Saturday, 25 January 2014

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Yesterday most of the riders visited the memorial to the tsunami victims in Khao Lak. Ten years after they died, family are still leaving flowers by their names. The memorial is built to the height of the tsunami and you can only partly imagine the horror people that day would have felt when they saw it.
Nearby there are two boats left where they came to rest, 500 metres inland.
To meet the children who survived, and to see how they are still cared for, is a testament to all supporters. Peter Baines continues to provide inspiration and vision.
Hands Across the Water has expanded its compassionate brief to help other children in need in Thailand. The children with HIV at the Yasothon orphanage I rode to last year is one example.
Assisting the Duang Prateep Foundation is another. The girl who I was photographed with on my arrival used to earn 20 baht a day selling flowers for her dying mother and father, while her grandmother was in jail for drug use. Now she is being educated and cared for.
The camaraderie of all who rode to Khao Lak this year was exceptional.
After raising two sons, and caring for my late wife, I would put the contribution of both rides as life highlights.Thank you to those who played a part, and the spirit of kindness that brought it about.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

We left Khao Sok on the last day of our ride knowing a mixed range of experiences lay ahead of us including the final day with our ride companions, a 4k hill to climb and a joyful welcome at Baan Tharn Namchai orphanage by 90 children and their teachers. The five riders who were completing the two rides this January wore yellow jerseys to acknowledge their achievement of riding 1,600 km and raising $20,000.
We spurred each other on at the foot of the hill and all made it. Then we had an exhilarating 7k down run on which some reached speeds of over 70km an hour.
We completed some 60 k to reach the temple at Khao Lak, where over 3,000 bodies had lain after the tsunami. Here we were met by some of the children on bicycles who accompanied us the rest of the way through town to the orphanage.
We were welcomed by children playing in a band, others in traditional dress and each of us was escorted by one child to lunch, after speeches of thanks, where our supporters were gratefully acknowledged.
Supporters of mine on hand included Jann Watt-Drake and her husband Richard, and Sue Blair. Nickie Race Jones's children sported a New Zealand flag.
We were then taken to our hotel to freshen up for a celebratory dinner on the beach beside Le Meridien Khao Lak Beach & Spa Resort. The children arrived to take part, led by a baby elephant. Mita kicked off a night of singing and dancing. Lanterns were floated off into the sky and when the children left you could hear their small, excited voices echoing through the hotel stairwells.
I will add another post in a few days on my reflections on the journey.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Today, 22 January and day 7 of the ride, we set off to ride to 'Avatar Country' - the national park around Khao Sok. This 127k ride was one of the most testing of the whole ride with a number of hills and a long stretch on a busy road. We had to be alert as we were passed by fast trucks, utes and cars, a number laden high. On one of the scooters that passed, a mother with one child on the back also held a baby up to wave at us.
Two Melbourne real estate partners shared the captain's white jersey, Willow and Steve. Also photographed are Daniel, Cass and Jeurgen. Tomorrow we ride to the orphanage.

Day 6 of the ride, 21 January, began with a few drops of rain but fortunately for most of us not carrying jackets that didn't materialise. What did develop was high humidity so that to survive on our 120-odd k ride to Surat Thani we needed to drink a bottle of water every 20k.
Gideon, from New Zealand's Rising Foundation, was given the captain's white jersey for the day. We rode down the coast for much of the day, or inland through rubber and coconut plantations. Many of the legs were on main roads. At one school we stopped outside for water and fruit, we ended up entering to take part in a tug of war with the delighted children, who won.
Tomorrow we begin a two-day journey to cross the peninsula and arrive at the orphanage at Khao Lak on the west coast beside the Andaman Sea.

Monday, 20 January 2014

In an earlier post I mentioned a former orphanage child who is now studying law at university and accompanying us. On the first day of riding after the rest day, this student, Game, wore the white captain's jersey for the day.
We left Nana Beach, Chumphon, at 7:30am on 21 January and headed south for a 118k ride to Lang Suan.
There were a couple of falls along the way but nothing serious. We had lunch by the beach and an undulating ride with a couple of short, steep hills.
Early afternoon we were met by a ute from the Duang Prateep Foundation which had brought us some chilled coconuts to drink. Several young men from one of the foundation's projects joined us for the ride for a few kilometres. One had a small white dog.
After arriving at Lang Suan, we visited a home the foundation runs to rehabilitate young men who have become drug addicts. After three years at this retreat, some of the men go onto university; others to paid work. The men put on a display that included kick-boxing and fire-eating. Hands and the foundation work closely together.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

This poster at Pirates Terrace cafe could be a good maxim after the celebration of last night to mark the ride's half-way point.
Today Andrew, fellow New Zealander Carol, Melbournian Keith, local expat Paul and I enjoyed a rejuvenating Thai massage. Sore muscles were teased out so that we feel refreshed to resume riding tomorrow.

'Nowhere riding' - that's what you do in the middle of nowhere when your group draws away in front of you and you just have to keep turning the pedals. There was a fair bit of that today as we headed inland and took on some rolling hills, with warm winds sucking the moisture out of us.
We came back to the coast through a fishing village and then it was back inland.
The ride turned out to be 128k and the last leg was the toughest. We kept on, knowing that we had a pool and Nana Beach waiting for us at Champhon. We also have a rest day tomorrow.