- The Race Across Asia
Wed. 10 Apr: time to explore Hanoi… and celebrate!
Tue. 9 Apr (Vietnam): Trekking on Cat Ba Island and return to Hanoi
Tonight is the last night for Team Flinders in their Race Across Asia. Over the last two weeks the team has cycled, hiked, kayaked, zip-lined and rock-climbed their way across Southeast Asia. As a whole, they’ve faced many fears, achieved personal bests, surprised themselves each day with what their bodies can accomplish when they put their minds to it! All the while knowing that they have done an amazing job raising over $30,000 forFlinders Medical Centre Foundation for cancer research. Congratulations Team, you really are an inspiration to us all!
Mon. 8 Apr (Vietnam): Cruising, kayaking, and rock climbing in Cat Ba
Some great news from Team Flinders! Spirits are high, friendships have been made and life changing experiences keep on coming their way!
“Team Flinders are truly challenging themselves each and every day of this trip. After cruising through the beautiful karst mountains of Halong Bay, the team landed on a secluded beach and tested their nerves and skill rock climbing. The boys won the kayaking challenge by a whisker, but results are still out for a dual day rock climbing challenge. Team work and trust are the name of the game with team members blindfolded and climbing high up a rock face guided by feel and their team members voice! Amazing spirit and teamwork has been shown by all! Tonight the team rest up for their last full day of racing in beach bungalows with breath taking views!”
Sun 7 Apr (Vietnam): Hanoi – Cat Ba Island
Another day of exploration and adventuring today, as the team rest up for the last leg of the physical challenge starting tomorrow. This morning the team travelled to the port city of Haiphong on the edge of the World-Heritage listed Halong Bay. There are over 350 islands scattered throughout Halong Bay and the team travelled by boat to Cat Ba, the largest of these islands.
Sat 6 Apr (Vietnam): Luang Prabang – Hanoi
The team enjoyed some much needed down time to explore Luang Prabang before they set off towards Hanoi. With an early rise, team Flinders are able to witness first hand the ancient rituals of local monks collecting alms at dawn, followed by trinket shopping at the colourful markets.
Fri 5 Apr (Laos): Kuang Si Waterfall
This morning we have some time to explore the village and soak up our peaceful surrounds. Then we begin our trek through a valley headed towards Kuang Si waterfall.
Here’s a message from Jo, our Tour Escort:
Laos has been spectacular. Starting our visit with a moving back ceremony where we welcomed into a local home and are now all proudly wearing our string bracelets that are to help protect us on our journey. The team spent a night with a hill tribe village, living as they do in basic bamboo accommodation, the bucket shower was a welcome refreshing novelty. Our wonderful local guide KL told us that the loudest chicken would be our lunch, there were many to choose from as local village life starts early! On a hot walk through the smokey jungle we were accompanied by 1000′s of white butterflies to the beautiful Kuang Si falls. The perfect place to celebrate Johnnos birthday and cool off before our uphill cycle challenge! Natasha and Dan taking out equal first place! Tonight the group has a well earned rest and a chance to let their hair down before flying to Vietnam for their last leg of the race.
Thu 4 Apr (Laos): Hilltribe Cycling (20km) and Trekking (20km)
Our first full day in Laos and the action begins straight away. We head out of Luang Prabang with the rolling hills and lush green landscape surrounding us. We start off on two wheels until we reach a village called Ban Thin Som. We then started our journey on two feet, trekking through local farms to Kamu village. We finished our trek at the Hmong hilltribe village of Ban Long Lao.
We had the unique opportunity of being invited into a local home and joining in a ‘back’ ceremony. 32 spirits in the body being called back and used to keep family friends and travellers safe. It was beautiful and everyone came away feeling very special to have been part of such a special ceremony.
Wed. 3 Apr (Thailand – Laos): Mountain Biking – 25km
Waking up early, today we left our jungle lodge and hit the bicycles again. We followed a single trail along the mountain ridge to the village of Khun Tha… the panoramic views were breathtaking! The end of the ride saw us on a single track downhill to the base of the mountain where we stopped to visit a temple. After lunch, we transferred to the airport for our short flight to the beautiful riverside town of Luang Prabang in Laos. More adventures to follow…
Tue. 2 Apr (Thailand): The Treetop Adventure
Team Flinders have spent their first night in Thailand at the rustic Pang Soong Lodge. Today they will take to the treetops for some zip-lining action as well as a canopy walk. Team Flinders will really test their ability to overcome fear of heights as the Race Across Asia takes the adventure to new heights! Here’s an update from the ground:
Team Flinders last seen flying through the jungle! After an 8km hike through the hills of Chiang Mai crossing streams and following an ancient trade track, the team headed into the forest canopy for an amazing afternoon of zip trekking. Fears were conquered, the style was outstanding! The ladies are still in the lead with Katie taking out 1st place in the “f is for flinders” challenge with Johnno and Dan coming in 2nd and 3rd!
Words from the team on their experiences so far “exhilarated, jam packed, amazing, unbelievable, it’s gone from crazy to tranquil” with the next stop the beautiful Luang Prabang in Laos their adventure is no where near over!
Mon. 1 Apr (Cambodia to Thailand): Cambodia to Thailand – life in the jungle!
Today Team Flinders flew from Siem Reap to Chiang Mai to start the jungle leg of their adventure. Upon arrival, our unified team were split into two challenge teams – boys vs. girls (with Tour Escort, Jo, joining the boys team to even out numbers). They will spend the next couple of days competing in an outdoor survival challenge.
The teams built shelters, made camp fires to cook their food which they hunted with slingshots (in a round about way). They also made all their cooking utensils and pots and pans out of bamboo and banana palm! We then ate the results! It must be said both teams did an amazing job.
When the points were tallied the girls took out the challenge!
Congratulations ladies your food was delicious, your campfire was raging and your shelter held up impressively to the pseudo storm!
Sun. 31 Mar: Cycling in Siem Reap
A successful and eventful day for Team Race Across Asia today. Cycling through the countryside to visit outer lying temples, our team was cheered on by local kids. We really got to see what rural life in Cambodia was like today!
Briony had a small bingle and is now wearing her battle scars proudly. Lunch was an adventure with a gas bottle exploding in the kitchen. Thankfully no one was injured. Despite the excitement we still had a delicious Khmer meal from our lunch hosts.
The temples were magical and the variety and workmanship of the ancient Khmers is spectacular. One thing for sure, Cambodia is never dull!! More soon….
Sat. 30 Mar: Temples of Angkor Wat
An early start today as we rose to see the sunrise over the spires of Angkor Wat. After a bite to eat, Team Flinders hit the bicycles to discover the sprawling temple complex of Angkor on two wheels. There was even time for a spot of Apsara posing (heavenly dancer).
Fri. 29 Mar: Team Flinders are off!
The big day has arrived. Today Team Flinders will board their flights bound for Siem Reap, Cambodia. This will be the beginning of an incredible adventure that will take them from Cambodia onto Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming days.
— Everyday Hero (@EverydayHer0) March 28, 2013
Fri. 22 Mar: One week to go!
— Inspired Adventures (@inspiredadvntrs) March 22, 2013
ABOUT FLINDERS MEDICAL CENTRE FOUNDATION & THE RACE ACROSS ASIA
On your marks, get set, go! It’s time for Team Flinders to set off on The Race Across Asia 2013. From cycling in Cambodia to flying along a zipwire in Thailand, trekking in Laos and kayaking and rock-climbing in Vietnam, keep up to date as the 6 brave adventurerers race to the finish line to raise vital funds for cancer research.
The funds raised through The Race Across Asia will help support the leading biomedical, behavioural and clinical researchers who work within the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer (FCIC). They will help establishing and continuing cutting edge research into cancers such as that of the breast, bowel, prostate, oesophagus, ovaries, cervix, kidneys, lung, liver, blood (leukaemia) and brain tumours.
- Visit our image gallery: Race Across Asia (images by Jo Howell, Tour Escort)
- Follow the conversation on Twitter: @InspiredAdvntrs #RaceAcrossAsia @FMCFoundation
- Visit the Team Flinders Fundraising Page
- Join Team Flinders on the 2013 Kilimanjaro Challenge
- Challenge for Change Cambodia
Sat. 26 Jan: Farewell Cambodia
It’s a wrap! Team Oaktree Foundation have completed their 2013 Challenge for Change. They spent the morning exploring Siem Reap before transferring to the airport for their flight home. Congratulations team. What an achievement! You have raised nearly $50,000 between you! Full image gallery is on the Inspired Adventures Facebook page.
Fri. 25 Jan: Angkor Wat Sunrise and Banteay Srey
While there have been many highlights of this Inspired Adventure, watching the sun rise over the spires of Angkor Wat has to be one of them. This morning Team Oaktree have arisen early to witness this incredible spectacle. They then ventured further afield to explored the lesser-visited temples on the outskirts of Siem Reap. Here’s a couple of ‘portraits’ of the team at Banteay Srey (‘Citadel of Women’).
What an exciting day! Today Team Oaktree saddled up once more and took to the roads that connect the myriad of temples that form the Angkor complex. These world-famous temples were once lost to the jungle for centuries before being re-discovered. The awe-inspiring temples are one of humankind’s most magnificent architectural achievements. Here’s a pic of Team Oaktree at the jungle temple of Angkor Thom.
Wed. 23 Jan: Kien Sangker Building Project (cont.)
Today Team Oaktree continue with their building project.
What can we say – here we are in Kien Sangker, one of the poorest regions in Cambodia. This commune is made up of 12 surrounding villages and the families in this region survive on average monthly income of US$15-$30 per month. Around 80% of the population live in poverty with around 45% living in extreme poverty. Stay tuned for more updates on our build project…
Today was a day of varied terrain – dense forests, local villages and open countryside. We even got to tackle Phnom Kulen mountain – one of the most sacred and historically significant mountains in the history of the Khmer empire. The trek was long and hot but we were rewarded with a dip in a local waterfall.
Sun. 20 Jan: Trek from Sanlong Monastery to Svay Leu (22km)
No rest for Team Challenge for Change! Today was another early departure as we donned our trekking boots and trekked through small paths mainly used by local farmers.
Sat. 19 Jan: Trek to Sanlong Monastery (22kms)
Today we trekked through local villages and rice paddies, encountering local farmers along the way. We had lunch with a local family (see image below).
Fri. 18 Jan: Exploring Wat Banan
Team Oaktree has successfully completed day 2 of cycling and can put the Lycra away until Day 10 when we cycle around the temples of Angkor!! We had a great day riding from Battambang along the river and towards Wat Banan where we climb 300 odd steps to the top for great views over the country side. This evening we arrived in Siem Reap, and had a chance to check out the local nightlife before getting a good nights sleep in preparation for tomorrows activities.
Tomorrow we will trek across the country plains, through local villages and rice paddies towards Sanlong Monastery. 22km and counting!
Thu. 17 Jan: 90km Cycling to Battambang – Go Team!
We are getting some amazing images coming through from Team Oaktree in Cambodia. Here’s a video update of the journey so far…. enjoy!
Be sure to check out all of the images on our Facebook album “Challenge for Change 2013″.
Wed. 16 Jan: Phnom Penh – the adventure begins
First day touring and we wasted no time getting to grips with the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
Cultural sites intermitted (above group image in front of Wat Phnom) with a bit of fitness training and a stop for lunch at Romdeng, a youth training restaurant featuring regional Khmer dishes. Tarantula anyone?!
The afternoon was spent visiting the sobering sites of Toul Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and the Killing Fields (left).
A quick dip in the hotel pool to escape the afternoon heat before dining out at another local restaurant.
Team Oaktree has a HUGE day ahead of them tomorrow; day 3 marks the first day of our physical challenge, cycling more than 90km towards the former capital of the Khmer empire Udong and then onwards to Battambang. Wish us luck!!
Nat (Inspired Adventures Tour Escort)
Day one and here’s our first update from Tour Escort, Nat:Morning!Everyone arrived safe and tired but raring to go last night. We had a great start to the day with some touring of Phnom Penh’s cultural monuments including the Royal Palace and National Museum. It’s hot and sunny here!!More to come soon… stay tuned!Nat
Tue. 15 Jan: Laters Sydney… we’re off to Cambodia!
Here’s an image that says it all:
- About the Challenge for Change
- Challenge for Change team fundraising page
- Tweet about it! @InspiredAdvntrs @OaktreeFndation (Suggested Hashtags: #Cambodia #Cycling #Adventure #ChallengeforChange)
- Visit the Inspired Adventures Calendar
- Read more stories about Cambodia
- Inspired Cycling Tips: Top Tips from Inspired Cyclists
- Inspired Cycling Tips: Connect to a Cycling Community
The Oaktree Foundation
We’re young. Passionate. Hopelessly idealistic. Ruthlessly pragmatic. Dedicated to achieving incredible change for the world’s most marginalised, oppressed and disadvantaged. We’re 350 volunteer staff all under the age of 26. We’re a movement of 57,000 Australians. We’re Australia’s largest youth run organisation. We’re young people working together to end global poverty.
- Laos Water Cycle
Friday 7th December – Farewelling Cambodia
After breakfast we set off road leaving the crowds behind and cycled through beautiful rural villages and vast rice paddies before arriving at Roulous. We spent about an hour exploring the three glorious temples and learn about the history of one of the first permanent structures built by the Khmers.
We continued cycling for another 8km before jumping on a boat tour to Kampong Phluck a floating village submerged forest. We motored past kids playing and splashed around in the water and observed the technique and team work that goes into net fishing. This unique village gave us a great insight into the culture of living life on the water. We stopped off on a boardwalk for a 5-star picnic lunch, comfortable cushions placed in rows waited our arrival. It was great to lay down for a much needed rest out of the suns hot rays.
We caught the boat back to our bikes to complete the last 15km of our challenge. We cheered and high-fived as we rolled into the hotel – we have done it! 460km in 7 days!
Later that night we have our farewell Christmas party dinner and Simon, Finn and I dressed up as Santa, Mrs Claus and an Elf to hand out the Secret Santa presents. It was a barrel of laughs and a great way to finish the trip.
I want to say a huge thank you to a fantastic group of people who raised over $78,000 for ChildFund Australia. Our trip was a rollercoaster ride of upset tummies, dislocated fingers, cringe-worthy bike stacks, wrong turns and bizarre sleepwalking antics but we got there in the end and created strong bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime. Thank you all for an amazing time!
Thursday 6th December – Angkor Wat
Yesterday we arrived in Siem Reap after a long journey by road. Today we woke to our first ride in Cambodia. We set off at 7.30am from our hotel after we got acquainted with our new bikes. We then set about learning how to dodge and weave in and around the traffic in as we headed towards the Angkor Wat temple complex.
The first stop our temple tour is Ta Prohm better known as the Lara Croft – Tomb Raider temple. This temple was one of Jayavarman VII’s first major temple projects and he dedicated it to his mother. This sprawling monastic complex is only partially cleared of jungle overgrowth, massive fig and silk-cotton trees grow from the towers adding the jungle atmosphere.
We jumped back on our bikes for a little off-road mountain biking, leaving behind the crowds to explore the dense jungle and overgrown cycle trails. We cycled over stick bridges and through dusty tracks before reaching the glorious Bayon temple. There are 37 standing towers, most adorned with four stone-carved faces oriented toward the four cardinal points. The extensive carvings are unique and reveal scenes of everyday life like market scenes, cockfighting, chess games and childbirth all interspersed among battle scenes.
We stopped for a very satisfying lunch and then walked to possibly the most spectacular temple in Southeast Asia, Angkor Wat. We explored the massive three-tiered pyramid, taking photo after photo trying to capture its beauty – we also took some action shots. What would an Inspired Adventure be without the classic jump shot however with the size of our ChildFund Team, it was difficult to get everyone in the air. Despite this challenge, we still we ended up with a great photo and an even greater day!
Tuesday 4th December – Don Khone to Kratie
Today we packed our bags ready for our last day in Laos. We set sail from Don Khone Island and caught the boat back across to the mainland. On arrival, we helped the locals unload our bags and bikes off the boats and jumped back on to start cycling towards Cambodia. It was only 20km to the border, what could possibly go wrong?
About 10km into the ride, Al falls off while cycling at a very fast pace. He slid along the left side of his body, cutting and grazing his sunburn from the day before. Thankfully Al didn’t sustain any serious injuries and was able to continue onto the border crossing.
When we reached the border, we got our stamps and visas and passed our health tests. It was a rather strange experience to have someone hold a gun-shaped instrument to your neck to check your temperature!
With everyone’s documents in order, we said our goodbyes to our Lao guides and driver before meeting our team from Cambodia. More from Cambodia soon…
3 DEC: DON DAENG TO DON KHONE (4,000 ISLANDS)
90kms cycling! Today was the day we had all been dreading – especially with the sweltering heat! If 40° wasn’t bad enough, a strong head wind added an extra element to the challenge. The road was dusty and on an upward incline the whole way. Alicia commented “I feel like I’m cycling across the Nullarbor”. Dried-up rice paddies lined the road as far as the eye could see and water buffalos lay in mud-filled ponds trying to cool down. We occasionally rode through small villages and the locals cheered us on as we cycled by. Those of us at the back were becoming slightly delirious from the heat. I remember thinking to myself “I wonder what that sign says?” As we got closer, I could see that it was a picture of a bus.
After cycling for 6 hours and sweating profusely, we finally made it to the restaurant for lunch. Afterwards the local kids kindly helped us carry our bags and bikes and load them onto boats. We slowly drifted through the majestic 4,000 Islands before hoping off at Don Khone.
We rode from the wharf to the hotel and dropped off our bags. Some team members decided to stay and take it easy while the rest of us continued on to the waterfall. The dirt roads and pot holes didn’t help our sore, tender bottoms but seeing the waterfall made it all worth while.
2 DEC: VIENTIANE TO DON DAENG ISLAND
We woke at 4.30am red-eyed and still half asleep to head to the airport to fly to Pakse in Southern Laos. On arrival, we had a short bus ride before jumping back on our bikes. The landscape varies a lot from the North and thankfully there’s no more mountainous hills for us to ride up. However, the heat and humidity make cycling extremely challenging!
We crossed over the Mekong River on a beautiful old steel bridge. Soon after the bridge, there was a turn that most of us take. I say most because a few missed it and continued straight ahead. After riding a few kilometres, Tanya turns to me and says “gee this ride definitely isn’t as scenic as the yesterday!”. Soon after our bicycle truck comes up behind us tooting the horn to indicate we’ve gone the wrong way. Rachel was cycling ahead of us and almost made it to the Thai border before we tracked her down! We joked and said that she was lucky she had her passport on her! We were all reunited for lunch and cycled together up to Wat Phou.
The Wat Phou temple complex is a great example of Khmer architecture dating back to the 7 -12th centuries. The stairs to the top are quite steep but those of us who still had enough energy to climb to the top were rewarded by an amazing view.
We hit the bikes again and rode through beautiful villages as children lined the streets yelling “hello” and slapping our hands as cycled by. Finally, after a long day, we reached the Mekong and caught a boat over to our hotel on Don Daeng Island. A swim in the pool and a few cold beers helped us to relax and unwind before heading to bed for an early night.
30 NOV: NONGHET (CHILDFUND PROJECT VISIT)
Today is the day we’ve been waiting for – we get to spend the day in Nonghet and see firsthand the projects that Team ChildFund’s fundraising dollars have gone into. We started the morning in a meeting with the District Attorney. His sense of humour made us all laugh especially when he asks us to introduce ourselves and identify if we are single or not. Traditionally, H’mong men are allowed more then one wife, so I’m guessing he was looking for a few more!
Next stop was a local school built by ChildFund who worked with the community and children to identify where it should be built. ChildFund then collaborated with MAG (Mines Advisory Group) to remove the 197 pieces of unexploded ordinance (mainly cluster bombs) found on this site. Being that the school is located atop a mountain, a 5km drain pipe was constructed and linked to a water tank located on the school grounds. This allows the children access to fresh drinking water.
We spent some time watching the children study in their classrooms and then, for the highlight of everyone’s day, we played sport and games with the kids in the playground. Many participated in a ‘piggy-in-the-middle’ soccer game; some played jacks; while others did some filming for our group movies. I taught the kids a new game similar to long jump but with sticks – it was a great hit!
We left the school around lunch time and went to the Village Chief’s house for some supper and Lao Lao, a strong alcoholic drink made from fermented rice. It is a tradition in Lao culture that guests must drink a glass upon arrival. Some of drank it with ease while others squirmed just at the thought. Adhering to tradition, nearly everyone had a little sip.
After lunch we decided to go to the local waterfall but due to the bad weather, the condition of the road prevented us from reaching the falls. We walked some of the way but had to turn back to get to the next village on time.
We went straight to the soccer field for a game against the local kids. After much excitement, it ended in a one-all draw with both teams walking away satisfied with the result.
We ended the day back at the hot springs and divided into our three groups. Chris, the ChildFund Laos Country Director, created some healthy competition by dividing us into teams and giving us a project to work on. We had to create a 3-minute movie based on what we had seen that day. Each team was given one of the following categories: Education, Sport and Water Sanitation. The winner will be chosen tomorrow night!
29 NOV: MUANG KHAM TO NONGHET
After all the rain we’ve experienced, it has made the roads extremely muddy and no matter how hard we tried to dodge puddles, mud splattered all up our backs and all over our faces. We laughed at one another when we hopped off our bikes – what a state we were in! Thankfully we were headed to a hot spring and we would be able to wash ourselves off there.
The hot springs not only washed the mud away but they were also the best shower we had had in days. We lay around in the springs for about an hour before setting off to visit a ChildFund community project in a remote mountainous village.
The locals were incredibly welcoming and organised a massive feast with dancing and singing. The elders spoke of the war and told us their tales of survival. We wandered around the community and looked at the latrines and the school that ChildFund supported. We didn’t want to leave but we still had another 25km to ride and it was getting late.
As soon as we jumped back on our bikes, the rain started again however it only stuck around for the first few kilometres. Again we were distracted by the sheer beauty of the surrounding scenery but we had to be careful as the roads were quite slipper and we had to take it slow on the down hills and even slower on the steep uphills.
What an amazing day! Experiencing firsthand the culture and warmth of the Lao people and being served up a whole boiled chicken with its head and feet still on it is something we will never forget!
28 NOV: PHONSAVAN TO MUANG KHAM
This morning we woke to a massive down pour of thick heavy rain and low-lying fog covered the roads. With these factors considered we decided it was not ideal nor safe cycling whether.
So we set off by bus to check out the Plain of Jars, an important archaeological site with thousands of stone jars scattered across the landscape. The jars appear in clusters and are thought to be associated with ancient burial rituals dating back to the Iron Age. We walked around with our umbrellas and raincoats to avoid getting too wet. After taking a few happy snaps and learning a little history about the jars, we jumped back onto the bus and collected our bags from the hotel.
When we arrived in Muang Kham the rain had stopped so we decided to jump on the bikes and make up some of the kilometres we missed out on this morning. Tong, our guide, suggested we check out Tham Piew, a large cave that 400 civilians used for shelter during the Secret War. In the early 1970′s, US aircraft lobbed a rocket into the cave killing over 400 civilians who were hiding inside. Understandably there was a very sad feeling as we entered the cave.
On our return trip home, the rain returned leaving us soaked. Later that night we were met by some of ChildFund Laos staff who gave us a brief presentation of what to expect over the coming days.
27 NOV: LUANG PRABANG TO PHONSAVAN (80kms cycling)
We set of early this morning as we had an extremely long hard day ahead of us. The first 30km were mainly gradual climbs but then we were hit with the hill of all hills. The road snaked around the mountain getting steeper and steeper as we climbed. We approached each corner in hope that it would be the last. Almost an hour passed and we were still climbing. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we reached the top! It took us a few minutes of puffing and panting before we get our breath back – for most of us, this was one of the most physical and mentally challenging experiences of our lives. Exhausted, we jumped back into the vans and had a power nap before lunch.
After lunch we drove for roughly another 2 hours through winding, mountainous landscapes before returning to the bikes for the last leg of the day. As we passed through ethnic villages perched on the sides of steep hills, the locals shouted “hello, hello” at us when we cycled by. This motivated us to continue and push on.
When we finished cycling for the day, we paid a visit to the MAG (Mines Advisory Group) Office. This is a fantastic organisation that is working to clear landmines and other unexploded ordinances in the area. We found out that Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world. During the 1970s the United States dropped more bombs (tonnage) than what were dropped in all of World War II! The effects of this tragic period are still felt in Laos today and staff at the MAG office are working fervently to clear the area (see a brief 5-minute video at end of today’s post for more info).
After a long day, we all hit the hay for an early night.
Inspired Adventures Tour Escort
26 NOV: LUANG PRABANG & KUANG SI WATERFALLS (64kms cycling)
Our first day of cycling and after roughly 10kms, we hit our first steep hill which was soon followed by another long gradual incline. We battled our way to the top and had a much needed break before descending down into the valley. The down hill was very welcome at the time but proved extremely challenging on the way back to Luang Prabang.
The surrounding landscape kept most of us distracted from the burning pain in our legs -mountains covered with dense jungle in the distance, rice paddies and tropical fruit line the road. Locals have set up market stalls on the side of the road selling fresh produce grown on their farms and most shop fronts contain a wood carving work station where exquisite handicrafts are made and displayed.
After 32km of cycling we finally reached the Kuang Si waterfall and the Sun Bear Rescue Centre. The falls are truly spectacular - the main fall is 60 metres high and the lower falls flow into numerous turquoise blue pools as they continue downstream. We spent a few hours swimming and jumping from the rope swing and waterfalls before having lunch.
After lunch we watched the Sun Bears play before jumping back on the bikes and taking on the rugged undulating terrain back to our hotel. We stopped off at a traditional Hmong village along the way and learned about their culture and way of life.
We finally rolled into Luang Prabang after finishing our first 64km in the saddle. After a quick refresh, we headed out for a celebratory dinner and drinks. As it turns out, we have a few talented musicians in Team Child Fund so a big thank you to Simon for busting out a few great tunes on the ukulele and to Finn and Alicia for their free-style raps.
Inspired Adventures Tour Escort
25 NOV: LUANG PRABANG
Today everyone landed in the World Heritage-listed, Luang Prabang. The Team were quick to explore this charming riverside town with a visit to the National Museum (the former Royal Palace), Wat Mai (one of Laos’ most famous temples) and a short climb up Mount Phou Si for panoramic views.
Here’s a message from Kristen (Inspired Adventures Tour Escort):
Not long after we arrived, we set off to explore the museums and temples of Luang Prabang. Golden Buddha statues, ornaments and colourful murals lined the walls of Wat Sene. Rain started to trickle lightly and the cloud began to roll in but we got a lucky break and the rain stopped just in time for us to climb the 328 stairs to the top of Mount Phou Si. The view from the top was amazing! 360 degrees of the city and lush country side.
Here are some pics of Wat Mai and Mount Phou Si…
1 NOV: PREPARING FOR DEPARTURE
In late November 2012, supporters of ChildFund Australia will be cycling through the countryside of Laos and Cambodia having raised funds to help ChildFund provide vital drinking water and sanitation for rural communities in northern Laos. They will also have the opportunity to meet some of the children they’re helping.
28 SEP 2012: Tony Abbott supports the Laos Water Cyclists
After making a minor guest appearance at Kate McLennan’s fundraising event, Tony Abbott has shown his support for the whole team as they raise funds and help communities in Nonghet, Laos. His letter of support is below:
JULY 2012: ‘THANK YOU’ FROM CHILDFUND LAOS
More from the ChildFund Australia Laos Water Cycle 2012
- Video message from ChildFund in Laos
- About the Laos Water Cycle
- Laos Water Cycle team fundraising page
- About ChildFund Australia
- News article: ‘Friends in Faraway Places’ (Sydney Morning Herald; 29/9/12)
- Charity Spotlight: International Children’s Aid
- Visit the Inspired Adventures Calendar
- Read more stories about Cambodia
- Inspired Cycling Tips: Top Tips from Inspired Cyclists
- Inspired Cycling Tips: Connect to a Cycling Community
- Meet our Adventurers supporting ChildFund:
- Cambodia Cycle Challenge
DAY 8 (18 NOV): BANTEAY SREY & BOENG MAELEA (86km cycling)
Due to the cloud cover yesterday, we decided to give sunrise over Angkor Wat another try. The team waited in anticipation as the sun slowly rose behind the massive three-tiered pyramid. The clouds stopped most of the light coming through but it still was an incredible site to see. Post-Angkor Wat sunrise, we headed back to the hotel for breakfast and prepared ourselves for the fancy dress competition.
One by one we entered the foyer getting into character for our chosen costume. We had multiple Batman’s, a Buddha, some geeky tourists and some Super Hero’s to name just a few but there could only be one winner. Amanda was given the honour for her creative interpretation Buddha. She had us all in stitches as we all looked over and she was sitting on the stairs, eyes shut with a straight face in the meditation pose wearing a swimming cap and metallic purple bed sheets – great costume Amanda!
We ditched our costumes and donned our cycling gear before setting off on our last 80km. Today Vuttha decided to take us the back way to Banteay Srey so we could do a little off-road mountain biking. For 20km we dodged pot holes and puddles and most of us ended up with mud all over our legs, bags and shorts but no one seemed to mind. We enjoyed the change in the road conditions and scenery.
We arrived at Banteay Srey, the ‘citadel of the women’. The walls of this temple are densely covered with some of the most beautiful, deep and intricate carvings of any Angkorian temple. The temple’s relatively small size, pink sandstone construction and ornate design give it a fairyland ambiance. We didn’t stay for long as we could see a massive storm rolling in and we still had 40km to ride back to the hotel. We rode fast with only one short stop in between and made it back with two minutes to spare before the heavy rain started pouring down. Team Amnesty cheered and hugged – we had finished 420km in 7 days!!!
On Monday morning, we headed to a local temple to learn mediation with a monk. What a relaxing way to finish our gruelling journey.
Thank you Team Amnesty. I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of people to cycle around Cambodia with – what a great 10 days!
Inspired Adventures Tour Escort
DAY 7 (17 NOV): ANGKOR WAT (56kms cycling)
We woke up at 4.30am to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat, only to discover it had been raining all night and there was too much cloud coverage to see anything. Instead we decide to head back to bed for a few hours and try our luck tomorrow morning.
After some more rest, our cycling began at the gates of the Angkor complex. The roads were crowded with tourists all with different means of transport – tuk-tuks, bikes, buses and elephants. It was competitive as they all weaved around one another trying to get to the temples first.
Our first stop was at the Angkor Thom complex and seeing the Bayon, giant stone faces that have become one of the most recognisable images connected to classic Khmer art and architecture. There are 37 standing towers, most but not all sporting four carved faces oriented towards the four cardinal points. The temple also consists of extensive carvings depicting unique and revealing scenes of everyday life that are interspersed amongst battle scenes, market scenes, cockfighting, chess games and scenes of childbirth. We had a bit of time to explore before jumping back on our bikes and setting off for our next adventure at Ta Prohm.
Ta Prohm is probably the most famous temple of the complex due to the shooting of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2000. Vuttha (our guide) explains this temple was one of Jayavarman VII’s first major temple projects and that he dedicated it to his mother. This sprawling monastic complex is only partially cleared of jungle overgrowth – massive fig and silk-cotton trees grow from the towers adding the jungle atmosphere. We take picture after picture trying to capture the beauty of the temple.
Before cycling to Angkor Wat, we stopped again for a quick lunch. Our first encounter with Angkor Wat was unforgettable – it is a massive three-tiered pyramid crowned by five lotus-like towers rising 65 metres from ground level. It is the centerpiece of any visit to the temples of Angkor. We stand in awe and peer over the moat absorbing the breathtaking scenery before us. We spent about an hour wandering around the temple, looking at the beautiful design and detailed carvings, before jumping back on our bikes and heading home for the day.
DAY 6 (16 NOV): BATTAMBANG TO SIEM REAP (56kms cycling)
As we cycled out of the main part of town we saw the vegetation and landscape change from previous days. The streets were lined with all sorts of different exotic fruit trees and Sol, our mechanic, explained that Battambang’s primary industry is farming. This region supplies a lot of produce to the rest of Cambodia. Throughout most of the ride we saw farmers and their families harvesting chillies and drying them out on huge mesh mats – a pleasant aroma as we pass them by.
Today was the most humid day we have experienced but it wasn’t until we stopped off at Wat Banan, a beautiful 11th century temple, that we really started to feel the heat. It was a slow climb to the top of the temple and after 350 steps, everyone’s foreheads were dripping with sweat. Thankfully, the impressive architecture at the top made it worth the climb.
We explored the temples for about 30 minutes before cycling back to Battambang. Upon arrival, nearly everyone jumped into the pool with their cycling gear still on. It was a much-appreciated opportunity to cool down and relax our muscles before a long bus ride to Siem Reap.
I would like to make a shout out to Tony, our eldest team member. He injured his wrist before coming over to Cambodia but he continues to cycle impressive distances and keep up the pace. At the spritely age of 72, Tony is really showing us younger team members a thing or two. Well done Tony!
DAY 5 (15 NOV): BATTAMBANG (92kms cycling)
After three days of cycling and not enough padding in our pants, we slowly eased our way back onto the saddle. We set off in the outskirts of Phnom Penh where the traffic was still busy we cycled in single file until we get out to the quieter country side. As we passed through little villages, locals were out working on fish farms and drying clams in the sun. Their houses are built on stilts over the Mighty Mekong river which we followed for the first 35km before turning off to Udong to visit the temples and three large stupas in which the ashes of the three former kings are preserved.
When we arrived at the temples we were challenged with a 508-stair climb to the top. The view was sensational and the temples offered a tranquil feeling as we looked over the vast fields of rice. The stop is only a short one as we still had another 25km to cycle before lunch.
After lunch we jumped back on the bikes and Team Amnesty cheered as I shouted “only 30km to go!”. A much-welcomed light rain followed us for the first 10km before passing over. Vuttha (our guide) sets a great pace and the team smashed 92km in just under four hours! Everyone was high-fiving, relieved that the hardest day of our cycle challenge is now over!
We then had a fun filled bus ride back to Battambang. Team Amnesty split into three groups and played a few rounds of trivia, kindly hosted by Dave and Redd. Caz pretty much nailed all the questions thrown at her, leading team Angkor 5 to victory.
DAY 4 (14 NOV): SIHANOUKVILLE – PHNOM PENH (56kms cycling)
We set off on our bikes at 7am and were immediately faced with a challenging 20km of hills. As we cycled through the busy rush of traffic we saw the contrast and division between the rich and poor, there are mansions and hotels on one side of the road and wooden huts on the other.
Sihanoukville is on the Gulf of Thailand and offers a broad array of beaches, bars and market stalls. It focuses strongly on tourism as one of it main sources of income but its primary industry is shipping. This becomes evident as we see semi trailers carrying containers heading down to the wharf. Drivers boom their horns as they pass by, keeping us alert and on our toes. The first few hills have only a slight incline until we reach the outskirts of town. Then we see it looming in the distance - the hill we have all been dreading! Most of us solider on through the burning pain in our legs while a few of us hop off to push bikes up the hill. Finally it’s over and we can have our first break.
The next 40km is relatively flat and sections of the road are lined with eucalyptus trees offering much-needed protection from the scorching hot sun. However, to add to the difficulty, we are hit with strong head winds during the last hour of our ride. Thankfully we are able to distract ourselves with the beauty of the landscape – the lush green rice paddies, the water buffalo, and the excited children – all help us push through to the finish line.
DAY 3 (13 NOV): KEP – SIHANOUKVILLE (35kms cycling)
After an early 6am rise to avoid riding in heat of the day, we left our hotel at 7am and drove 20km by bus to the next town where our bikes were waiting. Today there were less trees to shelter us from the beaming rays of the sweltering hot sun and an oncoming wind creating quiet a challenge on slight inclines. Dave and Redd continue production of their Viking Biking documentary with camera man Dan filming from the back of the mechanics’ truck. They have Viking horns on their helmets although the locals assume they are buffalo horns and giggle as the ride by. Each time we pass through a little village the constant calling of hello, hello, hello can be heard and kids run from their houses to line the road and slap our hands as we ride by.
Today’s cycle finished at lunch time when we headed to Ream National Park.Team Amnesty was divided into two boats; boat one set off with no trouble but boat two got about 100 metres down the river before the motor stopped working. Our driver tried several times to get it started again before we were rescued by another who got it going again. A slow boat ride through the mangroves and forests took us to a rickety, old watch tower, which we climbed for an amazing view of the forest. We returned down the river to the bus for our last leg to Sihanoukville. Hot and exhausted, we went to the beach for a much needed swim, followed by a relax by the pool as soon as we arrived.
DAY 2 (12 NOV): PHNOM PENH – KEP (35kms cycling)
This morning we headed to Beong Kak a once thriving vibrant community, set on a beautiful lily-filled lake, where generations of the same families have lived. The only place they have ever known as home, this close net community is now being taken over and destroyed by greedy developers. Roughly 7,000 people are set to lose their homes and are being offered very little compensation. As developers slowly push the people out you can see the wrath of their destruction; the once beautiful lake is now just a barren pile of sand. Homes and businesses have been bulldozed and only rubble remains.
We spoke to the community leaders who told us that only 3,000 families remain fighting to save their homes. They have created a petition in which four different communities have signed to help them fight this unjust forced eviction and they will be lodging it with the Cambodian Government over the coming weeks in hope that this helps with their appeal against the new development. Amnesty has been reporting on the destruction of these forced evictions for years. Here’s some links with more information:
After leaving Beong Kak, we made our way to the Royal Palace only to find that we were too late – it was closed for the morning. Vuttha, our local Cambodian guide, suggested that we check out the National Museum instead. To our delight it was rich with ancient artefacts dating back as far as the 4th century.
After lunch we took a short bus ride to the outskirts of Phnom Penh where we all changed into our cycling gear and we took it in turns using the back row of the bus as a changing room. Excitement spread quickly amongst the group as we saw our bikes lined up on the side of the road, each one labelled with the names of our team members. I clumsily knock one of the bikes over which created a domino effect. Four of the bikes went down with the fifth one saved by Meagan.
Finally we begin what we have all been waiting for – the Amnesty International Australia Cambodia Cycle Challenge! We set off in a single-file line trying to dodge the pot holes and avoid the dust clouds created by the constant stream of traffic. We see families of four piled onto scooters and truckfuls of people wedged together like sardines in a can. After about 5km, Mark’s tyre pops but is was quickly fixed by our mechanic Sol and we continued on the rest of our 35km journey without any trouble. We took the support van on the final leg into Kep while we enjoyed a celebratory drink and played a few games to make the time go faster.
Inspired Adventures Tour Escort
DAY 1 (11 NOV): EXPLORING PHNOM PENH
The sound of horns echo through our bedrooms as the scooters and tuk-tuks weave through the seemingly organised chaos of Phnom Penh. These noises became an early morning wake-up call for an emotionally challenging day as the we set out to learn more about the confronting history of Cambodia and the challenges they still face.
Our first stop was the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights whose main objective is to empower people by educating communities about civil and political rights as well as organising and facilitating grassroots participation in human rights issues. The staff were kind enough to come in on their day off and take us through their current projects which gave us a greater insight into how much work still needs to be done to create a non-violent Cambodia in which law prevails and all citizens are treated equally.
After lunch we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) where it is estimated that between 1975 and1978, 20,000 people where held prisoner and brutally subjected to cruel torture techniques and interrogation. The prisoners would spend roughly 2-4 months behind the walls of this former high-school, living off a few spoonfuls of rice and water per day before being sent to the “Killing Fields” for an inhumane execution. When the prisoner arrived at S21 their image was taken and sent to the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, now thousands of these images line the walls in each of the cells to remember the oppression, anguish and suffering caused by this bloody regime.
Leaving S21, we headed to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. As we arrived, so did a massive storm which just added to the already eerie feeling of the place. It is sobering knowing that thousands of men, women and children were killed in the exact spot that we were standing and that their bodies were just piled into mass graves. Everyone in our group tries to process and take in just how and why something like this could happen, especially in our lifetime. We also wonder why only now are the leaders of the Khmer Rouge being held accountable.
After a long day, we head back into Phnom Penh to reflect on our experience. We enjoyed a delicious meal before retiring early to prepare for our first day of cycling.
10 NOV 2012: AUSTRALIA – PHNOM PENH
Here’s a team photo taken by Amanda. After a long journey, the team have all arrived safely in Cambodia and are excited about starting the cycling challenge!
More from the Amnesty International Australia Cambodia Cycle Challenge 2012
- About Amnesty International Australia
- About the Cambodia Cycle Challenge
- Cambodia Cycle Challenge team fundraising page
- Tweet about it! @InspiredAdvntrs @AmnestyOz (Suggested Hashtags: #Cambodia #Cycling #Adventure #HumanRights)
- Visit the Inspired Adventures Calendar
- Read more stories about Cambodia
- Inspired Cycling Tips: Top Tips from Inspired Cyclists
- Inspired Cycling Tips: Connect to a Cycling Community
- Run the 2013 New York Marathon for Amnesty International Australia
- Climb Kilimanjaro for Amnesty (July 2013)
- Meet our Adventurers supporting Amnesty International Australia:
Amnesty International is a global movement of 2.8 million supporters, members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights.
- Day 7: Tyre Poppin' Fun!
DAY 7: SBS RACE FOR REFUGEES 2012 (Mekong Delta; 50kms)
It was all blood, sweat, and tears (minus the blood and tears) today as we hunkered down and did what we came here to do: cycle! It was up at 6am, eating by 7am, and on the bikes by 8am today as we ere seventeen people on a mission: complete the cycle BEFORE it gets dehabilitatingly hot.
While we weren’t entirely successful, we certainly powered through the majority of the day before the sun seeped through and reached melting levels. Have I mentioned that it is unseasonably hot here at the minute?
There’s actually not a whole lot to report here. We did 55km in under three hours, we had three flat tires, said farewell to Anj who heads back to Austalia for a wedding, we sat in hammocks when we finished, and we ate an incredible amount of lucky cow cheese. By my count, Claire and Laura were leading at six triangles each today. That’s almost an entire wheel and its only 3pm!
Now it’s such much needed R&R before dinner, bed, and one final day on the bikes. Is it really coming to an end?!?!
Inspired Adventures Tour Escort
Australia for UNHCR is the fundraising arm of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Australia. Our aim is to help Australians change the lives of refugees and displaced people around the world.
- Blog 1: Day 1: Team SBS finds the world’s next David Beckham
- Blog 2: Day 2: Bring on the heat, bring on the temples!
- Blog 3: Day 3: 72 Kilometres in 3 hours. What the what!?!?
- Blog 4: Day 4: Resting up for the next four!
- Blog 5: Day 5: Bikes, Kids, & Elections, Oh My!
- Blog 6: Day 6: A Comedy of Errors
- Blog 7: Day 7: Tyre poppin’ fun!
- Blog 8: Day 8: Our final cycle is HOT, HOT, HOT!
As well as providing emergency relief like shelter, food, water, and medical care, our generous supporters improve refugees’ future opportunities, providing infrastructure, schools, and income generating projects. Our monthly donors also provide vital funding for UNHCR’s Emergency Response Teams who are on the ground saving lives within 72 hours, whenever and wherever crisis strikes. Find out more about Australia for UNHCR.