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Cycle jodan challenge.pdf


After arriving at Amman Airport at 12.00 midnight on Saturday 3rd October, 2009, the
99 women were transferred complete with luggage to the Golden Tulip Hotel, Queen
Alia International Airport in Amman by three coaches.
At the hotel we were all shown into a large reception room where drinks and nibbles
were supplied. Can you just imagine the chattering and noise made by 99 women,
quite unbelievable. After a briefing about what was going to happen the next day we
were all allocated into rooms of three for the night and given our times for our wake-
up calls. This was to be done in three sections so that breakfast could be arranged and
our bikes could be fitted. First call 6.00am, second call 7.00am and then the lucky
ones 8.00am. I could be so lucky, 8.00am call but of course we were up before that
raring to go, worried about the weather and water and food and you name it! Re-
packed our bag for the first time of many.
I must just say that we had two young Jordanian policemen and medics who travelled
along with us at all times and lots of bike mechanics complete with pickup trucks.
Our two coaches were also with us all the way in case of injury/illness or for those
who just could not go on!! The third coach headed straight for our destination with
the luggage.
Sunday 4th October (approx 59km) Madaba – Mount Nebo to Dead Sea

We were given our two Women for Women cycle shirts this morning, could we wear
one today for the photographs being taken by Simon (official photogr apher).
Breakfast, well not quite as expected. Pitta bread, boiled eggs, sausage (but not as we
know it), cake (a bit dry), cold meats and some sort of cheese (do we eat this or not, is
it pasteurised?). After breakfast we made our way to the bike shed where there
seemed to be hundreds of bikes for fitting. Some people had got themselves ready,
some from the early shift still had their fitting to be done – certainly looked like
chaos. The bike mechanics worked very hard to sort everyone out, fitting the saddles
and bags that we had brought from home but it did take some time. After our briefing
about what we could expect from the day, the amount of water that we should be
drinking etc and the brief from the two doctors who were cycling with us we were
ready for the off, unfortunately this was now at about 12.00 mid-day. The sun was
very high in the sky, already applied sun cream (factor 45, sweat resistant) several
times!
We cycled approx 22km to Madaba where we stopped for lunch and also had time to
visit the Madaba Mosaic Map. This mosaic was put down in 6th century AD in the
Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George.
We then cycled on to Mount Nebo, the traditional site of the death of Moses. Time
did not allow us to go to the visitor centre so we continued downhill, and I mean
downhill, into the valley. We stopped just over the summit of the hill for water refills
and snacks which were small bags of nuts with a sweetie, bananas (if you could fancy
them, lots of flies) and cake.
The journey down Mount Nebo seemed to go on forever, very steep with some sharp
hairpin bends. Eventually it seemed to level out slightly with only a few long
“hiccups” to contend with. Our guide, Teho, seemed to use the word “hiccup” in
quite the wrong context, it took us a couple of days to find this out!! Eventually we
learnt to read the hand signals as to how high the “hiccup” actually was.
We were all very concerned that we would not reach the Dead Sea before sunset as
we all needed to have that well earned float to relax our aching bodies. As time went
on we seemed to peddle faster and faster to reach our destination. A long straight
road took us alongside the Dead Sea where we saw the most wonderful sunset, photo
opportunity of course. We reached the Dead Sea Spa Hotel and after being allocated
our rooms for the night, we rushed to put on our swimwear and negotiate the hotel
pool and garden to the beach. Just made it! Relaxing in the Dead Sea by moonlight,
absolutely amazing. The serious salt and mineral content certainly did “jip” certain
places but given a couple of minutes all was well. Can’t imagine why we thought
synchronized swimming was so funny, obviously just something that you do when
you have been cycling all day!
After deciding that we were now starving and dinner was about to be served the trek
back to the hotel was slightly amusing. Pitch black with only the moonlight to light
the pathway we found that the gate to the hotel gardens had been locked, never beaten
by such a thing, we climbed over the wall! We are all ladies you know!
Showered and dressed, dinner went down very well. Pitta bread, hummus, salads,
chicken with rice, lamb with rice, something else – possibly some sort of fish but very
nice. Puddings were very sweet, small squares of cake with very moist syrup and
nuts. Lovely fresh fruit – this hotel much better than the last. Hopefully this will be
the way forward.
Briefing in the garden room until about 11.00pm for the next day (very late for us,
everyone exhausted). Apparently, according to Teho we had all done extremely well
as the heat was more than they had all expected. One ladies Birthday, but too tired to
share her cake, off to bed.
Monday 5th October (approx 60km) Dead Sea to Kerak then transfer to Petra

Morning call at 6.30am but up before then, don’t want to have to rush when having to
pack your bag again. Breakfast, very pleasant, shame we had to leave this lovely
hotel.
Onward and upward, 99 bikes parked outside the front of the hotel ready for the off.
After leaving slightly later than expected we rode South along the Eastern shore of the
Dead Sea. This road was mostly flat but we also encountered some very long
undulations - “hiccups”! We realised that this day was going to heat up nicely. Never
actually seeming to get anywhere we kept our heads down and kept going. It totally
amazed me that I managed to get up some of the long, seemingly endless hills but
obviously my training had done some good. As long as I was able to stop for a jelly
baby every so often I seemed to be able to cope, they certainly give you a new lease
of life if you start flagging. Jelly babies were the talk of the day, being passed from
one to another just to keep us going.
The last 3km seemed to go on forever, we didn’t realise this was such a huge hill to
climb. We had had a water stop at the junction on the road, in this heat we couldn’t
believe how cold the water could be when poured by the helpers though our helmets
and down our backs. Freezing! Dried off in seconds.
I stopped to help a fellow cyclist as she was starting to suffer from the heat. She felt a little safer knowing that there was someone with her although not a lot I could do but give her my Camelbak water carrier and jelly babies! I still had water and she had run out. Thankfully, along came another cyclist with massaging skills, she massaged her back for a while and eventually she felt a lot better, so much so that she managed to cycle the last ½ km or so to the end. It wasn’t until we got to the end that we realised that about two thirds of the ladies had actually given in and got on a coach. We were really pleased that we were in the third that actually finished. It was that night that we realised that the temperature was actually 42ºC so we were even more proud of ourselves for doing as well as we did. This was the day that there was an optional 24km taking us to the 12th century Crusader Castle of Kerak. Having had such a hard day, there were only 15 ladies who actually decided to try for this extra challenge (although we all remembered saying at the start of the day, “we’ll see what its like”!!!). One was our new friend Ann (aged 55). We followed on eventually in the coach passing the brave and extremely fit ladies one by one. It was a terrible journey up to the castle, very winding and extremely steep with lots of hairpin bends. We couldn’t believe that anyone could actually cycle up this terrible hill that was bordering on mountain. We had lunch at a nice restaurant and walked around the castle (only ruins but very prominently perched on the top of the hill) while we waited for the ‘hero’ cyclists. When returning to the restaurant and to our coaches we heard that several of the cyclists had had to give in and had been picked up by the coach, a fantastic effort for trying – but who were they, no confirmation of any names yet. Looking down from the drawbridge of the castle we could see a couple of cyclists coming around the final hairpin bend before the final very steep hill into the town. Tissues started to appear as everyone was getting so very emotional, we couldn’t believe they could still be cycling. Even Simon the photographer with his fantastic camera couldn’t see who they were, the suspense was amazing. 15 minutes or so later we could see the flashing lights of the police car bringing the cyclists in, everyone rushed down the road to be ready to cheer them in. The locals hadn’t a clue what was happening but joined in with all these mad, cheering women quite nicely. Round the corner the y came with cheering bringing them in to the finish. Beth and “the other one ” can’t remember everyone’s name! After another few minutes along came another one, then a couple more and then most exciting for our little group, here came Ann. Tears of joy all around especially for her sister Mary who was feeling so anxious. They all looked great, got off their bikes with a spring in their step and went in for some lunch, we were all exhausted. When everyone was ready, we then had to board the coaches for the 3 hour transfer to Petra, this was an extremely long journey and ended with a very long hill down into Petra itself. All we could think about was the day after next, getting back up that hill. Dinner and over night in Petra – Edom Hotel, possibly not the best choice! Tuesday 6th October Day Off!! Visit to Petra

Morning call at 8.00am for breakfast in our ‘lovely’ hotel. We had been split for this
stay in Petra as one hotel could not house all of us, the other hotel being Petra Palace,
apparently not the palace that was expected but slightly better than the Edom!
Met outside the Petra Palace for brief for the day, we then walked to the Gate of the
ancient Nabatean City of Petra, the rock carved city hidden in a valley behind a
barrier of rugged mountains. This was the centre for the Nabatean caravan trade and
from here the caravans left for their faraway destinations. We entered the site through
the Siq, the narrow and colourful sandstone canyon, at the end of which we found the
famous Treasury, a huge rock carved building. The ancient Nabatean capital built
more than 2000 years ago was the cultural and strategic centre for the old spice
trading routes. It prospered for many centuries but declined during the Roman period.
It was rediscovered in 1812 by the Anglo-Swiss explorer John Lewis Burckhardt.
Lunch was served as far away as possible from entrance to Petra but the route showed
us the fantastic carvings and caves/tombs. After lunch some energetic ladies worked
their way up the 1000 + steps to the monastery, not me. I, with Catherine and Ali
caught a camel back to the treasury, a good decision given the heat of the afternoon
sun. We began to draw a crowd when we arrived at the Treasury, all having trouble
getting off the camels!
The rest of the afternoon was spent resting at the hotel away from the sunlight, a little
nap before dinner at the Petra Palace at 7pm sharp! There was an option to go to the
bath house for a steam bath but with the shopping that was arranged (no money had
yet been spent!!) there was no time. For those who did manage to get a steam bath it
did seem rather rough, perhaps we made the right choice.
After dinner back to our ‘luxury hotel’ where we checked on our bikes for the
morning, making sure any problems had been dealt with. Then bed. Extremely tired,
plus several of the girls had developed a gastric bug, certainly not very nice. I was
lucky so far.
Wednesday 7th October (approx 70km) Petra – Dilagha – Roberts Rock

We started with an uphill climb of approx 10km to Rajeff above Petra. From here we
had a seriously down hill ride into the Arava valley. The road surface was very
rough, ready but not yet covered with tarmac. We did approx 5km on this surface
round hairpin bends and at about a 45º angle, both brakes almost fully on, played
serious havoc with the hands and arms. Hard work trying to stop for a break but OK
to start off again.
Bedouin camps were seen in the most stark and strangest of places. All of a sudden
you would come upon a donkey or camel and over the tump would be its owners in
their tents, no traces of water or any vegetation at all. Very shy people, obviously
didn’t know what to make of 99 women passing by on bicycles, occasionally the
children would rush to the road to wave, this seemed to highly amuse them.
A very steep uphill would bring us to lunch, this hill went on for about 4km another of
Teho’s “hiccups”. Lots of walking up this hill, although almost more difficult to walk
than to ride but finally we got to the lunch break. After visiting the sick, two of my
friends were unable to ride today as they had the dreaded bug, soup and the usual pitta
bread etc was served. Great to have a break and we all hoped that the onward journey
would be downhill.

After the picnic lunch we had a very steep winding downhill into the Arava valley
followed by more desert scenery! The scenery almost compensated for the ‘hiccups’
that were to follow but after every extremely long and hard hill came the well
deserved downhill.
Eventually we reached a bend in the road where there were screams of delight from
the front runners as we had reached our camp for the night. Our night under the stars
in the Bedouin tent. I always managed to be in the middle of the bunch and never at
the front but as I have always said “its not a race but a challenge”. The camp was set
up at “Roberts Rock”, three Bedouin tents large enough for about 30 people ish.
Just looked like a wooden frame with blankets thrown over as far as I could tell. Our
helpers for the night had strung up lights for us which was run by a generator, this was
useful as darkness fell at around 6.30pm. We all had a foam mattress to lie on and
once we had organised our sleeping bags all looked well.
Toilets, well there were four canvas huts behind the tents and one ‘portaloo’ which
everyone seemed to queue for, the excitement was almost too much!! The loos did
flush if you were lucky, a setup with a large tank of water at one end. An experience
if nothing else. We all looked the same so no need to worry too much, after our
105km ride tomorrow, it would all be over and in a hotel where hopefully there would
be a shower.
We had a barbecue dinner, chicken cooked in large frames above a large hole in the
ground, no-one seemed sure where the wood came from. Whilst we sat around the
camp fire on woven mats (not too comfortable but better than nothing), Dee came
back from her tent with a bag of chocolate squares that she had been saving in her
holdall for such a moment, the excitement was too much. The taste of chocolate after
pitta bread and rice etc for five days was quite a thrill. This obviously got the better
of everyone as within no time at all we had all dispersed and found ourselves in our
sleeping bags, no stamina after a days cycling, in bed by 8.30pm!
This is where the temperature would drop to around minus 10 degrees. We all put on
sweatshirts, tracksuit bottoms, socks etc, zipped up our sleeping bags prepared a cold
night. Not long before zips were being opened and clothes being removed as the
night was so warm, no need for the bobble hat, scarves and gloves that we had all
brought with us. Up at around 2.45am to use the facilities the night was warm and the
moonlight so bright it was difficult to see the stars, absolutely lovely. Snuggled back
into my sleeping bag, not long before it was time to get up. Woken at around 6.45am
for breakfast. This was exciting, there was a chocolate spread like Nutella today, as
well as the usual hummus, eggs etc, absolutely lovely if put on pitta bread! After
packing everything back into our bags off we gathered for a photograph in front of
“Roberts Rock”, this was a challenge in itself for Simon our photographer. Not easy
organising 99 women!
That done we were to ride one after the other from the camp site so that Simon could
catch us all on camera for the DVD. My friends were a lot better today so we were all
able to ride today, the last day of cycling to Aqaba 105km!
Thursday 8th October (approx 105km) “Roberts Rock” – Arava – Aqaba

From “Roberts Rock” we cycled 8km to the road that goes from North to South
though the Arava Valley. We then turned South along the tarmac road heading for
Aqaba, Jordan’s southern most town on the shores of the Red Sea. The Arava, is part
of the Great Rift Valley, a huge fault that runs from Turkey to the Great Lakes in
Africa and includes the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. We cycled through the lowest part
of the valley with the granite mountains of Edom on the left and the limestone hills of
Israel on the right, in the West.
This road is so straight that it never seems to end. Water stops and photo stops are the
only things that break up the day. This road is the main route taken by trucks but is so
open they don’t feel as much as a threat as they do here in the UK. We cycled along
chatting and the morning seemed to fly by. Hills seemed to be a thing of the past, this
straight road was slightly undulating but nothing like we had encountered over the last
few days. The only difference today seemed to be that there was a slight cross breeze,
we later realised to our cost that this would affect our legs and our lips!!
The day feels a bit non-descript really as it was such a long way with not a lot
happening, just km after km of cycling. We eventually reached our collection point
on the crossroads which took us into Aqaba. After waiting for everyone to catch up
we made our way the last 3km through the port of Aqaba as a group, over strange
junctions and over traffic lights that move quicker than lightening! The people of
Aqaba couldn’t believe their eyes, lots of ladies on bikes all chatting and excitable.
As we went round the final roundabout, being lead by the police the nerves started to
kick it, we had really done it.
There it was, the Women for Women banner at the Aqaba Gulf Hotel for us to cycle
under. There was a fantastic feeling of relief and emotion as we all hugged each other
and were given a glass of orange juice by the very smart waiters and our medal from
Gay from Action for Charity. After a lot of chatter we eventually got ourselves in
some sort of order so that Simon could take our photograph under the banner.
Onward then to get our keys and to our rooms, first things first, a cup of tea, we
actually had tea and coffee in our rooms, this was a treat. Kulbir and I also had a sofa
in our room so tea was with us, Catherine, Beverley, Jenny and Andrea arrived for a
short chat before that much needed shower. Once in the shower, couldn’t get out we
had waited so long and it was so lovely!
Dinner was much the same as usual but of a much better quality, we also managed to
have a drink in the bar beforehand, because there was a bar and we could! Lovely.
We had arranged to go to Wadi Rum on Friday so bedtime was again early as we had
our call at 8.00am.
Friday 9th October Visit to Wadi Rum

On waking, a lot of us found that we had ‘fat lips’, this had been caused by the
relentless sun on our long day yesterday, 105km but also from the breeze that we had
all thought so lovely. Perhaps we should have applied that extra bit of sun screen/lip
balm! We also had wind burn on our legs.
After breakfast we loaded onto the coaches that were taking us to Wadi Rum. This is
the desert area in the valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock which travellers
passed through with their wares. The views across the desert were fantastic, the most
famous rock formation being the ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ the rock formation named
by T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) while serving as a liaison officer with rebel
forces in 1916-1918.
There were about 60 of us who took the chance to visit this protected area, on arrival we checked out the few shops at the visitor centre, there were – of course, some purchases made! We were then called to get into the open top jeeps that were to take us around the area driven by Bedouins who were obviously very competitive with each other. After a short drive we stopped at a very large sand dune which we all climbed to the top of (extremely difficult with the very soft sand and going uphill, didn’t they realise we had cycled 105km the day before!!) to find a wonderful 360º view from the top. We then moved on, at speed, to the next extremely large sand dune/rock that was too high to climb, camel rides were on offer here, there was no time. It was at this point that we noticed the camel’s lips were a little like ours, the bottom lip protruding slightly from the top – hence the new name for our swollen lips ‘Camel Lip’! We moved on further to find Bedouins selling jewellery that they had made, gems/ stones and carpets from their tent. Just up from here we were told about the carvings in the rocks done by Bedouins from many years ago which directed the travellers to the sea to sell their wares. Our guide also told us that the travellers also moved by night as they followed the path between two stars which showed them the way. Further on, we were able to stop for lunch (everything seems to revolve around food). We found a small development of tents which are available to rent for holidays, probably around 200 in quantity. A large tent which housed seats and tables was set behind and this is where we stopped for lunch, food much the same as usual but in a different place! After our lunch we made our way back to the hotel in Aqaba, a change of clothes and cup of tea later we hit the shops! The only way that we could get to the Red Sea was through a local hotel which apparently charged £14 for the privilege so we declined and walked alongside it looking through the palm trees. Eventually we found a local market which took us to the shops where we were able to spend some money and buy the gifts that we wanted to bring home. Having money in your pocket with nowhere to spend it is really hard going, so we all managed to have a good shop, tiring ourselves out in the process. Back at the hotel, after a short rest and shower we headed to the reception to meet for our Celebration Dinner. This was quite a grand affair, we had our own room at the hotel with tables laid out very nicely and a gift for everyone on the tables. Champneys had given us all a gift and a £50 voucher towards a day at one of their spas. Dinner was served, we had hoped for a nice roast dinner for a change but no, same food but extremely nicely presented and very nice. Speeches were made and some prizes were given out to special cyclists, Best dressed – to two ladies who wore make-up at all times! Most helpful – Lynne of course, she cried for the rest of the night, Favourite relatives – sisters Ann and Mary (our friends and very proud we were of them too, we all cried!) were among the categories. Well, off to bed have to be up at 5.00am Saturday to start our journey home. Saturday 10th October Aqaba – Amman - London

10 people had to leave slightly earlier to catch an earlier flight from Aqaba to Amman
as they wouldn’t fit on the next flight. My friends headed off early but I was happy to
get up with them and have breakfast. My task was to look after Lynne as her friend
Julie was with the first batch, didn’t do a very good job though as she wandered off
and I didn’t see her again until we reached Aqaba airport, she had got on a different
coach to me. Scary moment, Julie can be quite frightening! Our departure from the
hotel was delayed so didn’t actually leave until around 8.15am.
On arriving at Aqaba airport we had to wait outside in the sun for about and hour, the
airport was too small to hold all of us so they wouldn’t let us in. The whole aircraft
was filled with Women for Women ladies. As the flight left Aqaba the next thing I
knew we were taxiing along the runway at Amman, we had landed without me
knowing, I must have been in the deepest sleep.
At Amman we were moved through into the departure lounge but I couldn’t find my
friends anywhere. It turned out that they were having a lovely time shopping in the
airport shops, somewhere that we had been steered past as apparently time was
moving on (this just meant that I couldn’t have a bendy camel like the rest of them! ).
Eventually we boarded the plane to Heathrow. We had had a lovely time although
really hard going but we all felt it was time to come home now.
After 5 hours we were at Heathrow. Bit chilly but a lovely feeling although extremely
emotional. Friends from all over the country were heading in different directions,
although we ha ve vowed to keep in touch and we knew we were all going to meet in
the Spring when meeting with Robert Winston in London.
A good time was had by all, I have raised in excess of £2800 for the charity and in
total the amount fo r our group will be in excess of £250,000. I would like to thank
everyone who supported me along the way and who donated to the cause, it has been
a fantastic experience. No – not sure I would do it again but never say never!

Source: http://uptonuk.net/events/valcycleride/diary.pdf

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