On the last day of the ride, after about 470kms has already been conquered, there's a hill. It's 4.4kms long, and a gradual but constant climb. It goes around bends so you can't see the top until the very end. It plateaus so you think you're getting some respite but then inclines upwards again. Its usually in full sun for the time of day we head up it because it lines the side of a mountain overlooking one of the most beautiful national parks in Thailand. You stand at the bottom, with that nervous feeling wondering if you're going to make it to the top or if it will get the better of you. There's nervous energy, anticipation. And then you get on the hill, and you get up the hill, and you celebrate! Because almost everyone that attempts the hill, conquers it. And from that point onwards, you're pretty well home and hosed, cruising another 30 or so kilometres into the orphanage for the most spectacular welcome you've ever experienced.
I don't even know where to begin in telling you how the rest of Friday went. Our last day on the bike, some of our last time together. And definitely some of the biggest challenges we'd all faced during this week happened on that last day. The feeling was bittersweet, but the impact eternal. And right now as I sit in the airport waiting to go home, I'm wondering how I'm going to go back to life as normal tomorrow!
You see that Friday taught me, that the downhill that's coming once you've conquered that mountain almost contains just as many challenges as on the way up. Because the climb teaches you, changes you and challenges you, meaning that sometimes it feels like a whole new version of you trying to navigate the downhill. It's not just cruising, but it then becomes an adventure, an exploration. And any adventure worth its salt isn't always easy, otherwise they're not really adventures are they.
This week 12 young people were reminded that they were big and strong, inspirational and impactful, capable and powerful, and purposeful. And me? I was reminded of all of this and more. I was reminded that compassion and mercy are some of our greatest gifts, both to give and receive, I was reminded of the beauty in acting selflessly, I was reminded of the value of time, I was reminded of the value of my own life and how I'm using it. I was reminded that greater things are always to come and that pain is always temporary. And the 12 forever friends I've made this week? I can't even say any more.
And even as I come down, as we all come on the downhill from the huge climb this entire week was, we all have a new challenge of working out how life is different following what we just did.
Bring on 2016 - 2015 you've officially exceeded all of my expectations.
Watch this space,
Cherry and the YH team.
P.S as if finishing the ride wasn't enough - my mum surprised me by being there at the end! I can't recall ever audibly sobbing as loudly as I did in that moment! Love you mum, you're the actual best.