Luke’s alarm goes off. Soft soothing tones that don’t aid the painful process of getting up.
Muscles stiff, I bend my legs to relieve the built up tension that has worked its way into me overnight. I roll out of bed and begin the process of shuffling through the mish-mash of things I’ve taken out of my bag from the night before.
I cram it all back in.
Brush teeth. Breakfast. Downstairs.
Danny leads the day’s stretches.
Danny, “Get your legs up Jacqui; we’re not going to stop until Jacqui gets her legs up.”
I shoot a murderous stare at Danny. He remains oblivious.
Today we cycle from Thanh My to Kham Duc. A brief 54 km cycle. Each of us are now noticeably stronger than when we began.
We mount and ride out of Thanh My collectively. 8:15 A.M.
I feel the blood coursing through my body. My arms. My legs. It takes about 15 minutes for me to get into rhythm. We perspire profusely; each one of us knows that it will be hot today. We push.
The route takes us through beautiful undulating hills, surrounded by tropical flora and pacific streams. I wish I could show you just how beautiful it is. The pictures cannot compare to what we see. What we feel. Electric.
The landscape opens up as far as we care to see. We often cycle for many kilometers without seeing a soul. The occasional motorbike or lorry winds through the roads, joins us for a moment before motoring on.
The heat of the day finally sets in at 11:00. As we climb we feel the full brunt of the suns force on our skin. On our minds. It tans some while burning others. Rob and Natasha have both been burned noticeably.
At moments it becomes almost unbearable. The eyes scan the horizon for sanctuary from the unyielding sun. Our hearts try to burst from our chests in an effort to deliver blood to our limbs. Our lungs do their best to supply us with oxygen.
Breathe in. Exhale.
Stale bubbles of heat it us. Surround us. Consume us. We constantly find ourselves pushing new limits and finding parts of us that we did not know existed before.
We crest the final hill and cruise down the tarmac. Paul’s familiar face manifests in the distance next to the green H2H flag and the now iconic yellow DHL van. He is grinning brightly. Proudly. Always the first to midday break.
Our midday respite takes form in a makeshift waterfall that cascades over the side of a cliff. The water is cold. Brisk. We kick back and enjoy the momentary rest. The girls take the opportunity for a “girls of H2H” photo shoot. The guys drink beer.
The group convenes one last time before we begin our second leg. It winds through the mountains and tempers itself as we move towards our destination. Kham Duc.
Caitlin comes up to me and tells me, “Chris, I’m sweating in places that I didn’t even know I could sweat.”
My mind wanders. She looks at me with that stern look that she doles out so frequently. I temper my thoughts and smile.
I get it.
We finally arrive in Kham Duc and cheer as we each come in one by one. Together.
As individuals we battle the thoughts that pervade our minds. Embrace the challenges that come forth with the solace of knowing that as a team, we can overcome any challenge.
These days begin to roll by and coalesce into a single memory. The weeks are fast but the days are long. I smile as I write this.
I could not think of any other place that I would rather be.
Words by Chris Thai