Words cannot describe how spectacular this experience was. From cycling past elephants to visiting the Taj Mahal, and most of all seeing how Railway Children make such a huge difference to vulnerable children in India - it was one hell of a journey covering 450km in six days across India’s Golden Triangle but one I will never forget. Here is an insight into the incredible challenge of Ride India 2019…
When arriving at Heathrow I was greeted by the wonderful Katie, Events Manager at Railway Children. I grabbed a bite to eat and had a wander around the airport feeling slightly anxious about what was ahead. I then met the rest of the cycling squad who I’d be spending the next 10 days with and totally relaxed, they were such a wonderful bunch!
After a long flight we arrived at Jyoti hotel to a lovely welcome from the team and amazing lunch on the roof top!
We visited the largest Mosque in the city wearing some fetching yellow robes then hopped on a rickshaw for a very bumpy ride.
We started the day bright and early having breakfast on the roof top before setting off to visit the children’s shelter run by Railway Children we played games, took lots of selfies and enjoyed a Masala Chai!
We then went on to visit Ghaziabad Station, where we saw first-hand the conditions the children are living and working in, and how the charity's Child Help Desks offer them somewhere safe as well as clean clothes, food, medical and emotional support, and education.
We also got to meet the incredible outreach workers on patrol 24/7 looking out for vulnerable children who may have run away from home, being trafficked or have no where else to go.
Such a great insight into how all the money raised will go so far to help keep these projects running.
We were up at the crack of dawn to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise - it was simply incredible.
We stopped for a bite to eat got out bikes fitted after all the nerves, excitement and months of training we were off! Our first stint was 43km through Agra cycling past goats, cows, monkeys and lots of children who were cheering us on. It was a whole lot different from dodging London buses!
This was the longest ride of them all: 113km! It was a tough cycle through lots of busy villages weaving in and out of motorcycles, buses, trucks and the odd camel but the odd chat here and there made the time fly by and we were at the hotel before we could say chapati!
Our evening was spent at the Maharaja's Palace where we enjoyed a spot of henna painting, another delicious evening meal and a much needed relax - ready for our third day of cycling.
For day three of cycling we were up bright and early to tackle 112km. The morning started off with a lot of mist and fog but luckily the sun eventually made an appearance a few hours into the cycle.
We cycled through some more very busy towns, dodging just about everything imaginable! I accidentally crashed into a man’s stall trying to dodge another local cyclist - whoops! Our amazing team’s support (and the snack stops!) helped enormously to get us to the next stop.
The last 5K we powered through some tough winds but it was worth it when we finally got to Ranthambore National Park where we enjoyed some delicious pakoras and a much needed strong coffee.
Another earlier start for a safari in the Ranthambore National Park, beautiful scenery and lots of wild life, sadly didn’t spot a tiger but was still absolutely incredible!
Then came the toughest day of cycling so far - only 45km (yes I say only now) but some of the steepest hills I’ve ever experienced!
Our first stop was a women’s refuge where they make beautiful clothes, fabrics and gifts to sell. They even let me have a quick go on the machine.
We stopped off at a local NGO school, meeting some very excited kids and taking lots of selfies! We have since donated to this school to help support them with their future education.
Then for the dreaded hills through the national park up to Ranthambore Fort. I just about made it up the top before falling of into a ditch, 5 metres from the top! Thankfully no injury just another bruise to blend in with the rest of my collection!
The whole team made it up to the fort to take in some more beautiful sights. The way back down was much more fun!
After a restful stay in the Rathambore camp we set off in the sunshine for our 80km cycle and penultimate day.
There were a couple more hills, some really rocky roads (no this wasn’t our snack stop) and a sea of colour as we approached around 100 women all dressed in bright Rajasthani pink saris, such a beautiful sight.
Then we made it to another stunning Maharajah's Palace for a night's stay before our final day of cycling!
It was our final day with just 56km left. We had some more rough road but in all honesty I didn’t want it to end. During the last 5K we saw the most unbelievable scenery through mountains and natures pure beauty - plus the odd cow strutting their stuff through the middle of the road!
As we approached the finish line I could hear celebratory drums and cheers. We parked our bikes and revelled in what we had just achieved - hugging, jumping, dancing and so many smiles!
It was quite surreal to then hop on to the coach and not back on our bikes to our final hotel stay. We arrived in the city of Jaipur and had some time to explore, shop and do a little / a lot of bargaining.
We spent out last evening celebrating true Rajasthani style with a traditional band and lots of dancing, what a way to end such an amazing trip!
So that was my India adventure and one that will stay in my heart forever. We couldn’t have done it without the amazing team guiding us the whole way, providing us with food and water and looking after those who were injured or sick and needed some time out on the coach.
India taught me so much about how to appreciate life and how grateful we should be for what we have. The children we met at the Railway Children shelter sadly don’t have that freedom, but I hope with the help of the money I raised that some day they will. So I want to thank everyone who donated and supported me - I couldn’t have done it without you.
The trip wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for my fellow cyclists. I’ve been so lucky to meet such an amazing, powerful, humble group of people from all walks of life who I’d probably never have met if I hadn’t been my crazy self and signed up to this challenge.
I arrived in India with 23 strangers and left with 23 amazing new friends.