The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for the Youth or also known as IYA is an award which helps to recognize youth and young adults for completing a series of self-improvement activities that is modeled after the Kurt Hahn’s solution to the “Six Declines of Modern Youth.” There are 3 different levels for this award, the bronze, silver and gold level. I am tackling the gold level award which normally takes 12 to 18 months to complete. As part of the requirement for IYA Gold, a 4 day 3 nights adventurous must be completed. I chose to do a biking trip from Surathani all the way to Phang Na, a distance covering 200 km.
This adventure was definitely a challenge for me. I am not a regular biker. Occasionally I would visit the park and ride a few laps but nothing could compare to the 200km that I would have to ride for the trip. I couldn’t really visualize how far 200km is in my mind, so I had a lot of self confidence in myself.
I learnt a lot of different skills on this trip. The major one was how to bike properly. Biking is an art. Watching Tour de France on TV, you might say to yourself that biking is an easy sport. But I can assure you that there is great skill behind the sport. Gears are your life. Changing gears constantly would help keep you feeling good. Gears help lower the friction between the wheels and you pedaling. A low gear would help you get up a hill easier as there is less friction, while a high gear would make you accelerate faster as there is more traction for every push you give. The only way to master gear is to learn through experience. When you fail to get up a hill and have to get down to push your bike up the hill, you will remember to use gears next time. I also learnt about how to do some simple bike maintenance. We learnt how to patch up a leaking tire and fix the break. These are the things that would come in very handy if we do decide to go out and conduct a cycling trip myself.
There were quite a lot of risks on this trip. Most of the time we would ride on dirt road where there was minimum traffic, but sometimes we would have to ride long stretches on major highways. This was very scary and risky. You must focus a lot because if you go slightly off to the right, then you would be mostly likely get run over by a car. But cars were the least of your worries. The real thing that scared people were the trucks; the big 14 wheeler trucks that roared by you carrying things that made a huge dusk cloud behind it. Since you could not see them coming, it added an extra suspense to the increasing fear. It was a feeling that cannot be described; one must feel it to know the true feeling.
There was two hard parts on the trip for me. First, biking on the first day was very hard. My body was not use to riding a bike, so I felt very tired after only a 40km bike ride. My leg muscles were also very sore as it hasn’t exercised for so long. But after the first day, everything seemed to get better. I felt much more relaxed and I slowly got use to the seat. The second last day also had a very hard section. It was a 4km long mountain climb. The other side of the mountain was our final destination and in order to get over it we had to climb the mountain. It was a very long climb, 20 minutes of continuous pedalling. If you were to stop pedalling, then it would be very hard to start again as there wasn’t a flat gradient to keep give you a little push off. It was a long 20 minutes but very fun. I got passed by a lot of cars and motorbikes. Sometimes the motorbike drivers would cheer me on. It was a good feeling.
Riding 200km is a pretty big accomplishment for me. If you think about it that is approximately riding from Bangkok to Rayong! This is the longest distance I have ever completed just by physical strength, so I feel very accomplished. Before the trip I never thought that we would actually ride 200km. But at the end of the trip, I was confident from this experience that if I was to go bike riding again, I would be able to ride even further.
I would definitely continue to bike in my own time. The trip was such a great experience that I would love to repeat it all over again. I would like to ride further distances and for greater amount of time. That would be an adventure challenge for the future.