Your group takes over a local restaurant where you are served a mouth altering feast. I ate the most amazing dishes while in Cambodia. They served their curries in coconuts and pineapples, their crabs roasted on an open fire, their fish freshly caught and roasted to perfection … beautiful. Just as you’re about to relax into it, the tour leaders give you five minutes to ‘get on your bike’
Cycle time: You cycle the last 30km which may take about 3 hours … there are breaks that are to be taken along the way, photos to freeze the moments, and times to just stop and reflect on where you are and how many lives you are affecting.
End of the Day – 5pm ish, – You check into a coastal town where the hotel is overlooking the Mekong River. You go up to the room and you remove all your stinking clothes. Assess your hair and realise just how dry, dirty and crusty it is. You shower, use the hotel shampoo and repeat your morning routine. If you have time, you take a nap, if not …this time around, you use mascara, cause 7pm it’s dinner time.
Repeat for the whole trip and change daily cycle distances from 45km, 50km, 60km to 86km …
It was the most enriching experience I’ve had in a while. In 2011, I trekked the Himalayas. There’s a purpose for doing this. One, I created this experience to allow people to personally challenge themselves physically, mentally and give of themselves to a bigger cause. The Because I am a Girl campaign is one that is close to my heart and for everyone that joined the cycle, they impacted the lives of girls across the globe.
I then pack for the day, make sure I have added electrolytes in my water.