We were up at the crack of dawn and raring to go, one last time. We had a long day ahead of us, but we were spurred on by the fact that we’d be crossing the finish line, seeing friends and enjoying celebrations by the time the sun had set. It wasn’t without its challenges. Logistics faltered at times, and resulted in some riders taking different routes back into the city. Bikes let us down too, and there were a series of punctures.
The scenery surrounding us on our way back to Saigon was unfortunately uninspiring. The roads taking us into our final destination were littered with lorries, fumes and dust. However, it was comforting to recognise our surroundings during the last 30km into the city. After a month of rice, tofu and vegetables, clothing saturated in sweat, a sore behind and numerous hours in the saddle, I was overcome with emotion upon seeing Saigon’s skyline. I never thought I’d consider the city as ‘home’ but it was my fort of familiarity within Vietnam, and I was glad to return.
We regrouped at The Boathouse in Thao Dien for a quick drink and bite to eat, and then peddled on to the Notre Dame Cathedral to be met by our friends, family and supporters.
And what a welcoming committee we had to greet us! The British Consul, charity representatives, sponsors, various media outlets and our band of fans! Admittedly, we were a bit late in making our grand arrival. But, hopefully that added to the dramatic build-up… luckily the people who’d turned out to meet us were very patient, and they came bearing smiles, flowers, prosecco and beer. The perfect gift for 10 weary and thirsty cyclists.
That evening we had a night of revelry, without the worry of a 6AM start and a stretch of many kilometres to conquer. It was a strange feeling waking up the morning (more like afternoon) after in the knowledge that it was finished. Over 2,000km done, and we all made it back safe, and relatively sane!
Over the course of a month, our motley crew of riders covered an average daily distance of 80km and rested our legs in 24 different towns. And, as you can imagine, covering a distance of such great proportions on a bicycle gave rise to both triumphs and tribulations. Knowing that the mammoth bike ride we embarked on was raising funds to build schools, provide shelter and give disadvantaged children opportunities for happiness, gave the trip a real sense of purpose.
H2H 2016 was an incredible experience. I feel blessed to have had the chance to contribute to this wonderful country and raise awareness about young people in need. I hope the legacy will last, and people will continue cycling to break the cycle of poverty. Here’s to H2H 2017!