555km - The After Effect!

Challenge Team Finish Line

Back in July we wrote about our MD, Kurt Hedgley's, next challenge. This was to complete 555 kilometres on a bicycle from Saigon to Angkor Wat to raise funds and awareness for Save the Children.

At the time Kurt did not even own a bicycle, let alone be prepared for such an arduous task, nor did he realise quite how challenging it would be!

We are pleased to inform you all that Kurt has survived the task and has recently returned to civilisation to tell us all about his experience. Read on for Kurt's candid answers to a few questions we put to him. This will give an interesting, honest and slightly stomach churning account of life on a bicycle across tough terrain with fried tarantulas for dinner!

How did you hear about this event?

I was invited by Mitsubishi Electric who raised over £100,000 for this charitable event.

What motivated you to join the challenge?

I joined the challenge team as I imagined that the experience would be completely different to anything I had experienced before. I also strongly believed in the Charity being supported.

During your training, did you feel that you were prepared?

I can honestly say the more training that I did, I actually felt less and less prepared. This was because the communication from the rest of the challenge team always seemed to be in reference to more and quicker training than I was doing.

By way of comforting words, my challenge team explained that the fact I was training on my own would make the actual event easier especially as I was training on a mountain bike which was also heavier than the guys training on road bikes. I wasn’t convinced though!

Fresh at the Start!

Fresh at the Start!

Once you arrived, what was the atmosphere like? 

There was a real buzz of excitement when we arrived at the airport with many of us meeting for the first time. However, when we arrived, after travelling through what was our night time, you could sense equal amounts of trepidation. This was heightened as we were taken straight to the bike fittings when people received their bikes fitted their pedals, handle grips, seats and various tech gadgets. Not being a cyclist I put a gel over cover on the existing seat in 30 seconds flat and thought  "I guess I’m done"! I then watched many of the other challenger’s make many adjustments and tweaks and I wondered if I really new what I had let myself in for.

En-route

En-route

Had others joined events like this previously?

There were some first timers like me but to be honest at this point it was evident that many of the challengers knew each other previously and had completed challenges before.

What was your first thought when you began the journey?

My first thought was ‘’well I am going to have all my questions answered now so focus on following the wheel in front and keep going!’’ I then thought, OMG have I got enough water in my camel back, did I put the electrolyte replacement tablets in my bike water bottle and have I got spares with me, have I got sunscreen on, have I got insect repellent on, where are my snacks and of coarse how much chamoiscream should I put on and should I have bought the pot with me on the bike. Too late now…..keep going.....

Welcomed by the Locals

Welcomed by the Locals

How did the locals react to seeing you all?

As a whole the local people were very friendly and curious constant calls of "ello, ello" boomed out from every where with a constant reply coming back from what seemed like a bike train one after the other of "hello, hello, hello". Weirdly after a while I noticed that we all started saying hello back repeatedly as they greeted us "ello, ello, ello" in the same accent that they were talking with.

Bridge Navigation

Bridge Navigation

What was the terrain that you had to cycle on?

In Vietnam the majority of the time we were on 1m wide jungle tracks which left very little room for mopeds coming the other way, not that that ever seemed to effect the bemused locals as they sped past. We became adept at communicating down the line the dangers we were approaching and you could here a chorus of "BIKE, HOLE, BRANCHES and BRIDGE" repeatedly in what seemed like a continuous information overload. We became so adept by the end that we all had our own bike language and the ability to communicate lots of detail, with the required action, by uttering one word of instruction down the chain.

snake Dinner

snake Dinner

What was the food like?

To be honest one of the biggest challenges was the food, all the food provided was of course, very nice, although  you had to be a lover of rice (served at every meal, including breakfast) which I am not. Supporting the rice occasionally was something they called ‘’like beef’’ it wasn’t, and what seemed to be chicken. We also had red ant soup, tarantella spiders, BBQ rat, boiled snake (collected by the guides during the day on our bike ride) and many other things I didn’t like to ask about as, to be honest, we were starving and would pretty much eat anything! 

What was your accommodation like?

The accommodation was very good although, on occasions, basic. However, we clearly were over the moon with it when we could see how some of the local people were living.

Did everyone who started, finish?

Everyone who started the challenge finished.

Catching Dinner

Catching Dinner

What was the worst moment for you?

Personally, the hardest time for me was the last day as we had a 100k to go and both my room mate and I had been up most of the night being sick and not moving too far from a toilet. I could not face breakfast and I was running on empty. I struggled from about an hour in as I couldn’t keep food down or in, I was starting to feel drowsy but I knew I had to keep going. We stopped for lunch which I couldn’t look at, I just needed to find a toilet. I then fell a sleep at the side of the road whilst the others finished their lunch. I was struggling and shattered.

What was the most memorable moment?

Strangely enough I would love to say something really philosophical, however, having so many wonderful memories it is difficult to communicate about just one. Although I thought that it was hilarious when, after cycling through the jungle for 4 hrs passing many jungle huts/homes without running water, plumbed toilets or even doors with kids playing in bare feet outside in the surrounding bogs. that we stumbled across a group of locals giving their best rendition of Elvis songs via a karaoke machine, a generator and the biggest speakers you have ever seen. Go Figure!

Local Children

Did you ever feel you wouldn’t be able to make it?

Not until the last day which I found a real struggle. We were so close to completion and I had this acute desire to succeed. This and the support from the rest of the team meant that it never really became a thought for long. 

How did you feel when you finished your last kilometer?

The last kilometer was a long straight road with the Ankor Watt Temple visible at the end. The Temple was lost in the jungle for 600 years and is one of the Wonders of the World so an awe inspiring finish line. I was relieved, emotional and exhausted to the extent that the required sponsor pictures were a real challenge as I could barely stand.

Did you have any rest time before coming home?

We were in Bangkok for a couple of days before we travelled back which was a wonderful experience. Mitsubishi Electric had organized a fabulous hotel. To be honest, the first day there many challengers who just stayed in their room, getting clean, rested and organized in every way they could think of that didn’t have anything to do with riding a bike. Normal behavior resumed after the first day back in civilisation.

What was the atmosphere like on your way home?

A real bond of shared experience’s and achievement will live within the team forever as this was a very humbling experience with some wonderful people. So, a mixture of pride happiness and contentment surrounded the team returning.

How did you feel when you got home?

Overjoyed to see my family and be back in my own bed with a cupboard full of food.

What was the first thing you did?

Kiss my wife, I then started a marathon eating session. Eating on the hour, every hour, small but hugely desirable treats!

Sunset

Has this experience changed you in any way?

Valuing your family and friends and all the trappings of western life should not be taken for granted as we are all very lucky.

Would you take part in this kind of event again?

I would, mainly because I need to challenge myself in everything I do and the feeling of being part of altogether raising £120k for charity is immeasurable.

Are there things in your life that you view differently now, personally?

Never underestimate how lovely it is to be safe in your own home and having the joy of getting into your bed every night, waking up with your family and having breakfast.

Are there things in your life that you view differently now, professionally?

Professionally I have strengthened my belief in people and the relationships that required to make all commercial processes run smoothly.

"It is clear that most things come down to people and not much else."

 

If you would like to see a short film of the challenge teams experience, please click here.

Kurt would like to thank all the people who so generously sponsored him from his friends and family to his work colleagues, suppliers and customers. Every pound donated is appreciated and will go to Save the Children.

If you haven't donated yet and would like to support this worthy cause, click here to visit Kurt's Money Giving Page.

Watch this space for Kurt's next challenging expedition!

Sponsorship T Shirt Front
Sponsorship T Shirt Back