Guild member Karen Wright, a journalist and PR consultant specialising in the livestock sector, has raised about £6,500 for Macmillan Cancer Care after taking part in the charity’s Central America Cycling Challenge in December 2009.
The total amount collected by the 50 people that took part in the eight-day, 425-mile road trip is rapidly approaching £250,000.
Karen said the outcome had made every mile of training across the Stamford and Rutland countryside in the three months prior to her participation in the challenge worthwhile.
“While my training was firmly focussed on the cycling, there was far more to the challenge and the climate and rough camping made hefty contributions,” she added. “But on the flip side, the adventure took us through beautiful, and in some cases undiscovered, countryside.”
The challenge took the group from Panama, through Costa Rica, and to Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua in eight consecutive days. Humidity reached 85% during the hours of daylight – which was typical for the time of year – while there was little reprieve overnight, with the group experiencing amazing tropical rainstorms.
Day one started in north-west Panama, in the mountains of La Fortuna Forest Reserve, and ended 65 miles later on the Caribbean coast.
“There were tough climbs and descents through tropical rain forests that meant the first day proved a tough start even for the front runners,” Karen said. “The pressure was on to get to the end by dark as the light goes promptly at 5.30pm in this part of the world.
“When we reached our first destination, depleted of energy, we had to pitch our tents in a cattle yard because the camp site was water-logged. The region was nearing the end of an exceptional rainy season.”
Day two saw the group head up to the Costa Rica border, keeping close to the coastline and passing through banana plantations.
“Drinking plenty of water and sufficient food was essential as we were burning up 6,000-plus calories each day,” Karen said. “Our diet was based on rice, beans, starchy banana-like plantain, pineapples and bananas supplied by the locals.
“As we rode up to the border, temperatures reached 41 Celsius causing two bike tyres to burst, which sent the rest of us scampering to let some air out of our own wheels.”
Many of the tarmac roads the group travelled were riddled
with potholes the size of dustbin lids
The journey on days three, four and five took the group along the Caribbean coast, then north-west through tropical farmland – extensive pineapple and banana plantations – and to the foothills of the volcanic mountains of central Costa Rica.
After camping close to Volcano Arenal, one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world, the party then headed north in torrential rain, bypassing one section of rough road that had been washed away.
“Moving into the north-west of Costa Rica took us to some of the least discovered parts of the country,” Karen said. “Tarmac changed to rough roads with plenty of busses and lorries transporting fruit following their own bespoke highway code. The drop into St Cecilia and a bar was very welcome.”
By day six the Macmillan Challenge cyclists were heading for the Nicaraguan border and this involved a stretch along the Pan American highway that runs from Alaska to Argentina.
Despite its share of traffic, this road hardly compares with the M1. With just one lane each way, the locals use the wide verges for grazing cattle and juggernauts share the carriageways with horse-drawn carts.
“By now the villages were changing into smaller, more indigenous populations that were self sufficient with a couple of cows, a few chickens and crops,” Karen said. “This set the scene for Nicaragua, a much poorer and unstable country by comparison.
“After crossing the border, we headed up the western side of Lake Nicaragua – the second largest lake in Latin American – and our final night’s camp was on the shores of the lake with magnificent views of volcanoes Maderas and Concepción.”
The Macmillan cyclists celebrate the end of their journey in Granada
The final day left just 50 miles left to the finish line in Granada, reputably the most beautiful city in Central America.
“The city’s square,” Karen said, “with its Christmas tree and cathedral in brilliant sunshine, was the backdrop for 50 dirty and smell euphoric Macmillan cyclists at the end of this mammoth challenge.”
You can still sponsor Karen by visiting: www.justgiving.com/Karen-Wright, or by sending a cheque – payable to Macmillan Cancer Support – to Karen Wright, Home Farm, Little Casterton Road, Ryhall, STAMFORD PE9 4HA.