With the deadline for our Fundraising Givealittle page drawing ever nearer, it's time for some final thoughts on one of the most challenging yet rewarding things we've ever done.
Choosing to cycle for the Fred Hollows Foundation, and helping to live out Fred's vision of a world where no one is needlessly blind, was a fantastic experience, one that went beyond ourselves and created a special reason for completing the trip.
I always knew I would be challenged mentally and physically, and that I would need the strength created by the thought of the lives I could change to get me through some of the tougher parts of the trip. Despite a few weeks of training and the knowledge that we had been "further" before on our trip around France, New Zealand is hillier, steeper and less forgiving than much of the French landscape, as well as a lot more off road and gravel tracks involved in the Tour Aotearoa route we took.
Three days stand out for me as the biggest challenges;
One was actually Day 1, halfway down Ninety Mile Beach, unbeknownst to us we were riding at high tide through soft sand at the top of the beach, at about 5kms an hour, legs and bum battling through first day soreness, absolutely starving but wanting to get to the end of the beach before "high tide" set in. I remember wondering to myself; "can I actually do this? It's really hard and I'm uncomfortable already!"
Day X, which we'll call "the great storm of Pureora", was by far the most difficult technically, with the off road paths proving slow and slippery, as well as torrential rain and the sheer length of time it took us to complete. We've learnt that there is always a real tough day where you have to dig deep in every trip, and this one was definitely Cycle for Sight's hardest day. After spending all night in our little tent in the torrential rain, we set off around 7am up the first half of the Timber Trail, soaked within half an hour, and after accidentally losing my jacket, also a bit cold. We'd missed a planned food drop the previous day and were also low on tucker. Things were topped off by the fact that my phone went for a swim, and during the descent down the other side of the trail, I fell over at least four times, with the last being a knock to my knee on a rock. At this point it was easy to wonder why we were riding in such crazy conditions!
A few days later we were heading down the Whanganui River, and the knee had graduated to full blown pain every time I pedalled, despite as many Nurofen as I could safely stomach. My main worry at this stage was whether I would have to stop riding, and that was breaking my resolve to keep going. I just couldn't face letting all our supporters and the Foundation down, and even wondered whether I should just start walking to Wellington! I was frightened that I was doing permanent damage to my knee but even more than that was the anxiety about not finishing something I had publicly started. I was lucky that the pain was from a bruised patella rather than a chip or break, and thankful that our trip hadn't been cut short.
When I look back on these three days I know that the main thing keeping me going was the will to achieve something bigger than me. When I was ten I read 71 books in two weeks to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis and that's probably by biggest fundraising effort to date! Setting the goal to raise $5K was a scary one, and knowing the the difference we could make by achieving that target together was the motivation to get through the tough days.
Three days, even three weeks, is not a long time.
I've been sunburnt, hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, fallen over countless times - most of them still attached to my bike, scratched, bitten, stung, been more bruised than I ever have in my life, slept in a tent in a storm, ridden through rivers, lost possessions, been so tired I'd sleep on the road, been three days without a shower, slept in my riding gear and got up again to ride again, eaten jam sandwiches for dinner and rice risotto for breakfast. I've cried like a child, given my husband the silent treatment, thrown my bike, lost some important bits of gear that werent mine, and I don't feel hard done by or that my Christmas Holidays were all hard work.
None of that compares to being blind when you don't have to be, or knowing your children can't go to school because you can't be left alone, not being able to work or provide for your family, or not seeing those children or grandchildren or knowing what their smile looks like, of not being able to enjoy the small pleasures of their world.
You can help one of them with a $25 donation.
We can help more people together - https://givealittle.co.nz/fund...
Thank you for supporting our crazy dream - we can't say enough thank yous to all of you!