Archive for March, 2011


Connecting Children: Brightening Futures

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Take a look at this fantastic opportunity to be part of a global project that aims to engage students, help them learn about other countries and cultures, make their learning real and allow them to make a difference to other people’s lives.


Heard about the Ugandan Global Project?  If not, take a look now.
Inspired?
Want to do something similar?
Read on to find out more.

If you are interested in taking part in this global charity/educational project or would just like to know a bit more, leave a comment expressing your interest and teacher Sarah Leakey or Bikeabout will get back to you shortly.
At present, the proposed time for the project would be May to July 2011.
Sarah will have a Year 2 (Grade 1) class however we hope that won’t put teachers with older classes off and home schoolers.  We already have 6 groups involved.  It would be great to get both a range of ages and a mix of similar ages to broaden the experience for all involved.

See the edublog to find out what has happened already http://connectingchildren.edublogs.org/

Aims:

To broaden our own children’s horizons by letting them experience other countries and cultures from all walks of life.

To empower our children to make a difference and show them that you’re never too small to make a change.

Provide them with a real context for a whole host of valuable learning opportunities.

Have a huge amount of fun!

Help Child’s Dream and Bikeabout build a school for underprivileged children in the Mekong Sub-Region

childsdreamlogosm Supporting The Charity: Child’s Dream

Child’s dream was established in 2003 by Marc Jenni and Daniel Siegfried as a charity organisation dedicated to unconditional help for underprivileged children in the ‘Mekong Sub-Region’ which includes Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.  This region is at the core of many humanitarian crises and children are suffering the most. To find out more about Child’s Dream and their projects, visit: www.childsdream.org

bikeaboutlogo The Adventure: Bikeabout

Liz Wilton and Chris Leakey are a British cycle touring couple (Chris and Sarah are brother and sister) who have undertaken the rather adventurous task of cycling from New Zealand back to England.  As part of this, they have chosen to support Child’s Dream and aim to raise £20,000 (approximately Oz: $31,800 / USA: $31,500 / NZ: $41,200).  This would be enough money to build a whole school!
Find out more about Bikeabout here: www.bikeabout.co.uk and why they chose to support this charity here: http://www.bikeabout.co.uk/charity/whychildsdream.shtml

The teacher: Sarah Leakey

Sarah is a primary teacher who was trained and worked in the UK but is currently working in New Zealand. She has a wealth of teaching knowledge and a real passion for education and inspiring children to learn. She is an expert at working with challenging and unmotivated children and currently working on her MA in Education with a focus on formative assessment.  Amongst all this she still manages to find time update her professional blogs and then go skydiving or climbing on the weekend.

Class Blog: http://leakeysblog.edublogs.org
Professional Learning Blog: http://leakeysbubble.edublogs.org
Diigo Educational Links: http://www.diigo.com/user/sarah_leakey


About the project
It is not our aim here to set out how the project will run, that will be determined by the people who choose to be involved and the children we work with.
It might be helpful to know that:

Chris and Liz (Bikeabout) will be able to:

Give skype sessions (depending on location and access to fast enough internet)

Provide tailored resources, video, photos anything you can think of for classes related to your curriculum.

Correspond via email to any question the class, pupil or teacher have.

Child’s Dream have been most helpful in the past providing photos, responding to children’s emails etc. and have just set up their own youtube site with videos that give a better insight to their work, this is limited to one video in English (Laos Field 2) at the moment but I am told more are on the way.  The others (in other languages) still provide useful images and talking points but are better played with the sound off.

Due to the nature of Bikeabout being a cycling project, Sarah was thinking that she might link it with work on cycle safety or encouraging cycling to school for example (although this is up to each individual person).

In terms of the actual event to raise money, we think this would be best left up to the children, they usually come up with the most creative ideas.

To get a bit of an insight into the Bikeabout adventure, read the blog or have a look around the rest of the website.

Join in now – http://connectingchildren.edublogs.org/

Share this with other teachers or educators that might be interested by clicking on the share buttons below.

Comment and show your interest or email and show your interest.

Thanks, we look forward to hearing from you.

Chris, Liz and Sarah

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Cycling the QuerPass, Maniganga and Kanga

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

The next morning I woke up and I still had my arms and legs, and the food was still in the tent porch. I had not slept well but I had slept warm despite the sub zero temperatures and the frozen water I was melting to make breakfast with. The weather outside the tent did not look that nice, There was a storm at the top of the valley and it was coming my way. I opted to stay in the tent and see what would happen.

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When I left Dege I was told that this mountain pass called QueEr was covered in snow and I would not be able cycle over it. Fortunately there was no snow and despite the higher altitude it seemed easier going, as the climbs were gentle and the road pretty good. The snow passed over and left a light dusting on the ground so I packed up and set off. I was feeling remarkably good about things, despite the bad night. I think knowing that I was going to make it to the top was a good feeling. It only looked like there were three more bends to go but the driver who had offered me a lift the day before had said that the road bent around and that what I could see was not the summit.

Near the top cycling QueEr pass

The first few hours went really well and I made it to the last visible bend from the road below and started to disappear around the back of the peak I had camped under. I stopped for short break and had a brief encounter with a couple on a bike and a police man in his car. I continued round the corner and saw that there was two or three very long bends to go. I got to the end of the first one and had a quick lunch, the weather was too good to stop, if I took a long lunch I might end up getting caught out in the snow and having to push to the top again. Fortunately the weather held out and I got to the last bend, negotiated a pack of dogs that seemed to be protecting an abandoned building and rode up the last bend.

The summit QueEr pass

I was ecstatic, 5050m the QueEr Pass, the highest point so far on the trip and all by bike this time, no pushing.

The cyclist on the summit of QueEr pass Sichuan, China

The top was a little narrow and there seemed to be a reasonable amount of traffic. I managed to get some summit photos and then pointed the bike downhill. As I started to descend I saw a line of traffic coming up the hill, only it was stationary.

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There was patches of snow and ice on this side of the mountain so I was having to take things slowly. Eventually I reached the vehicles that were stuck. A few of the trucks were struggling to get past a particularly icy section. I weaved my way in and out the trucks and cars, turned another bend and found myself on an ice free bumpy road. I let the brakes go and zoomed down the hill as fast as I dared. Half way down I spotted a tent in the valley.

Like minded travellers

I paused to see who it was. Rather than another cyclist is was some Chinese or Tibetans people who were camping out. They had a small cart with them, so were probably walking to Lhasa, a pilgrimage some hardy Tibetans will make from their home town. I continued to bounce down the hill until I met an old lady who was rounding up her cattle.

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I was due another break so stopped and offered to share some food with her. She seemed reluctant at first but then took an orange from the pile of food I had put between us. She did not say much and it was a strange interaction, but I felt nice to be in a position to be able to share. I was certain I would make it to Maniganga today and I would be able to resupply on food there. I waved goodbye to the lady and carried on, I passed a couple who were walking to Lhasa but praying all the way there.

On a pilgrimage

This involves walking three paces kneeling down putting hour hands on the floor so you’ree sliding your hands forward until you are lying down. Then you bring your knees to your hands, stand up, walk three paces then do it all over again. Most people wear a leather aprons and have blocks of wood attached to their hand. I thought cycling was hard, but this is extreme. Next I passed a very young couple who asked for a lift into town, I tried to explain the bike was heavy enough as it was, but they seemed disappointed. I wished them well pointed the bike down hill again. An hour later I arrived into a small town. Maniganga.

Maniganga was small, with one main street and not much else, but the people were friendly enough. I checked into what seemed to be the only hotel hoping for a shower. Unfortunately the water was all off due to frozen pipes, so no toilet or shower. The toilets were across the road behind another building, but you had to go before 10pm otherwise the dogs would get you. Despite all this I had a nice room and there was a restaurant attached to the hotel, I was very hungry and surprised the staff by polishing of four bowls of rice as well as my meat dish. I chatted with the owner of the hotel for a while who had a great money collection of international currency. I donated some English coins I still had and then retired to bed. It was Tibetan New Years Eve, but for me it was time to sleep.

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The next day I had a relaxing morning and was invited to the hotel owners family house for tea and meat. They had a nice house a short ride from the hostel and I did my best to communicate with his parents whilst chopping bits of meat from the hunk and sipping tea.

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By midday it was time to start moving again, so I loaded up the bike once more, pointed the bike north and started cycling. The road although unsealed was pretty good and progress went well, I found a great camp spot by a river and had a peaceful night. The family I had had meat and tea with had assured me that there were no bears in this area and I would be perfectly safe.

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I woke up to a light dusting of snow and slowly started to pack up, the day progressed with good roads and a mixture of snow, sleet and ice. It was quite cold but as long as I kept cycling I was happy. The good road climbed short hills and made for good progress. I was certain of making it to Ganze, a big town were there was sure to be water and comfy bed to sleep in.

Snow bike imprint

Early afternoon I was cycling along in my own world, as light snow fell from the sky and melted on my waterproof jacket, when a motorbike pulled up along side me. The woman on the back started speaking fluent English but with an Indian accent. We continued moving and cycling, well they were motoring and chatting. It turned out her village was a few kms away, she lived in India now but was back visiting family. We stopped at the village shop for tea and I was invited to the village. The woman reckoned she could find me a place to stay for the night and asked if I was free tomorrow, she and others in the village were walking up the local holy mountain for Tibetan New Year and then there was horse racing in the afternoon. It is a travellers dream to be invited to do all this, so I followed her up the side road that lead to a large cluster of houses, that was her village.

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Staying in KeLuoDong and Sleeping with bears.

Friday, March 25th, 2011

I cycled out of Dege on a pretty good road, it was sealed but with pot holes and the odd unsealed bit. The weather was sunny but not to hot and I was making great progress on the flat roads. Dege had been wonderful and the massive lunch I had before I left was sure to power me until last light. About 4pm I passed a group of people that were sitting on a small hill to the side of the road. The kept shouting at me until I stopped and walked up to say hello. They were having a kind of beer pick-nick and wanted me to joining them. I declined the beer, acting out that cycling drunk was not a good thing, but was happy to chat for a bit. After a while the conversation dried up but one of the guys was insistent that I come to his house and stay the night. His village was a few kms of the road that I was on. I asked if he wanted money in return and he said no, but he would love it if I took some pictures of him and his family and send them to him. It was a good deal so I loaded up my bike into the back of the van and went to meet the family.

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The short drive up a side valley brought me to a collection of about 10 or so houses that were situated all the way down the short valley we had driven up. My bike was put at the bottom of the house where the animals usually live but instead just some straw and a motorbike and I was taken upstairs. It was a typical Tibetan house and I was made very welcome with plenty of food and drink. The family consisting of Mum, Dad (who I met by the road) and their two kids who were about 13 or 14 I guessed. We had a big dinner with plenty of rice and chatted the evening away as best we could with my limited Chinese and the phrase book. We were waiting for 10pm, this is when the village would get mains power and it would be light enough to take some photos. The small light hooked up to a car battery was not really good enough for a photos taking session.

Preparing dinner2

Eventually at 10.30 the lights flickered and we got snapping. Everyone put their best clothes on and I even got to try on some traditional Tibetan clothes.

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When the photos were done I was shown to a room, I had it all to myself a bead and lots of blankets, luxury. I had a great nights sleep and felt lucky to have met this man who was genuine and kind.

Chris in tradational dress with local family

 

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The next day I ate as much of the breakfast as I could. It was the first time I had tried Tsampa (barely flower and water) and it did not really agree with me. It was a shame as I like to try local food and it is a stable for most Tibetan families during the winter. It was freezing cold in the morning and it took a while to get the bike packed up with numb finger. Eventually everything was put in its place, I took one last photo and set of down the valley to joining the main road again.

Local Ladies

On the way I met a few of the other locals in the village. All of whom invited me in for tea, I polity declined I was making a beeline for the main road where the morning sun would have risen and I could thaw out a bit.

Local Kids

Once at the main road I gathered my thoughts and say in the sun for a bit. Most people are really great I though and the kindness I have experienced in China and this trip has been a real eye opener into how we view each other normally. Just as I was leaving another guy on his way up to the village asked me if I wanted a place to sleep or some tea. I waved and said I was OK and continued on.

  Local Man

The day was relatively normal the road stopped being being good about 60km from Dege I calculated and it gradually got steeper. The weather was still good and in-between running into the bushes every hour or so (the Tsampa did not agree with me) I made quite good progress. However by 5pm I was feeling a bit fed up with my stomach and really wanted to stop. I had reached the foot of the big 5000m pass and there seemed to be a Hotel or guest house at the bottom, so I wondered in to ask if they had any room. I received blank looks and they said that this was not a Hotel. So I saddled the bike to try and find a good place to camp for the night. I was now feeling very low on energy and every pedal stroke was an effort. Slowly though I turned the first of the many bends that were above me and that would eventually take me the the highest altitude I had been on a bike. An hour or so later I stopped to look for a camp site. A van pulled up and the guy said that he could give me a lift to the top. I said I was OK despite being very tempted and he kept saying it was fine, he did not want any money it was a long way and it would be a cold night. Eventually after 5 minutes of trying to persuade me he waved and carried on. The access to the camp site I had seen was no good so I had to climb a few more of the hair pin bends until I could get access to a good camp spot.

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I descended a short gravel track to wards a frozen river, I was a little exposed but the site was flat and it would be dark soon. I nominated one spot for the tent and another for cooking. I was thinking of the bears again, at least if I cooked away from the tent it might help out a bit. I had a big dinner and drank lots of tea and started to pitch the tent just before last light. It took me a while as the ground was frozen solid and I could not get the pegs in. Eventually though I succeeded and got my bed and bags sorted.

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My stomach was still doing knots and I needed the loo again, I grabbed the trowel and went to dig a whole as far away from the river as I could get. It was a quiet night and very still. As I squatted doing my business a massive crack sounded from the ice. My muscles froze, all of them, and I jumped up pulling my trousers up as well. I was ready this was it there was a bear on the ice and he was coming over to get me. I raced to the tent and armed myself with the camera tripod and the pen knife. I had gone over this situation every night I had slept outside for the last month. My chances were low but I would not go down without a fight. I sat by the river waiting for the inevitable. Nothing. I really needed the toilet, now, I shone my torch over the frozen river to see what was out there but I could see nothing. I walked back to my outdoor toilet and started again. The fear was obviously making me shy as nothing happened. Suddenly there was another loud crack from the ice. I jumped up again and got ready. The last think I wanted was to die with my trousers around my ankles. ‘Cyclist killed by bear whilst having poo’ was not a catchy headline. If it was my time I was going to go with my trousers on. I scanned the area again looking for the faintest sign of movement, Nothing. The process was repeated about 2 more times and each time I pulled my trousers down the ice cracked. Eventually accepted my fate and managed to do my business while the ice cracked around me and the bears moved in on my position. Finally relived I moved closer to the ice, I was going to find out what was out there once and for all. I must have spent 30 mins watching waiting and listening. Lots of noise by nothing that looked like a bear. I retired to my sleeping bag and hoped that it was just the ice melting and cracking and the bears were far away. I went to bed with the tripod next to me and the pen knife open and ready.

Camp night before the QueEr pass

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Dege and the Printing House

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

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My hotel room was nice, I felt like royalty and the staff at the hotel were lovely, I did consider moving to somewhere cheaper but in the the end convinced myself that this was a reward for having got so far. I ended up spending about 5 days in Dege. Half of my time was spent trying to get kit ordered online for the Gobi crossing where we were expecting temperatures of -30 the other half was spent relaxing and meeting new friends.

       Dege Printing House8

On one outing I bumped into a fellow traveller he greeted my by saying ‘Dr Livingston I presume.’ I was a bit taken back at seeing another westerner so do did not have a witty reply. Perhaps one day I will be able to reply Dr Leakey actually. It turned out that he was not Henry Stanley but an Australian on an extended trip exploring the area for the third time. We agreed to meet later that evening and swap stories. He brought along his friend, a monk, who he had met on the way and I was treated to an excellent meal in a small local restaurant. We retired to the hotel and swapped some stories. He had been to the area a few times before and by all accounts this was the easiest trip he had had. Before he had been taken off buses and refused entry to different towns and questioned by the local police, accused of being a spy. I was shocked a little, I had heard reports of this type of thing happening, but had never had any problems with the police.

 Dege Printing House2

The next day I met a French Film maker who was making a documentary about Buddhism, we agreed to meet up and I got treated to dinner again, He had been collecting film for years on different trips and still had away to go by the sound of it. My French just about got me through the evening but I was surprised at how rusty it had become.

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The main attraction of Dege is the Printing house. This has been around for over 500 years but was closed by the Chinese for a period of time after they took over Tibet. It houses thousands of wooden printing blocks of religious, historical, literature and art, medical, astronomical and calendar-arithmetical book editions in Tibetan.. I paid the 50 Yen entrance fee and started to wander around. You have to walk around in a clockwise direction, It is an interesting place and well worth a visit. I did not manage to get a look at any printing in action or at the printing room, just the library halls and the shrines to Buddha and some other important folk. If you find yourself here do try and find someone that can take you to the other rooms where the printing is done, as this will be by far the most interesting part of your visit.

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I left the Dege printing house and was encouraged by a local man to walk around the printing house. Some people do this every day and every time you walk past there is always a crowd of people circling the building. My understanding is that the more you walk around important places of scriptural significance the more credits you get, the more credits you have the better you are.

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The day before I left I searched every shop for a new bike tyre but as the staff in the hotel told me I was not likely to find one here, the next town would be Kangding a week away by bike. I had a spare with me so it was not critical. Later that afternoon the son of owner of the Hotel who I had made friends with asked me to go for a walk up to the printing house. He had been whizzing around on his bike in the car park of the hotel and knew I had a bike, so this made us friends. My new 8 year old friend walked up to the printing house with me very proud to be accompanied by his friend.

Dege Printing House7

On my last day I packed up the bike and was still looking for some cooking oil that did not come in a 5 litre bottle. The son of the hotel owner who was helping me pack up said he could get me some from the kitchen of the hotel, He grabbed the small coke bottle that I used for oil and came back 5 minutes later grinning and a full bottle of oil. After the bike was loaded up he said we should go to the hotel restaurant to get some food, I was hoping to pay a final visit to my favourite restaurant but I could not disappoint my little friend so we walked across the hotel lobby to the restaurant. The restaurant was empty except for a police man and a few staff. The police man invited me to eat with him, we chatted and ate and he refused to let me pay anything. The last thing was photos, suddenly all the staff had their camera phones out. 15 minutes later everyone was happy with their pictures of the hairy western man I said my goodbyes and headed out out of town. Ahead of me lay a 5000 m pass and I was assured it was covered in snow.

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BaiYu to Dege

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

It would have been easy to stay in the cosy hotel room and hibernate for the rest of the winter, but I had put off leaving twice to do washing and visit the local monastery. It was time to pack up and go again. By midday I had the punctures fixed and the bike loaded, all that was left was to get more petrol for the stove. I has seen a petrol station on the way into town and figured it was the only one so would have to go back 1km to fill up. I left the petrol station about three hours later. I was waiting for the tanker to arrive and fill up the petrol station tanks. I made friends with the girls at the petrol station while I waited. During a lull, of people waiting, they grabbed my bottle and filled it up for me from the dregs of the tanks and I was able to carry on my way, this time to Dege. I had no idea of the road or route ahead. Just that it could take anything between two and five days depending on the road and mountains or lack of.

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It felt good to be back on the bike, the afternoon sun was warm and the road was only mildly bumpy. The winding road, dictated by the river to my left, was mostly in a gorge, progress was good and the small breaks I had were spent basking in the sun with my feet dangling over the edge of the rocks, looking down to the steep river banks below. The rest of the day progressed well with only one police check point, where the police did not seem to care about me. A few detours took me up the rivers that flowed into the one that I was following, to bridges that would allow me to continue on my northerly route.

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I started looking for a camp site an hour before last light, as I crested a small hill the valley opened up below me, as well as plenty of potential camp sites. I eased off on the breaks and started to bounce down the rocky road. A few seconds later a massive bang and pop camp from the back of the bike. I stopped as soon as I could and saw the back tyre was flat. Closer inspection revealed that there was a massive hole in the tyre. I still had my original tyres strapped to the back of the bike, so I set about unloading the bike and changing the tyre and tube. It was so frustrating to be about 500m from a camp site but not be able to wheel the bike there for fear of damaging the back wheel. Eventually I set off again and was soon clearing a good camp spot of stones and sticks ready to put up the tent.  However as I tried to put the last pole in the tent, it seemed like it was too long and would not fit. I fought and swore at the tent for half an hour before I gave up and resigned to only having two poles. It would be OK for one night, it was really cold now and I wanted to get into my sleeping bag. A big case of ‘I am going to get eaten by bears if I cook here’ came over me, so I stuffed some dry food in my mouth and went to bed.

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It was cold overnight but I stayed warm enough. As I started to prepare breakfast I was shocked to find that all the water had frozen overnight and I had not put any in the pans. I managed to melt just enough water to have a coffee then packed up to carry on. I was grazing all morning on dried food to keep my energy levels up but by lunch time I was getting really hungry, and knew I needed to stop and cook a decent meal. I had passed through some small settlements and most people had been friendly. As I cycled pass a clearing a group of men beckoned me over to their picnic spot. They made me sit down and I soon had a drink by my side, a knife in one had and a massive chunk of meat in the other. They made me eat lots, I relished the meat and there were plenty of other bit to go with it. I tried to share some of the food that I had but they refused. The group parted on the motor bikes and left me with a stash of food, we took pictures and said our goodbyes. I finished up the rest of my food and started to pack up the bike. As I was doing this another guy came over to talk with me. He lived in the house on the other side of the road and said I could sleep the night if I wanted. I thanked him but said it was early in the day and I wanted to try and get some more cycling done. His daughter came over and we chatted for a bit. Once my Chinese had dried up he got his phone out and handed it to me. It was his other daughter that worked at a hostel in Lhasa, she spoke fluent English. The phone credit died to quickly to get a conversation going but the thought and interaction was what mattered to me. Simple gestures and smiles make such a difference, I cycled off with a warm glow in my heart.

Kind local guys i had lunch with

I was still unsure how long it would take me to get to the road that would take me east and into Dege, I put a long play list on the ipod and made some fantastic progress. The road was rocky and bumpy but I was used to this now and it was a lot better than snow and ice and cycling at the lower altitude was like being a 10 year old and have endless energy to run everywhere. I got to the turn off and was amazed to find a sealed road with no bumps, I had done 40km, it was about 5pm and there was another 40km to Dege. I decided to keep going until 6pm then stop and have some food. Then make a final decision about whether to cycle into the night or not.

Local family

At 7pm the bike was packed up and my belly was full, the lights were set up on the bike and I was ready. I had set myself a target of doing three lots of 10km with only short breaks in-between for water. It was going to be hard as I was not used to this discipline any more. As the first 10km were approaching I was desperate to stop and rest but kept telling myself to carry on. I negotiated a pack of dogs that chased me down the road barking, their eyes lit up by my bike lights every time I turned to check their progress to me. Then the road changed to a bumpy dirt track and climbed up a short steep hill. At the bottom I finally had reached my 10km goal and stopped for chocolate and water. The rest of the ride was less eventful but I had to push hard to reach my targets fighting the urge to stop and rest.

About two thirds of the last 10km, I went passed a street light, I was shocked and excited at the same time. As I got further more and more houses appeared and round the next corner a bright neon light saying Dege Hotel greeted me from the top of one of the tall buildings. I took my bright yellow jacket off and turned off some of the bike lights. It was strange enough for a guy on a bike with bags attached to it to turn up in town but one turning up at 10pm looking like a Christmas tree was just weird. I eventually found the entrance to the Hotel. It was late and I was tired so my negotiating was not as good as it should have been. £12 a night again but I had hot water and a huge room just for me. I was getting soft but deep down I knew that having the luxury in-between the harshness of the riding would help me to continue. I got settled into the hotel and even found a place to get some food late at night. That night I slept soundly I had done nearly 80km the longest day in a month. I felt good but exhausted physically and mentally.

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