Happy New Year!

2

Wishing all our friends, family, colleagues and followers a happy, healthy and wonderful 2018.

For The Cyclopaths, 2017 has been a truly amazing year. It has been a real mix of daunting physical challenges, meticulous organisation, a huge commitment to training, excitement and apprehension about our challenge but it has also been immense fun and we feel a huge sense of achievement; personally, collectively and for a much greater cause. We say goodbye to 2017, fitter, healthier, enriched by our experiences and new friendships and ready to embrace new adventures in 2018.

After raising an amazing £42,000 for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, our 2018 challenges will be to keep us fit, for our own sense of achievement, enjoyment and to maintain our friendship, sense of adventure and fun. We won’t be asking for any sponsorship during the coming year but we would be delighted if you continue to follow our adventures. As we plan our new challenges (yes, plural!) for 2018, we will keep you posted.

Thank you for your generosity, support and for taking such an interest in our story so far.

 

 

 

Christopher’s Review

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_b325

One evening I was out with John & Alison and I was asked, being a bit of a cyclist, if I would be interested in a charity bike ride in Vietnam & Cambodia later in the year.

I immediately said yes for two reasons really:

1) An amazing charity

2) Always up for a challenge !!

I met two-thirds of the group through various training rides in the ensuing months.

The ride was soon upon us and we were at John & Alison’s house to catch the bus to Heathrow. When prosecco was served on the way, I had superb vibes !!

Many hours later we arrived in Saigon and the following day the cycling began. We cycled on all terrains on our well-worn mountain bikes, traversing the Mekong Delta by ferries up into Cambodia.

I could go on but suffice to say the camaraderie within the group was second to none. I do a lot of trips.

We all made it … fantastic trip .. can’t wait for another!

We had a great time and collected a lot of money for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust which was the most important thing!!

Matt’s Review

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_b82f
It has now been around 2 and a half weeks since the return to reality. I can honestly say I’d much rather be still cycling along the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and the vast paddy fields in Cambodia, than scooping leaves out of my blocked gutters in freezing temperatures! Everything about the trip was memorable, from our guides, the local folk, the history, the culture, the scenery, and most of all the fellow team. Everyone brought something unique to the trip, and it was amazing how 16 people can embark on a challenging adventure and have such a strong team bond and support for each other. This is undoubtedly due to our fantastic leader Alison, whose positivity and indeed impressive cycle ability rubbed off on everyone present to make it an experience none of us will ever forget. I was very proud to be a part of it, and look forward to the next one!

8oGz1%AhRwK9paUA0hrv5A_thumb_b317

6XfzTej5SOSWitt2ofWlPg_thumb_baec

A Quick 50 Miles?

There’s only so many pictures we can post of us cycling so we won’t bore you with all 5,000 of them from our trip but I can’t resist posting a few more…..

and a few more of the sights…..

thumb_IMG_0858_1024

thumb_IMG_0795_1024

thumb_IMG_0628_1024

thumb_IMG_0323_1024

We are missing our cycling so much that a few of us braved the rain and cold of Saturday morning and cycled 50 wet, chilly but wonderful miles. Suddenly 35 degrees and humid seemed very appealing! Thanks to Caroline for planning the route and leading the cycle and to Roland’s son (James) and son-in-law (James) for their company. Well done Paul, Caroline, Roland, Alison and John for keeping up the training. Well done also to Caroline (yes, again!), Sheena and Paula who cycled 25 miles on Sunday afternoon.

bikeoholic

We surprised ourselves this weekend by uttering a few things we thought we’d never hear ourselves say:

‘Shall we just go for a fast 50 miles?’

‘Anyone fancy another 25 miles tomorrow?’

‘I miss the heat and humidity of Vietnam and Cambodia’

‘I think it’s time we all bought road bikes’

‘How long do you think it would take us to cycle Land’s End to John O’Groats’

Sad

 

 

 

 

Paul’s Review

thumb_IMG_0688_1024

A fantastic experience – all I hoped it would be and more. Although months of training had prepared us well for the distances we needed to cycle there was not much we could do about the unrelenting heat and humidity. Thankfully we had excellent support from the local ground crews who both watered, fed and led us through the paths and waterways of their villages and rural communities. Nothing was ever too much trouble for them, routes were quickly adapted, extended and contracted according to requests and the conditions. These were routes you would not see from a tourist bus. All we had to do was to keep the pedals turning, stay upright (not always as easy as it sounds) and enjoy each new turn in the path as you never knew what was around the next corner: a group of children shouting ‘hello’, a cow, a market, a wedding party, a bridge, rice drying on carefully laid out mats, a pile of coconut husks, or usually a moped with multiple human and livestock passengers heading directly towards you! So closely packed were people’s dwellings to the path that occasionally we found ourselves almost cycling through their living rooms. Loud music in these communities was, far from being antisocial, an invitation to your neighbours to come over to your place for party! Of course when we found ourselves on main roads the traffic rules, or lack of them, kept us needing to maintain high levels of concentration, and were both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.

thumb_IMG_4178_1024

thumb_IMG_4672_1024

Especially moving was that we had the opportunities to learn more about the recent conflicts in both countries. In Vietnam the Vietcong tunnel complexes, stretching over 250 km and the use of agent orange which is still restricting land usage and causing birth defects to this day. In Cambodia the harrowing personal testament from survivors of the 3 year 8 month and 20 day Khmer Rouge regime of terror.

It was great to be part of such a strong supportive team, those on the challenge and those supporting us. To mix things up a bit and give us all the chance to get to chat to each other we used mealtimes to come up with creative seating plans. Our hosts no doubt became bewildered as we spent the first 10 minutes after arriving at a restaurant trying to sort ourselves into middle name order, or month of birth or various other combinations. They must have thought this to be a strange western ritual but more often than not we still seemed unable to split the dad and son pairing of Chris and Matt.

 

thumb_IMG_0671_1024

 

The icing on the cake was, on the eve of our departure, achieving the £35,000 fundraising target Alison had set. A target I thought we hadn’t a hope of making, but what do I know? We are very grateful to all of those who have supported us through this challenge with their donations. It was great to have so many people following the blog while we were away and with more donations coming in we have now passed the £40,000 milestone. Whilst this on its own won’t find a cure for Parkinson’s we know that the funds will be put to good use and provide funds for much-needed research. Thank you to everyone for their amazing support.

IMG_2512

thumb_IMG_4473_1024

 

Marianne’s Review

Steve and I met the group for the first time at the hotel in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam having flown from Boston, USA, via Dubai a few days earlier. Other than my brother and sister-in-law (Paul and Caroline) we didn’t know anyone. As I walked to the back of the bus to take a seat, I remember thinking that all these strangers would soon become great friends. How right I was.

thumb_IMG_0297_1024

Getting to know everyone’s personality was a trip highlight. While we all enjoyed some fantastic scenery, scrumptious meals and many funny moments, it was through the more challenging moments and less glamorous sides of the trip, that each team members personality shone through. Every day we were either soaked in sweat or got drenched in the rain. Saddle sore bottoms, burnt skin, injuries through bicycle falls, flat tires, colds, stomach upsets, and the condition of the local “toilet” were all endured and laughed at whenever possible. Alison, obviously had to deal with these things and so much more. I have no idea how challenging this trip was for her as she never complained and was always joking and happy. She is inspiration to all of us.

It wasn’t just the team members that were amazing; the children in Vietnam and Cambodia loved to run and great us as we cycled past. Their faces radiated happiness as they said hello and held out their hands for a high five. They certainly added to the fun of cycling down the lanes.

Untitled

Our guide at the Killing Fields made a lasting impression on me. I will never forget the pain he felt as he described how his mother protected him despite being tortured and finally buried alive. Hidden behind all the smiles in Cambodia is much pain as the victims’ families live next to those that tortured and killed their loved ones. After hearing his family history, I couldn’t cycle past an elderly person without wondering what had happened to them and their loved ones.

thumb_IMG_0332_1024

As well as taking photos of the beautiful scenery, I liked to capture the day to day lives of the people lying in their hammocks, walking along the track with their cows, sitting outside their homes or working in the fields. On one occasion I saw a group of people at a restaurant, sitting on the floor eating. It felt as though I was intruding in their privacy when I went to take a picture of them. So I was very amused when a Cambodian man boldly came up to the group and took photos of us eating our breakfast. We must have seemed an odd looking bunch of people.

Untitled 2

Before going to Vietnam and Cambodia I hadn’t done much cycling having suffered with a bad back the previous 4 years. When I started training for the trip I could only manage 20-30 minutes before my back started hurting. I am also prone to heat stroke so I thought the hardest part about this trip would be cycling long distances, day after day in the heat. I can now say that the hardest thing was saying goodbye to all the wonderful people on the team and reading texts about group cycle rides around the Cotswolds. I miss everyone and wish I could join them on their weekend rides.

 

thumb_IMG_0408_1024

Julia’s Review

 

The narrow tracks, linked by ramshackle bridges, ran between wood and straw single-room shacks of Vietnamese accommodation. From these homes, stretching for miles along the banks of the Mekong Delta, emerged waving children. As we approached, they cried, “Hello!” as though they’d been forewarned of our important challenge! In contrast, the tranquil, golden fields of the Cambodian countryside, scattered with Buddhist temples, were breathtakingly silent, interrupted only by wading water bison and individual rice-pickers.

In spite of the surrounding beauty, I was out of my comfort zone. How would I manage travelling with people I barely knew, attempting a challenge I didn’t know I could achieve? I need not have worried. It soon became apparent that we were a caring group of friends, protecting and encouraging one another with heart-warming moments of kindness. I thought I would mention briefly, in alphabetical order so as not to offend, some of the small acts of thoughtfulness that touched my heart.

The unfolding depths of Alison’s kindness were revealed as I joined her most evenings to help write the blog. At no point did she pass comment on the unequivocal certainty that I was far more skilled at polishing off the wine than adding insightful comments to the blog. Your sensitivity did not go unnoticed!

thumb_20171110_142921_1024

When I was about to expire with heat at Angkor Wat, Caroline offered me a sarong she had recently purchased from one of the locals. She must have known this was not a good idea, bearing in mind my ‘glowy’ appearance, but selflessly lent it anyway, transforming my day.

thumb_IMG_4163_1024

 

It was hard to resist the local children selling gifts for tourists but Chris possibly found it hardest of all. I’m sure his suitcase was full of unwanted Vietnamese and Cambodian items but he couldn’t help himself!

20171126_173221

Whenever we stopped for a rest, I was usually at the point of exhaustion. The first thing I would do was to reach for my electrolyte drink; the second would be to look up. More often than not I would catch Claire’s eye who, with her soft Irish accent, would ask me if I was ok. It was genuinely heart-warming to think that somebody cared.

20171126_193003

It was occasionally mentioned that I am quite a cheery, chatty person but, when the exhaustion and headaches set in, I felt vulnerable. Luckily, I had Jim who, mostly but not entirely unprompted, was there to reassure me that it was ok to be myself. Thanks, Jim.

20171116_140928

John’s infectious enthusiasm was a joy in itself, however, when he combined this with his natural desire to ensure everyone was either having a good time or at least not struggling too much, we felt well cared for. He was never in the same place for long, either at the front, back or somewhere in between the line of Cyclopaths, sometimes videoing sometimes chatting, but always supporting us.

20171125_164608

Along a straight, unusually well-tarmacked road, a small group of us spontaneously formed a peloton: a first for me, and very exciting.  However, I have to thank Marianne for cycling in front of me, selflessly letting me absorb apparently 25% of her energy, and enabling me to occasionally ride without effort. Sorry, Marianne.

20171115_160907

These vivid, emotional memories are often a result of feeling at a low ebb. On a particularly gruelling, exposed, hot and dusty road in Vietnam, I felt close to giving up. Without Matt’s cheerful support, I’m not sure I would have been able to make it to the next stopping point.

IMG-20171117-WA0075

A stressful time for some (me), and an adrenaline rush for others (Alison) was cycling in the dark on a hot and busy main road through Vietnam, surrounded by tuk-tuks, mopeds and lorries approaching from all directions. In terror, I slowed down and noticed that, thankfully, Mick was just ahead of me, presumably also struggling. Slowly it dawned on me that, far from struggling, he had deliberately positioned himself there to look after me. Thank you, Mick.

20171115_135954

On day seven, Paul, who by then must have captured thousands of splendid photos and videos, lost his camera. It was a credit to him and his awareness of the rest of the team that, quietly and without drama, he used the support vehicle to retrace his tracks and found it (hooray!) without causing more than a small ripple through the group.

thumb_IMG_4862_1024

Gears were a problem and advice was offered in abundance. Once in a while, when a cycling buddy speaks your language, it’s possible to feel very grateful. Thanks, Paula, it was delightful to have it explained in simple terms: “Left thumb makes easy” – and you transformed my cycling experience!

20171129_063904

My roommate, Ruth, had a bad tummy moments before we were due to leave our hotel for supper. Roland came to the rescue with an instinctive ability to offer both medical and moral support. Unfortunately, in order to see me, he needed to peep through a gap in the corridor wall (later modelled by Ruth). “I can’t continue to talk to you like this,” he informed me, with his head on his knees, “meet me downstairs”. Whereupon he regained his composure and was able to resume compassionate control of the situation, followed up by several texts of reassurance.

 

20171129_064142

Ruth was constantly kind and always generously shared her belongings with me. Possibly the most heart-warming moments were when, pale-faced and exhausted by the heat, she would still look at me, smile, and say, “Hello my lovely”. How did you remain so caring Ruth?

20171125_181031

After battling with a particularly dusty, hot and busy main road in Cambodia, we eventually stopped for a drink. Alongside us, on the curb, was a quiet and unassuming Cambodian lady whose job it was to sweep the roadside dust onto a sheet and tip it into a bin: a futile job, as the next lorry would simply create more dust. I looked up to see Steve, in a spontaneous moment of unspoken compassion, very gently pressing money into her hand.

20171118_070425

Sheena’s acts of kindness were too many to mention, including giving the last of her money to poor Cambodian children. Possibly one of the most touching moments was, after offering her jelly babies to the team 3-4 at a time, she discovered she only had one left for herself, which had melted and stuck to the inside of the bag. Clearly disappointed, she laughingly ate it anyway.

20171126_170528

My real point is that these heart-warming moments were experienced not only by me but by all of us, all of the time. It was the cumulative effect of these small gestures of kindness which I feel strengthened the bond between us and, certainly for my part, contributed to us successfully completing the challenge.

 

 

 

Alison’s Review

Jim 3

What is not to love about being part of a wonderful, supportive, team of friends, cycling through beautiful countryside with incredible scenery?

Well, one could argue the equivalent of cycling the wrong way down the M25 at rush hour and the sense of danger wasn’t much fun and the eight consecutive 12-hour days in the saddle in 35 degrees with almost unbearable humidity were beyond reasonable. The post-monsoon, slippery paths which brought many of us off our bikes could be described as treacherous and soul destroying. Talking of bikes, it could be said that it was not much fun having clunky mountain bikes not suited to our individual size or needs and making the challenge more difficult. One could also argue that the accommodation wasn’t quite what we were used to and the very limited down-time was tiring. It could be argued that the one hotel with a rooftop swimming pool was a form of torture when we arrived at the hotel too late to use it!

That couldn’t be more wrong! We LOVED every minute of the entire challenge. It wasn’t a holiday, it was a challenge and we were challenged. By being challenged in so many ways, our camaraderie, friendship and support for each other developed quickly and our sense of achievement is huge. The sense of fun we had developed during our long training rides, gained momentum during the challenge and we laughed and joked even through the toughest times.

Within the team, the support for each other was incredible. There was never any question that we would each cycle every single mile. When the going got tough, there was always someone with a helping hand, words of encouragement, a show of support or a joke that immediately made anything seem possible. We looked out for and cared for each other, we felt safe and supported.

I feel proud to part of such a wonderful team and proud of our achievement. I am humbled by the interest and generousity of those who have followed our training and our challenge each step of the way. To have raised over £40,000 for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust is an amazing achievement in itself.

When first diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I became aware of the phrase ‘Parky Perks’. These are the unexpected good things that arise from a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. I remember thinking there could be no such thing! However, if it wasn’t for my diagnosis, I wouldn’t have organised this challenge and I would have never experienced one of life’s great adventures. Our challenge has proved to me that Parky Perks do exist and life can still be wonderful.

Thank you Cyclopaths!

IMG_4429

And again……

Back on the saddle today for some of us who were able to get out this afternoon to brave 30 degrees lower than we have become used to. Add in Cleeve Hill and you might get the sense this wasn’t going to be the easiest of cycles. With numb fingers, toes and a fair amount of shivering, we set off for a ‘quick 20 miles’.

thumb_IMG_4866_1024

It could have been quick but a coffee stop before climbing Cleeve Hill appealed to us all and we found ourselves seated in the aptly named ‘Old Codgers Corner’!

thumb_IMG_4868_1024

Caffeine-fuelled, we each made it up and down Cleeve Hill in record time, arriving home before dusk settled in. We were pleased that Rory joined us Old Codgers and we know many of The Cyclopaths would have joined us if they could. I think it’s fair to say, we’ve all got the cycling bug and are determined to retain the fitness levels we have achieved. Having spent a small fortune each on our summer cycling kit, it now appears we may have to do the same for a winter cycling kit!

 

thumb_IMG_4867_1024 2

Never yet seen without a smile on his face!

 

Paula’s Review

IMG_0217It’s nearly a week since returning from our adventure in Vietnam and Cambodia and it feels like a world away. Luckily, fading tan lines and a drop box full of photos remind me I did actually go!

I can only echo what my fellow Cyclopaths have already so accurately written about the trip; The comradery, the local people, the cycling and amazing Alison and John who I admire greatly.

For me, the whole trip, before during and after, have given me so many positive experiences and I have witnessed numerous random acts of kindness I thought I’d write a list.

Before

  • “Cycling is good for the mind, body and soul”. I completely agree.
  • I have explored areas on my doorstep which I have never been to since moving to Nailsworth 13 years ago.
  • Seeing all the wildlife including, Birds of Prey, Deer, Stoats, Mice, Ducks, Kingfishers and even Lamas by the canal! Being out in the fresh air is great.
  • I loved our group – all quite different but all kind, and such comfortable company.
  • Support from friends. I’ve been blown away by their genuine interest in the trip, the donations, coming to fundraisers, cycling tips or joining us on training rides.
  • Overwhelming help from strangers when a few of us were involved in a nasty bike accident. It is reassuring to know that people do care and are willing to get involved and help.
  • My beautiful travel bag that a friend gave me, filled with thoughtful bits that I would find useful on the trip, from antiseptic gel to Vaseline!

 

During

  • Cyclopath support. Amazing!
  • Sharing of everything from sun cream to bum cream!
  • Our local guides. Ready to change the set itinerary at such short notice so we could get a few more kilometres in. They were upbeat, encouraging, humble, proud of their country and nothing was ever too much trouble.
  • The local children. They had so little but seemed so happy. I only heard two children crying the whole time we were there.
  • Shouts of “Hello” and high fives from the locals as we rode through their villages; they were genuinely excited to see us.
  • Children at the local monastery where we stopped for a picnic. They came in ones and twos until quite a group had formed. They were desperate to try out their English on us and we enjoyed finding out little bits about them.
  • A warm welcome from locals. They were happy to share their homes with us including their loos! I remember walking through a bedroom to get to a loo and saw three very sweet looking children all on a double mattress having a siesta!
  • The older Vietnamese lady, a good foot shorter than me, who quick as a flash tried to help when I got my bike stuck trying to cross a muddy dam.
  • The concern of a local lady who came and touched my sunburnt legs. Although we couldn’t speak to each other she was clearly giving me a telling off for not putting enough cream on.
  • Mick, when he hid half a packet of Jelly Babies in some child’s bike basket so they could discover it later.
  • Julia, when she lent me her cycling sunglasses and she made do with her beach ones. She did look very glamorous in them though.
  • Good fun and laughs.
  • Alison’s positivity. I never heard her complain once, not even when I said her helmet hair looked like a Highland Cow! Love you really.
  • Sense of achievement. I did it, all 500km, and the only hiccup was losing my sunglasses!

IMG_0259

IMG_0411

IMG_0410

IMG_0187

IMG_0115

IMG_0263

After

  • Friends who were pleased to see me and keen to hear my stories.
  • Feeling positive and open to new experiences.
  • We have raised £40,000+. My hope is that the research this money will fund will find treatments to reverse or stop Parkinson’s. I want that for my friend, Alison, and all other sufferers of the disease.

One of the questions I have been asked since I have come back is, “How did Tom get on?” Thomas, as I know him, did fantastically as I knew he would do. Looking after a home and 5 children can have its moments, as I know, but on my return, all the children were in one piece, the house was ship shape and the wash box was empty. I don’t think I’ve seen the bottom of the wash box for years! Thomas was the person who encouraged me most to do this trip, he believed I could do it and made it possible for me to go. I am truly grateful to him and my family for their support. Rumour has it I’m allowed to do another one. Bring it on!

thumb_IMG_0301_1024

 

 

Thank You

We have raised just over £40,000 so far for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust!

CPT_Primary_Logo_web

www.cureparkinsons.org.uk

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological condition for which there is currently no cure. It is a complex disease that can affect almost every part of the body, ranging from how you move to how you feel to how you think. Typical symptoms include muscle stiffness, rigidity, tremor, pain, problems with movement, balance, coordination, speech, memory and cognition. Symptoms will get worse over time.

Every penny raised goes directly to The Cure Parkinson’s Trust to help fund their essential, groundbreaking work, supporting research to find treatments to slow, stop or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.

 

thanks

We can’t say a big enough “thank you” to all our families, friends and colleagues who have so generously donated to our fundraising efforts and who have shown an incredible interest in and support for our challenge.

We would also like to thank the many people who donated anonymously. We can’t thank you in person but we are so grateful for your support.

A special thank you also to all those who organised and supported our numerous, very successful fundraising events over the past few months.

A sincere thank you to those who have supported us in so many ways: training with us (Linda & Mark Jackson, Andrew Sampson, Callum, Rory & Kieran Anderson, Jane Fide, Claire Farragher, Lucy Ferrier, Jackie Ward and Neeraj, Vilas & Seki Prasad), providing us with refreshments during our long cycles (special thanks to Sheena’s Mum for her amazing afternoon tea), looked after our families during training and during the challenge, arranged their own fundraising events on our behalf, helped us with our fundraising events, listened to us talking incessantly about the challenge and our preparations, read our blog, sent words of encouragement……. You are all amazing. x

Please remember that all the money raised goes directly to The Cure Parkinson’s Trust. The Cyclopaths have each funded all the costs of the trip and all associated costs themselves. We know of more donations that are on their way and our Just Giving page will remain open for the next three months. www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/cyclopaths15

 

Sheena’s Review

I feel so very privileged to have been a part of this amazing trip that will stay with me forever. Our senses have been bombarded with a myriad of amazing and beautiful sights. Our emotions have been triggered by personal heart-wrenching stories, and by the friendliness and happiness of people living in poverty. And our bodies have been tested by long distances, limited sleep, challenging terrain and blistering heat.

But the memory that will remain with me forever is the compassion and support of my fifteen fellow Cyclopaths and the fun and laughter that we have shared. Our experienced guide told me that this was the most caring and unified group that he has ever worked with.This is in part down to the nature of the lovely people involved, but also undoubtedly influenced by the impact of our amazing leader Alison. We were unified by our desire to support her and to raise money to fund a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

As the days went by we were continually humbled and in awe of Alison’s positivity and stoicism. Her good days were a joy to behold. On her not so good days we witnessed the power of her determination and positivity, and never heard a single word of complaint or self-pity. She is an inspiration to us all and I for one have learnt so much from her about focusing on the positive and living for today.

I must also single out Alison’s husband John who is also a beacon of positivity and fun. In spite of having ‘man flu’ he kept us endlessly entertained with his jokes, wit and games. The ‘match the rear view of cycling shorts to the helmet’ game did, however, prove to be completely impossible as one patch of black lycra looks exactly the same as any other!

Thank you Alison, John and all of my fellow Cyclopaths for an experience that I will never forget.

 

 

 

Claire’s Review

What a journey …

… one which has made a huge impact on my life, forever.

IMG_4368

It was with excitement and enthusiasm that I said ‘yes’ to the invitation to become a Cyclopath … and then the trepidation set in. How on earth did this opportunity come my way? And who am I to join Alison and this group of remarkable people on such an amazing adventure?

Anyway, I reckoned that sometimes life just unexpectedly gives you a helping hand and the chance to help make a difference, and here was one for me. And with some nervousness, off I went.

IMG_4458

The thing that resonated with me most when I signed up was the fact that Alison and I are nearly exactly the same age. It could so easily be me who is facing the obstacles and hurdles that Parkinson’s Disease is throwing her way. How would that make me feel? … I try to imagine, but I no doubt don’t really understand its impact.

Cycling through beautiful Vietnam and Cambodia was an amazing adventure; a sensory overload of sights, smells, sounds, smiling children, extreme poverty, exotic fruit plantations, paddy fields, cows, goats, mopeds carrying the most absurd items (from mattresses to fridges, small herds of animals and families), mud and sweltering heat!  It also brought immense sadness and humility when I heard about the horrific times both countries have so recently experienced, particularly when our guide told us of his horrendous personal experiences as a child; a gruelling history which is so very recent.

 

My comfort zones were exceeded time and time again, the first of which was setting off on a mountain bike for the first time on day one in the aftermaths of a monsoon. I was grateful for a quick lesson on gears from a fellow Cyclopath.

I feel extremely privileged to have been part of the wonderful team supporting Alison, and have learned much from the camaraderie, kindness, support and friendships which the trip engendered.

Alison is a remarkable and very special lady. Not once during our 12-day trip did she complain about the impact Parkinson’s disease has on her life. Every day, she put herself in situations which must have felt way out of her comfort zone. And every time, she rose to the challenges that came our way and accomplished what she set out to achieve, always with a smile and a positive attitude. Alison is a real inspiration and I have learned much about life from being in her company.

 

Another adventure in the planning I hear … more smiles to that. I love riding a bike.

IMG_7905

Jim’s Review

I have not cycled more than 15km in one go since I was at school, so this was a real challenge for me to plan, train, join a group of 15 people most of whom I had never met, spend 10 days in such extreme conditions with them, and cycle 500km from Vietnam to Cambodia. 

Jim 3

We are a disparate group in terms of experience, fitness, cycling ability and personality, but we all had one goal: to support our friend Alison, and raise money on her behalf for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust charity. We all felt it was essential that we paid 100% of our own expenses so that every penny went to this worthwhile cause. 

Jim 4

I experienced the extraordinary beauty of the South East Asian countryside, the wonder of the Angkor Wat temple, ate local food I would normally never even try, and experienced the horror of war in Vietnam and despicable genocide in Cambodia through the tearful eyes of our guide who had lived through torture, rape and murder of his closest family. The most moving part for me, however, was the opportunity to observe and meet truly local people and communities as we cycled through the heart of the countryside. Their humour, kindness and positivity despite extreme poverty was a real highlight for me. 

Jim 7

9

The cycling was challenging but manageable and I was transported back to being a happy 13-year-old again! The extreme heat and humidity meant I had to drink up to 7 litres of fluid a day, but we all remained reasonably healthy and avoided major injury.

Jim 8a

We were able to help some of the locals too. We provided emergency medical care after a moped accident (I reduced a nasty compound fractured toe, then watched the patient be whisked off on the moped he crashed into (with his son as the 3rd passenger, all without helmets, rather than waiting for an ambulance or car to the hospital!). We had to remember that this is not the UK or the NHS…). We have also managed to support a project set up by our extraordinary guide to build a well in his old school to enable the pupils to have clean drinking water.

With many thanks to my patients, colleagues, friends and family for their generosity and patience in supporting me in this once in a lifetime challenge.

Jim 1

I feel tired, but proud, better informed, humbled, rejuvenated, positive about the future and delighted to be a member of The Cyclopaths. 

Jim

a

Jim 8

z

Jim 2

6.jim

AA

John’s Review

IMG_4326 2

For me, the challenge of cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia, started as a way to support my wife. In response to being diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s, Alison has focused her efforts on learning about the condition, educating others and challenging the progression of the disease by modifying her lifestyle. Exercise is a regular feature of this. The challenge afforded a way to combine the exercise with a great opportunity to raise money for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

Having just returned from Vietnam/Cambodia I personally feel a sense of elation and achievement. As a group of 16, we have achieved our charity pledge to raise more than £35,000 by meeting the challenge of a gruelling 500Km cycle. In addition, as a group, we have bonded and gelled into a fantastic team. The experience has changed us all for the better. We have learned to work together, grow as friends, supported and encouraged each other and ultimately ensured the sum of the parts far exceeded the individual components.

IMG_4836

I cannot really express all of the positives that have resulted from this fantastic experience. However, it is worth highlighting how friendly, happy and welcoming the locals were despite limited resources and a brutal recent history, which politically is still far from comfortable. Our small token of support to fund a well in Cambodia was a modest return for the pleasure and enjoyment we experienced as visitors.

IMG_4837

My initial bid to support for my wife has been hugely magnified by the Cylcopaths group. It has been a privilege to be part of this experience and I am delighted at the profoundly positive effect it has had on Alison and indeed everyone associated with the challenge. The charitable response and support from everyone has been quite humbling, thank you.IMG_4601

Jim 4