We owe a HUGE thank you to Bruce who remotely cycled 1385 miles on our Strava Club over 18 days in Thailand, not only to support our From Kabul to Cardiff Challenge Fundraiser but also to support and raise funds for an elephant home in Thailand that was hit hard financially due to the pandemic.

Read about Bruce's Journey Here: 

"I've worked in the travel industry for years and years and we moved to Thailand 8 years ago for business reasons. Always spent a lot of time in the mountains in Chiang Mai and then moved the family to Chiang Mai 3 years ago - we have a business running adventure tours through the mountains by specially built Tuk Tuks (www.thetuktukclub.com). Over the years became very close with very small elephants home (8 elephants) who were leading the way in how they look after the elephants (that have lived with them since birth) and doing an amazing job in enabling small groups of people to see elephants and learn about them. I think what really appealed to me was that they are say passionate about their elephants and about giving people the opportunity to see them and learn about them but never had any of the PR machine behind them that some of the larger elephants homes here have (sometimes it seems that others spend more time on PR and marketing than actually caring for their elephants - these guys are the total opposite). They also never asked for anything believing that they have to be good at what they do to survive and not rely on handouts etc.


However, when the pandemic struck Thailand effectively closed its borders and we've seen real economic hardship here. Figures differ but roughly 20% of Thailand's GDP comes from tourism and in Chiang Mai the figure is way higher than that. Suddenly there was no money in the region, companies going bust every day, shops closing, family restaurants have gone, and real hardship (we don't have the sort of social welfare system here that we're lucky enough to have in the UK, no such thing as furlough and govt support for those who lost their livelihoods amounted to £200 a month for 5 months and that's if people were lucky enough to work for a company that had formally registered them). 


At the same time all revenue for the elephant home dried up but of course, they have to continue to look after their elephants, feed them, the mahouts need to eat and live, etc. Whilst the guys at the home never once grumbled (always asking how everyone else is) I could see things getting more and more difficult - the elephants eat roughly 150kg of food a day and the way land is structured in Thailand they couldn't simply just wander off and eat in the forest (in the area they are there are huge fines if an elephant damages a tree for example). 


Whilst I was worried about the elephants I was also going through a period of being very selfish and only thinking about the challenges for my business - not a particularly healthy place to be - but at last, I stopped navel-gazing and realised that perhaps I could do something to help the elephants and the team who look after them (who have all become such good friends over the years). It took quite a bit if persuading - the team didn't want me to 'waste' my time on them and they're very proud people (I guess something that makes me even more attached to them) - but eventually they let the mask slip and said they'd be delighted if I could help, on the condition that if we beat my target that they can then help other groups of elephants too (we'll see - not quite at the target yet but I love the fact that whilst they are in trouble until the borders open they still care about and want to help others in the same situation).


So, came up with the idea of cycling 2000+km around Thailand. Why 2,000? Well, it seemed to be quite difficult (I'm not particularly fit, smoker and enjoy a beer) and also that's roughly the cost of looking after 2 elephants a day so it sort of fit.

With our own COVID challenges here and several provinces closing their 'borders' to 'outsiders' I planned a route through areas that don't usually receive many visitors - figuring that would be much more interesting - with its midpoint in the far East of Thailand on the Mekong River. And then back via a different route. And to make things more tricky decided to do it at the height of our 'summer' with temperatures hovering around 40C and a 'feels like' of 45C+. Why make anything easy!


I took 18 days to ride 2,229km and arrived back at the elephant home on Saturday. 11,098 metres of climbing along the way (some 'lovely' mountains to get over), fell off once (no broken bones, just a bruised ego haha), and averaged 25.6kmh - not going to win any races but having done no training (still recovering from a broken arm earlier in the year) was pretty happy with this. Mr. Noom who manages the elephant home drove one of our Tuk Tuks as a support vehicle and he was the real champion of the trip. Always there to keep me smiling, never-ending cold water, and a hugely positive approach to everything. Also fascinating conversations - he was a monk for 12 years so we ended up having some incredible conversations sitting under trees in the middle of nowhere sheltering from the sun. 

The total raised so far is £13,601 - so 'just' £2,400 short of the target - and Mr. Noom thinks he'll be able to manage these funds to support the elephants and the mahouts for 4 months plus which is amazing and will make a huge and positive difference to the elephants and the men and women who live with them. All I had to do was keep pedaling which at the end of the day might have hurt from time to time but was far easier than trying to find food for elephants every day.


Have had incredible support from around the world - has been wonderful to see just how great people from all over are and even more so when we're all going through tough times - and has been a privilege to be able to experience the remote parts of Thailand I passed through (more than one village were quite excited that I was the first foreigner to stop in their village and eat with them, etc) and to see the genuine warm nature of people throughout the country. Also showed me that if you put your mind to something that you care about you really can keep going even when it's easier to stop - some of the days the heat was brutal but could never give up and let the elephants and mahouts down. And then when you start again the next day everything feels good again and off you go towards to target!"

So many of you have helped us show solidarity to those who have made the journey from Kabul to Cardiff by cycling an amazing amount of miles so far, now to help us continue to support refugees and asylum seekers in Cardiff, please follow the link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/from-kabul-to-cardiff