Thursday, 26 November 2009

A new friend on the road – Gemma, joins the CSX Expedition!

By day 8, Chris and I had established a vague routine for riding in Thailand. Generally we would pack up our camping gear in the dark and set off after first light, stopping for first breakfast or roti or ‘pla don gor’ (donuts) and coffee at around 7am, then for second breakfast, usually rice or noodles, at around 9am. On this particular day though, we had only made about 10 kms and were passing a Palm Oil plantation, when out pops a little Australian girl with touring bicycle!

Gemma, a 22 year old from Wagga wanted to see the world, but to do it in a sustainable and eco-friendly way, so took off on her little adventure by cargo ship from Australia in October। She has been cycling solo through Malaysia and Thailand ever since.

We were headed in the same direction, so she joined us up to Trang, onto Krabi and she and I have just spent two nights camping on Koh Yao Island, while Chris circumnavigated Phang Nga Bay solo.

Training to be a vet, Gemma has a unique way with animals (which has been very helpful-especially with dogs and monkeys) and strong passion for the environment and solving issues regarding climate change and water scarcity in Australia. We have really enjoyed riding with Gemma –and it has been a constant source of amusement for Thai people, who often think that she is mine and Chris’s daughter!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Goodbye Malaysia, Heloooor Thailand!

Our rest days in Langkawi island turned out to be more indulgent than we expected. One thing this expedition has taught me, is to leave those expectations at the door with your cycling shoes.

Din, our couchsurfing host, and his tribe of bachelor friends were about to embark on a weekend of birthday parties, and we were invited! During the course of the weekend 'the hungry bikers' were treated to a buffet dinner, followed by an amazing BBQ the following evening. Din's neighbour Rizal cooked up an amazing array of meats, scallops and lobster - which were so delicious that Chris announced the title 'Best BBQ outside of Australia'.

We were excited to get to Thailand - but not before seeing some more of the island. Later on the ferry over to Satun (Thailand) we met a Thai mountain bike group, who were very taken by our bikes. I was excited to have the opportunity to speak Thai again, so asked if they knew somewhere cheap we could stay in Satun. They offered to show us to the main Wat (Buddhist temple) an d we all set off in convoy, riding together in the pouring rain.

After setting up our tents under a wooded pagoda, we noticed that there were several people congregated nearby, celebrating something in true Thai style – by eating together! We wandered over for a look, and before we knew it, everyone was smiling, asking us to sit down and enjoy all sorts of Thai curries, kanom (snacks) and deserts. It was until after a few minutes that I realised that we weren’t crashing someone’s party –but someone’s funeral!

With full stomachs and a dry place to sleep, we couldn’t have been happier. If this was the kind of hospitality shown to us at a funeral, then we were definitely looking forward to seeing what the rest of Thailand had to offer.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Happy Birthday CSX

We are currently on Langkawi Island and it is Day 5 of riding with the Cyclestrongman, Chris Roach. Yesterday was Chris’s birthday, although neither of us realised what day it was until the afternoon- oops. Chris got a plethora of gifts (boy, was I glad to lose some of that extra weight) when we started our journey to Pai...Straight Up 3 days ago.

When we rolled into Langkawi we hadn't had a proper shower for 3 days. So as soon as we arrived we headed for the ocean and swam fully clothed.

Chris kept pointing out that ‘today is my special day’ to people, bringing him special privileges like a free milo smoothie and a scrummy piece of chocolate cake from the night market, which made it even more special. “Life’s Good” he said before passing out in his hotel room that night.

My cycling capabilities have shocked me in the past few days. Having already been on the road for 8 months, I thought Chris would be setting a keen pace, but since he is going to be on the road for 8 years and has recently undertaken a retreat in Vipassana meditation, his riding style is calm and ‘sabai sabai’.

I thought I would be left gaping for air after only one one leg (like in the spin classes I used to do at the gym) but after 4 days of solid riding (between 45 and 80km per day) I am left feeling energised and ready to get up and do the same tomorrow.

The journey has already been full of surprises. On night one we slept in an unfinished shell of a house, which was at the side of a major freeway. The following night it was in a motor mechanic garage (he gave us permission of course). I’ve already started to appreciate the simple things. One day it rained all day, and even though this adventure is a far cry from a holiday – I am enjoying myself, so far, so good!

Our plan is to loop the island, stay a couple of nights in our tents on a beach somewhere before heading into Thailand (Satun) on Monday 23rd.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Training in Penang

I rolled into Penang, and siddled up to The Old Penang Inn guesthouse which had been recommended by Caroline! As I wheeled my bike into the front doorway, a guy approached and was fascinated by my two wheels. Joen, a Belgian, was travelling overland from Australia back home and was keen to do some riding. This worked well for me as I had two days to kill before Chris arrived, and wanted to explore the island by bicycle. So off we went, tents and sleeping mats strapped to our racks, or in Joen’s case in his lovely basket.

The first couple of hours were fairly subdued – flat stretches of riding, with intermittent temple stops and food breaks. After a while we came to some hills – which were not as hilly as they were mountainous. We went up and up for about 12km, each time the terrain getting steeper. After a while I had to get off and push and was doing so when the rain started to pour.

It was coming from all directions down the mountain at me, which was making it difficult to push, not to mention pedal. I can’t tell you enough how ridiculous I felt at this moment – a complete beginner cyclist, attempting to climb mountains in the pouring rain on day one. Eventually we reached the top, and coming down made it all seem worthwhile! We found a quiet and dry place to camp at a lovely Chinese Buddhist Temple. The caretakers let us pitch our tents in the shrine, fed us soft boiled eggs and crackers, and we slept like babies after the excitement of day one.

The following day included a much more gradual climb, up to a Tropical Fruit Farm, where you could eat abundant amounts of dragonfruit, yellow watermelon, rambutan, pink guava and many other delights for less than $2 AUD. Overall, I was happy to have had these two days of training and was ready to begin my next adventure to Pai...Straight Up.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Ready, set, go!

The ride to the Hua Lumpong Train station was the scariest and hairiest ride I have ever done. Prior to this ride, I have ridden in Bangkok twice. Both times I was wearing my super-fluro construction worker/motorcycle taxi vest, and ventured out at a time of the week which was guaranteed to be traffic-free (Sunday afternoons).
This time, I was unprepared. I left late, in the heat of the day, at a peak traffic time and without realising that I should have practiced riding with weight on my bike. For anyone who hasn’t tried riding with 40kgs strapped to the back, it can be a bit wobbly!
I piked halfway and paid way too much for the nearest tuk tuk driver to save me. We rolled up just in time for the train, and I settled in for my 22hr train journey to Penang.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Counting down the hours now...

Its been a busy week - finalising things (like work), fundraising, telling the media our story, packing and unpacking, but tomorrow I am heading to Penang, to meet Chris and start riding towards the starting line - Satun (in the south of Thailand). Can't wait!!

I said goodbye to my Thai teachers this afternoon. "Chok dee na kha (Good Luck)" they said, but were looking at me with concern. They are not the only ones - people keep taking one look at me and asking - "Are you sure your ready?"

Physically speaking = No
I haven't been training since I have been back in Bangkok. The two times I have attempted it, I was lying on the couch afterwards wondering why I even left the house. I've had three pleasant rides outside of the city, but these were pretty leisurely, on bikes with cushy seats and with the benefit of knowing that I had to return the bike after a couple of hours.

Mentally speaking = I think so, but one will never know how they feel riding for 5-8 hours per day in heat and rain, until they have tried it.

Have you packed? Yes
Everything except the portable iron, Chris wouldn't allow it!

Have you finished working? For now, Yes
The beauty of being a freelancer - means you can take off on these adventures.

Have you spoken to your parents? Yes
They're cool.
Well, off you go then!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

a t-shirt, a smile and a good story

Wow - it's amazing what little effort it can take to inspire others.

Whilst schmoozing last night's tweet-up (#bkktweetup) I spoke to about 6-7 people about the ride that Chris and I are doing, and the work of Oxfam Australia. These generous people each committed to give me 1 THB per kilometer that I ride.

I am extremely grateful that all of these people were willing to support the cause and have faith that I am able to successfully ride all the way to Pai. Big thanks to: Rose, Tri, Pam, Ryan, Richard, Dwight and Dylan who collectively helped me to raise 11,100 THB for Oxfam Australia!

You can also donate by pledging by distance you think I can travel (please note these are approximations only).

To Pai Straight Up One THB per Km

Satun - Krabi = 250 Kms (250 THB / $8 AUD)
Satun - Phuket = 400 Kms (400 THB / $13 AUD)
Satun - Phetchaburi = 800 Kms (800 THB / $26 AUD)
Satun - Suphan Buri = 1000 Kms (1000 THB / $33 AUD)
Satun - Ayutthaya = 1200 Kms (1200 THB / $40 AUD)
Satun - Sukhothai = 1600 Kms (1600 THB / $52 AUD)
Satun - Chiang Mai = 2200 Kms (2200 THB / $72 AUD)
Satun - Pai = 2500 Kms (2500 THB / $82 AUD)

Please support Oxfam Australia by donating at:

For all my friends living in Bangkok - tomorrow, Sunday 8th November, you are invited to a picnic in our lovely garden in Phaya Thai. This fundraising event will give you the opportunity to find out more about the Cyclestrongman Expedition, Oxfam projects in Thailand, and say goodbye to me before I head south to start my journey next week.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Why am I doing this?

I can't say I have ever been a cyclist. My mother gave me a bike when I was about 8 years old, and it continued to gather dust (and eventually rust) in the garage for the next 12 years.

BUT recently I have been inspired. Inspired by several things really.

1. One of my buddies, Chris Roach, decided he was going to ride a bike around the world for 8 years. Mainly because he has a sense of wanderlust, wants to live a simple existence, treat the earth kindly, and see the world. But also because he believes change is possible. He is doing this bike ride to raise money for Oxfam Australia - an organisation who works towards creating a world where people look after themselves, as well as nature.

Please donate to his cause by going to:

2. I have met several cyclists in the past few months - and one thing I noticed was that they all sing in the shower. Mick, Dustin, Alan, Tomas, Charlie, Toby, Chris - it's not that I was standing outside the door listening while you showered - just through meeting you, I can tell that you do. Each of you have that beautiful spirit, and energy that comes from enjoying the little things in life. It takes very little to satisfy you - food, water, shelter and a bike, are the things that make you happy.

3. Over the past two years, I have lived in Thailand and been making a conscious effort to learn Thai language. When I speak this language with others I feel like a child again. I am flirty, fun and outgoing - even more so than when I speak English. I am inspired by my own ability to be able to communicate with people from another country, in their own tongue, and want to get out of the big city once and for all and get to know what daily life is like for Thai people.

So on November 14th I will travel to Southern Thailand to meet the Cyclestrongman (aka Chris Roach) and join him on a glorious bicycle ride - straight up - to Pai, a little heaven in the north of Thailand.

I am estimating that this journey will take approximately 2 months, and we will cycle approximately 2,500 kms.

The reason I will culminate in Pai is significant. Apart from it being a well-touristed destination in Thailand, it is also a place where I spent some time in 2007. When I first arrived in Thailand I received a book which was written about a friend of mine, Tom Hurndall, who was killed 6 years ago in the Israeli Palestinian civil crisis. I took some time off, to read his biography and spent some time on my own in the beauty of the Pai valley. I hope to finish this wonderful journey I am about to embark on in the same place.

So that's why I am doing this.