Fill your senses with the sights, sounds and smells of Cambodia, with its changing landscapes and colourful culture.
Arriving in Siem Reap, over the next 12 days you will embark on an incredible cycling adventure, with every kilometre revealing new splendour.
From hidden jungle temples and sugar-palm plantations to ancient ruins and bustling cities, on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure you’ll cycle beyond the city limits into the unfolding countryside: through rice paddies, sugar-palm plantations and small villages where children run out to greet you.
Walk the tree-lined boulevards of Siem Reap. Gaze upon the magnificent spires of historic Angkor Wat. Cruise the waters of Tonle Sap Lake and experience the weight of Cambodia’s solemn past at Choeung Ek (Killing Fields).
In Phnom Penh, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the bustling streets of Cambodia’s vibrant capital city on the banks of the mighty Mekong River.
Best of all, as part of this incredible adventure, you’ll raise vital funds for Catholic Mission to continue facilitating education projects in Cambodia, and see firsthand some of these life-changing projects. With your support, together we can transform the lives of those living in disadvantaged communities.
What will my impact be?
Catholic Mission has a strong relationship with the Catholic Church in Cambodia, and the projects you will visit have either received funding from Catholic Mission in the past, or will receive future funding thanks to your support.
$75 provides daily meals for 13 children for one week, so they can receive vital nutrition to grow up healthy and strong, and to be able to focus and concentrate as they learn their ABCs.
$400 allows 33 children from disadvantaged communities to receive an education for one year in literacy, health, hygiene, human rights and also to be provided with educational materials such as stationery, books and notebooks.
$528 pays for the stipend of one teacher for two months. Local teachers, who know the dialect and the culture of the communities, manage the educational programs, so they can provide more efficient formation to the children.
$1,440 covers the cost of equipment and training for one local teacher for one year, so they can provide the best formation to children coming from disadvantaged communities and enable them to have a hope-filled future.
Thursday 16th November 2017
Today is the first day of our cycle challenge!
It was an early start, and the team felt it all the more after arriving late in the evening after a long day of travel yesterday. Never the less, everyone is raring to go at 730am, as we are transferred by private bus to our awaiting bikes that will be our friends and foes over the next few days. After a quick safety briefing, we started out for Angkor Wat, arguably the highlight of the trip, the largest man-made religious structure in the world, and it truly is awe inspiring. The scale of this place is truly impressive, it’s enormous. We cycle amidst the tuk-tuks, buses and foot traffic along tree-lined avenues to the entrance and spend a good couple of hours exploring the site.
After this we move on to Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple, where we are met by hundreds of smiling Buddha faces carved into the stone towers. The heat in this place is intense, topped only by the humidity, and the team are really feeling it.
Cycling for another hour brings us to a local restaurant for lunch where we enjoy a light but sustaining 3 course meal of soup, fresh fruit, spring roll, rice, fish and deep fried banana.
Last stop is Ta Prohm Temple, or the “Tomb Raider” Temple, which was reclaimed in part by nature after being abandoned for centuries – huge hollow tree trunks cascade over and through the rocky walls and give the place a mystical feel; this is the team’s favourite of the temples today.
A further fast and furious ride through the jungle – and we really are mountain biking at this point! – brings us back to the welcome air con of the bus and our hotel; 35km under our belts already. Then it’s a quick freshen up before dinner at a spectacular open air restaurant in downtown Siem Reap and another 3-course meal, before we roll into bed.
Friday 17th November 2017
So today is the biggie – 80km ahead of is on our trusty steeds, and the heat is already cranking up at 7am when we are transferred to the bikes.
After a quick stretch to limber up those muscles, we head out on a 20km ride on dirt track flanked by rice paddies, cattle and water buffalo to our first stop of the day – Banteay Samre, a Hindu temple built in the style of Angkor Wat but much smaller.
After exploring for an hour or so, we are back on the bikes on slightly rockier terrain, passing through local villages with local children yelling Hello! as we speed along. The distance is split into intervals of 7-15km now with the sun climbing, the temperature is around 37-38degrees with 90% humidity. The group quiets down significantly, many are pushed to their absolute limits, and we are reminded of our much greater purpose here on this trip.
Lunch is a welcome relief after around 60km and we are treated to an epic “Family Set” meal of 4-5 dishes including fish soup, stir fry chicken and cashews, sweet and sour pork, rice, curry chicken with vegetables and fresh local fruit.
After lunch we check out Banteay Srei, the “Citadel of Women”, which is a beautiful miniature temple pink sandstone and the most intricate carvings. We then pay a visit to the Landmine Museum and are guided by the very knowledgeable Bill, an ex US army veteran now anti-war activist; it is a sobering reminder of the suffering dealt by these weapons and the struggles still facing the Cambodian people.
We complete our final 10km of the day as the sun sets over the rice paddies, heading back into Siem Reap.
I’m so very proud of the team today, your efforts were outstanding!
Saturday 18th November 2017
So today is a well earned rest day from the bikes, and we start off with a Khymer Cooking Class – fresh spring rolls, Arok Chicken or Fish curry and then refried bananas in coconut milk and honey – and then we got to eat the spoils!!!
In the afternoon we head out to the Tonle Sap lake which is pretty much an inland sea this time of year – it provides for over 6 million people living on and around the lake, many on floating houses. We watch the sun go down on our private boat, drinks in hand; it’s a special moment for the whole team.
Sunday 19th November 2017
Back on our bikes today, and it’s raining in Siem Reap!! Luckily the torrential downpour ceases by the time we start, leaving conditions (thankfully) a lot cooler but muddy and wet underfoot.
The terrain today is difficult; sandy gravel, potholes, puddles and mud – it’s slow going, and requires focus and concentration from the team. Our butts are tested too by the bumpy road, it’s mentally and physically uncomfortable and exhausting. Nevertheless, we tick off 60km by lunch time cheered in by the hoards of children in the villages we pass through – an impressive achievement, we are all digging deep by the last 10km.
After lunch, we explore a jungle temple – one featured in Indiana Jones, the Temple of Doom before transferring back to Siem Reap for our final night in the city.
Monday 20th November 2017
Another day, another bike ride – 60km today and everyone is feeling it after the big efforts from yesterday.
The terrain is uneven, and that’s putting it kindly! We spend the majority of the trek picking our way through mud, avoiding huge holes in the road and quagmires churned up by the tractors that are working in the fields either side of us.
We are well out in the countryside today, giving us yet another view of life here in Cambodia. Farmers tend to around 20 hectares of land each, mostly made up of rice paddies although we see the occasional herd of ducks (!). Oxen-drawn carts are a new obstacle on the way. We also see fisherman making use of man-made damns and canals through here.
Resilience is the word of the day; we are tired, aching and the road is long, slow and difficult. Things that were easy a few days back now require a monumental effort. Yet we push on to the finish. Well done team!!!
Tuesday 21st November 2017
Today after breakfast, we transferred by private vehicle to attend a full day project visit to learn about what Catholic Mission is doing to help those in need and the life-changing work that the funds the team raised made possible.
We visited Catholic Mission’s educational project and met with some of the inspirational local priests and other leaders who are responsible for running the projects. We also met and learnt the stories of some of the children and adults who participate in the projects. A Catholic Mission staff member joined the group on today, and was available to answer any questions and discuss ideas we had.
Wednesday day 22nd November 2017
So this is it, the last day of cycling!
We cycled straight from the hotel in the centre of Battambang this morning, and experienced inner city traffic which is a little daunting! Then we were in the countryside again, this was the last time we’d be speeding past kids and families yelling out greetings as we go, so we were relishing it!
We crossed the river on a bamboo raft and then completed 40km. There were tears of triumph and exhaustion.
Catholic Mission Cambodia Cycle Challenge = COMPLETE!!!
Thursday 23rd November 2017
So yesterday we transferred to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. Today we get to explore this cosmopolitan city.
First stop : S21, Genocide Museum. Previously a school for children, this was used as a place of interrogation and torture from 1975-79. Tens of thousands of people passed through here, many on their way to the Killing Fields – there were only 7 survivors, one of which we have the privilege of meeting. We are shown walls of meticulously taken photographs used by the Khymer Rouge to document those incarcerated here – many of us are in tears as we look upon the faces of children, babies, men and women in suffering. It’s truly shocking, and we feel it all the more deeply after spending time with the people of Cambodia over the last week.
Next it’s off to the magnificent Royal Palace in the city’s centre, in all its splendour; gold leaf adorns, there are diamond encrusted Buddha statues and the Silver Pagoda has a floor made entirely of solid silver tiles.
A quick break and then we are out on the Mekong River to visit Silk Island, a local community build around the farming, spinning and weaving of the precious silk cocoons of silk worms, a dying art in this world of mass production.
Our cruise back into Phnom Penh gives us time to reflect as the neon lights illuminate the water.
Friday 24th November 2017
Today after breakfast, we transferred by private vehicle to attend a full day project visit to learn about what Catholic Mission is doing to help those in need and the life-changing work that donors funds make possible.
We visited Catholic Mission’s educational project and met with some of the inspirational local priests and other leaders who are responsible for running the projects. We also got to meet and learn the stories of some of the children and adults who are involved.
Tonight we joined together for our final dinner as a group
Saturday 25th December 2017
It’s the final day of the adventure – wow where have those last 10 days gone?!
Today is another chance to see where all that fundraising is being put to good use as we head off to Takeo Province to take a look at the various projects supported by the Catholic Mission. We visit a Kindergarten, a primary school and high school and also a university which enables further education in agriculture, computer sciences, tourism, english amongst others. It’s great to see how people are being invested in through education, and then using this opportunity to get ahead.
We then visit the Peace Village, which houses a community for individuals afflicted with HIV and an integrated school for children with disabilities. The aim is that this place will be self sufficient within 3 years by means of farming and social enterprises.
Our final meal is at a training restaurant in Phnom Penh for marginalised youth and street children, one of several throughout the country.
As we raise our glasses, we can hardly believe how far we have come and how much we have seen. It’s been a life changing experience.
Well done Team!!!