A man has taken on a mammoth 19-day cycling challenge across Vietnam with his nephew to raise more than £2,000 for St Catherine’s Hospice.
Dad-of-two Stuart Cooper, 43, and his nephew Alex Davies, 26, took to their bikes for a 2,000 kilometre ride down the length of Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
They faced treacherous traffic, angry dogs, and various weather conditions, but also experienced Vietnam’s friendly and welcoming culture, amazing scenery, and diverse landscapes.
Stuart, a property developer from Hutton, said: “We are both keen cyclists and wanted to challenge ourselves by doing something completely different to what we are used to. We wanted to do something epic, and I’ve always wanted to visit Vietnam, so I thought why not cycle the length of it and experience the whole country in this way?
“We also thought it would be a good opportunity to raise money for St Catherine’s. We know people who have received care from the hospice, and we know people who have worked or volunteered for the charity. It was a great way for us to combine fitness, travel, culture and charity.
“I’m used to cycling long distance and I trained for the trip by riding in the Lake District and doing the Guild Wheel in Preston back-to-back. I’ve done a few cycling holidays in Europe but I’d never done a sponsored challenge before.
“There are so many experiences and memories from our time in Vietnam which I will never forget, from a cheeky roadside worker who taxed me of my energy gel, to a lady who showed us the art of Vietnamese beekeeping. We also ‘crashed’ a wedding, witnessed a moped accident and bandaged up a man’s foot using our first aid kit, got chased by dogs, and visited some amazing sites. We also tried some unusual foods, but really enjoyed the variety.”
Alex, a plasterer and part-time firefighter from Euxton, said: “The cities and tourist areas were some of the highlights for me, including Hanoi and Saigon, which where amazing places. The real remote sections of the Ho Chi Minh trial were also spectacular, with water buffalo being used to plough fields, and coffee and tea plantations galore.
“But the best part about my experience in Vietnam was the people. They are so friendly, so helpful and so happy too, especially the children who would run along the road with us shouting ‘hello’. The more remote the villages we passed through, the louder they were, and they were constantly laughing. They certainly managed to bring a smile to our faces.
“There were a few tough days with long rides and some climbing, but there is always somewhere to grab a bite to eat and lay your head for the night, and we saw some amazing scenery. It also spurred us on to know that we were helping such a fantastic charity.”
Through sponsorship and fund-raising, Stuart and Alex have donated £2,249 to St Catherine’s Hospice, which offers specialist palliative and end-of-life care to people across Central Lancashire.
Stuart’s daughters Emily and Lola also helped to raise £850 of the total, through a non-uniform day at Kirkham Grammar School.
Hayley Jackson, community engagement officer at the Lostock Hall charity, said: “What an incredible achievement and such an exciting way for Stuart and Alex to raise funds.
“Their fantastic support will make a significant difference in our efforts to care for local people affected by life-shortening illnesses here at the hospice, in the community, and in people’s own homes.”
To sponsor Stuart and Alex, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hanoi2hcmcycling