A Charitable Adventure Taking On the Tough Terrains of Mexico
It was a challenge. It took me to the very limits of my physical and mental ability and completely changed my perspective of the world. This is what happens when you cycle across Mexico.
In a group effort to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, myself and 42 brave others made our way to Mexico to embark on the trip of a lifetime. Our ambitious voyage started south of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. From here we cycled 600km over eight exhausting days, to Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Coast.
Our 8 day expedition took us through banana plantations, dry desert, dense jungles and tropical forests. We camped in cowpat covered fields, freezing cold cloud forests and in deserted lay-bys at the side of treacherous mountain roads, inhabited only by stray dogs, chickens and fierce fire ants. But these sacrifices were only a small bump in the road of one incredible journey.
Conquering the Sierra Madre Mountains
We set off from camp at 7am, an hour earlier than usual. Today was going to be tough, and we needed as much daylight as possible to complete the 10,000 ft climb over the unforgiving Sierra Madre Mountains.
Our aim was to reach the top of these colossal mountains within 12 hours, but I honestly had no idea how long it would take. I wasn't a cyclist before I embarked on this epic trip, and I had no concept of what this sort of terrain would do to a person. It wasn’t long before I found out.
After about 10km, we were struggling and the group was completely divided, stronger cyclists leading the way, weaker ones already walking. I set off with a good pace and was leading the pack with a couple of other guys. After about 30km, I had lost the other two and was completely alone somewhere in the Sierra Madre, drained and losing the will to continue. By this point it was no longer a test of physical ability, it was all in my head. I forced myself to continue, each push of the pedal causing an incredible burning sensation to pass through my thighs. The sun was scorching my neck and I was consuming more water than I was allowed. I pushed on.
The day continued like this until around the last 10km. We had been warned that the last stretch to the summit was the toughest, steeper than any part of the day. The thought was enough to kill me. I refilled my water bottles and continued up the hill.
In 5km I managed to finish three litres of water. I was weak, despite consuming around eight bananas and 12 energy bars, and I was quickly becoming very dehydrated in the unforgiving sun.
I was slowly going out of my mind, shouting select words into nowhere and hearing the mountains shout them back at me. Everywhere I looked was another hill, nowhere to go but up and no signs of them stopping. My legs were spinning but I was going nowhere fast. I began wondering to myself what the hell I was trying to prove, why was I doing this to myself? I felt sick. The altitude felt like a bag of cement on my back and trying to get a breath was near impossible.
Suddenly it occured to me, this must be how cancer patients feel every day of their lives; exhausted, demoralised and facing an uphill struggle with every breath they take. With this in mind, I pushed with every last bit of energy I had in me to the summit.
I made it to camp. It was just after 1pm. I was exhausted, ill, and aching from head to toe. But I felt amazing. I was finally there. Ten others made it to the top that day, taking up to 12 hours to complete it, all of them pushing themselves to the limit. It was an extremely emotional night for everyone involved, but everyone had a smile of relief and pride on their face.
The ends justify the means
If you ever get the chance to do one of these challenges, I say go for it. It will change you. You will see just how hard you can push yourself when you need to and you will learn to appreciate (even more) the great things you have in your life. Most of all you will be involved with a brilliant group of like-minded people who will quickly become your best friends because you rely on them so much throughout the experience.
These eight days forced us through some of the highest highs and lowest lows of our lives, but we did it - all while raising over £180,000 for cancer patients throughout the UK.
I could talk forever about all of the great things that happened on this trip. Even though it was tough, the experience as a whole was the best thing I have ever done in my life.