For those of you not keeping up with Aggie's blogs on the Huffington Post, the UK's favourite domestic fairy godmother has just finished a massive 400km cycle ride across Kenya, all in the name of Women v Cancer.
I'm back home now...and, apart from a bit of peeling sunburn, all in one piece. My cycle ride in Kenya was called a 'challenge' for good reason.
By far the hardest section was on Day Three. We started off by being bussed for an hour to our starting point. Easy, you might think. As it was, the buses got stuck en route trying to cross a river bed (the rocks had become dislodged by rain the previous evening), so all 65 of us had to shift our asses and rearrange the riverbed so that the buses could get through and we could get to our bikes!
Eventually we got out of that hole and started our ride about an hour late. It began with 18km of downhill, which was bliss indeed. I had a speedometer on my handlebars and at one point dared to take my eyes off the road to check my speed: 64km per hour. Eek. I applied the brakes gently at that point. After about 28k we started climbing, and climbing, and climbing.
This stage was divided into three parts: bronze, silver and gold. It was soooo tough! I really thought, when I got to the first feed stop at the bronze level, grunting, wheezing, sweating and swearing, that I would be unable to continue. After 10 minutes, a drink and a snack, I got back on the bike and continued. Turned out that the first stage was the hardest. During the 'silver' stage, the heavens opened and we were treated to warm, gentle, tropical rain that kept us from expiring.
The 'gold' stage was another toughie, which I did together with fellow-cyclist Holly and we chatted most of the way up and came in joint second at the top (not that it was a race, of course!). We were at 2290m and were rewarded with the most amazing views across the Rift Valley.
Each day we had a proper sitdown lunch that was cooked in the open by the Kenyan support team. I have no idea how these guys managed it, but they did, and impressively so.
The roads are, on the whole, in surprisingly good condition. However, there's the odd mammoth pothole, which can be slightly alarming if you don't see them in time. The speed bumps are a nuisance too (cue jiggly bits being activated). I sorely missed my narrow-tyred, lightweight dream of a road bike but could see why the surfaces called for a heftier model and thicker tyres.
We cycled through countless villages during the week. Everywhere people were very welcoming, and children came in their droves to stare at us strange white people, cycling like mad in the often searing heat, and they would always shout sweetly, 'How-a-yooooo?' Most of the villages were fairly primitive and poor, yet everyone had huge smiles and waves for us.
The final stretch of the ride was momentous. All 65 of us cycled the last 4km slowly together, three abreast, balloons tied to our helmets, into and through Kisumu (the third largest town in Kenya), right to our hotel where we were greeted by an outside reception, a glass of fizz and lunch by the pool. It was over! Many of the women were overwhelmed and tearful, and lots of hugs were exchanged. We were glad to be finished, finally.
I liken the experience to childbirth: absolutely relentlessly hellish in parts, goes on painfully for a good long while but when it's all over and done, the feeling is of euphoria and achievement...and any tough memories are instantly erased. And, like having babies, I know I'll sign up for another at some point soon.
For more information on Aggie's ride or to sign up for a Women V Cancer ride yourself for 2012 visit Action for Charity
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