The cycling team was made up of employees from RedR UK corporate sponsors and patrons including Arup, Cundall and Laing O’Rourke. Together the team took on the challenge and excitement of cycling through India’s villages and countryside, even encountering a tiger along the way! Joana shares her experiences of cycling as part of a group and the challenges and rewards of the trip:
Before we left, I was nervous about hampering the team, potentially disappointing them and myself, but the minute we met we had something in common – taking on this incredible adventure for a worthy cause! We were all from engineering companies, so we had that in common and the rest unfolded from there. We were a playful and supportive team with some of the stronger more experienced cyclist often lending a supportive hand up a hill or shielding us from persistent prevailing headwind!
The trip was a colourful, sensory overload on every level, it was a mix of mystery and beauty along with the most arduous struggle I’ve ever put myself through. The first day was already my personal best; I had never continuously exerted myself physically for so many hours before. At the end of the day I thought, right, I’ve done it, I cycled for charity and I can go back to London now, but then of course that was just the start of it! I clearly hadn’t done enough saddle training before I left, because the moment I made contact with the seat the very next day it felt like a million pains shooting through my body. However, when you are surrounded by a unique experience, scenic landscapes and great weather, the pain quickly fades into the background and the reward to keep going far outweighs any barrier.
I had been to India before, but nothing could have prepared me for cycling on Indian roads. Cycling is such a great way to see the country; the sights, smells and sounds, all the senses are all fully engaged when you’re on a bike. You can feel the air on your skin, you are free to stop whenever you please to, take a photo and contemplate the amazing scenery or perhaps even share a few words with a backseat passenger on a bike riding beside you! There were so many great moments with people along the way. As an architect, my curiosity about the rich cultural history, exploring the mysterious ‘lost cities’, and observing the intricate overlays of daily urban and rural Indian life were some of my most treasured moments. Being a bystander, observing this unfamiliar place was really the highlight of my trip.
We finished at the Taj Mahal which was one of the most extraordinary demonstrations of love that I had ever seen. I feel like I am still assimilating everything that I saw and felt on the trip. More happened in one day in India than during an entire month living in London! A lot has changed since I got back from India; I've been continuing with fundraising for the trip and have now purchased a bicycle and ride it to work every day. I've also found a new direction in my professional career, one which will hopefully open opportunities for the role of landscape architecture in the humanitarian sector.