It began with dogs. Trying to open a dialogue with the many animals we come across on our ride. But after thousands of years of unnatural selection, it was just too easy to get a reaction after a ‘woof woof’ here and a ‘rarrble rarrble’ there. Man’s best friend indeed. No challenge here.
But, today I can feel proud. After myriad and ridiculous efforts, I have finally achieved the acknowledgment of Vietnam’s bos taurus (cows). These milky titans have proven to be veritable fortresses of contemplative solitude with not a whiff of care for me as I passed by, yelling. Too busy munching grass and considering the mysteries of the multiverse. But not anymore! I have spent time developing a rather nasally whinge, with a dash of glottal murmerings, establishing communication with the moo-beasts. And now? Now they look at me when I ride past hollering. Or some of them do at least. Or at least they look up from their chow. I presume these are the smarter udder people. Moo.
Chickens remain a mystery to me.
Anyway, enough of these Dolittle shenanigans. On with the ride!
When I began this journey on a hot Saigon day months ago, training with the team, I was worried about something I have come to call ‘the grind’. The grind of gears and chains. Of soft bums on hardened seats. Of gloved hands and achey wrists on steel handlebars. Of rubber wheels on bumpy roads. Much grinds when you are riding a bike. My worry was that once the novelty had worn off, and we got down to the nitty gritty of riding kilometre after kilometre, hill after hill, I would find myself wanting. That I might not have it in me, as they say.
Turns out, I needn’t have worred too much. For many reasons, detailed below.
The team is strong. knowledgeable, supportive and encouraging.
The training we did leading up to the ride has seen these first 10 days remain very tough but also enjoyable. Rather than the gasping sweaty wreck these days might have been had I not missed all those beery nights in favour of early mornings, bananas and rides around HCMC, I find myself and our team working hard and loving it.
Vietnam has some of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen and when you have such mesmerising views at the summit, the mountains really arent so bad. I spend a lot of my time feeling like I'm in a movie... perhaps a decent live action Avatar: The Last Airbender. Or Jurassic Park. Something cool like that.
And then there’s the Vietnamese themselves. For the most and vast part, they are a wonderful people. The high-fives, the hellos, the broken but exhilarating conversations… they really make the journey worthwhile and you cant help but feel appreciated. They feed us fantastic food, delicious drinks and give real meaning to the miles done and to do.
But more important than all of this, and the best fuel in our respective tanks, is the actual reason we are slogging over 2000km on our bikes. Raising funds for Vietnam’s most vulnerable children; the orphans, the abandoned and the victims of sex trafficking. Whilst in Hanoi we had the pleasure of visiting the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, one of the charities our ride supports. Here we met some of the children who benefit from the foundations existence and the help that H2H will give it every year. They served us a drink as part of their hospitality training and even did a spot of rather impressive hip-hop dancing. Watching them work, and play, I started to appreciate the value of giving these children the time and space to grow in a healthy and encouraging environment. Here they have a chance to learn, develop, feel safe and be happy. Considering the alternatives, I can’t imagine a better cause and I promised myself there and then that no matter what, I would finish the H2H 2016 charity ride. The cows came after…
So get busy donating and we will see you in HCMC or elsewhere some time soon; bruised, bitten and beaming.