Packing and Penicillin

Nobody ever said that this was going to be easy. Cycling from London to Cape Town takes a lot of planning. I remember what they used to tell us during my Trekforce days: It’s all about remembering the Ps; Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

So, we have planned and prepared for this journey with every minute we have had; however, nothing could prepare us for the past few days. They say there are three stable points in your life, and if you rock more than one, life gets very stressful. We both finished work last week, and today we finished packing up our worldly possessions and moved them out of our home. Alongside all of this, we’ve had builders in to fix a big leak that required re-plastering our bedroom (twice), the washing machine broke (of course it did) and to top it all off, I got bitten on my foot on Friday night.

But this wasn’t any bite, this was a bite from some evil specimen that has caused chaos ever since, and by yesterday evening, my whole foot was swollen, and the swelling was spreading up my leg. I’m now on two sets of penicillin to stop the infection from spreading further; otherwise, I’ll be spending my last week in the hospital instead of with my family. Whilst pretty bad timing, it has also allowed us to re-evaluate the antibiotics we plan to take with us and refresh the information we learned on our wilderness first aid. If this were to happen en route, we probably would have dealt with it more immediately without giving it the option to spread.

one little insect can cause a lot of problems

one little insect can cause a lot of problems

It’s a shame as I may not be able to get on my bike now before we leave. However, I guess we have a year to get practice in. London to Brighton is going to feel like a very long way, that’s for sure.

On that note, we look forward to seeing those of you joining us on 12 July. Let’s hope this sun keeps shining 🙂

London to Cape town first aid course stretcher south downs wilderness

Wilderness first aid training

I’ll never forget the story of a good friend of mine who was commuting home on a London bus when a fellow passenger was stabbed. Although she didn’t witness the incident, word quickly spread down the bus, and people asked if anyone had any tissues to “mop up the blood”.

What struck me was not the stabbing itself. After all, bad things happen in London, but the first reaction from everybody on the bus was to deal with the lost blood rather than prevent more blood from escaping. Sure, such incidents are rare, but the lack of basic first aid knowledge in such a crowded environment still shocks me.

The passenger was soon treated by the London Ambulance Service and was patched up. The only serious harm seemed to be to passengers’ Kleenex supplies.

Now, in no way are we expecting any such malicious injuries on our cycle from London to Cape Town (although, given Emily’s history with knives and fingers, I’ll be keeping hold of our Victorinox Swiss Army knife!). But, given that, once we’re out of Europe, we’ll be cycling through some pretty remote areas, we thought we’d brush up on our first aid skills ahead of our trip.

So, this month, we headed down to Southease, Sussex, to attend the Wilderness First Aid course run by the Muir-Walker Medics Co-op.

‘Wilderness first aid’ is defined as the practice of first aid where definitive care is more than one hour away, and often days to weeks away.”

In reality, ‘more than one hour away’ could mean an incident on the Brecon Beacons or even on the South Downs where this course was based.

I’ve done some first aid training before. But it’s been limited to scenarios such as paper cuts or Colin from accounts choking on a sausage roll. What these courses always taught me was never to administer any drugs. Ever.

That’s why this course was such a breath of fresh air and exactly what we needed for our trip. Within minutes of refreshing our CPR skills, we were out in the sunshine jabbing each other with EpiPens, wrapping trauma bandages over lacerations and learning advanced trauma care techniques such as using Quik Clot on gnarly gashes and, yes, using drugs such as adrenaline. (For the pedants, I know that adrenaline’s a hormone and not a drug).

Wilderness first aid course

Emily did a good job splinting my arm.

On the second day, the group ventured up onto Bedingham Hill. With the backdrop of the port of Newhaven where, in just a few weeks, we’ll be catching the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry on the next stage of our cycle.

Upon the hill, we practised splinting broken limbs, treating burns and shock, and I even got to recline in the sun, with my eyes closed, as the group stretchered me down the steep escarpment without toppling me off. My relaxation was short-lived as I was soon on uphill stretchering duty for a new ‘patient’.

London to Cape town first aid course stretcher south downs wilderness

I volunteered to be the patient and was medevaced off the hill 

The course even covered heat exhaustion, poisoning and snakebites, which was a relief as we’ve been warned about the dangers of carpet vipers when camping in the Kenyan countryside.

Wilderness first aid course CPR

Emily practising CPR

The group consisted of people of many backgrounds, but I’d highly recommend going on this course if you’re an outdoorsy-type.
Even if you don’t plan to head into the hills, have a think about whether you actually would know what to do in an emergency. Think about your close friends. Think about your family. Think about whether you would be that person on the bus mopping up the blood or whether you would use your knowledge to save a life.
For us, though, I hope that the only medical intervention we’ll need is a hay fever pill. At least now we’re qualified to carry them in our first aid kits.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Vaude Ferret 3 tent

The countdown begins – and the nerves have arrived!

It’s now less than 6 weeks until we begin our cycle from London to Cape Town, and it’s a good time to start our blog.

I’m not sure where the time has gone. I remember it being February and packing up our things to take to the London Bike Show and thinking – “hurry up, July, I want to leave!” And now, as I sit here, panic is beginning to set in slightly as the reality of what we are attempting is dawning on me.

There is still so much for us to do. The last few weeks have been completely rammed. We are both still working full time and have busy work schedules, so we have to fit everything into our evenings and weekends. But, slowly, we are getting there. From wilderness first aid courses, practice bike rides, route planning, kit checks, planning our fundraising schedule, and organising our London to Brighton cycle ride, it has been a busy few months.

We are so excited about the expedition and hope many of you will follow our journey along the way. We are lucky enough to be using the same GPS tracker that Mark Beaumont used on his recent epic World Record-breaking Cairo to Cape Town cycle – supplied by Trident Sensors. Once we set off, our location will be updated daily on a link via the route section of our website. But, do not be fooled; we will not be travelling at Mark’s speed or daily distances, so you will need a little more patience to track us.

We plan to share our journey as often as we can – so you can experience the journey with us. We’ll also be blogging each month on Total Women’s Cycling where you’ll not just be able to read about the trip but also find out about the kit and equipment that our generous kit sponsors have provided us.

A huge thank you to everyone who has helped us get to where we are today – a particular mention must go to Chris Davison at Vaude, who has pretty much kitted us from head to toe in the best cycling and camping equipment for cycle touring. Also, to our family, friends, and colleagues who have all helped us get to the start in some way or another. You’ll hear more about them along the way.

Thanks also to Sea to Summit, Victorinox, CamelBak, Click Stand, Goal Zero, DFDS Seaways, Involution, and Thrive. They have all supplied us with valuable equipment and services, which we’ll blog about in due course.

In the meantime, please Like our Facebook pagefollow us on Twitter and, if you haven’t already, sign up for our London to Brighton Charity bike ride on July 12th.