What a day!!

Today began with an 8:30pm pick up followed by an hour and a quarter journey through and out of Kampala to another watoto village. This was one we’ve all been looking forward to as the first part of our visit was to Baby Watoto. 

Baby Watoto was amazing! 73 0-2 year olds are currently living there mostly either left or found dumped on the streets. So as you may imagine it was a pretty emotional trip. We took a tour of the whole complex seeing babies who were just a few days old up to those who were 2 and nearly ready to transfer to a Watoto children’s village home with a house mother. After the tour we were able to go and spend some time with the babies. They were gorgeous and really happy to play with everybody that came. We were a part of feeding them, changing them, playing games with them, having lots of cuddles and finally putting them down for their afternoon nap. It was an amazing experience and the work that goes on at baby Watoto is stunning, changing the lives of so many!!

After we had managed to tear ourselves away we had some lunch and were then taken to visit children that we sponsor. It was a real privilege to spend time in the home of our sponsored child who is called Martha. We spent a couple of hours there beginning with some chatting and finding out about each other including that she returned from Canada last month after touring with the choir where she saw snow for the first time!! Then Martha and Jessica began to tickle each other and after that we couldn’t prise them apart. They taught each other games, played ball, had running races and generally chased each other around like they’d been friends for years! It was a real joy to watch and we are looking forward to spending more time with her over the rest of the time we are here. It was such a privilege to meet her and the people she lives with. She is such a happy little girl who obviously enjoys life!

We spent a couple of hours with Martha by which time it was time to make the return journey to our guest house and some wonderful food.

Wow, wow, wow!!!

Its been a truly amazing day!! It began with early breakfast for an 8am pick up!! We headed out with our packed lunches not to do painting as we originally thought but rather path building!! 

Our journey to the Watoto village was lengthened by the extreme traffic but we eventually turned in to a road to a place we had only heard about and seen in pictures. To actually be there was transformational and we spent a few minutes simply looking around in astonishment. Once we got off the bus we were welcomed by everybody we saw. Their sheer joy was, and I think I’ll use this word a lot, humbling. 

We donned our work gear and suncream and began with a time of worship and devotion with the local workers which was exactly the start we needed and was very moving. 

Then on to the work. We were laying concrete paths. This involved a number of skills: digging, levelling, mixing concrete (we were blessed that they had a concrete mixer), shovelling, transporting the mixed concrete, spreading it, smoothing it just to name a few. It was very hot and we all worked hard. During our work we had so many opportunities to interact with the children and house mothers and they were an absolute joy. They taught us songs and dances, they told us all about themselves, we played all sorts of games with them and they even wanted to help us with the work we were doing. The joy with which they did everything was inspirational. Our children had a wail of a time too enjoying games and fun with the Watoto children! It was a really tough day of work in particularly hot conditions and some of group suffered with this but not once did it stop anyone giving of their absolute best in so many different ways and it was a blessing to be a part of the team.

Once our work was done, we got back on our bus to the guest house a changed team, some emotional, some feeling unwell, some simply whacked out but each inspired by the time we spent in the village. As with every journey we make their were stark reminders of the sheer poverty on the streets of Uganda that moves you to want to do so much more but also reminds us that in the poverty their is joy in the eyes of so many of the people we see.

Today has been a day of laughing and crying and every emotion in between but most of all I will remember the interactions with the adults and children of Watoto which was so amazingly positive and everyone so thankful for the fact we were their not realising that the blessing and inspiration they were to us was way beyond anything we could do!

We still have more work to do and many people to meet but we head in to it inspired to do the very best that we can!!

P.S. You’ll notice there are no photos up yet. The Internet connection is just too slow to upload pictures and it times out so they will follow at a later date.

An amazing first day proper!

This morning we had relatively late start breakfasting at 8am!! After breakfast we were picked up and headed down to downtown Kampala. The traffic is amazing as cars and motorbikes seem to come from all directions and everybody appears to think they have right of way!

We arrived at Watoto church for orientation and to put our valuables in to the safe there. As we were leaving we were privileged to go in to the sanctuary and hear one of the choirs practicing. They are heading out to Hong Kong soon.

On leaving the church we then visited living hope ministries and received the most amazing welcome from the ladies there!! They take ladies who are HIV+ and teach them skill, study the bible and pray with them, and help them to make the most amazing items! These they sell in a small gift shop and they also send lots of items out with the choirs. We found ourselves surrounded by the most lovely people. 

By this point it was lunch time and so we went to get our money changed a then on to a restaurant close by! The food and welcome we got was simply amazing! The waiters were all wanting to serve our table and were so grateful to us for eating there as we were for their wonderful hospitality.

Next was an hour and a half drive out of Kampala along streets lined with places that sold pretty much everything you can imagine. The poverty was obvious but the smiles were beautiful. As we got on to dirt roads and in to a much more rural area we slowed down which gave us an opportunity to wave to the children as we passed. They were so excited to see us and their big smiles despite everything were truly humbling. We were reminded of just how much we all take for granted in our lives.

We arrived at our destination which was a farm run by Watoto where they grow several different types of vegetable which are used in the children’s villages. We were shown around the farm and told about how they employ people in the local village to work there as well as people that have grown up in the Watoto villages making it a community project rather than something that is aloof from its surroundings. Here we were to have the most humbling experience of the day. As we made a stop at the end of farm trip there was a family of four children, mother and grandmother. As we greeted them Joe came out with a pack of jelly babies which Becca took to the children. As she handed each of them one they each went down on their knees and held both hands out! They were so grateful for a simple jelly baby and then proceeded to lick them for ages before finally eating them. We were all so moved and again reminded of just how much we have! 

The farm was our last visit of the day so we then headed back to Kampala and to our guest house where we were once again fed wonderfully.

It has been a most humbling and moving day today with the kindness everybody shows us and the warmth of the welcome we get wherever we go. I have a feeling there is so much more to come! 🙂

A smooth journey to Uganda!

 Its been a long journey, we set off from Braintree at 3pm on Tuesday. 13 intrepid travellers boarded the bus to Gatwick along with a few loved ones. Having zipped through the journey we unloaded and made our way into the airport to catch our first plane to Dubai departing at 9:20pm. 
We were on the big double decker Airbus which was huge! The flight was very smooth and we safely arrived in Dubai at 7:20am and there were some of us who even managed to get some sleep! We had a quick 2 hour layover in Dubai and then boarded the 9:20am flight to Entebbe, Uganda. This was a smaller older plane but all went smoothly once again and we arrived at Entebbe at 1:20pm. 

There was a huge queue to get through passport control where also had to buy a visa but they took pity on us when they saw Jess and told us it wasn’t right that we should wait and jumped us to the front of the queue. Bonus!! 🙂 

Having got through there and picked up our bags we met our Watoto guide with a bus and journeyed through to our Guest House in Kampala which took an hour or so! 

The Guest House is amazing with simple comfortable rooms and food that was amazing!! There haven’t been too many bugs so far apart from a bit of fun with a couple of lizards but we wait to see what tomorrow holds!! It’s early to bed now so we are faring to go in the morning!

Training for spring begins!!

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These are some of the photos I took on my ride today!! I had a great time exploring the local mountains first going up one until the road became too cut up for my bike and then came down and headed up another one before coming back to the house! It involved 10-12 miles of climbing which was tough going but rewarding with the views and downhills that followed as well as great training!! I can definitely feel my fitness building up again and I seem to be coping well with the heat which is useful! I now have another 6-7 months of good, solid training to get myself in to tip top form ready for the spring!! It’s going to be a challenge no doubt especially during the winter months but at least it should keep me out of trouble!! 😉

I’m looking forward to doing 2 or 3 more rides around here before heading home and will keep you up to date with how that goes!!

Cheers

Al

The Last Leg!!! (For now!)

I have to say that today was definitely one of the easier days of this trip!! From the rains of the North to the mountains and heat of the South it has been an experience that will stand me in good stead for next spring when I take on the whole ride in the spring!

Today I set off just south of Granada having eaten lunch atop the Sierra Nevada! The only way I can describe it is ‘downhill’ and I really whizzed along for 17-18 miles. All the while I was waiting for the hill that I knew led up to Jon and Emma’s village. I remembered it as steep and long! But that was before the last few days where I have learnt about what steep and long really is!! 15 minutes and I was at the top thinking that it wasn’t really as bad as I remembered!!

So I arrived at the destination, not quite as planned but nevertheless I learnt many things along the way all of which will be useful for next year. Plans for the next trip are well on the go now and with a full support team, careful route plans, good nutrition and a whole heap of winter training I am confident that I will bounce back from the disappointment of this time and successfully complete the whole ride in the spring!!

The cycling doesn’t stop here though, I’ll have a rest day tomorrow and then I’m taking a few days to cycle and explore the local area here where I’ll have a chance to reflect fully on the experiences of the last few weeks.

Thank you all so much for your support and I intend to keep the blog regularly updated over the next few days with my experiences of cycling in Andalusia as well as sharing some of the lessons I learn and have learnt as I reflect!!

Cheers.

Al

From the valley to eagles wings!!

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Today was an amazing day of spectacular scenery and amazing cycling! We started in a small village next to a large lake and headed off around it! It was an undulating road that went through mainly trees which was a relief as they provided much needed shade in the 32 degree heat!! Ben also did a sterling job of keeping my water topped up as I was drinking rather a lot!! 🙂 It was a really nice ride that after the lake followed the river up the valley.

Towards the end of the valley the road turned inevitably upwards and a tough climb followed particularly with the heat! I have to be honest and say it is as deep as I’ve had to dig on the bike to get to the top but I made it and was rewarded with spectacular view back in to the valley that was enhanced by the two eagles that were gliding around very close by!!

As often happens when you go up you then have to come down and down I came on a fantastic 6 mile descent with switchbacks and huge drops off the side. I’d have preferred the road surface on the corners to have been better as these provided a couple of hairy moments but all in all it was a lot of fun!!

I then had to negotiate the town of Cazorla which was a crazy ride through steep and narrow backstreets dodging people, dogs and cars until I eventually arrived at the campsite planned for the night.

It’s a great place with wonderful views and a short walk from a variety of tapas bars where for a remarkable price we managed to use google translate to ask the waiter to bring us a selection of dishes!! It was magnificent!!

Now with aching legs but a full stomach I am ready for sleep before the final leg of the ride tomorrow and guess what!? It ends with another big climb!!! Whoop!!

Cheers.

Al

Hot hot hot!!!

Today was the hottest day so far on the journey through Spain at 27 degrees plus!! I began riding in a village called Dorica and the first surprise of the day was the 7 mile climb!! That negotiated the rest of the ride was spent undulating across the countryside on long straight roads! It’s alway an interesting challenge riding on a road that is visible for several miles in to the distance as it can feel like you’re never going to reach the end!! Fortunately I did each time!!

It was certainly interesting and useful to get an idea of the terrain in central Spain in terms of where to ride in spring. My conclusion is that it is not flat!!! 🙂

Had a bit of a campsite nightmare as the one we were aiming for was closed as were any others in a fairly large radius!? Fortunately we’ve managed to find a nice, cheap hotel room where it will be nice to catch up on some sleep in a bed for a change. We even managed to get out and sample some of the local food which was a challenge with limited Spanish but nevertheless fun and also very tasty.

Tomorrow we move further south with the aim to stay a couple of hours north of Granada ready for the final blast down to Jon and Emma’s on Tuesday!

You will have noticed probably that I’m not cycling the whole way but rather picking parts of the route to explore and find out about. Time is the biggest factor in this and the bike is playing up a little but also I’ve found that after the interesting time in France my form has dipped a little in terms of completing the longer distances. So I’m doing what I can but not overdoing and gaining lots of good experience and knowledge ready for the spring when hopefully I will be fitter, have a support team and be able to avoid any nasty weather!! 🙂

Cheers.

Al

Up and over!!

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What a mammoth day!! I’ve cycled some hills in my time but nothing like that!! I started at around 525m and cycled to the summit at 1794m!! 18 miles of pretty relentless uphill!! Whist it was a real challenge to my ability to tough it out I found myself cycling through the most spectacular scenery which certainly helped keep my mood on the up!! I can honestly say my legs are tired tonight though!!

Coming down the other side was also a lot of fun and a lot less pedalling!! Covering the same distance in less than half the time! It was quite windy which slowed me down a bit but not enough to dampen spirits!! 🙂

We’re now camped in Huesca in northern Spain. It’s a nice site despite being next to the local football stadium where so far there has been incessant games of football!!

It’ll be another early night tonight in preparation for more riding tomorrow which I’m looking forward to although I’m hoping my legs will feel ok!!

Loving all the messages and encouragements so thank you again!!

Cheers

Al

Pyrenees!!

I’m excited this evening to have set up camp in Laruns in the Pyrenees and we’re finally experiencing some decent weather! It is warm and sunny! We drove through most of the night last night and the rain was just torrential most of the way which made the camping option last night a no no! We managed to get a bit of sleep in the car and also cover some good miles which leaves us here tonight!!

I’ve been out on the bike and cycled about quarter of the way up the climb that I’m aiming to do tomorrow! All was good in terms of riding but unfortunately my bike is causing a problem!? I had to remove the wheels to get it in the car and I’m struggling to get the front one to sit properly which is a bit disconcerting when you are riding! I’ll have another go tomorrow morning at sorting it out and hopefully all will be well!

I’m aiming to have my tracker on tomorrow so feel free to check in to see where I’m up to! Thank you for all the encouraging messages they help so much in keeping my morale up and keeping me going!!

It’s going to be an early night tonight after a long drive so that I’m all ready for the off in the morning!!

Cheers

Al