After our first day of biking in the Phillipines we were very excited about what lay ahead of us in the coming days. After a nice little 9 hour sleep in the small town of Altavas, that included a 2 hour long torrential down-pour and a group of roosters that made noise from about 430am on, we were somewhat refreshed and ready to hit the road....
So far on this trip we have adopted this mentality known as "DWI", which stands for "deal with it". Any time there is a negative situation that is thrown our way I can hear Cyril mutter "DWI boys" .. He explained to me this notion of "DWI" simply by saying that the Navy Seals are continuously thrown into scenarios that are unexpected, but they always find a way to get their job done (they deal with it). Any problem we have is responded with "DWI boys". Ross: "It's too hot", C: DWI boys". Ross: "My butt hurts", C: "DWI boys". Isaac: "Why can't the Canucks win?", C: "DWI boys". I feel as though Cyril actually thinks he is a Navy Seal in his life some times!
After a delicious Filipino breakfast, we were on the road by 10am. Early on in the day we made a few drops to some children, before we noticed a lone girl named Caroline playing basketball by herself with an old beat-up ball. We quickly replaced that ball will a new one and were surprised by a local Filipino lady named Emma. She introduced herself and we chatted for awhile before she invited us for some juice and to meet her family. To our surprise her sister had just arrived home from Canada, more specifically a town just south of Calgary. After a few quick introductions, she was quick to point out that the Calgary Flames had recently beat mine and Isaac's favourite team the Vancouver Canucks in the playoffs. Not only do we have to hear from Cyril about how awful the Canucks are, but now we have a Filipino family giving us a hard time as well! After giving away some sports equipment to the family and hanging out for a bit we were on the road again. Thanks to the family for their gracious support!
One thing we have noticed thus far is how friendly and polite the kids in the Phillipines have been. Often times they are very stand-offish, but once they realize these 3 strange foreigners are there for good reasons they are so thankful and happy to receive the gear. They truly are the nicest kids in the world. Later in the day we had the opportunity to give some balls/equipment to a group of 8 young kids and were able to play basketball, badminton and volleyball for a solid hour with them. This was definitely the highlight of the day. Overall we dropped about 70+ pieces of equipment off today that made many kids smile ear to ear. It definitely makes every ounce of sweat and discomfort worth it!
After a 42km day we arrived in the City of Kalibo and were pleasantly surprised to find the sports equipment that we had ordered in from Roxas City had arrived at the bus station for pick up.. We are stocked up and ready to go over the next 3 days for the home stretch, thanks for all the support out there!
Day 2: Our First Roadblock
Our first day of our trip was a smashing success! We were pleasantly surprised how smooth things were going. Unfortunately, our luck ran out on our second day. We hit our first roadblock. While checking our bikes and making small tunes ups in the morning we discovered that one of the bike pedals on our bikes was broken! The tread inside the pedal was completely stripped and the bike pedal would not stay in. At this time, we weren't too worried about it as we didn't think it was too difficult to fix. The staff at our hotel were incredibly friendly and gave us directions to the nearest bike shops. Once we arrived at a bike shop we were told that we needed a new part to fix our bike pedal. Unfortunately, none of the bike shops were able to accommodate us with the part we needed. Roughly 3 hours had passed and we still had a broken bike. We were unsure of what to do and we wanted to hit the road as soon as possible. Thus our final decision was to purchase a new bike from one of the bike shops. We decided to donate our wounded bike as it was still useable. Especially, if the pedal gets replaced. We gave the bike to a kind 17 year old kid who helped us through the entire process of trying to fix the broken bike. Needless to say, he was incredibly happy. Overall it was a crazy morning, but we were finally on our way by noon.
About a kilometre into our bike ride we made our first stop to handout some sports equipment to a few kids. Giving out the first piece of equipment and seeing the joy and smile on the faces of the children made us forget all about our chaotic morning. It was exceptionally heartwarming to see how grateful the children were when they received an item of sports equipment.
During our bike ride it became quite evident how popular basketball is out here as we passed countless basketball courts. Therefore, we
made a concerted effort to stop whenever we passed a basketball court with children there. Especially if they didn't have a ball. Something that we also noticed, which was a little surprising was how many makeshift volleyball courts there were. Once again we made sure to stop whenever we passed a volleyball court with children.
Every stop we made was rewarding, however, one of our most memorable stops was when we passed a house that was having a birthday party. There was a little girl who was having her 10th birthday. We decided we would give her a few badminton rackets and a skipping rope. We also serenaded her by singing happy birthday. Everyone at the party were so friendly and grateful to have us there. They provided us with delicious juice and tried to convince us to eat some cake, but we were full as we just ate lunch.
By around 5pm we reached our destination of the day Altavas. Altavas is small town roughly 40km away from Roxas City, which is where we started. Before we went to find accommodation for the night we passed another basketball court where there was a men's basketball game happening. We stopped to watch as there were many spectators there. It was fascinating to see how into the game the spectators were. After the game we shot around with some of the local kids. It was an enjoyable experience to say the least.
In the end, a bumpy start to our day turned into a fun, adventurous and successful day. Every encounter we had was enjoyable and the overwhelming theme here so far is how kind and friendly everyone has been to us!
Practicing their bumping skills
A group shot after we gave these kids a basketball. The boys want to be like Lebron James.
Wow what a day and a half here... People often ask me ask me "how are things going?" And I often respond with "busy, but good...". That is exactly how I would describe today. We faced a lot of adversity earlier in the week dealing with dismantling and assembling our bikes and trailers. Some how on Thursday it went very smoothly.
We had a red eye flight Friday night/Saturday morning to Manila so we were able to go down to Yongkang Lu for dinner with some colleagues and friends before our flight.
As you can see in the photo above, the boys are ready...
After 2 flights we arrive in Roxas City, Panay Island, Philippines around noon. Pronounced "Roha" City. A little Spanish flare.
Mission 1: get our butts to our to hotel with our bikes and trailer... I saw a gentleman wearing a visor in the parking lot and I knew since he has such trendsetting style that he would be willing to help us out. He was a bit hesitant at first but then I ripped my visor and we shared a special moment. I think he realized we are the only people in Asia still wearing visors.
There is a serious sense of excitement and energy in this country in anticipation for the Pacqiao vs Mayweather boxing match. There are signs and posters everywhere showing their support for their golden son.
Mission 2: Build our bikes and trailers. Big shout out to Paul Hayes for showing me how to do this on our last tour. 3 bikes and 2 trailers were put together in about an hour and a half. We got a sense for the heat out here though. It is about 38 degrees out here and working out in that was a bit challenging but we battled.
Mission 3: Get Equipment
So the challenge here is buying enough equipment to fill our trailers + getting equipment shipped to future locations on our journey for when we run out. This is especially challenging when we one of our cyclists is a Philippino living legend...
As soon as we walked inside of the mall this crowd mobbed him asking for autographs, and photos while chanting "Rusty, Rusty!" I'm pretty sure I saw a 17 year old girl faint when she grazed his hand it was nuts...
By the time it came to buying equipment not 1 store had enough pieces to sell to us and ship to us. So we bought from 2 different stores.
Ivy my love... Thank you and your staff for your kindness and advice for the shipping. The service at Robinsons was great!
We ended the evening listening to music and eating food accompanied by our my main man San Miguel...
Today was busy but successful. Just the way we like it! I love the energy in this town. From the choir singing to everyone as we get off the plane to the pride this country has shown for their golden son Manny Pacqiao. We have met so many helpful people and it is only day 1. Big day tomorrow. Looking forward to getting up early to hand out equipment and explore this country.
Thank you all for your support.
For Isaac and Ross
I got to Varadero and I refilled the trailer with gloves, catcher's equipment, soccer and baseballs. I was staying in a Casa that was right beside a dance party that was taking part in the streets..I found myself right in the mix, and roaming around in an old Chevrolet from one place to another. I don't know what's more exhausting biking for ten hours or trying to salsa with the Cubans...I feel like I was more bound to go down with an injury from dancing given some of the maneuvers I was being taught. I woke up in the morning and made my pursuit towards a small town called Colon. I went through a town called Cardenas, and the kids came in hot!! The street tribal call was in full effect, but I managed to get some order. I was cycling against the sunset, and I ended up 20 km short of my destination. I found a bus stop bench to crash for the night, until a gentlemen by the name of Isnel brought me into his home. They made me an unreal dinner, and I spent a few hours learning Spanish together.
Going through the central parts of Cuba they are a few industries present, and I often saw kids playing along side of the highway finding creative ways to keep themselves entertained. I gave away a set of catcher's equipment to a young boy who couldn't believe what he was receiving, thanks to the donation of my friend Jeremy Nichols.
I cycled down to Cienfuegos, and then I made a push through the mountains to Trinidad which was 90 km of cycling. When I came down from the mountains I was blessed with lush scenery and beautiful ocean views. I made my way into this historical city, and I just loved the casual rhythm that was on the streets..When I left Trinidad I had a nice warm-up of a 30 km climb to wake me up in the morning. The views were stunning, and I made it to the top of a place called "Topes de Collantes." I cycled 85 km through tough terrain to make it to Santa Clara, and this part of the tour I gave out all the rest of the donations.
Yesterday I cycled back into Varadero and what an experience it was in such a short period of time. Thank you to the people of Cuba for opening their homes, showing their hospitality, leading me in the right direction, and for the countless Spanish and salsa lessons....This organization has successfully cycled through four countries giving out sporting equipment over a distance of 10 000 km. Chasing sunsets, terrible tan lines, cycling to the unknown and going at a pace that allows you to understand the beauty that surrounds you is my kind of adventure...Much love goes to the staff and students of Cedar middle school for your support..I have amazing students who are all unique and special..Thank you to Adam Jensen, friends and family for having such a wonderful fundraiser to make this ride possible, and everyone who believes in this cause. The trail of smiles you brought to everyone I met was very special. The power of play has brought us all so many fond memories, and it's nice to provide others with a beginning to experience the wonders of this simple gift. Any equipment that you have that is collecting dust please send them my way...Muchas Gracias from all the wonderful people who received donations along the way.
Until next time,
Havana was a sight to see...The smell of cigars, kids playing soccer in the streets, and the tourists train that runs through the square. I left las mamas early with the trailer loaded as I cycled into the country side in pursuit of Matanza. I made a couple stops at schools, but establishments in Cuba do not accept donations unless you go through the municipality. I made the mistake of throwing soccer balls over a fence at a high school, and the chaos inside the school grounds got out of hand. The director of the school said one word "policia" and I knew that was my cue to leave...I high tailed out of there, but had a few students in pursuit of a donation riding double on a bicycle. They went after me for few kilometers and I gave them a soccer ball for their valiant effort.
Che Guevara is idealized throughout the country. Every morning the students make a pledge to be like "Che" and it's incredible to see how much influence and change one person can instill. Revolution signs from the early 60's are still present throughout the country which celebrates the victory over capitalism and exploitation of the Cuban people. Throughout my tour I cycled through remote parts where food and water are sparse. I often had people asking for my clothes because goods and necessities are hard to obtain. In Cuba there are more horses than cars...You can buy your own caballo (horse) for 20 pesos. I was thinking of trading the bike straight up...
The kids in Cuba are all about baseball...There are many professional teams throughout the country, and I met many teams of all ages throughout my tour. As I cycled through the country side of Matanza, many people were playing soccer with deflated balls, and playing baseball with sticks and stones. It's a nice feeling to be able to shout out "amigos" and provide them with a gift that will hopefully last for a long period of time. I met a great little league team and everyone received a toothbrush and toothpaste to keep those teeth looking beautiful!
I reached Matanza after 110 km of cycling and I woke up the next morning to return to Varadero to refill the trailer. It was suppose to be a light riding day which turned into 100 km ride because I took the scenic route..and I was cycling into the wind which was putting the legs to the test...However, cycling is the best way to explore a country. Everything slows down to a pace to witness how the people live their lives, and you make spontaneous interactions. There are no post services in Cuba, and if a message wants to get delivered it's received on a personal note. We are losing our ability to have natural encounters and it was refreshing to have personal interactions amongst the people...
Hola from Havana!! What an amazing country and my tour has only begun! The fourth annual charity ride began in Varadero. It took some time to get through customs given all the equipment and goods that entered, but after two hours of questioning I was set free with no problems. When you step into Cuba you feel you just came out of a time machine....Vintage cars from the 50's, old bicycles, and 80's music blasting...
Imports that arrive in Cuba are not affordable for your average citizen. Any equipment or goods brought here is a blessing to the people and I can't tell you how much excitement I am witnessing from the donations that were given...The average salary for a citizen of Cuba is 20 pesos per month which is equivalent to 15 dollars. The trailer consists of cleats, bats, gloves, soccer and baseballs, and helmets. Also, I have been handing out tons of toothpaste and tooth brushes thanks to the lovely Lisa Perejma and her dental office.
I have been speaking a mix of French and Spanish to survive...Havana is a special place with an energy that doesn't stop...I met a guy by the name of Louis who is a cigar dealer on the streets and my guy set me up with a baseball dealer in Havana to refill the trailer for my next push. I am loving the music that is here in Havana..I played flamenco last night at a cafe with a Cuban band which was a blast. The rhythm is alive in the streets from dusk till dawn. The city is ran by back alley discussions, and the local merchants. This won't be the last time I make a visit to Havana...
It's been mucho calor here in Cuba and it's been a lot of fun riding through different towns. My support team has consisted of locals providing cheese and bananas along the way to refuel...I have been ripped off due to my own ignorance and paid almost a month's salary for 10 small bananas...but I have to tell you those bananas were phenomenal...and I have been learning so much about this country in the few days I have been here. The revolution kept all their traditions in place, and the Cubans live in a very sustainable way. They have limited access to materials to replace or fix infrastructure. I admire their ability to survive, re-use, and find a way regardless of the challenges. It's refreshing being down here, and going back to a simple lifestyle
This will probably the only time I will be able to write because wifi is only available in Havana. I will be making my way south in very remote parts, and I am looking forward to meeting more wonderful people along the way. I stayed with a couple of beautiful mamas in Havana who have treated me as their own. I am loving life down here and I must say thank you to everyone who made this possible. It's a very special way to see a country and make connections with the people...Much love goes out to everyone, and I will make sure every donation is delivered.
Adios from Havana.
This journey has now come to an end as I cycled my way into Hanoi today...In the end we gave out 470 pieces of equipment throughout the hills of Laos, leaving behind a trail of smiles after 1220 km cycled..This tour would not have been possible if it wasn't for the people who believed in the mission....so I must say thank you for your contributions, support and an experience I will never forget...It's amazing to take the time and give back, especially when you able to share your passion with others. The people we met through our travels felt our energy, but they also gave us much inspiration to move forward...The energy and enthusiasm from everyone kept us hauling and those hills conquered become an after thought....This is a small charity, but my goal is for people to feel connected and see the joy that comes along with a simple gift...It is amazing how sport and play can unite people together and bring happiness and Cyril and I gave it our heart to ensure that message was delivered....
Riding a bicycle you become aware of your surroundings and the way people truly live their lives...I gained a huge amount of respect for the people and how they cope with their environment...However, the people don't see their environment as a struggle which was evident from all the positive interactions we experienced throughout our travels..but were grateful for the gifts provided and I am glad we could provide a little help...
This charity has now successfully completed three tours and I must say thank you to our friends, family, Sino-Canada students and staff, South Meridian Elementary, Diamond head Elementary, CIJS and our sponsors Mac Bros, Guardian International, Decathlon and Cocos Pure for believing in our mission...Also, I need to give a shout out to my teammate Cyril Indome who was the perfect choice to be out here..The kids were so fortunate to feel his passion for sport and his love for working with kids. My hope is we can continue this positive momentum for future tours and add more haulers to visit schools and impoverished areas of the world...
这个慈善活动已经成功的完成了三段旅行，我得感谢朋友们、家人、中加枫华中学的师生、South Meridian小学、Diamond head小学、迪卡龙、Guardian International公司和Cocos Pure公司，感谢你们信任这一理念。我还得隆重感谢我这一路的伙伴Cyril Indome先生，他能到这里来是个最佳人选。这里的孩子们幸运地感受到他对运动的激情和为孩子工作的热爱。我希望我们将来能继续进行，去拜访更多的学校和其他贫困地区。
Our work is done for now, but I am so grateful for everyone who made this tour a success. Thank you to the wonderful people of Laos for letting us in and making us feel welcomed. Also, a big shout out to Noy and Kydeux for getting the equipment shipped and making this project a reality! I hope everyone enjoyed our mission and as I sign off here I write with a heavy heart for the people who supported us and lead us along the right path...I hope this story brought you joy and happiness which provided many with the gift of sport and privilege to play....
Until next time....going dancing tonight!
Happy New year from Quan Hao Vietnam!
我在越南 Quan Hao祝大家新年快乐！
Before leaving Xam Neua I had to pick up the last shipment of equipment and I can't believe we received all six! There has been the obvious challenges with the language and getting people to understand what exactly we are doing out here...but I got to give a shout out to my guy at the Pak Mong bus station who came through for us...Sometimes you just need a little faith and I am so grateful for all the great people who have helped us along this epic journey..
在离开Xam Neua前我必须要去取最后一次装备，令我不敢相信的是他们居然把全部的6车货一起寄到了这里！显然语言问题在这里是个巨大的挑战，很难跟他们讲清楚我们在干什么，但是我还是要感谢Pak Mongolia车站的伙计们，他们给了我巨大支持，有时候你只需要相互信任，我要感谢所有帮助我们完成这段旅程的人们！
The trailer was loaded to full capacity...Locals riding by on scooters take a double glance to see what exactly I am doing...I often have battles with truck drivers to see who will take the crown at the top of the hill and so far my record is pretty good. I made stops at many schools over the past two days...At times I had to perform a little off-roading to meet these energetic kids, but it's not very often they receive visitors in these parts of Laos...The schools out here don't have any equipment and lack basic resources...I went to a secondary school yesterday and I met a lady who told me the kids are keen to be active and enjoy sport, but don't have any funding to purchase the equipment...We have been giving schools our contact information along the way if we have met people that can speak English. My hope is that we can continue to stay connected with these schools so we can continue to provide support...
The riding towards the border has been spectacular...I am surrounded by limestone mountains, lush vegetation and it's been amazing to witness the everyday life of the people living in the villages...Compared to our standards, the people live tough lifestyles....but all I see are smiles and they have been so grateful if you take the time to say hello...Cycling through these remote areas has been very special...It's amazing to be able to provide people with a gift, but I must say the experience I have received during this journey is something special I will hold with me for the rest of my life...
Yesterday, I crossed the border and waved goodbye to Laos...This country has survived to remain in it's natural state...but it's the people that have made this a unique and amazing place...I have made my way to a town called Quan Hao in Vietnam and the road getting here is similar to a mountain bike trail...haha. Last night was difficult to find accommodation and almost found myself bunking up with three Vietnamese gentlemen in a hut, until I finally understood there is a town 3 km away...I want to wish everyone a happy new year and I hope 2014 brings everyone happiness and of course adventure...
Much love from Vietnam,
Here I go again on my own...
Now that the big guy has left the trailer has a little extra weight...I am now rocking a double decker to haul the equipment...Yesterday I made my way to Phou Lao which is located in the mountains and the first climb of the day was 17 km. Throughout this stretch there were no places for supplies so I made sure I was stocked up with everything I needed to hit these climbs with ease..Before I left Viang Thong I met a very nice Australian by the name of Anna who came through huge for me because the ATM in town wouldn't accept my debit....She lent me money and I promised to get her back once I arrived in Xam Neua. Thanks again Anna!
那个大个子走了，货斗比以前重了不少，我是带着双货斗了。昨天我朝Phou Lao骑，路也在山里面，第一个坡就有17公里。这段路没有补充食物的地方，所以我准备的很充分，我离开Viang Thong前遇见了一个可爱的澳大利亚人，他叫Anna，她可帮了我大忙，因为这里的ATM机不认我的银行卡。她借了钱给我，我答应一到Xam Neua就还她。再一次感谢了，Anna！
Yesterday, during my first ascend there were a few villages. You often see kids playing with sling shots, doing chores or throwing tires along the hillside and running hard to catch up....I don't think many kids in these areas often see foreigners because once I stop many of them run for their lives and run towards a safe lookout point to see what exactly I am doing...It makes sense because I haven't seen one cyclist since Pak Mong and given the terrain I don't know how many people are selecting this route...haha.
During this tour there has been many hills conquered, but these last couple of days I have really tested the legs...There has been climb after climb, with big elevation changes and the grade of the slope has increased...I always here the locals say to me "Muy, Muy" which probably means are you nuts... I have been averaging 6 km per hour up these hills, but I am still moving forward baby and I will keep that momentum going all the way to Hanoi...
There has been 400 pieces of equipment given out and 850 km cycled through these hills...I made it to the town of Xam Neua after cycling 150 km in the past two days...I am going to refill the trailer here before making my last push to Hanoi which is 330 km away...Going hard out here and finding a way since the big guy has left...Thank you everyone for the comments and support...it really motivates me to keep the wheels spinning...
Here we go now! Jiayou!
Yesterday we had a late start...and given the upcoming hills and kids to meet...we weren't going to cover much ground. We made a stop right away at a primary and secondary school which drew quite the audience...Cyril found himself in the middle of this large crowd and it was his cue to perform on this grand stage....We donated quite a few balls given the size of the school and I believe the kids were expecting him to execute a backflip or break dance routine...but what they got was Cyril's charisma, similar to Ray Lewis pumping up his team before the game...
Once we left the school we made our pursuit towards our next destination Viang Thom. We were told by the teachers of the previous school that it was 60 km away, but it turned out to be 130 km and mostly hills...The riding through the villages has been stunning, but food has been difficult to find during this stretch...Cycling along these hills requires lots of fuel and after 50 km we found a little restaurant that served us rice and soup. We were told the next town is 70 km away...so we decided to stay in the village nearby which had a guesthouse one km away and the people here were incredible....
The owner of the guesthouse did everything in his power to make us feel at home...Food was difficult to find, but his wife which we called "Mama" gave us everything we needed to cook and get ready for the hills for the following day...we went into survival mode...There is no electricity in the village, but some families have generators to muster up a couple hours of power each night...In these parts of northern Laos textile shops are very common and the clothing is beautiful, especially given the amount effort it takes to create by hand...I enjoyed a tradition shower with buckets of water to get myself clean...I was surrounded by chickens, ducks and an old man....which was awkward...but I felt refreshed and enjoyed a fire with Cyril before heading to bed.
Today we woke up at 5:00 am and started cycling right away. At the next town our next shipment of equipment was arriving and there were few villages along the way...We survived the ride with peanuts and hard boiled eggs which were prepared from the night before...I have been having stomach issues for the past five days and have been only able to eat small amounts which has been challenging at times given the terrain...but if it's not bike problems or injuries something is bound to happen that will present obstacles and this is just another one of these moments...
Once we arrived to Viang Thom we headed straight to the bus station unsure if the equipment has arrived and sure enough it was right there. We put our faith with a gentlemen in Pak Mong to get the quipment shipped and we have been lucky to find such good people along the way....
我们一到 Viang Thom就直奔汽车站去确认装备是不是到了，谢天谢地，装备就在那搁着呢。我们在Pak Mong找到一个值得信赖的先生，请他把准备运到这里，我们很幸运，沿途都能碰到这样的好心人。
Today was Cyril's last day on the tour has he heads to Hong Kong to meet his lady. His energy and compassion was felt and enjoyed by many...and during his time through these hills he gave it his heart to push through all the elements to provide kids with laughter and something they can enjoy...Thanks for all your hard work my man...and you will be missed especially now that the trailer load has doubled on my part...haha...Being from Manitoba where hills don't exist...he proved all it takes to succeed is the right attitude and the ability to work together..Your legend out here will be remembered...and it was an absolute pleasure to take on this journey with you....couldn't of asked for a better teammate, but when it comes to football we will always be on opposite sides of the line...haha.