9 months ago

IB April 2018


CHARITY CYCLE Myanmar and Jordan: The Norwood Challenges 2016 and 2017 The wheels are still spinning for Norwood! Despite carrying two unnecessary and stubborn stones around my midriff, I have completed a further two rides since my last report in 2014; one in Myanmar in 2016 and one in Jordan in 2017. Thanks to the enormous generosity of this magnificent Circuit, with Gift Aid, each ride raised £5,000. I have now completed twelve rides since 1998 and the total benefit to Norwood is near to £80,000. Every penny donated goes to the Charity, as I pay for the costs of the trips. Once more, I thank all my many sponsors over the years for their wonderful support. The ride in Myanmar took place over six days, in mainly rural areas, very much away from the ethnic violence between the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims, which has troubled this beautiful country for some years. It is hard to believe that the hopes and expectations raised by Aung San Suu Kyi’s position of State Counsellor have come to nothing. Her denial in 2017 that ethnic cleansing had taken place against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority is disheartening. We commenced the ride in Began, and then cycled on to Popa, Myingyan, Mandalay, Pindaya and then Yangon. In total, the group of sixty riders cycled over 350 km, on and off road. We passed palm sugar workshops, where the harvested nectar from local trees is cooked into sugar cubes and then exported to the UK. We saw from the saddle the buildings of the colonial period; pagodas, kyaungs and temples. We saw tropical forests and lush vegetation. This is a country, in part, of subsistence farming, in need of massive economic assistance and a further need to eliminate in those lush fields, the production of opium. overtaken by the failing light and the strict rules of the Jordanian Police Officers, who were with us for the whole trip. The beauty of Petra and Little Petra made us forget that impossible climb. Although tourism in Jordan has suffered badly as a result of the Syrian civil war, people from all over the world still want to see this remarkable Rose City. The cycle to Little Petra was worth the effort. A similar Nabataean city, but there were hardly any visitors. It boasted remarkable columns carved out of the sandstone rock. There was even a Bedouin mint tea on hand from a lonely custodian of the site. We then moved to Roberts Rock and a night under the stars in the Jordanian desert, near to Wadi Rum. The final day included a 100km ride downhill along the desert floor towards Aqaba and then Eilat. I learnt for the first time, the joys of the peloton that day and thought of the hopes for peace in this region, where Israeli and Jordanian agriculture experts are working together to produce a multi-million dollar export trade in medjool dates. ‘Great oaks from little acorns grow……’ Norwood tries to provide a normal life for many who live in their residential village in Berkshire. Norwood also assists those who are able to live independently in the community. On the ride in Myanmar, five recipients of Norwood’s support cycled with their carers on tandems. Their presence and participation humbled all those around them. We visited a small rural school and brought much needed stationary. The children were eager to practise their English and try out our bikes. I am not sure from that visit on a wet and humid afternoon what the future holds for those delightful children. And so, on to the road to Petra. Norwood celebrated twenty-five years of their rides in 2017 and raised £1 million from their challenges in 2017. Since 1992, a staggering £25 million has been raised. Jordan was a real challenge. We set off from Ein Gev in Northern Israel, near to Lake Tiberias and crossed the border at the King Hussein Bridge. On the shores of the Dead Sea, we cycled 75km, ready for the tortuous climb the next day, towards the crusader castle at Kerak. The onset of cramp, 12 km before the summit, (first time, honest guv) stopped my ride that day, along with seventy-five other relatively fit and disappointed riders. Three made it to the within 1km of the castle. They were 16 In Brief The emails will continue, as I am planning two rides this year, one in Nepal and one in Tanzania. I am determined to rid myself of those two stones and the training begins shortly, with three weekly visits to a spin class and a hundred and fifty miles a week on the open roads in August. If you would like to know more about Norwood or would like to join a ride, contact me on If you would like to donate to the next rides, my ‘Just Giving’ site is Thank you all once more for your support. Barrie Searle Cobden House