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March 8th 2009
Published: May 10th 2009
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In November 2008 six bicycle riders departed Australia to complete the ride of a lifetime in Vietnam. After months of fundraising and training (some more than others on the training side of things!) they arrived at Hanoi's Noi Bai airport, full of anticipation, nerves and excitement.
I had arrived in Vietnam a few months before and made my way up to Hanoi to meet the group.

This was the first fundraising event of this kind for Lifestart Foundation and it was with a mixture of curiosity and anxiety that my eldest son Tu and I joined the group to complete the trip on motor bike. I was keen to take part so as I could recommend it to future participants first hand. I have never riden a bicycle so pedaling was not an option for me! Tu and I both had a fabulous time. I am sure that everyone who participated has a story to tell or a book to write about the journey. It truly was a huge success on every level and now having completed the trip albeit on motorbike and not bicycle, I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in a trip with a difference! Where possible we took back roads and got off the highway, riding through the country side was magic.

The riders Marelyn, Libby, Bernie, Gemma Peta and Simon were an amazing group who encouraged and supported each other every kilometre. Together they raised a total of $17,000 aud for Lifestart Foundation project work.

The second group of seven riders commenced their journey in March 2009..........
"Team Elwood" was made up of Jo, Bec, Alexis, Fiona, Angie and Ian. Our seventh rider Janelle also rode for Lifestart Foundation.
Team Elwood put together a blog, this will tell you all about their preparation, fundraising efforts and their ride. CLICK HERE

I was in Hoi An to meet them when they pedaled in on the 19th of March. On this day they had biked up and down the Hai Van Pass, for anyone familiar with Vietnam you will know what a feat this is! The trip allowed for several Lifestart Foundation project visits in and around Hoi An the following day.

The next Vietnam Cycle takes place November 7-18, 2009 and a subsequent ride is sheduled for March 2010.
This journey of a lifetime provides a wonderful opportunity to travel through some of the world’s most spectacular scenery.

You will witness a real variety of riding and cultural sights as you work your way down the length of Vietnam. At times you will be cycling the scenic highway coastal route and also get off the beaten track into the little visited central highlands with their hill tribe populations. Vietnam is an experience to savour and the bicycle is the ideal way to explore this country of ever changing landscapes. From palm fringed beaches to ancient towns, fishing villages, misty highlands and bustling Saigon this is a trip of real contrasts. This event has enormous appeal to anyone with a sense of adventure and is a worthy goal for cyclists of all levels.

If this sounds interesting, read on…

There's no such thing as a free trip. However, if you have the drive (or rather, the legs) to get behind Lifestart Foundation ( and engage in a charity fundraising bike ride, then you can convert your hard work into the trip of a lifetime.

Here’s how it works. You pay a registration fee of $500. You then fundraise a minimum of $5000 AUD. Once you reach your fundraising target, you qualify for a free place on the trip and Lifestart Foundation will subsidize your land content costs in return for your fundraising efforts. Your out of pocket costs are your initial registration fee of $500 + airfare only.

What's Included:
• Experienced cycling leader and local guides
• All accommodation, twin share
• Support vehicle
• Good quality, multi geared mountain Bike
• Local support team
• Water and snacks on cycle days
• All transport by private vehicle
• Domestic flight & overnight train
• Most meals (see itinerary for details)

Click here for more details

It is not a race. Every 20Km or so, you will pull up off the road to allow the back of the group to catch up, refill your water bottles, and eat some snacks before setting off again. Lunch will invariably be a picnic at the side of the road and expect to reach your night destination late afternoon.

This part of Vietnam is like no where else in the world. Every evening there will be a briefing as to the next day's logistics and timings. Participants also have the option to extend the trip to include some time in Hoi An, visiting Lifestart Foundation projects and helping out where possible.

A great opportunity for a group of friends, family or work colleagues to get involved in the "ride of a lifetime" This is a wonderful opportunity to come and test yourself on a challenging but unforgettable ride that offers incredible rewards and a welcome contrast to the tourist haunts encountered in other parts of Vietnam. This is also a great opportunity to meet like-minded adventurers who want to participate in a trip with “a difference.”

(I am told that in the corporate world, cycling is the new golf !) Solo riders are also most welcome to join the trip.

I am hoping that Lifestart Foundation supporters from around the world will get excited about this next trip.

Trips run in March and November of each year. The next ride is in November 7-18th 2009. Here is your chance to challenge yourself and make a difference for the families and children that Lifestart Foundation supports.

Any questions can be directed to
David Reynolds: +61 3 9597 0799 /
Angela McLean: +61 3 9597 0210 /

Please leave a comment below if you are interested in further information.

I would invite previous participants to post a comment about their experience.

Lots of Love from Karen.

Enjoying the blogs?? Forward them on or subscribe those who you think would be interested in Lifestart Foundation's's free!

Peta and Simon’s Vietnam Journey

"When I first met Peta back in November of 2007 she told me that she would be taking part in a 500km bike ride over seven days in Vietnam. Strangely enough it didn’t take much for Peta to convince me to take part and before I knew it we were flying out of Melbourne and on our way to Ho Chi Minh.

Not having ever travelled to Vietnam before it was a big deal to me but for Peta it was her fifth time so I thought I would simply follow her lead. Eventually I worked out that when in Vietnam do as the Vietnamese do. I crossed roads flooded with mopeds, I ate foods that I’d never tasted before and I discovered quite possibly that each and every single person in Vietnam must say ‘Hello’ to you at any and every given chance.

A special convoy of three wheel motor bikes escorted the riders out of town.

Not that I minded.

When the entire group met we were all so very nervous. Partly because it was a different setting for us all and we were out of our collective comfort zones, but mostly because we weren’t too sure what we were about to encounter. For me it was doubly hard as I harboured a secret that was not to be told until the very last day. Never being very good at keeping secrets I truly questioned my ability to do the ride and keep my lips sealed at the same time.

Over the course of the ride we encountered excruciating pain from 10% inclines over 10kms, we saw the ruins of ancient cultures riddled with bullet holes, drank coffees that tasted like pure sugar, found out that roads aren’t just designed for cars, trucks and buses but for all manner of animal life and chain smokers, that gravel feels exactly like it does in Australia and should be avoided from making contact with your face at all times as (I found out), amazed at the sheer courage, strength & inspiration that is the Lifestart Foundation workshop, discovered that there’s no decent shower in all of

Libby raised extra funds and purchased 10 bicycles for Lifestart Foundation students.
Vietnam, Paradise in Vietnam should be avoided at all costs unless you like hellholes and that Karen Leonard at no stage rode one metre on a bike for the whole thing.

But the very best thing of all was the sheer exhilaration of completing a 500km bike ride for a good cause with your friends and then proposing to my girlfriend in front of them all. Not only can that not be replicated in any way but I challenge you all to top it!"

Peta’s Ride

"When I heard about a charity bike ride in Vietnam for Lifestart Foundation I knew it was something I just had to do. I hadn’t ridden a bike since high school but was sure I could ride the 500km’s. All I can say is that it was lucky that I was fit enough to complete the trip, as I was sooooo not bike fit!! It was a great way for me to see different parts of Vietnam from a different perspective.
In the moments when the riding was “tough going” I would focus on why I was doing this and the people I was helping. I am not anyone special, just

All of the Lifestart three wheel motor bike riders rode the bicycle riders out of town on their last day.
an ordinary person, but with the ability to help the less fortunate than myself. I think the whole cycling Vietnam experience gives your own life that little bit more perspective. It was an extremely fulfilling experience, something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Not to mention a life changing experience, with Simon proposing to me in front of our group at the completion of our ride…it was very romantic and I look forward to our special day. Quy Nhon in Vietnam will always hold a special place in our hearts now!!"

Gemma's Ride
"The Lifestart bike ride was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I have ever done. It was also the most rewarding. Visiting Lifestart’s projects, the people involved and the people they help on our day in Hoi An was a delight. Whether struggling up those hills or chugging along a highway with trucks roaring past, every single moment on the bike was worth it to support the amazing Lifestart team. Karen’s efforts are phenomenal and I am so proud to be involved - I can’t wait to go back!"

Marelyn's Ride
"At the age of 62, the Lifestart Foundation charity bike

I might have to re-name Lifestart to LOVESTART! Peta and Simon are pictured on the last day of the bike ride just after Simon proposed to Peta on bended knee.
ride, was the most rewarding journey I have taken - injuries and all!!
My 1st two days were a bit rocky - I knocked over a Vietnamese man walking along the street & then fell off my bike while trying to multi-task!
The rest of the trip was gruelling, challenging & satisfying all at once. Even though there was a support bus to get on at any time, my personal challenge was to not be on there for long - 50km on the bus out of 500km was pretty good for an old girl!
Our group of riders was lots of fun and there was plenty of laughs to be had each day - even after riding for 8 hours.
To know you have helped raise money for an amazing cause is wonderful, but to achieve your personal physical challenges is wonderful too!"

Additional photos below
Photos: 31, Displayed: 29



The bikes are loaded onto a small boat for a river crossing and the next part of the journey.

Our Lifestart rider is pictured on a quiet back road complete with water buffalo on either side.

Patched up after falling off her bike.

In Hue the riders decide to race Cyclo's. They quickly found out that it is not as easy as it looks! The cyclo drivers who became the passengers thought we were all crazy.

Libby pedaling as Marelyn takes it easy.

The team are pictured visiting Hiep and his family. Hiep has a wonderful organic herb farm made possible by seed funding from Lifestart Foundation

Rain soaked, tired, sore but oh so elated. The smiles say it all.

11th May 2009

Congratulations Peta!
HI Peta! Loved your blog - very inspiring! We think you are a very special person and Lifestart is lucky to have your support! Congratulations on your engagement! With love from Rachel, James, Jake, Helena and Sam UK xxxxx

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