Today began even earlier as usual as we spent the night as guests at Thien An and were invited to join the kids for morning stretching at 6.45am sharp. Our usual stretching guru Sydney was sidelined by a six year old girl who decided to up the ante by making use of some catchy music to encourage participation from the group. We enthusiastically joined in but were made to look like amateurs by the dozen or so kids in front of us.
We were treated to a delicious breakfast, which consisted of fruit juice, coffee, ham, cheese and freshly baked bread straight from the orphanages’ in-house bakery. Words cannot describe how much this was appreciated considering we’d just completed our third full week of eating noodle- or rice-based Vietnamese dishes for breakfast. It certainly would have been the wrong moment to choose to go to the toilet as within minutes every last crumb had vanished.
The hearty breakfast certainly set us in good stead for a 107km day but nothing could have prepared us for the challenges we faced later in the afternoon. When we stopped for lunch at around 60km in, everyone seemed to be having a good ride but as soon as the afternoon sun took over the sky, people were evidently beginning to struggle. Temperatures must have been close to 40 degrees C and combined with endless hills and a nasty head wind they did not make life easy. At one point, myself and those around me were conquering little more than 14km an hour and patience was wearing thin by the time we reached 90km. The last 20km or so were among the most difficult I’ve experienced on the ride and judging by the faces of my teammates at Ea Drang I wasn’t alone on that.
The intensity of the afternoon was made bearable by one thing. We had started our day with the orphans at Thien An and interacting with them served as a great reminder of how incredibly lucky we all are to be able to do what we are doing. Witnessing first hand the work done by the nuns there was inspirational and we are proud that some of the money we are raising will help them improve the lives of some of Vietnam’s most disadvantaged children.