Felsted School Maths Teacher, Joe Andrews and his wife Verity set out to make a difference for the Magic Bus children’s charity, by embarking on a five month sponsored cycle ride to the charity headquarters in Mumbai, India.
Read their report below....
First and foremost, we would like to thank everyone who has so kindly donated and helped us exceed our fundraising target. We are truly grateful and having seen Magic Bus in action, we know what a difference these funds will make.
When we started planning our journey we wanted to combine it with doing some good so the idea of raising money for Magic Bus and cycling to their India headquarters began to take shape. On 12 August 2018, a few friends and family joined us on the first day ride of our adventure. We headed south towards Folkestone in order to get the Eurotunnel to France. Just over five months later, we have cycled over 9000km, crossed 17 countries and patched 6 punctures to arrive in Mumbai.
Fast forward to the 15th December and we arrived in Chennai, flying across the ocean from Muscat in Oman (one of our favourite countries so far - but more info about the earlier part of our trip is on our blog) Having done lots of research about cycling in India we decided taking a route along the south was our best option in terms of traffic, weather and the variety we could see; we weren't disappointed. We have spent over six weeks cycling in India and we loved it. There are so many sights, smells and sounds it was hard to concentrate on the road, and we had to! They were busy but perfectly manageable and the food simply delicious - be it plonked on a banana leaf in a village shack or poured into metal platters in a bustling roadside canteen. Although we covered such a small percentage of the country, we have seen palm tree filled rural villages, colonial hill stations, hippy paradise beaches and a thousand multicoloured temples.
We have also (and most importantly) finally got to see Magic Bus in action. We have visited three of their centres and seen school sessions with children, the adolescent livelihood programs as well the work they do in one of the communities in Mumbai and the Karjat training centre where Felsted do a lot of their work in collaboration with the local villages. It has been awe inspiring to see the difference it makes and hear the success stories of the lives they have changed. Meeting everyone involved in the charity has made us realise quite how big it is (they managed to involve 1.6 million people last year) and how the charity's work is so important. It is now one of the largest NGOs in the country and is continually striving to improve what it does to stay on mission of alleviating poverty.
We have had a brilliant time and an amazing journey for the past 5 months. We have seen epic views and eaten incredible local food throughout but the real highlight for both of us has been the people. Whether it has been inviting us to have dinner with them, letting us sleep in their house or pulling over and handing us apples by the side of the road, the generosity of strangers in every country has been the most overwhelming and most positive aspect of the trip. If we are to bring anything back when we return it is to be more open - it is amazing what a difference it can make to someone's day to smile and take interest (even if they don't want any apples), and the impression of a whole country can be set by a chance encounter.
As we look back on our trip, it's interesting to see the huge variety of landscapes, food, language and people that we have met in a relatively short distance (when you look at a world map!). And whilst we can measure the distance travelled, we can also reflect on how we have changed ourselves. We both agree that we are now more relaxed when it comes to wild camping, washing (!) and interacting with locals. It's all too easy to have made up your mind quickly or based on stereotypes, resulting in never truly experiencing a country. This is why we love to travel by bike - whilst we may not see all that is recommended in a guide book, we really get to know the part of the country we do travel through.
Sure, there have been some wet days after camping in the rain, some tough slogs against the wind and some close calls with aggressive traffic but at no point did we wish we were doing anything else.
In fact, we have enjoyed our time in the saddle so much that we plan to continue the adventure and fundraising by flying to Myanmar to cycle from Mandalay to Singapore! We will keep updating the blog (www.byjovebybike.co.uk) and Instagram (@byjovebybike) so that you can follow the journey. Rest assured that our trip remains completely self-funded so any money donated at www.justgiving.com/byjovebybike goes direct to help Magic Bus continue their great work.