Room to Read libraries completed!

Keara and I are very excited to announce the completion of all three Room to Read libraries. Our libraries have been constructed in the following locations:

Shree Amarjyoti Primary School, Pyuthan, Nepal

Khelpur Primary School, Uttarakhand, India

Mamudpur Primary School, Rajshahi, Bangledesh

Thanks to all of your donations, there are some fortunate children who now have access to quality reading materials and education to fuel their love of learning.

Keara and I are pursuing some different goals now. Keara is happily living in New Zealand and when not working as a vet, can be found scouting waves at her local surf break. Pete spent some time nursing in a remote Inuit village in Nunavut and is now in Vancouver working on a masters degree to become a Nurse Practitioner.

Thanks again for all of your support over the past few years

Pete & Keara

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Khelpur primary school, Uttarakhand, India

Khelpur primary school, Uttarakhand, India

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Shree Amarjyoti primary school, Nepal

Shree Amarjyoti primary school, Nepal

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First library built…thanks from Bangladesh!

Your donations just built the first of 3 libraries, this one at a school in Bangladesh. Thanks to this, 300 kids now have access to local language reading books, an important part of the puzzle in a region with a literacy rate of just 47%.

Thank you so much for all of your donations, and support.

For those who are interested, below is the completion report for this project.

As I’ve said before, the memories may fade, but that warm fuzzy glow of having achieved something worthwhile doesn’t. Thank you all!

Bangladesh Library Report

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16,779 thank you’s! :D

Almost exactly a year from when we first started this bike trip, I’m sitting again in Mumbai International Airport, with my bicycle. I think that means it’s time enough to round up the year’s events and count the pennies. And what pennies they turned out to be. After some publicity in Ireland and Canada as we arrived home, the final total you donated to Room to Read on our behalf stands at a whopping $16779 cdn, smashing our target of raising $1/km cycled

Having just returned from an inspiring visit to a Room to Read school in Nepal, I now feel I can wholeheartedly say an enormous thank you for what you helped to achieve. From Pete and I, thankyou for your support, encouragement, and financial commitment to keep us motivated on those grunty days. More importantly, from the children whose education and opportunities in life have genuinely been turned around by those pennies you donated.

To be honest, as a family who have witnessed the raw end of charity fund distribution in Botswana, we’ve tended towards a little cynicism and caution when it comes to making charitable donations. That was why we spent considerable time choosing Room to Read as a charity we could wholeheartedly support, who are using those funds wisely to really make a difference to the little lives they help. A few days ago I was privileged enough to visit their office in Kathmandu and a local school supported by the Room to Read Library and Book Publishing program.

I could bang on for pages about the beautiful children’s books they publish (before their involvement in Nepal a children’s book written in Nepali was almost as elusive as the snow leopard), the funding strategies for school libraries to encourage local ownership and involvement, or their work to stop the trade and rehabilitate young ‘kamlari’ girls, sold by their parents as domestic workers as young as 8 and so denied any access to education at all. But you’d be better to visit their website or contact Room to Read themselves for a more eloquent description of their work.

Far more powerful for me was actually meeting the people involved on a local level. Seeing the light in their eyes as they discussed the projects they work on, and the genuine enthusiasm of local teachers who beyond treating me like an honoured guest and longlost relative, could barely let me go for descriptions of their innovative projects: in house water purification via electrolysis, veggie gardens and modern inclusive teaching methods. Needless to say the children were a delight: bright, bubbly and brimming with questions!

As the details of our journey fade a little with time, a gentle glow remains which I hope will never fade. A sense of fulfilment that we helped make a little difference out there, and of appreciation for all the warmth and generosity, of spirit as well as resources, from so many people who helped us along the way. You all know who you are, we can’t say thank you enough.

And judging by the grins on their faces, those kids were pretty grateful for their new story books too!

:D

And a news round-up for those who’ve been wondering:-

I lost my camera in Mumbai so sadly no photos of that special school visit, or the spectacular days walking and cycling in the hills and villages of Nepal. Unfortunately, Poppet (my bike) was also left behind in Mumbai. Qantas wanted more than she was worth to bring her to New Zealand with me so she’ll stay there and be shipped out for my next trip. New Zealand has been good to me, so good that I’ve accepted a job offer here starting in July. So I’ve got a couple more months of surf and work lined up in West Oz and Indo before a return to Blighty to gather my skis (and some family, friendy fun and hugs I hope….all stowaways welcome!) for a winter or more in NZ. Poppet might have to wait a little while :) (as you have for this post…i did start writing it in Mumbai in December!)

Pete is currently working as an emergency nurse in Tumbler Ridge, northern BC and enjoying plenty of fluffy white snow, icey climbs and domestic bliss with Sig this winter! His fundraising efforts have continued, with a BC speaking tour, he’s already presented on the bike trip at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. In April, he is presenting in Tumbler Ridge and Dawsons Creek. If you are interested in hearing the presentation, please get in touch with pete – pete@oneearthphotography.com.We have currently raised enough money to fund 3 classroom libraries and we are now trying to raise $2 for every km cycled to build 6 libraries…we need $23696 cdn so please keep on donating!

We chatter on skype as much as poss….and the words bicycle and trip have definitely cropped up together in the future tense more than once. I guess that means our arses are now fully recovered!

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And now, the end is here…

A full 24 hours back in Co. Donegal and it still feels a little surreal to be sitting here in our family living room looking out over that achingly familiar yet constantly adjusting vista of Donegal Bay. Surreal, but oh so very good!

The last 7 days from Wales and finally into the hallowed hills of Ireland have been a heady build up of fond welcomes climaxing in a truly unforgettable arrival into Donegal town last night.

One of the unexpected benefits of cycling slowly through the UK and Ireland has been the opportunity to connect with family and friends who we would usually visit all too rarely, and some we’ve never had the pleasure to meet before! Each time we’ve been showered with good food, booze, comfy beds, hot showers and long gossips. All those things we knew we missed but perhaps didn’t realise how much we craved. Of course, there’s been some cycling (and rainy, windy days!) too, but they’ve altogether paled into insignificance against the evening shenanigans!

ahhh the first guinness

The shenanigans went full throttle at Flannery’s in Dublin where wonderful crowd donated over E1000 to ‘Room to Read’ with the irrepressible assistance of our auctioneer James Fegan and storming band Proudfoot. Pete and I were feeling pretty sensitive on the bikes the next day for the first stage of our ‘family tour’ to Donegal. With a warm send off from Phoenix Park, the cycling felt so much easier with biggest brother Kev, and Dad for company, and mum manning the support vehicle. Even better that two local cyclists, Tom and Doreen, were able to lead us out of town far better than we could ourselves!

Arriving in Dad’s birthplace, Carrick-on-Shannon, we were treated to another warm welcome and send-off from a rarely-visited but fondly remembered branch of our enormous extended family. At every stop we’ve been showered with the kind of warmth, good wishes, and generosity that we’d really missed after 6 months in the company of only ourselves and foreign strangers. Having the company of other cyclists for brief sections was a real treat, particularly to be joined by the budding cycling talent of our cousin, Conor Brennan for a day to the beautiful Rosses Point.

And so, our final night on the road. We splashed out on a plush hotel in honour of our parent’s looming 40th wedding anniversary and felt thoroughly rested for our final 70km into Donegal. So much so that I couldn’t resist a quick lunchtime swim at our favourite surf spot of Bundoran on the way through.

We were met by a great posse of Donegal cyclists for the final few familiar hills into Donegal town. What a pleasure to be a part of such a happy, interesting peloton for our final 30km! And the pleasures kept unfolding. First, a little crowd of McCaffertys & co. complete with bonfire, welcome signs and champagne gave us a few minutes celebration after our final climb . Next, our nana and family complete with loud hailer met us not far out of town. We were blown away with all the fuss, and it was only just beginning. Uncle Paul turned off the loudspeaker (for a sec!) to prep us for what was to come…and I’m ever grateful that he did or I wouldn’t have held back the tears with all the surprises in store.

First off the Gardai appeared to check our ‘Donegal visas’ (!) and provide our first FRIENDLY police escort of the trip, complete with flashing neeeeeenaaaaaaw for the final stretch! Next up the mayor and local favourite, Everton footballer Seamie Coleman appear for some photos and handshaking. With all the cameras and crowds it felt a bit like being back on duty as the ‘only blonde in India!’, only a lot more fun this time! Finally the town marching band led our lap of the Diamond with real aplomb before some fantasy champagne-spraying and, in case we were thinking of turning back for India, a feast of samosas from the local curry house.

 

 

 

A brief slide show reception at the Abbey hotel and a few pints didn’t help our motivation for the final 5km to our family home in Mountcharles village. But we got our heads down in preparation for the final final hill, a steep little ascent up the driveway. None of us wanted to finish the journey pushing our loaded bikes up the drive and fortunately, despite the beers, we didn’t have to, but only just! We had been treated to one of Donegal’s warmest sunniest days of the year but, as if to remind us of our good fortune, the heaven’s opened as we stored the bikes in true Donegal style.

We haven’t given ourselves much of a rest before heading back to work (and play!) but these couple of days feel all the better in the after glow of this incredible welcome. To describe it as a hero’s welcome would imply a certain heroic feeling on our part. I don’t think either of us have ever felt like heroes on this journey but we were certainly made to feel like them by the wonderful people of Donegal town. We will never forget this wonderful end to our dream trip.

We’ve raised a total of $ 10,202 so far, only just short of our pledge to raise a $ for every km cycled. A huge thanks to everyone who has donated, your donation will really help change lives for children who really need the help. We are still accepting donations, just click on the donate button to right of screen. Pete will be doing several slideshow presentations in BC this summer, dates/location will be posted when available.

At every stage of this journey it has been the people who’ve really made it so memorable and enjoyable. There are too many people to mention here but to everyone who hosted us, supported us and welcomed us along the whole way. THANK YOU! We couldn’t have done it without you.

Final Geek Fact:

km cycled: 11,848 (Pete)

km cycled: 11,306 (Keara – a little cheat across Greece to catch my buddies!)

Pete’s multi-trip Km cycled – 24,848 km

$ raised so far for Room to Read: $10,202

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Back in Blighty!

It was kinda hard getting back on the bikes after 3 happy days beaching and boozing with the family. But we slowly dragged our sorry arses out of our Frankfurt ‘home-from-home’ (thanks wonderful family Klier!) and back onto the ‘Romantic’ section of the Rhine cycle trail.

Always full of surprises, it seems the Germans do ‘Romantic’ remarkably well. The steep, vineyard covered valleys, dramatically precarious castles and timber framed towns proved a welcome distraction from our ‘daily grind’.

Sadly, being a pretty big ole river, the Rhine does a fair bit of wiggling around. So, as we sat out yet another thunderstorn in Koln we realised we weren’t going to be following the Rhine to Rotterdam and reaching Blighty in time for our goal…’The Surrey Hills Music Festival’. Decision time!

It wasn’t easy to leave the navigational safety blanket of the Rhine but we manned up and decided to head to the suburbs and across to Belgium for the Oostende ferry. We needn’t have worried about the navigation. These ‘Euros’ really have something to show off with their cycling infrastructure. It felt like bikes not cars got precedence on the streets as we cycled out of Koln.

It didn’t take long to reach Belgium across all this flatness but we quickly wished we’d chosen another route. I was really hoping I could avoid dredging up cultural stereotypes on this one but I can’t. I’m sorry but Belgium is just really really boring! Endless miles of flatness, headwinds, dreary boxy architecture and disinterested people. Bizarrely it seemed hard to find an open shop, toilet or pub. But if you wanted chips from the numerous ‘friturs’ or bread from a vending machine at midnight, this is the place to go! No wonder this is the first country we noticed an obesity problem. In their defence, the canal town of Ghent is a gorgeous mini Venice, and they have some storming livestock gracing their fields so there was the odd pleasant distraction.

finally pete finds some PB !

As usual, things were taking a little longer than expected so we found ourselves with a 170km hoof to reach the ferry in time for our deadline. We weren’t best pleased to find a sign reading ‘NO FOOT PASSENGERS’ when we arrived at the ferry terminal at midnight. We camped in a dingy slag heap and turned up early for the ferry hoping to beg a ride from a van driver. It turns out this isn’t much of a passenger ferry so there were only 2 vans to choose from at the check in area.

Our first choice, a high sided, long wheelbase transit refused to help as he was full. Looking at his wheel arches we didn’t think he was lying either. Our next choice, a Lithuanian with 10 scrap engines in the back took a little while to convince. We had to pull out our best British accents to convince him we wouldn’t create any hassle with the immigration guys. Oops! But he agreed and much relieved we settled our bikes in the back of the van to board the ferry.

Waiting our turn to mount the ferry ramp some blue lights scream past, then a police van pulls in front of us to block our boarding path. We look around and realise we’re the only vehicle left waiting to board. Gulp! These fellas are here for us. A British voice appears at the window to ask some confused questions ‘are we together’, ‘do we know the white van’? No and no, but it might take a little convincing on that front as we’d been seen chatting to all involved. We unloaded the bikes, let them poke about the van and were finally allowed on our way.  It transpired that the white van we first asked for a ride housed a container with 3 illegal Chinese immigrants inside. The UK Border Agency had 5 of their finest waiting for us at Ramsgate for a full search of the van. Fortunately they found nothing and finally we could go our separate ways from the Lithuanian. I don’t think he’ll be helping stray cyclists again in a hurry!

the first english sign we see !

And so, finally, back on familiar soil, and with a familiar smile (thanks Golders!) to meet us off the ferry. England tried hard to test my commitment to her green and pleasant land over the next few days. She sent hours of lashing rain, some decent headwinds, busy highways and a pothole or two. And a broken rear derailleur hanger to my cycling buddy Sam one fortunately pleasant evening. Good to know that Poppet can handle all my gear and an 80kg bloke balancing on the back through the North Downs lanes! But still, nearly a week off the ferry and I’m delighted to be home.

Somehow none of this matters when there’s good friends, food, beds and even a bath at the end of the day. Oh, and the best pubs that the world has to offer to break up the cycling too!

Check out our amazing online charity auction at www.r2rcharityauction.org Bid for the chance to win an ipad, icebreaker gear, luxury cabin stay, whitewater rafting trip, ziplining, yoga classes ….and Pete’s cycle shorts. Auction ends on June 24th at 1pm. All proceeds go to http://www.roomtoread.org/

Geek facts:

km cycled so far: 10953

km to go….not that many now!!

no of British choc bars eaten by Pete – 7.8/day and he’s still skinny

no. 0f cycle tourists ashamed by the Vancouver hockey riots – 2

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