Archive for Operation Manager Jo’s Rajasthan Cycle Challenge Diary!

Deep in the Sumatran Jungle! By Challenge Leader Penny Knight

5th September and I’m on my way to London Heathrow with Angela the UK Doctor and 13 participants for our Sumatra Jungle Challenge. Some of the group were already there over three hours before take-off… excited and ready for the challenge ahead. We arrive the morning of the 6th to Kuala Namu and were met there by Murad and Kinol our guides and transferred to the lush Jungle village of Bukit Lawang.

Orang-utan Feeding Platform:

On arrival we were greeted by a group of village boys who kindly carried our heavy bags to the lodge over a swing bridge. The lodge provided welcome drinks and rooms were allocated. The group were surprised how comfortable these were, despite only cold showers. A thunderstorm at 5pm took out the electricity for several hours. We were tired so an early night to bed before we embark on our Jungle adventure tomorrow.

I woke to two cockroaches, a cockerel crowing, a large spider, incredible jungle sounds, two geckos and the call to prayer! The walk started over the bridge and through the village to the Orangutan feeding Platform. There are now well over 200 orangutans in this area. The macaques walked next to us on the paths and just above our heads which amazed everyone as they were much closer than everyone had expecting. The day was dry, warm and humid after heavy rain in the night.

At the platform, we saw one mother and baby. Everyone loved it. The walk back through the Jungle was three hours and on route, we saw a male wild orang-utan which came close and onto the ground. Later another baby orang-utan, previously rehabilitated was feeding high above us. We saw sunbear claw marks in the tree trunks and some very curious bugs. Everyone was in high spirits.

On the route back, we passed the rubber trees being tapped and saw coco trees growing.  The Thomas Leaf monkeys came very near and were friendly.  We headed off in the afternoon to the bat cave, a lovely walk on paths through a garden, past an orphanage to house children from the 2003 floods that devastated Bukit Lawang.

A flash flood hit Bukit Lawang on 2 November 2003. Described by witnesses as a tidal wave, the water was approximately 20 metres high, as it came crashing down the hills, wiping out everything in its path. The disaster, which was the result of illegal logging, destroyed the local tourist resorts and had a devastating impact to the local tourism industry. Around 400 houses, 3 mosques, 8 bridges, 280 kiosks and food stalls, 35 inns and guest houses were destroyed by the flood, and 239 people (5 of them tourists) were killed and around 1,400 locals lost their homes .After eight months of rebuilding, Bukit Lawang was re-opened again in July 2004.

We head into the Jungle….

Departure day for the 5 day trek into Gunug Lesuer National Park. Following an early breakfast we did some warm up exercises in the lodge to the amusement of the staff. After group photos, with very high morale we set off. We saw hornbills, three lively orang-utans playing overhead and many insects. Lunch was wrapped in a greaseproof paper parcel and included rice, egg, salad and pineapple. Several slipped and slid during the day but nothing serious and no injuries to my relief. The rain started at 3pm and was torrential. The final part of the walk was into camp by a river via a steep slope with roots and stones and a short wade through the stream water in already wet boots. Camp was set up and dry with a fire burning and hot tea ready.

Evening entertainment with the guides and porters was fantastic and this was a highlight of the trip. After a briefing and dinner of Indonesian chips, curry, sambal tofu, chicken, peanuts and rice, we all sang and were challenged by the tricks and brain teasers before our first night of sleeping in the Sumatran Jungle.

Morning after our first night in the jungle.

At 0630, two porters were pointing into the trees – a curious orang-utan had come to check us out and woken the guides by dropping branches on the cook tent! As well as this a pig tailed macaque also appeared but not so far away. These are more like baboons and very aggressive. Club sandwiches filled with omelette, tomato and cheese and durian fruit filled us all up ready for the day.

We left camp one at 9am and struggled up a very steep and muddy hill but spirits were high. There was a ridge at the top and a clearer path and through breaks in the trees we could see the jungle canopy below. A female orang-utan with a small baby clinging to her came close to us and we were able to watch her for some time. Just before lunch, we crossed paths with the other group who had seen a monitor lizard and crowned Cathy and Norman King/Queen of the Jungle.

At the top of the next hill/mountain ridge, we heard gibbons calling which was not unusual here but when the gibbon appeared above our heads it was the rare black gibbon and the guides had only ever seen one before themselves! There are reportedly only 20 in the area. The adult with two youngsters entertained us by posing for the camera and coming close. She had a beautiful face like a teddy bear! When we had to continue, she followed us in the branches overhead. At lunch, the three gibbons continued to play in the nearby branches and watch us eating our noodles and egg.

The route then headed downhill and the guides set up a rope for pax to descend. A short paddle through shallow waters to Camp Two by 4pm – no rain as yet today! Tea and a stunning plunge pool awaited. After washing in the pool, dinner including potato cakes and hot chocolate which we could eat outside, we had jungle stories and found frogs. Bats flew over us during the evening briefing and all headed for bed by 9pm when a thunderstorm and heavy rain started.

It had rained all night but it didn’t deter the orang-utan who came to visit us for breakfast! She appeared on the overhanging branches on the other side of the river to the camp. She had a teenager and a baby with her. After an hour she got less happy with our presence and moved fast to swing over the branches to our side of the river and very near to our sleeping tarp. The guides moved quickly to put themselves between us and the orang-utan but she was easily persuaded by some noises to move off. Pancakes with banana and lime were a popular breakfast. The rain eased off and we climbed another steep hill behind camp covered in a clay like mud, now saturated. After a 3 hour climb, we were rewarded with passion fruit and oranges. We briefly met the other group again who were on good form. Many people slipped on the next descent but remained in good humour.

The raging rivers…..

At the river, it suddenly started to rain very heavily at 1400 and the guides were quick to move the group upstream, conscious that the river levels would rise fast. The journey to camp then took 40 minutes. Initially this was a wade at shin height. We had to cross the river three times to remain in the shallowest water. We then all realised we hadn’t had lunch so “dunch” soon arrived and we watched the now raging river and logs floating down it. Stories and songs followed by candle light and more tricks and games which was great fun and by 9 another early night all were in bed and the rain had stopped.

Aches and pains had set in today. Left camp to start another steep climb – stiff calves soon eased off and we reached the top in a couple of hours for a fruit break. We saw a hornbill and an eagle, fungus, a black squirrel, a skink and a sweet smelling blossom which apparently keeps away bad spirits. At the highest point we could see for miles eastwards over the primary rainforest and to Bukit Lawang. The descent was challenging again but the group have remained enthusiastic and positive throughout. The sun was out when we reached the stony beach and much reduced river for a final 20 minute wade up to Camp 4 and to meet the other group.. A large fire was lit and we all swam and washed in the river. The other group arrived 40 minutes later and Noodle soup for lunch was served on the beach and everyone relaxed and exchanged stories in the sun.

Dinner included tree fern picked from the rainforest and served with chilli and garlic. As some wanted an early night and headed into their tarp, they were bitten by fire ants. There were hundreds and Kinol evacuated the tent. The guides used salt and insect repellent to finally get rid of them all after an hour. It did give an opportunity for Eddy’s stories and brown sugar and ginger tea.

Final days trek back to the Eco lodge

It was a dry morning so breakfast was back on the beach with pancakes and chocolate sprinkles. There was a great atmosphere and banter. We waded upstream for our route out of camp and left the river and went across the rubber plantations.  When we crossed the river for the last time, Murad was there to greet us. Away from the shelter of the jungle, the sun was very hot and it was much more humid. The finish banner was up at the lodge and we had photos and hugs.

The comfort of a bed…..

I was woken by Norman who had a scorpion in his room! I called security and they removed it . . . after photos! It was a later start today and we left at 0930 after breakfast for the Tree Replanting project. We came to Batu Kapal or Ship Cave after an hour. It was a beautiful setting with stunning views of the rainforest and the Landak River (which means porcupine.). We were met by Deywe and Yessi who live there and work for the Dutch owner (who lives in Surrey.)

We planted mahogany and mindy trees and some pax dedicated their trees to loved ones. The sun was hot and it was a lovely morning which all enjoyed. We were finished by lunch which we had in the lodge at the Tree replanting site, of wonderful local foods including pandan leaf sweets. The clouds were gathering so we went on only a short walk to see the Ship Cave The cave had once been inhabited and looks like a galleon but is very shallow – more of an overhang than a cave. Photos and goodbyes before we left to walk back via the orphanage – Kinder te Huis housing the children of those killed in the big flood. Everyone bought souvenirs, some made by the children. There was a warm welcome and drinks.

All met at 6pm to go for the Celebratory Dinner at a restaurant just over the bridge. It had room for all the guides, porters and us. It was a good meal and was followed by speeches, awards and the singing accompanied by guitars. It was a fantastic evening and great end to the challenge.

Testimonials & tips from the participants for future challengers:

•    The guides and their backup team were absolutely brilliant- they went above and beyond to ensure we were kept safe and secure in the jungle. Every single one of them had this positive energy and everything was done with a smile and so polite. Kate Hughes

•    It has been an amazing journey. Every day, every minute, every second brought something different. To have been part of this I feel like the most privileged person to have ever walked this planet. Orang utans, creepy crawlies, leeches? All part of the experience. Shirley Butler

•    Yes. It was a great to spend a couple of nights at the Ego Lodge before setting out into the jungle. Penny suggested that we pack our back packs exactly as we were intending for the challenge on the day we went to see the Orangutan’s and the Bat cave. This was an excellent opportunity to see how we managed with the weight we would be carrying. I ditched taking my sleeping bag ( just used my liner-which was fine) and got rid other none essentials. Carrying all your own gear was what made this challenge extreme rather than just tough. The trek itself exceeded all my expectations and although it was really hard the support from both your fellow like minded trekkers and guides made all the effort worthwhile. And when we reached camp each night the food was brilliant and the campsites were better than i imagined they would be like. And the evening entertainment from the guides was fantastic, full of fun and laughter to the point of crying.

•    Make sure you prepare yourself physically for the challenge both upper and lower body. Get used to carrying a large heavy rucksack when out trekking to get used to it. Really think about what is essential to go in your trekking sack and pack it a few times before you go. The smaller and lighter everything can be the better- particularly the weight and correct type of the rucksack itself, the sleeping bag ( one season only+/or liner),small compact mat that can go inside your bag. The rugsack probably needs to be minimum of 40 litres. River shoes essential- don’t think really needed the seal socks. Dry bags essential.

•    Another incredible challenge which once again exceeded my expectations. The sights and sounds of the jungle will remain with me forever. But it’s the toughness of the challenge and testing your own ability to succeed that’s important to me. And this you achieve with like minded inspirational people who with the support of the guides and porters unite as one team to overcome obstacles along the way to achieving the challenge and making new lifelong friends. And knowing that when you get home you are already looking for your next challenge.

You can also find out more about our Sumatra Jungle Challenge by clicking here. If you have any questions on this challenge, please contact us, our on challenges@charitychallenge.com. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Ops Manager Jo’s Rajasthan Cycle Diary, Day 7 !

The final 100km cycle from Ranthambore to Jaipur via Bhanderej took us through two days of new scenery and continued surprise for how unique this cycle really is. Venturing into parts of Rajasthan where the kids are running from their schools to the side of the road shouting ‘white man’ and ‘crazy’! Tourists in these parts just do not exist.

After a night Glamping, ‘another’ early rise for our Tiger safari in Ranthambhore National Park. With only 33 Tigers in a 1334 sq km of wild jungle scrub we knew that the chance of sighting the Tigers would be an exclusive one. With one sighting in Five we had a good chance but unfortunately for us footprints were as close as we were going to get.  This however was fine for all of us as we witnessed the courting walk of two antelope and were surrounded by deer, wild Boar and the chance to cruise around in a safari truck for a few hours before putting ourselves back on the bikes.

I have to say one of the highlights of the Challenge is the food, and that includes the packed lunches. The  food is delicious and there’s lots of it, but then the calories burnt on the cycle justifies the amount you can eat. With lunch on the bus we are transferred a short distance to the start of the cycle today where our amazing support team, Matt, Vineet, Naveen, Raju, Baba (our mechanic) and Bhola are waiting for us.

We soon discover that the Safari has made us a little sluggish and its taking some time to get the legs working. After 45km of better roads than yesterday’s Sahara Cycle, we cycle into the grounds of the Maharajas Palace. With a few more aches and pains today we have some real troopers; Sue has been an inspiration to us all this week, Moyra pushing through with an earache that’s taking its toll and Kate who’s knee is progressively being a pain. Vineet is going the extra mile and offers to push Kate up the hill which she declines and so seeing as the offer is out there, I choose to take it up instead(after all why not – Kate you missed out there !!.) Tonight sees many retire to their beds fairly early in preparation for the final days Challenge and evening Celebrations.

All raring to go after a good nights’ sleep for our final days Cycle we set off and within an hour we are starting to see some different scenery. With the sight of rolling hills we are a little apprehensive that we may have to cycle one of these but soon discover that the few days we have had with hills previously, we’ve dropped our gears and pushed through it. We are however relieved to know that we are cycling between the hills and enter a lush tropical environment where the roads are quiet and palm trees line the route with monkeys and cows lurking. We suddenly feel like we are cycling through a tropical paradise for our final 10km leg to the finish line. As we regroup for our finale km cycle we hear drums and clapping and as we approach up over the hill we are welcomed by Sian and Vasante and a team of drummers at the finishing line in Jaipur.

We celebrate at lunch with some relieved it’s over, others sad its come to an end, but  all proud of  what we have accomplished this week. Feasting once again on delicious food and a well-deserved beer we relax and reflect on the week. The afternoon brings shopping for some and a snooze and freshen up for others before we come to the end of our week with our last night dinner and dance. Six days cycling and 430km has flown by leaving us with new friends and lifelong memories. What an incredible experience of India. Thank You to Sian and the team for their Support and each individual in the group for being  team players and supporting each other through the challenge including the jokers (you know who you are ) who kept spirits high and continued to hide pieces of my bicycle at each break stop. You should all be very proud of yourselves.

You can also find out more about the challenge she is embarking on – The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge! – by clicking here. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Ops Manager Jo’s Rajasthan Cycle Diary, Day 6!

Another early rise to head off just as the sun rises, although today we have a slightly warmer start to the day. Leaving from the Maharajas Palace, Matt picks up the pace from yesterday so we have a chance to warm up, and then throws us in at the deep end to ease the tenderness of our bodies form the day before. With Raju supporting the back of the group, he finds that on today’s cycle more of us seem to stay back and chat with him…maybe due to his charming personality, or perhaps it’s because  of yesterday gruelling ride taking its toll on our bodies and energy levels.

A busy start again through Karauli.  Today’s eye captures the excitement of the trucks with their colours and decorations. After our first snack break we hit some road works which had dumped the whole of the Sahara desert on our Rajasthan route! 20kms of cycling through soft deep sand was an unexpected experience. As the thighs start to burn, we slip and slide and the chatting comes to a halt as our concentration grows

10 hours in, and the afternoon becomes slightly more manageable on the road, we reach our Hotel in preparation for our Ranthambore Tiger Safari tomorrow morning. Another 5.30 am start for us – ouch! But maybe we will spot some Tigers?? Check tomorrow to find out…

So To hear more updates from Jo in India, stay tuned to this blog! Whilst she’s out in country, you can get in touch and follow Jo via her twitter feed at @jojowarren82

you can also find out more about the challenge she is embarking on – The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge! – by clicking here. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Ops Manager Jo’s Rajasthan Cycle Diary, Day 5!

We finally arrived after our long haul 113km cycle at Hotel Bhanwarvilas Palace; the most magnificent Maharajas Palace. We checked in and checked out all the rooms with awe. A quick massage for some and sitting by the fire in the courtyard with the Maharajas Son reflecting on the day. 

Cycling from Keoladeo National Park to Karauli is where we really saw it all! With only 5 punctures and an eventful day for Caroline as seemingly events come in threes, a near miss with a moped, two punctures and to top it all off a locked wheel taking Rick out as locals were mesmerised by his bright orange top coming tumbling down! The experience today I have to say was a once in a lifetime. The mix of scenery and experiences on the road just kept on changing.

We set off as the sun rose at 6.30am to a cool crisp ride up a quiet road (as really who is up at 6.30?!). We really became thankful for being here in December. The evenings may be cool but the days are beautiful, fresh with a warm sun.

We soon  approached the first village to a run of kids high fiving as we cycle by, shouting ‘ta ta’, ’ta ta’ (bye bye) and busloads of school children  waving and taking pictures on their mobile phones(yes mobile phones).  Averaging 22km an hour yesterday, today after 3 hours of cycling, we have knocked that down to 18km as the roads turn from sand to rough tarmac, busy villages and plenty of road hog as well as buffalos and lazy dogs. Pot holes and then random speed bumps are also situated too frequently for our liking. Although India on the roads is chaos it’s an organised chaos and the vehicles, people and animals move at a crawl. So the need for speed bumps just beats me!! To overcome this, Vineet teaches us the bunny hop  – well tries to teach us, as we are not doing too well at it, but we still have 3 days to go to practise to ease the rest of the challenge.

With Camels to the right and buffalo with the indian flag painted on their horns to the right, the hours fly by, village after village with colours, people, music, tuc tucs, ‘hellos’ after hellos’ just makes time fly until we hit our 78km mark after a 5 hour ride in a quaint clearing in the grounds of a temple. We park our bikes and stop for a much needed lunch as we turn to see 10’s of people crawling out the woodwork to innocently watch the ‘aliens’ sitting near their land. Their faces express ‘who are these people?’, ‘ what are they doing?’. “Tum Kaha Ja Rahe Ho?” which means ‘where are you going’ as we jump up and back on our bikes to head off to complete the reminder of our 113km day.

As we stop for a water fill and snack in the middle of nowhere, within 5 minutes we find ourselves surrounded by children and teenagers. Where have they come from??! I go off for the toilet and return to find my saddle has disappeared from my bike. If they think I’m cycling with no saddle they have another thing coming! So we have a joker in the group but no volunteers. Sometimes when something is right under your nose you don’t spot it, so I later rather than sooner discover it is sitting on top of the support truck, but still with no volunteers to who was the culprit…….Rick!!
As I’m searching for my seat I turn around and Laura is surrounded by children analysing her ‘heinz bake beans t- shirt’. From here on during the day no matter where we are we can spot Rick with his orange and Laura with her Heinz baked bean tshirt…winner of the fashion statement of the week so far!

So heading off we cycle past a lush oasis, such a contrast from the dusty off the beaten tracks we have been cycling so far. Our final 45km leg after lunch challenged us with an undulating terrain and our last leg of a steep climb dropping our gear to its lowest. We start to descend but we are still pushing hard in a low gear as Rachel states ‘this road is covered in treacle!’ Out later discussions of why we were cycling downhill but it still being so tough was due to an optical illusion, treacle on the roads or some sort of gravity force!!! Or were we just all tired!

To hear more updates from Jo in India, stay tuned to this blog! Whilst she’s out in country, you can also get in touch and follow Jo via her twitter feed at @jojowarren82

you can also find out more about the challenge she is embarking on – The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge! – by clicking here. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Ops Manager Jo’s Rajasthan Cycle Diary, Day 4!

A quick transfer back to Gulistan Tourist Complex this morning to pick up our bikes,

our lovely guide Vasanti is a a strong commanding negotiator and puts the boys in their place and negotiates the coach into the complex without any hassles so we are on the road on time.

With Vineet leading the show and Raoul supporting the pack from behind we set off out of Fatephur Sikri to get back into the hustle and bustle of the Indian Roads. As we are moving further away from Agra the villages we pass through welcome us with ‘hello’, and the children run and wave alongside us,  and men on mopeds and bikes slow down in harmless curiosity to ride alongside us asking ‘what are you doing?’, Where are you going? And “Why?” (Doubtlessly in confusion as to why in this world we would be cycling when surely we can afford a car!).

In India the Cow is Sacred hence it does what it wants when it wants, which Hitesh soon established as he is nearly taken out by one. The cow is the head of the household and also, apparently something we were not warned so much on, ‘rules the road’. So if that’s not enough, Hitesh seems to want to get his falls over and done with and manages to somehow take himself out this time at the snack break just standing still and then again later on into the ride.

We cycle through the village until we reach some back roads where we step down a gear for some ‘off roading’ as we cycle through the sand dunes that make up the rest of what is left of this road. For me personally I think this is great and it gives you a chance to take your bum off the seat and ease the pain as you struggle through the soft sand and rocks. For others they seem to get a little over confident and feel the need to complicate the whole process by battling the sand and navigating around the rocks whilst with one hand off the handle bars taking photos of those behind them. Now there is one lesson to be learnt from this, and one thing that is evidently  going to happen, and yes Richard soon learns that as he falls face down in the sand with the bicycle neatly intertwined between legs and arms. All in all this was a graceful and harmless fall from him, I think his camera suffered the most (poor thing). Rich was left with no scars but an awful look of orange fake tan, unlike Hilary who decided today was the day to get more acquainted with the locals and threw herself into a crowd of them suffering a few war wounds to the legs.

While Hilary is having her moments with the locals, Hiten is chatting again to the children in his pigeon Hindi, as a young boy is checking out his bike whilst on the way to School. The Kids journey to school on a rickety old bike is 50km each way every day. The boy says to Hiten that he has really nice gears and Hiten explains that he doesn’t need gears as his gears are in his legs and the boy replies ‘my gears are in my head’. That certainly gave us the motivation we needed to complete the cycle today, as the boy is quite right, no matter how many gears you have, the source of the power comes from your mind and if we maintain mind over matter this week then we will complete our 430k with no problems!

The Afternoon is spent with an additional cycle to Keolodeo National Park adding 13km to the challenge, totalling 101km so far in two days! So I think everyone is a little apprehensive about doing that distance plus some in one day tomorrow… an early rise for sure and a long day ahead.  The evening is spent with some traditional dancing in the courtyard to loosen the muscles for a good night’s sleep, so hopefully we’ll wake up with ease for our 120km ride tomorrow!

So To hear more updates from Jo in India, stay tuned to this blog! Whilst she’s out in country, you can get in touch and follow Jo via her twitter feed at @jojowarren82

you can also find out more about the challenge she is embarking on – The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge! – by clicking here. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Ops Manager Jo’s Rajasthan Cycle Diary, Day 2 & 3

So we’ve arrived at Bharatpur after a busy day yesterday spent in Agra visiting the Taj Mahal, jaw aching for its magnificence, but also very noteworthy for the endless amounts of photos taken in front of it to fill a family album for a life time… You have to really don’t you it’s the Taj Mahal… you never know when you will be back!

An afternoon of bike fittings adjusting saddles, testing the brakes – thank god they work! Is followed by an early dinner, a briefing on the rules of the road from the guides… It seems there are none! Just ring your bell endlessly and just keep going… oh wait I forgot one ‘do not under any circumstances stop under a bridge with a moving train above unless its good luck to have someone’s bowels deposited over you, and I’m pretty sure it’s not very lucky!!

So with a more respectable wake up time than on day 1, and a peaceful sleep until the calling for prayer at 5.30, we breakfast and are on the road out of Agra. With only Nescafe offered at breakfast we were soon to realis

e that the caffeine fix hit us in the form of complete ‘organised’ chaos on the roads of Agra. It was a close call on many an occasion with Marcus wedged between two tuc tucs trying to be ahead of the game, horns beeping, cycles, tuc tucs, busses and cows all weaving their way in no order what’s so ever! Half an hour and we are out of the chaos of Agra to find ourselves cycling along a pleasant stretch of road… well so we thought. To describe pleasant on this cycle is to say that the roads are tarmacked and the end result of the day is that we can still sit down on a chair for dinner. We stop 20km in for a snack break to be welcomed by our support team. We build up a bit of speed having a chin wag to your fellow cyclist, every so often swopping partners like musical chairs. Suzanne dec

ided that she likes her chin wag partner so much that she falls into Toms arms … Unfortunately they are cycling at the time and both took a little tumble. Only a few scratches thankfully!

The days passes on and then there we are enjoying the lush yellow fields of mustard and taking in our first experience cycling in

India and then …..HONK!!  They (our fellow Indian road uses) seemingly creep up on you and then sound their horn at its loudest just as you’re least expecting it, Leaving you with a wobble! The adventure continues, we have been told by our guides  to‘keep on the left’..but on the left is a tractor racing along (and when I mean left, I mean its driving up the highway in the opposite direction!)And so you swerve to miss the tractor and then find yourself back to your pleasant leisurely cycle with now a couple India boys cycling along with their school racks looking at you like you have just stepped straight out off the planet Mars!

In India cycling is the lowest class of transport. Any Indian who had to cycle would do anything to have a car or even a moped… so when they see a line of westerners choosing to cycle they immediately think that we must be form a different planet. To top it off we are also all wearing these alien objects on our heads… The kids run out to wave and the buses of people that drive by all have mobile phones hanging out the window to take pictures of these weird foreign objects choosing to cycle for no apparent or sensible reason that they can work out at all.  Young boy Q. What you doing? Mick A. Cycling, Young boy Q. WHY??(very inquisitive look on his face followed by are ‘are you crazy’ look.. followed by a  ‘Il take your car anyday!!) Mick A. to get fit, Young Boy. Q. WHY(even more confused look!) and then Young Boy Q. Where you going? Mick A. That way. Young Boy Q. WHY(Now he is just completely lost and has no idea how to comprehend this and so the conversation comes to a standstill.) A conversation of many to come…so a good start to our cycle today from Agra to Jaipur. Five days to go.

So To hear more updates from Jo in India, stay tuned to this blog! Whilst she’s out in country, you can get in touch and follow Jo via her twitter feed at @jojowarren82

you can also find out more about the challenge she is embarking on – The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge! – by clicking here. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Ops Manager Jo’s Rajasthan Cycle Diary, Day 1

The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge December 2012 Cyclists have touched down safe and sound here in India! After a quick turnaround we hit the bustling streets of Delhi, swarmed with the preparations of wedding season. As we jump aboard a cycle rickshaw we are soon swept into the hustle and bustle of Old Delhi following trailers full of what at first looks like old English Dictionaries – the pages are so think! – but we soon realise that they are actually truckloads of wedding invites on their way to the invitees!

Since the jet lag from the sleepless night on the flight was kicking in, most of the group put themselves to bed early, but only to be serenaded by the sound of a brass band! Those of us who had the front rooms peeped our heads over the balcony, in time to see the magnificent bridegroom parade by on a white horse. Looks like wedding season runs day and night in Delhi!

After a couple of hours sleep, we are awakened by a VERY early morning wake up call at 3,30, turns out we’ve been woken up an almost an hour early! So we lie in until 4.15 before we head out and walk through the deserted streets of Delhi to the central station to Agra, where we arrive to the announcement of ‘we are sorry the train to Agra is delayed by ……6…..hours!!’ and not even a bat of an eye lid from those around us…Thank God we had prebooked tickets on the fast train,  which arrived for us exactly on time!

To hear more updates from Jo in India, stay tuned to this blog! Whilst she’s out in country, you can get in touch and follow Jo via her twitter feed at @jojowarren82

you can also find out more about the challenge she is embarking on – The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge! – by clicking here. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.mailing list.

Charity Challenge Operations Manager Jo experiences India for the first time on our secluded ‘Trek to the home of the Dalai lama’ challenge!

Trek to the home on the Dalai Lama – an exclusive India Challenge with Charity Challenge

Have you been thinking for a while now about doing a charity challenge, but don’t want to go down the well-trodden routes of Kilimanjaro or Trek Machu Picchu with the masses? Then our trek to the home of the Dalai Lama might be the challenge for you!

As the Operations Manager for India and Asia at Charity Challenge, I’ve got the amazing opportunity to venture into the Himalayas on trails only trodden by Charity Challenge trekkers and the local Tibetan Community. As Ops Manager of this trek, I know that the Himalayas are a very sought after trekking destination, especially with the spiritual element of a visit to the home of the Dalai Lama. This popularity can sometimes make the Himalayas appear to be a crowded place!  But many of our participants come back from the challenge and write to me saying how quiet and exclusive their trek was, and how much more they loved it for this reason!  So I decided to head out to India and experience the tranquillity for myself.

Those that don’t know much about India, apart from the overwhelming amounts of people, and the extras that come from the vast crowds – i.e crazy roads jammed packed with vehicles, tuc tuc, cows and dogs, a country with no drinking water and the sheer extremes of poverty and riches! – may be surprised when I tell you that today I felt free from the hustle and bustle of London and enveloped in the peace and tranquillity of India!

I trekked our most exclusive and secluded challenge – “Trek to the home of Dalai Lama”, whilst trekking in the shadows of the world’s highest peak I found myself stopping and listening to the silence and taking in the awe-inspiring scenery of alpine forests, beautiful meadows back droped with snow capped mountains, and small Tibetan villages hidden in the rolling hills.

If you are new to the life of Tibet and the movement into India following the Dalai Lama then you will find this challenge as fascinating as I did, as you start in Daramsala with a ‘clockwise’ walk around the Dalai Lama’s Temple. You will learn about Tibetan/Buddhism and the issues it faces today, and see how Tibet is preserved in India through the practising of traditional Tibetan arts and crafts at the Norbulinka Institute.

I will have to apologise to you now, as after just 3 days I have learnt so much and realised how little I knew about India, and I won’t feasibly be able to share with you all the amazing experiences and revelations I’ve had so far!  However, I can say with certainty that if you want a challenge where you will trek the mountains with tribal Tibetan nomads and their goats, learn all about why cows are head of the household, be greeted by the friendly faces and smiles of the Tibetan/Indian people and see how you can help Charity Challenge give back to the communities of this area, then you should definitely check out our September and November 2013 departure dates for our Trek to the Home of the Dalai Lama Challenge! Click here for all the info!

To hear more updates from Jo in India, stay tuned to this blog! You can also see more information about the array of amazing challenges on our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.