Diary in the Saddle- November 2019

We crossed the border from Vietnam to Cambodia at Ha Tiên. Very similar to Vietnam with one noticeable difference being not as highly populated. We spent a day in the capital Phnom Penh visiting the hard hitting killing fields and the famous S21 prison where the Khmer Rouge Regime wiped out 25% of Cambodia’s population only 40 years previous. Next stop was Siem Reap and our Cambodian ultramarathon around the 906 year old temples of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. After learning from our Vietnam experience we started this run at 4am to avoid the heat. It was another tough run but been around such a historic place, running past elephants and monkeys, led to a surreal day. Ultramarathon number 3 of 28 done and dusted. Siem Reap also saw us hit our first major milestone of our journey. 5000km cycled. What is even more incredible is after 20% of our journey complete, €30,000 of our €100,000 goal to raise vital funds for the Children’s Hospital Foundations in Sydney and Crumlin has been reached. We cannot thank everyone enough for the support, it inspires us each and every day. From Siem Reap, Cambodia we continued our expedition. We headed north and into Thailand through a remote border crossing at Choam/Sa Ngam. Still not fully recovered after ultramarathon number three, the mountain pass over the Dangrek Mountains which separates the two countries was a lot harder than it should have been. When we reached the top there was a small village on the Cambodian side. We took a seat and drank some delicious sugar cane juice, dripping with sweat after the hike a bike effort over the pass. An average day sees us burning 4,000 calories. With the main diet of rice which has very low nutrient/calorie content, we had been calorie deficient for a while now and the signs were showing. We crossed the border and welcomed the downhill, wind in our faces cooling us off as we made our decent. The effort we were putting in was no longer sustainable, we decided to cut back on the mileage each day and be out before the sun rises and parked up before the hottest part of the day. As we cycled through Eastern Thailand, watching the sun rise over our right shoulders, several flatbed trucks with rice harvesters would pass us on their way to do a days work, the rice harvest was in full season, unlike Vietnam and Cambodia it was machines doing most of the work, a rice harvester looks like a small open cab combine harvester, with a header of about six foot. As the harvester makes it way up the swarth, another worker is on the side holding a big bulk bag open, once full that was loaded into the back of a small truck. The truck would take the rice to a big depot, empty the rice onto the ground and a front loader would spread out the rice evenly along the ground where it would be left for the day to dry out before bagging it again as the sun sets. Smaller farms or individual businesses lay out some tarps in-front of their house and dry it themselves before bagging and either use for themselves, swap for other products or sell to neighbours or local shops. We slowly meandered our way up through Thailand enjoying the local food and the speciality Papaya Salad called Tam Som in Thai, a spicy salad made from shredded unripe Papaya that packs one hell of a punch, I think they used make it extra spicy just to watch how we handle it, plenty of laughs and lots of bottles of water ready to go. We entered into Laos via the Thai - Loas Friendship bridge and to the capital Vientiane.The next day Daithí came down with an illness that gradually got worse and ended up in the hospital. He got a course of antibiotics and was on the mend. On Thursday 21st November at 6:50am we woke to our beds shaking, it lasted 20 - 30 seconds. Turns out there was a 6.1 magnitude earthquake on the Thai Loas border that had sent tremors from Myanmar to China and all the way to Vietnam. We were a long way from the epicentre and luckily no damage done here in Vientiane. November had been a stop start month which has left us about 2,000km behind where we expected to be at this stage. We hope to get some consistency and momentum soon to catch up on lost time. As always, we appreciate you taking the time to read this, this is a self funded trip and our main goal and motivation is to reach our ambitious €100,000 goal for much needed funds for the children’s hospital’s in Sydney and Crumlin with all monies raised being split 50/50. Every little bit helps. Thank you. Paddy