Join Parkinson’s QLD on the Cambodian Odyssey in 2017
Fill your senses with the sights, sounds and smells of Cambodia, open to its changing landscapes and colourful culture.
Arriving in Siem Reap, over the next 11 days you will embark on an incredible cycling adventure, every kilometre covered revealing a 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 Angkor Wat. Cruise the waters of Tonle Sap Lake and experience the weight of Cambodia’s solemn past at Choeung Ek.
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 to support people living with Parkinson’s and give them the support they need to live the best life possible.
Join Parkinson’s QLD on the Cambodian Odyssey in 2017
The funds you raise in this challenge will go towards programs and resources that aim to give those with Parkinson’s the best life possible.
• $50 – Distributes 15 Hospital Kits to the community
• $100 – Provides 20 Newly Diagnosed packs to people living with Parkinson’s, our Support Groups, Health professionals and Local Allied Health Organisations
• $200 – Allows our organisation to continue providing support through the Free Call information line at 1800 644 189 for a month
• $500 – Contributes to providing education sessions to Health Professionals and the Parkinson’s community throughout Queensland
Every dollar brings us closer to finding a cure and improving the lives of those with Parkinson’s.
Day 1: Thursday 16th November 2017
A big day of travel today, as everyone departed their respective cities for Cambodia! Similar for all of us, roughly an eight hour flight, a lay over, and then a final 45 minute flight before touching down in Siem Reap; Cambodia!!
Arriving in two different timed groups, just two hours apart, we were met by our guide for the next week and a bit, Mr. Yaan. Just a twenty minute drive to the hotel we would be spending the next few days and nights at, we watched traffic go by; cars, buses, tuk tuks, bicycles… All travelling on the ‘wrong’ side of the road (at least where we come from anyway!) Other than being awed at the fact that the speeding and crazy flow of traffic actually runs so smoothly, we were all nervously anticipating one thought… As of tomorrow, we would be a part of this!
Day 2: Friday 17th November 2017
Our first official cycling day, and when we all convened for breakfast, some of us meeting each other for the first time, there were some nerves but also a whole lot of excited anticipation!
Meeting with our guide again, Yaan, we had a short briefing at 7am before packing our day packs and jumping on the bus. Shortly after we stopped on the side of the road to find eleven bicycles lined neatly, each with one of our names on the front. A quick stop in the building just in front of our line of bikes, to have our individual photos taken for our national park passes, before a demonstration of hand signals from Yaan; stopping, slowing, watch out, turning left or right, and then it was time!
The cycling component of our Cambodian Odyssey Adventure was now here! The first section of our ride today was in some ways leisurely, and in some ways not! Although quite flat, the bumps were bumpy and inconsistent, the pot holes and ditches to dodge were scattered, and in some parts the sand was soft and could send you drifting sideways; and not to mention the angry rooster that tried to chase Richard on his bicycle (and seemed to keep up for a few moments!) or the dogs with there inquisitive looks but lack of road skills, also needing to be dodged!
Today was also a very educational day, as we rode into Angkor Wat National Park. Angkor means ‘city’, and Wat means ‘temples’… We were in ‘the city of temples’, 401 square kilometres, and home to 91 temples, all in different levels of condition, and all protected by the World Heritage Listing that UNESCO granted the park in 1992. Visiting and learning some traditional Cambodian stories, as well as how these incredible buildings were constructed, we were absolutely awed by the three temples we visited and explored, all built somewhere around the 11th and 12th centuries. As lunch drew near, and we cycled on, the temperature pushed 30, and the humidity 74%! Lunch in a beautiful Cambodian restaurant with no walls, providing some airflow, was very welcome! After lunch it was the more difficult part of our ride for the day. Off road riding, the afternoon made the morning look like a piece of cake! The sandy sections got sandier, and more frequent, the potholes and ditches to dig larger, deeper and also more frequent, paths got tighter, the trees closer and therefore more branches to watch out for beside and from above, and then the puddles… Oh the puddles! Puddles and mud, puddles and mud! Somehow, we all managed to get through some of us more successful and keeping the shoes and lower parts of the leg dry, some not so lucky! Mid afternoon, we finally completed our first day of cycling… Hot, tired and very sweaty, it was onto the bus for the bus trip back to our hotel. Today we cycled 36 kilometres, and whilst we were all very proud of ourselves, we were left wondering just what tomorrow might hold, if what we did today was described as a ‘warm up’ by our guide, Mr. Yaan! There is talk of 80 kilometres…!
After a wash and couple hours of personal time, we were taken out for dinner to an absolutely beautiful restaurant for dinner. We all took turns to explain to the group why it is that we chose to take on this adventure, each persons involvement with Parkinson’s Queensland, and what we are hoping to get out of this experience. A really lovely night, and as we each then took a turn to talk about our best highlight of the day, the laughter was loud and as the group really started to bond, we did have to remind each other that tomorrow, we are riding 80 kilometres! And on that note, it was back to the hotel for a well deserved night’s sleep!
Day 3: Saturday 18th November 2017
Today was a mammoth effort from everyone, another 7am start, and a short drive to our starting area. Today was to be the longest ride we would take on, so we were all a little nervy. Our first cycle of the morning was 16 kilometres, passing along through some beautiful villages, along red sands and dodging cows that were being walked up the road!
After a visit to the ruins of another beautiful temple, we hit the road again and it was in this period that we experienced the first flat tyre! With our bicycle mechanic travelling with us, it was fixed in no time, and we barely missed a beat! By lunchtime, we had already cycled a huge 43 kilometres, and lunch was not only delicious, but doubled as a bit of a ‘nap grabbing’ opportunity for some of us as well! After lunch we visited one more temple, this one the oldest we had visited yet, with works commencing in 944AD! We also had the privilege of listening to some traditional Cambodian music performed by some victims of land mines. Following on from that experience, we took a short ride to the Cambodian Land Mine Museum, where we learnt about the wars and altercations Cambodia has been in in recent history, and what the people have endured. Millions of land mines were spread throughout Cambodia, and we learnt about a former child soldier, Aki Ra, who in adulthood, has set up a foundation to disarm land mines that are still active in Cambodia, opened a museum to inform the public about it, and helps to raise orphan children! It is believed there are still millions of land mines left active in parts of Cambodia. It was a very humbling experience to visit and read about the work of Aki Ra. With 30 kilometres remaining for the day, the temperature had reached 32 degrees, with a whopping 92% humidity!
With water buffaloes passing exceptionally close to the roads, traffic picking up, trucks over taking us, road works in action, Tuk Tuks (local transport) carrying bails of hay (and other interesting and huge loads!), the second flat tyre of the day… So many things adding to the fatigue we were all already feeling and the heat we were already enduring. With encouragement and support for and from each other though, we finally completed our 80th kilometre, and I don’t think any of us have ever expired so much in our lives! With sore bums, so very, very sore, the seats of the bus were most welcome, as was the air conditioner for our return drive to our hotel! Oh, and the pool when we arrived back at the hotel… Like moths to a flame!
Day 4: Sunday 19th November 2017
To our surprise, we woke up this morning to pelting rain, thunder and lightning, a complete contrast to the open skies of the day and evening before! When Mr. Yaan, our guide, arrived to pick us up for the day, he recommended that we wait just half an hour more before departing, and suggested that the rain from that point on would probably mostly pass us.
Amazingly, he was correct! Today we rode over 50 kilometres, with only very little of it on sealed roads; meaning, puddles and mud! This added an extra element of fun, but also difficulty! Soft sand that seemed to want to swallow the bike tyres, puddles to navigate around, and many unavoidable. Mud everywhere, but what a way to spend a Sunday morning! Being a Sunday, the only day of the week that Cambodian children have off of school, it was very encouraging to have so many children playing in their front yards or out in the street, that would call out to us, wave and cheer us on! During morning tea, we also met a large group of children who were taking part in a rubbish clean up program, which was fantastic to see, and we appreciated the energy they radiated, and the smiles and laughter they gave us too. Another humbling moment of our time in Cambodia.
Although we had a few breaks, we worked very hard today and completed our 50 kilometres of mud cycling before lunch! This left the afternoon open to be able to experience the ‘floating village’, over one of the biggest lakes in the whole of South East Asia. With an area of 3000 square kilometres in dry season, the lake covers some 16000 in wet season! All of the buildings are built on stilts, and during wet season, sit many metres above the water line! Transport everywhere is by boat, and it was amazing to see such a different way of living. As a treat, not only did we go on an engine powered boat as a group, but also on small row boats, in groups of two. Being rowed amongst the trees, the ground level some three metres below us, the tree canopy towering above us, the soft sound of watering moving slowly, was such a peaceful, soulful and relaxing experience; a very unique Sunday for all of us. Arriving back our hotel some nine hours after we had departed, warm showers and a chance to clean mud out of all sorts of places it had made it’s way into was very welcome!
With the adversity of what the weather threw at us today, the group’s vibe and attitude never dropped a beat; committed to the task, and open to and accepting of any challenge thrown at us!
Bring on tomorrow!
Day 5: Monday 20th November 2017
Our fourth day of cycling, and just over 60k of it! Although not our longest riding distance, it was, to date, our toughest ride! Strong head winds, off the sealed roads, long inclines and for those of us at the rear of the pack for our final stretch, we found ourselves getting pelted with rain for a good few minutes too!
The puddles to dodge today were more like small lakes, many of them unavoidable, not shallow and progressively, we all got muddier, and just had to embrace it! As the day went on and the rain seemed to be brewing, the humidity increasing, we all also sweated more than any other day, and by the time we had finished our cycle for the day, we looked (and smelt!) like a group that just finished a Bikram yoga class!
Lots of laughs at our own, and each other’s expense today. At the completion of our ride, we visited Beng Mealea, another temple, now taken into natures hands, and intertwined with the jungle environment in which it lies.
Although all of the temples in Cambodia are incredible in their own right, this one was definitely the most awing. An hour and a half drive back to our hotel, and most of us slept for most of that hour and a half! A very well deserved rest might I add! Whilst we are all absolutely loving the challenge we’ve taken on, we are all very much looking forward to our non-ride, rest day tomorrow, with our first sleep in since our departure from Australia!
Day 6: Tuesday 21st November 2017
Today was a non-ride, much deserved break day!!
Not meeting until 9am, we all enjoyed a lovely sleep in! We spent the first half of the day as students at a Cambodian cooking class! Our chef teacher first took us to the markets, where we got a firsthand insight into the hustle and bustle of where the fresh food comes from, that we would later be cooking. We learnt to make fresh spring rolls, then the national dish of Cambodia, fish amok, before finishing by preparing and very much enjoying fried banana!
A great experience, and a great way to spend a Tuesday morning! The rest of the day was recovery and relaxation time, having a nice break, and also packing our things, as tomorrow we have a three and a half hour drive to new accommodation, and anther 55k back on the bikes!
Day 7: Wednesday 22nd November 2017
Back in the saddle, on our trusty bicycle steeds after our relaxing day off from cycling yesterday, it was straight back into the fun stuff… puddles and mud! A total of just under 60k today.
Further away from the villages this day, riding mainly through open farm country, sighting many of the local peoples tending their crops. Lots of low lying water around, and lots of it over the tracks we were riding! At one point, the water crossing our path was about a foot deep in parts, and our fantastic and committed guides managed to drag a fallen log to act as a ’bridge’ for us to walk over, using our bikes as balancing support and managing to keep our feet dry!
Receiving a phone call that our support truck was unable to pass through one particularly muddy area, we turned around and went back to help, adding weight to the back of the truck so it could get enough traction to pass through; slipping, sliding and twisting as it was!
The usual dodging of cattle, tuk tuks (local scooter/ carriage transportation), dogs, chickens with countless numbers of young chicks, and not to mention the occasional angry rooster! All in all, another fantastic day. A long transportation to our new accomodation, meaning, for most of us, a nice long sleep! Until tomorrow…
Day 8: Thursday 23rd November 2017
Today marked our last day on the bike, saddening, though a welcome thought for all out tired legs and sore butts! Leaving our hotel in Battambang, a city of over a million people, our first challenge started about two seconds in… taking on the wildness that is Cambodian traffic in a major city! Scooters carrying (literally!) an actual carload of people, tuk tuks rip-roaring left, right centre and every other direction imaginable, and the occasional some-sort-of-mobile carrying unimaginable loads all adding their own element to our “welcome to the bitumen”!
We were heading 22k out of town, and whilst the volume of traffic did decrease the further we rode, we were certainly on our wits the entire time! As we entered into more scrub country, we paused for our guides to go ahead a little and check out one particularly muddy and steep section, with a downhill first, and then a steep up. Mr. Ravy, one of our guides, accidentally showed us what NOT to do, as he and his bike went separate ways over an embankment and ended up in the muddiest puddle we’d seen all day! Once we realised he was ok, and just muddy, very muddy, we struggled to contain our laughter (as did he!). Part of this section did have to be walked, but Richard provided a second round of entertainment for those of us at the back by also ‘going scrub!’
With 22k finally under our cycling belts, we had arrived at the lowers of Banan Temple, and there was no break to be had! A long, steep, slippery and enduring 350 uneven steps led us to Banan Temple itself, with not only the temple to appreciate and enjoy, but the views around as well. What goes up must come down, and with already tired, shaky legs, great teamwork was shown as we helped each other back down to our awaiting wheels. Back on our rides, we began our final cycling journey, stopping two kilometres from our hotel to partly block a roundabout (quite acceptable behaviour in Cambodia!) for a final photo of a dirty and sweaty Team PQI! Showers were most welcome, though as we walked through the doors and entered the lovely and aptly named “Classy Hotel”, we most certainly did not appear to be staying at the right place!
Day 9 & 10: Friday 24th and Saturday 25th November 2017
With the adventure challenge aspect of our journey officially done, Friday was a free day for us recooperate, relax, tend to our tired and weary legs, and explore the city of Phnom Penh. Most of us took the opportunity to visit and learn about some museums and spaces dedicated to the so very recent period of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge reign, such a reminder of just how fortunate we are to get to exist on this planet, and how fortunate we are to live in Australia.
Friday evening was our last official meal as Team PQI, 2017, Cambodian Odysey. A lovely meal together, and a final sharing of the daily award bracelets, and of course the “blooper hat”! Our last two hours together was spent on the rooftop of our hotel, twelve stories in the air, where we were somehow allowed to commandeer control of the music… Blasting Aussie songs and singing at the top of our lungs, whilst contemplating and sharing memories of the last amazing nine days together. I don’t think Darryl Braithwaite’s “Horses” has ever been sung so loudly (or so many times in a single week!) before!
On a personal note, I would like to congratulate all ten members of team Parkinson’s Queensland, on their physical achievements over the week. An absolutely incredible, hard slogged effort. To team leader Rachel Jeffrey, hats off to you for your commitment and organisation leading up to and during the trip, what a legend and asset to PQI you are. To all of you who together, have thus far raised $46,000 of much needed funds for further research into and support for those with Parkinson’s disease, WELL DONE! To those that donated, a million thanks to you all, and to anybody who may still wish to donate, thank you in advance.
Deadset legends, all of you 🙂
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