I had received the group email about the Mongolian Challenge at the beginning of April 2016 and knew I'd love to do it, but put it out of my mind (so I thought) as I reckoned I'd never make the target in such a short space of time. In order to be able to go, £3,000 (sterling) had to be raised, and two thirds of that had to be done by the 1st of July, so I ruled it out. However, it must have been simmering away as suddenly at the end of April I thought “Ah here, I want to do it, so I'll just go hell for leather and it'll turn out all right” and that's exactly what happened. What surprised me was how emotional I felt about it. I've been involved since 1999 when I began sponsoring a child, so there has been a long connection with CNCF. I was excited to think that I could get to meet him, and the thought of that possibility really encouraged me through all the preparations.
To raise the money I set up an everyday hero page and started planning what I would do to raise the funds. I emailed everyone I knew to let them know about it, posted stuff on Facebook, and with the help of my family we had a coffee morning which raised just over €1,000. My workplace was very obliging in allowing me to arrange a dress up day which raised over €400 and so I was well on track.
The Mini Marathon was another activity which helped bring in funds and then the rest was just telling people, reminding them, sending out more emails and texts, updating everyone and keeping it in the front of people's minds. The generosity was astounding, it seemed like all I had to say was Children, Christina Noble Foundation and Mongolia and the money rolled in. I needn't have worried as the night before I left, I reached my new target of £7,000 which was double the required amount.
The generosity was astounding, it seemed like all I had to say was Children, Christina Noble Foundation and Mongolia and the money rolled in.
Alongside this, there was the training. I kept telling myself I'd do LOADS of cycling before I went, but being such a last minute merchant, it was only in the five weeks before I went that I began to pedal around the place. I borrowed my sister in law's bike, my uncle's helmet and I was ready to roll. I started off with relatively easy routes and then decided that I'd tackle the Vico Hill. It was nearly the end of me as it's possibly the third longest hill in the world! Whizzing back down is exhilarating though, so the following weekend I did it once more just for the thrill. Generally it got easier the more I cycled, so I did bits and pieces during the week and a couple of longer cycles at the weekends. At no stage could I be called a cyclist, but I felt more confident that I'd be able to stay on the saddle and not make a total fool of myself. The hiking aspect didn't scare me at all as I walk almost every day, so I knew I'd be ok. I was more apprehensive about as I hadn't been on one in years, so I had to trust that that would work out. I had hoped to have some lessons before I went, but it didn't happen.
Flights & Visas
The other challenge before going was booking the flights, getting the visas and shopping. I used an excellent travel agency who also helped me with my Visa. We'd been sent a list of what to bring, so I borrowed whatever I could and bought the rest. I did tons of knitting to bring to my former and current sponsor child and also bought some gifts for them and it was a monumental challenge to fit everything into my rucksack. It all fitted in the end, but only just.
For the challenge itself we had two days mountain biking, two days hiking and to finish up, two days of horse riding. We had an amazing team lead by the wonderful Timur and Scott.