Monday, 2 July 2018

Thank you Sponsors, Charities and Supporters!

And the final fundraising total for H2H 2018 is....$55,089.89!!! 

This is a new H2H fundraising record! Congratulations to team leader Craig, support leaders Davide and Ana, and all the 2018 team of cycling champions - fantastic job! What a dream team. This means that over 9 rides, H2H’s overall giving total now stands at: $338,747.38

Once again, all expenses were covered by the team and sponsors, meaning every $ donated went straight to our 5 amazing charities, providing access to education and healthcare for children in need across Vietnam:
Saigon Children, Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, KOTO, Live & Give, ILA Community Network 


None of this would be possible without the generous support of H2H's 17 official 2018 sponsors, donations from supporters around the world, raffle prizes and event hosting from local businesses, and of course the amazing charities themselves making a difference to families and communities across Vietnam. HUGE H2H THANKS TO YOU ALL! 
In particular, H2H would like to thank the following for making the ride happen:

- Lead Sponsor DHL for the 7th year running, for providing a DHL support van and drivers. Everyday, the drivers transported the team kit and assisted with navigation, drinking water, hotel bookings and safety advice. Massive thanks to the drivers and to Truc, Shoeib and all at DHL - you are brilliant!

- Lead Sponsor Repsol for sponsoring the additional support van and driver that travelled with the team, and giving a sizeable corporate donation on top of this. Again, massive thanks to Phuong, Jesús and all at Repsol – you are amazing!

- Lead Charity Partner Saigon Children for managing the online fundraising through Justgiving and all of H2H's media plan. Linh, Damien, Angelique and all the team - thanks, you rock!

In addition, H2H would like to thank the below list of official sponsors. Each one has made a significant contribution to H2H this year, enabling the ride to function effectivity and helping us reach a record fundraising total. Sponsors, we couldn't do the ride without you – huge thanks:

Giant Vietnam
Family Medical Practice
California Fitness and Yoga
Centralia College 
Heart of Darkness Brewery
OM Factory
Pasteur Street Brewing Company 
Nutrition Depot
NShape Fitness
Miranda’s Jewelry

      Special mentions:
      - Tan, Thanh and Minh: wonderful DHL support van drivers 
      - Ms Lien (TCI) and Mr Cuong: booking/driving the second support van
      - Thu: brilliant bike mechanic from Mr Biker
      - Linh Nguyen: our only Vietnamese rider, an ever-helpful language and cultural guide for the team
      - Eli Gaultney: H2H website and social media manager, and fantastic pub quiz host!
      - Storm Langley: H2H design and marketing manager, creating the kit design and event marketing 
      - Ian and Karen Gibbons: The British Consul, for welcoming the team home at the finish line and hosting a super homecoming cocktail reception at their home.
      - H2H founders James, Rob, and Sophie for providing the inspiration to ride, back in 2009
      Big thanks to you all!
Once again, a HUGE THANK YOU to all our riders, sponsors, charities, supporters and volunteers for making H2H 2018 happen and spreading the love. That's it for this year. See you for the next ride in April 2019, which will be our 10th anniversary ride. Hoping to make it the best yet :-)

Finally, here's a Saigoneer video capturing the homecoming: 

Chris Rolls
H2H Manager

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Day 28 Gia Kiem to HCMC

Last day of the ride! Doesn't feel like it. It still feels like we set off from Hanoi 2 days ago. We went through the usual motions, stretching, getting some Banh Mi, filling up water bottles, pumping air, loading luggage into the DHL vans, checking out of the hotel, hunting for lost gloves, and slathering on sunscreen. 

The road was dusty and busy, we were within city limits. Moe nearly turned off the road and cycled all the way home to Bien Hoa. 

I got a flat which was fixed in about 3 seconds with the help of Thu, our ever-smiling mechanic. Linh got a little knee scrape.

Thu, Sabrina, and Mr. Cuong

We got to Saigon's trafficky outskirts and had our first (and last) rest stop of the day's ride. Linh and I got there later than usual so the others went up ahead and we sipped on some ice-cold nuoc mia (sugarcane juice, aka the elixir of life). We talked about how surreal it felt to be back in Saigon and wondered how we were going to go back to 'regular life'. It was extremely strange to cycle past my apartment building, I flew out of HCMC 28 days ago and now I had cycled back home. It boggles the mind.

We lunched at Boathouse in District 2, everyone admitted to feeling strange. We reconvened at the zoo and after we took a million selfies we were 'go' for the finish line. We sang to The Final Countdown and the timeless sax from Careless Whisper - ride staples. Hugs and celebratory beers from our sponsors. Linh's parents gave us all gifts commemorating our ride in an incredibly thoughtful gesture. Ian Gibbons, British Consul to Vietnam and Chris Rolls, H2H Manager gave rousing speeches about the ride, the charities, and our sponsors. Our sponsors, without whom this ride would be impossible. The charities, the reason why we ride. The team, who make this ride a pleasure. I think I speak for our team when I say we're all grateful for this experience. Anyway, time to go celebrate in style at Heart of Darkness! H2H  2018, out.

Our welcome party
Go team!

Group hug!!

Team H2H 2018


Read about the ride at
Watch some excellent footage from our ride here, recorded and edited by Isaac Clarke, GoPro genius and lover of toast. 

Day 27 Bao Loc to Gia Kiem

Bao Loc is a lovely city, we stayed at possibly the best hotel of our trip thus far, and had decent pizza for dinner. To top that we met up with Storm in Bao Loc, a rider from last year and a good friend whose enthusiasm for the ride actually encouraged me to do it in the first place!

So the next morning with heavy hearts we got out of bed and trudged upstairs for breakfast. The heavy heart was because a. the beds in this hotel were mega comfy and b. we were only 2 days away from Saigon, GAH.

After a leisurely breakfast and some stretches in the hotel lobby we set off! We were told, by our navigational boy scout wonder Davide, that the road started with 1 LONG downhill (oh, the joy) and then 75km or so of flat until Gia Kiem.
Saz and Alice do some gentle stretching

At the top of the long downhill. Felt weird to be doing this without a big, sweaty climb beforehand 
This section of the route was absolutely beautiful. We were told it would be the last of the true hills and lush landscapes before we hit HCMC, which was another reason to take this one slow and easy. I was listening to the Norse Mythology audiobook written and narrated by Neil Gaiman, which really set the mood for cycling through a stunning, winding valley.

Today, I realized why we didn't cycle from HCMC to Hanoi, if we did, we would have hit this hill on Day 2, without any experience of being on the road, and we would have suffered for it. 

Here's Isaac using his DIY expertise on Ray's bike chain

At the bottom of the downhill, we stopped for the usual nuoc mia, cashews, and hammock time. And cycled on - Saz got a flat tire and had it fixed. We saw a strange installation with horse statues. We caught up with Isaac, Alex, and Kristy for more hammock time, lamenting about the heat, and leftover pizza. It was a regular, relaxing day on the H2H.

Until lunchtime. This year has seen the most rain on the ride and it usually rained in the afternoons. This meant we had to cycle in flimsy ao mua-s (rain coats) and wet shoes. On the other hand, it wasn't so hot. Linh and I decided to wait the rain out and have some Bun Bo Hue for lunch. That was good idea because the gentle rain soon turned into a torrential downpour. Thunder struck so loud it woke a man sleeping deeply in a hammock. The road turned into a river. Linh and I knew it was going to be a while. We sat and chatted on and on about everything under the sun, I'm really going to miss this. Having no agenda but to just sip on a cool beverage and enjoy the company of a good friend.

Here she is, Linh the Legend, 3-time winner of Mr. Sexy Time and my constant companion on the ride.
The rain finally slowed down and we set off for the last 35 kms to Gia Kiem. Another realization from today, human beings just weren't designed to cycle over 100kms in a day. Your brain just can't deal after a point. Maybe I'm overgeneralizing here, but those last 15 kms were A SLOG. Boy, was I glad to see the DHL van when I did. 

Andy and Moe got to the hotel first and could resist gloating. 

After a quick shower and kit wash, we headed to Lazy Town, one of those confusingly themed restaurants that all little towns seem to have, where the menu is overambitious and the food underwhelming. Nevertheless, we probably gave them the most business they've had in months. 

Oh, Lazy Town also had a dude in a rabbit costume. He was highly entertaining and had some impressive dance moves.

We had the best team meeting yet, led by the hilarious and sassy Kristy Himmler.

For 'fun time' we each wrote each other nice things, like a grown up version of a slambook. If the slambook was pages torn from a child's notebook and the notes were mushy motivational quotes. That page lives permanently in my wallet now. With that we headed off to our hotel beds, for the last time. Tomorrow, Saigon.


Monday, 28 May 2018

Day 26 Lam Ha to Bao Loc

Lam Ha to Bao Loc, another 100k plus day! But, the end is in sight. 

With just a few days left in the saddle the atmosphere amongst the riders has become even more jovial, with lots of talk about what we should do in Saigon after we cross the finish line. All the riders from Hanoi have been offered somewhere to sleep and given endless recommendations regarding the best places to eat every type of food from hamburgers to vegan salads. 

The thought of cycling 100k no longer  fills the riders with dread. We’ve all done it many times now! Still, careful preparation is the order of the day. Breakfast (more bread and eggs...really?) for fuel, and copious amounts of water strapped to the bike. Believe me, if you run out of water, you will soon feel the effects of heat exhaustion. All energy rapidly drains from your body and you can easily end up completely shattered sleeping at the side of the road. (can’t you Ray?) Future warned!

The ride itself was a grueling slog up and down one hill after another on a main road, the QL20. 

We stopped a few times to rest sore legs and drink coffee and maybe the odd can of coke. I pulled up abruptly on one occasion when I heard my name called from inside a small building which had a mountain of watermelons piled outside. A few of the riders had taken shelter from the midday sun and were busy chomping through their own mountains of watermelon. 

After the watermelon had been consumed, we made a concerted effort to get to our destination, Bao Loc. 

Bao Loc turned out to be a cool little town with plenty of places to eat and drink. There’s also plenty to see in the form of churches and pagodas! I might head back there one day....on a motorbike!

- Moe

Friday, 27 April 2018

Day 25 Lien Son to Lam Ha

Our days are numbered and we all feel it.
We’ve been cycling together for close to a month. Most of us were strangers before this. Today we’re a tight knit group and it’s sad to think we’ll be parting ways.

Contrary to what some us might have thought, this ride has brought out the best in us. It’s been supremely difficult to be sure, but instead of putting us at each other's throats, I’ve seen the generosity and kindness that each of us is capable of. We’ve all had our bad days-- the sickness, sunburn, hunger, and broken bike parts -- and each time some member of this team steps up, unprompted, to be the support that was needed. I have to think that this dynamic we have going is incredibly unique… and something each of us will remember about this time.

Something else we’ll always remember is the ride today. It was in the top three most challenging days, and at the same time one of the most special.

It was a long one. 114 km and 11,000 ft. of elevation gain. Everyday has its share of hills but this day included those long 10km climbs-- three of them. I was in the last group of riders wich included Davide, Saz, Kacey, Emma. It was hot and steep, and we kept taking short breaks in the shade wherever we found it. If this part of the ride had taken place a few weeks ago it would be noteworthy for how difficult it was. But this was day 25 and we’re past that. We're hardened cyclists… sort of… except when we’re not. But that’s neither here nor there nor especially memorable.  

At the top of the second big climb we stopped for a well deserved coconut and nouc mia. To my utter joy they had fresh fried Vietnamese donuts. But still, that’s not what made this day special.

We drank and rested and watched a dark sky swell up to the south of us. We’ve ridden in rain before-- quite a few times now-- but we decided to wait this one out. It was scorchingly hot on the way up the hill, but as the clouds and wind rushed in the temperature dropped. We rolled ourselves up in the hammocks and listened as the storm dropped down around us. It came in with energy. Hard drops on tin roofs. Wind strong enough to rock us in our hammocks. It was magic and ultimately lulled us to sleep. We went from wide eyed adults storm watching from a peapod-like hammocks to lulled asleep riders cozied up in our personal happy place.

What can I say but a cliché... all good things come to an end.

Mr. Coung, our support van driver woke us with a clap. 15 minutes later we were on the road again, this time cloaked in rain gear since it was still coming down a bit. One more 10km hill climb and we glided down to Lam Ha, our stop over town-- wet, muddy, and inspired.

As mentioned before, I’ll always remember this day with my people. I’m ready to get my normal life back and at the same time I never want this to end.


Day 23 The Final Rest Day at Buon Ma Thuot

Are there any two words in the English language more beautiful than “Rest Day”? I think not. This is our 4th and final rest day of the ride, and it’s safe to say that we are all very happy to have it.

We’ve been on the road for more than three weeks now, and all the small bumps and bruises we’ve had along the way, combined with very sore leg muscles, plus being out in the heat every day, it’s definitely starting to catch up with us. Today is all about hydration and recharging for the last five days of riding that lay between us and our arrival at the finish line in Saigon on Friday. There are hills in our future, big ones, but let us not speak about that today...

The overall mood of the team remains very positive. In what might have been his best idea ever, rider Ray Guerra suggested we find a slightly nicer hotel for these two nights in Buon Ma Thuot. Our accommodations on this trip have been pretty meager, but for just a few extra bucks per night we are in a four star hotel that feels like heaven. The hotel even has - wait for it - a pool! Upon arrival yesterday a bunch of us ordered a truckload of pizza and beer, I brought my portable Bose speaker down to act as DJ, and it was suddenly a fabulous pool party. Pure bliss.

For lunch today I went to KFC, once again realizing that the things we take for granted in daily life become special treats when they are taken away. Holy moly, I’ve never enjoyed KFC as much as I did today.

Getting laundry done, a trip to the grocery store to replenish my snack supply, and a nice long nap rounded out this lazy day. Others are off having coffee and smoothies and exploring the town.

Since this is my last opportunity to blog on the ride, I’d like to single out one rider and one sponsor in particular:

Linh is our only Vietnamese rider this year, and it would be impossible to list the countless ways she has helped the group, both collectively and as individuals. She has unlimited patience, and this ride would not have been the same without her. I hope H2H has more Vietnamese riders in the future.

The sponsor I’d like to recognize is Nutrition Depot. Andrew donated a big pile of powders and supplements to help repair our aching muscles, the whole team is grateful to him for his generosity. I find these supplements to be really helpful (especially the BCAAs) so, thank you Andrew and Nutrition Depot!

That’s all for now. Tomorrow morning it’s back on the bike. See you in Saigon on April 27th!


Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Day 22 Recipe for a perfect biking team

First start with a dash of Alice's surprising strength.
Add a cup of Andy's over sharing with a teaspoon of getting lost together with a splash of leadership from Craig.
Next, grind some of Davide's good memory seeds with a tbsp of boy scout navigation skills and throw in a generous slice of Emma's nice and caring spice.
Marinate some Isaac in a natural water source and add to the mix.
Finely dice some Jules determination and toss together with a sliver of John Payne's effortless overtaking skills.
Sprinkle the mixture with John Pemberton's fundraising flavour and roast until you have a coating of Krispy's hilarity and hand chops.
Most importantly blend with Lính's essential essence and a touch of her beaming smile.
Whisk in some of Moe's adorableness with a splash of unexpected attitude.
Carefully add a drop of Ray's supportiveness and sassy pout, if you can't find this a tin of peaches will do.
Mix in Sabrina's sense of humour and a glug of giggles and puree everything together with Saz's unwavering optimism.
Simmer over a low competitive heat and watch for bubbles of Kacey geekiness.
Season the dish with a generous helping of extra strong tenacious Tessa.
Finally ferment for a month in a humid, sweaty, environment and leave to rest in a bad hotel room.

Enjoy with a sense of achievement and wash the bitter sweetness down with an ice cold cup of camaraderie!

-Alex (and some brainstorming with Sabrina)