By Naomi Dixon
(Day 8.) Feni – Chittagong – 63 miles
The cycle from Feni is abruptly stopped by the stretching and squeaking sound of a falling tree and the ultimate crash to the ground. There are no signs, just a few shouts of warning and a man with an axe. We lift our bikes over the fallen tree and set off at a good pace.
Our first stop is a local village school, we gather a crowd quickly, mainly the cheeky young boys interested in our bikes with the girls hanging back in the shadows. Omari shows off his football skills much to the awe of all the school children. Jebi and I walk past some classrooms and meet some of the younger classes of beautiful children who are curious to meet a couple of strange girls in their cycling gear.
The heat today was intense and we learn to take on as much fluid and salts as possible during the mid day sun. We finish the cycle on the outskirts of Chittagong and visit the heights of the Sitakunda Botanical Gardens. There are stunning views from the top of the eco-park of forest and waterfalls.
We arrive at the Chittagong Guest House with knowledge that there is a swimming pool and all jump into the pool with our full cycling gear on. We giggle and float around in the lovely warm water. We notice a sign which reads ‘do not use the swimming pool as a bath to clean yourself’.
(Day 9) Chittagong – Keranihat – Chakaria – 67 miles
I am very reluctant to leave the comfort of Chittagong, the city is buzzing and seems a great place to explore.
However it turns out to be an amazing day for cycling and we clock up decent mileage and keep a steady pace through the blistering heat of the sun. I cycle with Jahangir for the remaining part of the day and we take in the fisheries, rural villages and the stunning blue skies.
We stop for breaks at tea shacks along the way, Aminur’s favourite, past time. As always all the people we meet along the journey are welcoming and generous and we are welcomed into stranger’s homes.
That evening we stay in ICDDR,B (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh) accommodation. We come together in the evening and a local chef creates some fantastic fish, chicken, vegetable baji, paratha and desserts. I am taught to eat with my right hand. It is a very amusing evening of silly games, stretching, massage, music and chilling out on the eve of our final cycle day.
(Day 10) Chakaria– Cox’s Bazar – 40 miles
It’s our last day! We have done the big mileage and it is a short ride to Cox’s Bazar. We are all counting down the km signs all the way and I am cycling with Jebi and Anjub, singing most of the journey, in high spirits at the prospect of the seeing the sea and completing the ride. Together we ride past vast national parks and the roads are smooth and quiet, we feel like children out on our bikes to play.
Our arrival at the beach in Cox’s Bazar is a convoluted journey round the town centre, when we make it to the beach we role our bikes to the water and either dive in or get thrown in. Delighted.
(Day 13) Sylhet – Dhaka
When leaving Bangladesh from Sylhet to Dhaka a white headed eagle swooped over our vehicle, it made its presence known. I think it had been keeping an eye over us on our journey.
To my fellow bikers and superb support crew:
Jelina Berlow Rahman
Thank you also for everyone who has kindly and generously donated to Vision Bangladesh and Sightsavers.