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Phuket-Chiang Mai charity bike ride

The publishers wish to pay tribute to David Curtz's charity bike ride (1,500 kilometers) from Phuket to Chiang Mai. The courageous effort by one individual for the benefit of those less fortunate, is greatly appreciated. Sadly, however, the focus of the public on Phuket was to be changed by the ensuing tragedy that struck the region over the Christmas/New year holiday period

We wish, therefore, to express our deepest condolences to the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives during the tsunami disaster, and to send our most heartfelt wishes for a swift recovery for those who were injured.

, in our November 2004 issue, on a fund-raising charity bike ride from Phuket to Chiang Mai to ease the plight of young girls who've been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The funds raised are going toward the running of the Chalemprakiat Girls Phansa School in Lamphun province, which was specifically set up to cater to the educational needs of these youngsters.

Zonta International Chiang Mai has been instrumental in organizing many fund-raising events on behalf of the school, of which the charity bike ride is the latest example. David Curtz and his wife Dittaya have been working with Zonta International to improve the lives of needy children in the community. Since setting up home with their two young sons in Chiang Mai, David and Dittaya have made time in their hectic business and family schedules to work for those less fortunate.

The young Canadian and his wife run the Rising Sun Gear company producing triathalon and bike clothing, and, with David's experience as an "Iron Man Canada" competitor and a veteran of countless triathalon events, it came naturally to him to volunteer for the Phuket-Chiang Mai bike ride.

David left Phuket on the morning of Sunday, November the 21, and within just two hours was facing stiff headwinds and fierce heat. "I did ten hours on that first day," he told me. "I was amazed at the amount of water I was getting through; so much that it was affecting my stomach, and I vowed to pace my meals with greater care."

"I would drink constantly and eat very little during the day. Then, when I stopped for an evening meal at a local market, I found that I had put away 200 baht's worth of food; the equivalent of six or seven dishes!"

"I was averaging about 180 kilometers per day, and to be fair, conditions improved as I moved north, "said David. "But without doubt, the first three days were the toughest in terms of heat and strong winds. At one point, the headwind was so strong that I found myself having to pedal downhill!"

Travelling alone meant David had to carry changes of clothing and his emergency repair kit in a backpack, the constant movement of which created muscle pains in his neck and shoulders. This, coupled with the cramping of muscles in various parts of his body, made the early going tougher than he had anticipated.

David had to schedule his days to end near where he planned to spend his nights, as darkness fell. Mostly, he stayed in small hotels, although friends serving with the Royal Thai Air Force made him a welcome guest on a couple of occasions.

An evening massage became the norm, and sleep came easily at night. Each morning, David made a point of burying his odometer deep within his backpack. "Nobody wants to reach near exhaustion, only to find that there are sixty or seventy more kilometers still to be completed," he said.

"I rode into a petrol station about ten kilometers south of Hua Hin," David recalls"And an attendant asked me if I was going all the way to Hua Hin by bicycle. When I told him I was bound for Chiang Mai, he laughed and walked away shaking his head in disbelief."

David found it a little difficult to stay focussed on his daily distance rate, without the benefit of companions to chat with along the way. However, a friend from Bangkok did join him for the leg between Suphan Buri and Nakhon Sawan, to provide some welcome companionship. "The further north I rode, the better became the roads," said David. "Having a good, broad shoulder by the roadside is an enormous help to a cyclist."

Nine days after setting out from Phuket, David wheeled into the Chalemprakiat Girls Phansa school in Pasang, Lamphun province to a tumultuous welcome. The charity ride raised between sixty and seventy thousand baht in cash, along with many gifts to the school by major companies, such as Nike, who provided every girl with a pair of new trainers, and the school with sports equipment.

David welcomes the appreciation for his efforts shown by the pupils, but he says he would rather they examined ways to attain a level of self-sufficiency in providing for their future. "The girls are between 13 and 16 years of age," explains David. Where they go after they qualify from the school could well depend, not only on how they perform academically, but on how they prepare themselves for the future.

To this end, David would like to see the education authorities, large companies and private individuals come forward to help. "For instance," David says." Computers could be supplied, providing the girls with communication skills."

Would he do the 1,700 kilometer ride again? "Certainly," said David. However, next time I might plan a route traversing the North of the country to keep the local community focused on the needs of the girls currently studying at Chalemprakiat, The public can contact the 2005 Bike Ride with David Curtz at dcurtz@loxinfo.co.th or Phone 01-433-4141.

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