6 months ago I signed up for a crazy cycle challenge to pedal 420km across Rajasthan in a bid to raise £100,000 with around 20 other foodie professionals for Action Against Hunger. Insane as it was, I successfully completed my challenge and am safely back in the UK, not quite as I left…but close enough!
I met my fellow challenge cyclists at the airport, most of us with our cycle helmets hanging off our rucksacks eager as can be. 9 hours later we had landed in Delhi and the task at hand was weighing heavily on my mind. I had trained hard in that final month, getting out on my bike as often as I could, travelling to meetings with my cycle, eating well and fundraising, hoping to reach my target of £5000. I knew it would was going to be tough, but after sharing cycle training stories with Dana, Dan, Jam and Tom on the road to Agra (Rajasthan), I began to question if I was physically ready for what I was to endure.
After a long journey with little time to sleep we were up and ready to head out for our first day!
The Rajasthan Cycle Challenge Team looking hopeful
We set out from the stunning Taj Mahal in Agra knowing we needed to cycle 85km to reach our next shower and bed. The day started out well, with us all cycling side by side in groups of two or three, getting to know each other. The time passed quickly and before I knew it we were stopping for our first break. The roads were better than I expected, flat surfaces with few bumps and ditches, well groomed and generally well-mannered drivers. What a surprise! I couldn’t help but think, ‘if this is what the rest of the trip was going to be like, I think I may be fine’. The rest stops continued throughout the day, giving us a chance to regroup, fill up our much-needed water bottles, and have some energy snacks and fruit (I hope I never see another banana again!). As the day unfolded the sun started to rise in the sky, as did the temperature. Before I knew it, it was hitting 40 degrees, and my legs starting to feel the burn. My true saviour during the trip was the wonderful Alfred. When my spirits started to go south, and my energy levels were fast depleting, Alfred kindly cycled by my side trying to take my mind of my tiredness. He forced me to stretch my muscles every single morning and every single evening even though I could hardly walk. I was so pleased to arrive at our bed for the night on that first day. I scrambled through my bag and gladly found the only thing I knew would soothe my tired and aching muscles, my beloved tiger balm. Each rub filled with hope that I would wake with more energy and less pain for my big day ahead. Having Dana as my roomie was a wonderful surprise. Each evening we would share stories of our day and laugh until our cheeks hurt. She re-energised me with her banter and kind nature.
Day 2 was difficult – knowing we had to pedal 116km was hard to comprehend. I hadn’t cycled that distance in London, let alone in India, on legs that were tired from the day before, in the heat, knowing we were heading into the rural areas where the roads weren’t going to be kind to us. After we stopped for lunch I didn’t think I could continue. I was exhausted, unbelievably hot, probably dehydrated, and my internal cycle injuries were starting to show. I was saved by an energy gel, a sachet full of carbohydrates and sugar that give you a burst of energy when you need it most. I found solace knowing some of the others were feeling my pain, and that we were all struggling. I’ve never wanted to reach my destination so badly in all my life. I was happy to see a cold shower and my bed that night.
As the week continued, each day got a little easier, not much but it certainly wasn’t as tough. I think I was over my hurdle. The pain didn’t ease up, but I powered through. Day 3 was 112km, day 4 – 80km and the final day was 56km. We ended our epic cycle at the top of a hill, which I can tell you was pretty hard going when you feel you’ve given all you can give. Throughout it all when I felt I couldn’t pedal anymore, I knew I could rely on the others in the group to pick me back up and encourage me to stay on my bike. They were all truly amazing.
Our trip to Rajasthan concluded with a visit to Baran, a region in the south, visiting villages and learning about their needs. Meeting the communities that Action Against Hunger work alongside reminded me the value of all they do, and how we must continue to support them in any ways we can. It’s heartbreaking to think 1 in 5 children in India suffer from severe malnutrition often resulting in death. They have a long way to go to end child hunger in the world, but slowly they are winning the fight.
Dan, Jose & I with the beautiful children in rural Baran
I feel honoured to have been asked by Action Against Hunger to take part in the Rajasthan Cycle Challenge and even prouder to have completed it. My fellow cyclists were incredible and I couldn’t have done it without their wit and good humour each and every day. Their wonderful personalities will never be forgotten and I will always cherish those precious moments we shared on this life enlightening experience. I will miss you all and the fun we had when the wheels stopped turning….Gizzi, Jose, Nick, Pascal, Ben, Graham, Laura, Bill, Tania, Peter, Sharon, Tina, Lisa, Francine, Kat and Christine.