Limavady man Rory Herron hasn’t been on a bike since his early teenage years but, a decade later, the 23-year-old is making up for it.
The intrepid adventurer, living and teaching English as a second language at the ILA in Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam, is on an epic 28-day cycle in his new home for charity.
Yesterday, the Shanreagh Park lad proudly told how he and his fellow cyclists had reached the 700km mark on their gruelling 2,100km cycle from Hanoi back to Ho Chi Minh.
“Approaching the 700km mark means we’re almost 1/3 of the way to Saigon!” he posted on his Facebook page.
Rory is one of 20 people taking part in the popular 2013 H2H ride for Vietnamese children. In previous years $40,000 has been raised and, currently, Rory and his team are pedalling past the $30,000 mark.
“The 2012 group raised over $40,000 and so our aim is to surpass that. We are currently close to $30,000 with around two months fundraising still to go,” he told the ‘Journal’, yesterday.
Rory, son of well known Limavady couple Jim and Veronica Herron, said he’d applied for the ride as soon as he received his job offer email from ILA.
“I bought a bicycle with my relocation allowance back in December and started training immediately,” he said. “So far it has been absolutely incredible. We are really pulling together as a group and are being spoiled by the amazing countryside every day. We pass through countless small villages, and many of the people we ride past have probably never seen a westerner before. Almost everyone gives a huge smile and shouts ‘hello’ and children run to the side of the road to shout ‘Hello! What’s your name?’, which never grows old.”
Despite the colder weather, and the occasional downpour, Rory says they’re making the most of the cooler climate.
“We know that once we pass Hue in a few days, temperatures will rise and rise. I think Ho chi Minh is currently experiencing its hottest month in a number of years so temperatures will probably be reaching 100 degrees by the time we get there,” he said.
Highlights to date for Rory was the day before the team departed from Hanoi.
“We visited a school in Cat Dang Village and got a tour of the library which was built as a result of the 2010 ride, and the kindergarten which was built as a result of last year’s ride. We were treated to lunch by members of the Communist party and got to play games with the school kids. After months of training and fundraising it really brought everything down to a personal level and reinforced the need for what we are doing,” he said.
Other highlights include “the feeling of riding down a mountain road at 50 or 60km/h after spending an hour or two climbing it on the other side”.
“It brings a great sense of freedom and is one of the many things that I now love about cycling. As well as that, I love getting encouragement from the friendly locals along the way,” he said, adding he’s not so fond of the food.
“It adds to the experience, but also makes us look forward to April 29th in a way. It is tradition for friends of the group to greet the riders at the gates of Reunification Palace in HCMC with pizza and burgers so i’m definitely looking forward to that reward!”
To prepare for the ride, Rory had to fundraise, which included events such as a Meixcan themed St. Patrick’s Day party. The team also secured sponsorship from DHL to provide one of their two vans and a driver.
“The back van carries an emergency spare bike and all of our maintenence gear. We paid for this van and the driver is there to make sure that people aren’t left stuck if they have problems or get injured. All of the preparations were done by the 20 volunteers. One of the group did the ride last year and so he made sure everyone got insurance and flights etc sorted. Others took charge of fundraising and I took charge of communications and also sorted out our team kits. Again, these, just like every single other cost involved with the ride, were paid for using our own money. Every penny of the money raised goes straight to charity.”
To date the group is approaching $30,000, with Rory raising just under £2,000.
“This is mainly from my ‘Just Giving’ page, but I also organized a ‘Premier League’ betting tournament at my school, when 50 teachers took part and I raised $250 through that,” he said, adding: “I’m enjoying every minute of living in Vietnam so it is great to be able to give something back in this way. Aside from that, a bit of fitness from the cycling and something to work towards were two plus points in my mind when I applied. I have suffered from problems in my right hip my whole life as a result of having Perthes Disease when I was younge,r and doctors have always told me that cycling is what I should be doing, so I’m finally getting round to taking their advice I suppose!”
Rory wants to thank his family, friends, everyone from home that has donated towards the cycle.
“It’s great to have the support of so many people and, more than a few times, my day has been made by receiving a donation from an old school friend or someone I haven’t spoken to in years,” he said. “I can’t express my appreciation enough, so thanks!”
To donate to Rory go to www.justgiving.com/Rory-Herron, or at www.h2hcharityride.org/?page_id=21
or at www.facebook.com/pages/H2H-Ride-For-Vietnamese-Children/53745906241