Vashti's Ho Chi Minh to Angkor Wat Cycle
Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured myself at the age of 47, cycling 360 miles through Vietnamese villages and along Cambodian rice fields with 35 strangers. But that's exactly what I did last year after reaching a crossroads. In 2010, I broke up with my parner and facing single life with a family of three seemed daunting. I needed a challenge. My friend Sarah suggested I join her on her next charity trip, normally, I wouldn't have considered it but something made me realise it was exactly the thing I wanted to do!
I love cycling and wanted to raise money for the British Heart Foundation, (I was born with a hole in my heart, which required surgery when I was three), through searching online, we found a nine-day cycle with Discover Adventure from Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam to Siem Reap in Cambodia. I'd never visited Asia in my life! We set about our fundraising organising fancy dress events and bucket collections.
I spent a year training and by the time we set off I was fitter than ever before. Friends thought I was mad and I was incredibly doubtful myself about whether I could physcially do it.
Stepping off the plane in Vietnam with my fellow travellers was like nothing I'd ever experienced. The heat just hit us! We were all tired by the flight but our guides gave us time to acclimatise and get used to our surroundings before we started cycling on the second day. The first day on my bike was my favourite as it poured with rain, making it much cooler than we we first arrived. I began to struggle on the third day, as I had terrible jet lag and was surviving on about 4 hours sleep, my body was exhausted and I had stomach cramps, and I was frightened I wouldn't be able to continue. Fortunately, I was with a fantastic caring group of people who told me I could do it. Miraculously, I got through 60kms that day! The best part was crossing the border into Cambodia. As we passed through villages on the way, children lined the red clay roads, holding their hands for "high fives"! When we finished I tried to phone home, but nobody was in. I was sobbing my eyes out, so overwhelmed by what I'd achieved, and I desperately wanted to share it with someone.
I realised my outlook had changed. I feel more confident and that I can do anything. The trip has inspired me to do more charity feats abroad next year!
Vashti lives in Essex and is a consellor for children's charity Place 2Be.