Dogs, Diarrhea and Words of Encouragement

From Sonia 11th Feb 2014

First up, cheers to all my friends for their encouragement, at times when the world feels like its against you having the best time of your life, words of encouragement are just what the doctor ordered. 

Its midnight in Axum and the devil has struck again, curled in the fetal position with cramps in the belly I know tomorrow is not going to go according to plan. Over the next 5.5hrs I spend nearly 2 hrs all up on 3 consecutive visits, locked in a small smelly room, feeling sorry for all the other riders who are knocking on the door for access. Best you go next door is my reply. 
I spend the day in the truck over really rough roads, seriously I have never driven on roads this rough, which only contribute to me feeling worse. I visit the tour nurse that arvo and advise of the horrendous flatulence I am experiencing as well. 
Due to altitudes, the bodily gases can increase by 30% she advises. That explains the choruses coming from various tents each night once the sun goes down. Runny bottoms are a constant subject around the camp in the morning… how’d you sleep?? I didn’t, bloody dogs and diarrhea are the usual answers.

The next day I am on top of the world and ready to take to the dirt. With my fats still on and tyre pressure just enough to eliminate pinch flats, I take on 109 km of dirt, rocks and kids. I clocked my best speed of 50.6 kph down hill on loose rock and dirt. What an adrenaline rush. Some down hills last up to 8km.
Not sure if TDA have a license to allow a rider that much fun, but I’m not really that concerned. 
The thought of falling briefly crosses the mind but the visual consequences are not something I want to dwell on. This is way to much fun  
In life, when there is a down there is always an up and omg when they say up, the mountians go up just as far as they come down. Unfortunately the speed is somewhere near the speed of a 4 yr olds fast walk… at 4.2kph and slowing, the bike comes to a stand still when there is no further traction on the rocks with the rear wheel. This was a regular occurrence and if I was lucky I managed to unclip prior to falling on my face. Sunscreen and dirt make for a funny looking face.

The kids and dogs are now a part of life in Ethiopia. They put the gero rock throwers to shame, not saying I want them to improve their game.
I was pelted with rocks when I growled at a kid for attempting to belt me over the head with a stick as I road past. Go figure.
A dog baled me up while the kids yelled you, you, you, money, money, money. I squirted him with my water bottle but he came back at me even worse. Ok, I’m boff the bike and using it as a barricade between myself and this rabid animal. There were a few tense moments of stand off and water squirting before he got board and chased the passing car.

Next was a river crossing, totally alone on the bridge I stop to take a few photos. Within a minute I am accosted by naked young men and boys …. holy shivers …… what do I do??? They want their photo taken too. So I do, then we introduce ourselves. 
I always thought introductions came before nakedness. 
The crowd has now growen to about 15 and I’m outtta there, the only problem, its all up hill !! So there I am peddling as hard and fast as I can, which is all of about 11kph up yet another steep hill with 15 naked and semi nake males chasing me calling Sonia, Sonia, Sonia. A few run on ahead and immediately about face and start yelling as they run past in the opposite direction. Feeeew I think to my self, then I see the guy come out from behind some rocks with an AK47 hanging over his shoulder. 
I must get myself one of those on the next rest day.
Selam I say as I ride on past. Selamno he replies. 

This place is so awesome, never a dull moment. 
Chris D broke his frame, should had a Giant…. and there have been a few falls but nothing serious. 
The next day whilst struggling along a rock riddled road, Chris D pulls up along side me in a local pickup, bike in the back, he waves at me and then they drive off. I’m like, whats with that, I’m ready to jump in as well. I ride on thinking poor Chris, his bike mustn’t have held up with the patch work they did on it.
I arrive into camp some 3 hrs later to find out Chris is sitting in the local pub eating eggs and drinking beer and there is no further damage to his bike. Did I pay out on him when he returned and without a beer for me!!!

I was in a bit of a shattered state arriving in that day, 40 kms had taken 3hrs 58 mins. Last down hill of the day and I came down at a crazy speed, overtook Dave C and Alassendro who are 2 of the faster riders on track. I secretly punched the air, YES, but knowing it was only a 30 sec victory as I could see the next incline looming ahead. And on cue they leave me standing still. Still it felt good for those few seconds. So good that I pushed that little bit harder till I got into a bit of a slide and the sphincter slammed shut real quick, oops that was close, but oh the fun of it outweighs the fear.

A new couple that joined us in Gondar, Kym and Steve, found the going tough the other day and hitched a ride with some locals, unfortunately they didn’t check the service records for brake functionability and the pickup rolled back and over the side of the hill, only stopping when it slammed into a tree. Extremely lucky that it wasn’t on a steep riven, and that there was a tree to stop them. Shaken, scratched and bruised but ok they have declared not to hitch hike again. 

The riding days won’t change much over the next 3 days with more off roads to come. The virabrations are playing havoc with my back but as long as I can stay drugged up, things are good. Thanks Hannah for legal meds lol.

Take care everyone and I’ll chat again from Bahir Dar xxxx

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http://www.mycampquality.org.au/soniadavies

A Message from Sonia March 2nd 2014

The best thing that has happened in the last week is that we left Ethiopia. Not the sole beneficiary of the following thoughts and feelings, it was a tough country both physically and mentally. On the fourth last day of cycling Ethiopia the children lined the roads for 40 odd kms, the yelling and chasing was incessant, my nerves were fraid and my tolerance was dwindling fast for the groups of kids that rushed me. 10km prior to camp a group gave chase demanding money, after ignoring my requests to go away, I slammed on my brakes and my handle bars turned, slamming into a kids chest. I was so upset by the time I reached camp, tears stained the muddy face and I decided the best outcome would be a mental health day in the truck the following day, providing the cops hadn’t found me first and locked me up for assault. The last 2 days were trouble free and as I neared the boarder of Kenya I began to feel a bit of nostalgia, Ethiopia if nothing else was a country of its own accord……. that was short lived with a departing gift of a slap on the rear end by one adolescent and a rock to the face by another. Woohoo 8kms to go! 

Insight into Ethiopia and the 5 senses. 

Sight – Tantalizingly beautiful scenery from the Simien Mountians to the Rift valley in the south. This was some of the toughest terrain travelled by participants in the life of the TDA. Riding to to the highest point of 3250m and flying down crazy decents. Hellish roads and heaps of fun. 
However with that came the sight of cruelty to animals and us!!! Towards the end of the 4 weeks it was unbearable to witness and I found myself yelling at the donkey cart drivers for whipping their poor overloaded animals, the shepards for belting their cattle, and the children for their treatment towards us as we cycled by. 
There was very little privacy in Ethiopia, the roads were constantly lined with the elderly and children walking to who knows where and appearing around rocks and trees the moment you thought it was safe to squat.
In camp we were like animals in a zoo with the Ethiopians standing outside the makeshift perimeter for hours gazing in at us while we went about our business and that is literally speaking. 
Hired Ethiopian men with AK47s and stock whips would patrol in an attempt to keep the locals at bay. 
However there were those goose bump moments where the elderly’s faces lit up and smiled as you acknowledge them and said Selamno as you cycled past or the smiles on the little kids faces when you waved and said selam. They made you forget for a short moment the torment of 500m back. 

Sound – the incessant sound of yelling children as they run from houses, bushes, stores or the road verge. Sitting a top hills or boulders in the middle of nowhere. You, you, you, money, money, money, give me pen, give me banana, China, China, China, give me Dashan, where you go? Ferengi, Ferengi, Ferengi, or anything else they could come up with at the time.
Buses and trucks leaning on their horns as they approach from either behind or in front, scare the heebie geebies outta ya! and think it hilarious when you attempt to hitch a ride by holding the back of the truck when going up hill riding one handed. Fun times.
Nights were mostly quiet, except for the donkey’s missing their mates and eeorring all night or the dogs barking or fighting, and the odd town celebration that goes all night. 
Choruses from the camp sight itself was made up of snoring, coughing and bottom burping. 
Pick your tent site carefully. 
Mornings when the town pray went to air at 5 am for all the world to hear, then they would have a competition to see who could yell through the loudspeaker the loudest and the longest. For fooks sake, we are trying to sleep here…… its rest day…..

Touch – due to the unhygienic conditions we travelled through and stayed at and to help prevent the illnesses going through camp, hand washing after touching anything was of vital importance. 
The money was so dirty that Mr D even commented that it had stained his wallet. 
The kids loved to touch us in a number of ways and stomp on our hearts in the process. The majority of the time it was by yelling, throwing rocks, kicking, slapping, stealing items from our bike packs, hitting us with sticks or chasing us in packs up the road, but not all were bad kids, some got the biggest kicks just out of being acknowledge by the ferengi’s (that’s us) and we got enjoyment witnessing it.

Smell – the smells of Ethiopia was of smoke seeping out of their straw roofs into the early morning air or the burning of fires on the sides of the roads of yesterdays refuge. Vehicle pollution was horrendous in the bigger cities as was the dust from passing traffic on the unsealed roads which entered every orifice or crevasse possible. 
The smell of dead animals was noticeably far less than in Sudan. The odd road kill along with the diesel fumes and smoke inhalation were the only bad smells to assault the nostrils. 
Ethiopia was pretty lush and the animals thrived on the open grazing available. Most were in good condition nourishment wise. Not veterinary wise…. No paddocks and the heards didn’t seem to mix. Go figure!!! 

Taste – our first sip of the forbidden Sudanese drop was had in Gondar at the Goha Hotel overlooking the town. And it was cold!!! The Dashan Beer or the St Christophers. 
Most Ethiopian camp sites came with the locals delivering crates of usually warm beer and sodas and making a small profit on the side. 
Tibes was a spicy meat dish served with injera, the injera was like a pancake that tasted like vinegar but was actually fermented tef, (a type of grain) Their staple diet and one that was very delicious. 
Our own cook Yanis, also served up some awesome dishes in Ethiopia. One of my favs was pink Porridge for Valentines day xxx and caramelized bananas with weetbix for breakfast, yumo. 
We are in Marsabit Kenya, at present with gale force winds and dreading the 120km ride into the head winds tomorrow. No change forecasted. 

Till Nairobi take care
Sonia Numbutt Dada xxx
Photos are hard to load given the intermittent net avaliable, I will do my best. This is the second attempt at this blog.

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Sticks & Stones

A message from Sonia:
 
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Sticks and stones will break my bones and no truer comment could be made in Ethiopia. Although the country is beautiful, the same cannot be said for the children. They pelt rocks at you with a very good aim, wack at you with large sticks, put sticks into your spokes, pull you off the bike, steal stuff out of your bike pack and overall are just sometimes very frightening.

The last 3 days have been awesome off road and sealed, extremely hilly with climbs seeing us cover over 5000m. The Simien Mountians of Ethiopia are truly beautiful. Riding the hills is horrendous, going up that is. I tend to wonder whether it is actually legal to have that much fun coming down the hils on seriously rocky dirt and hairpin bends at 43.6 kph. Seriously great fun. That has been the most fun I’ve had all trip.


The villages get scary as they are usually at the bottom of a decent meaning your speed out of town is slower than little kids can run, this is the “get you” moment, or they stand on top of the road cut aways and pound rocks at you as you pass.
Kids 7, Me nil…. I have been pulled off my bike, 2 rocks to the head, 2 to the legs, stolen bike tube and leavers, however they dropped them really fast as I ran down the road like a maniac screaming at them. The bike has many more brusies than I.
Arrived Axum yesterday arvo but again not before getting lost as the little blitters were wearing the markers as neck ties and I missed the turn off. Thankfully I only did an extra 8 km unlike one of our guys who did 40….. 20k before he asked for directions oooops….

Whilst in Gondar visiting the Neurologist I was given the registration card. Date 23 January 2006 although it reads the 23/5/2006. Not quite sure about that cause I was coming back that arvo even though the date was really 31/1/2014.
Now although Ethiopia seems decades ahead of Sudan in every way, its days start at 6am so that infact is 00.00, lunch is at 6am and dinner is at 12…. oh but that is not the best part. Whilst sitting at the boarder I noticed a calander hanging on the wall reading 2005. Had a chuckle to my self thinking woo thats a bit out of date. Well as it turns out it was only a month out of date. The date today in Ethiopia is the 27th January 2006…. the difference in the days it that Ethiopia have 13 months of sunshine …apparently. …. so have less days in the month. And because nobody informed them that Christ had been crucified until 8 years after the fact, they are 8 yrs behind everone else on the planet.

 
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Now how’s this…. Sudan – very black and white, that is in people and the atmosphere, mainly white cloth robes, very little colour seen anywhere except the odd blue door on a mud house, or a mosque in blue or green. No happiness showen, no music, no paintings. Women are seen but not alot and when they are it is usually only their eyes, children are rarly seen especially in the bigger villages. It is a very dead, depressing country. Men are seen every were through the desert and villages on donkeys, and camels, hearding sheep, goats, camels and cattle or just squatting in the middle of the desert because they can….. whilst on their mobiles.

Ethiopia on the other hand was a total change from immediately crossing the boarder. Lots of children which I initially thought was great… lots of music, colour, women and in normal clothes and they spoke to you, happiness in the streets but the mobile service is still in 2006. Go figure….. Ethiopia is nothing like portrayed on TV adds. So far the countryside reminds me so much of Australia, love it.

 
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This next week is going to kill us with 4 horrendous days of riding the toughest terrain. This year the course has been harder than any previous years due to Cairo being canceled. Its like an ultra marathon every day except on the bike. No other year has seen the majority of the group out of EFI in the first week and the days have not got easier. Looking forward to hooking up on the old route and my back returning to normal, thank gosh they dont drug test……

 
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Until next time … Keep the donations rolling in! Visit http://www.mycampquality.org.au/soniadavies to contribute to Camp Quality!

Not Giving In

The above video is so powerful. It shows the strength of what we are capable of as human beings. It also shows that support from others through our tough times – emotionally, physically or mentally – can help in our journey. This video is posted to remind us all that “we can” do what we set our minds to achieve and know matter what place you come, whatever the outcome is, when it’s done to the best of your ability then you are a winner.

Please show your support for Sonia by leaving her a message and donating to http://www.mycampquality.org.au/soniadavies

Now wipes thouse tears away it’s time for Sonia’s Tour d’Afrique update ……

After time off from being quite ill Sonia was hoping to get back on her bike again on this leg. There was 6 days travelling from Atbara to Gedaref and 6 days until a rest day so a very long and hard stretch by anyones standards but more so after recurring health problems and what seems unbeatable illnesses. The days consisted of distances around 100km but with rough terrain and minimal to no paved roads it was quite an epic sight before all the riders.

Day 9 – Riders coursed 103km with sunny skies and winds of approx 15km/h, North East. Only 6km of Day 9′s cycle was along a paved road the remainder was 35km of dirt road and then 62 km SAND! Soft sand – an incredibly tough terrain to ride on! A hard slog! Amazing effort on everyone’s behalfs!

Day 10 – The journey on this day was a 71km cycle through SAND! Yep more SAND! Try imagine riding through soft river sand in 32 degree desert heat? Makes you realise that anything is possible once you set your mind to it huh?! Just keep riding, riding, riding, riding ….

Day 11 – An easier cycle (as apposed to Day 9 & 10′s efforts) with 82km of dirt tracks! A nice warm 37degrees with NE winds at 15km/h and sunny skies….

Day 12 – Another dirt track travelled with the 91km ride! It was a partly cloudy but 39degrees and North Easterly winds at 15km/h. Four days down only two to go before the riders rested… The light at the end of the (very long) tunnel was finally showing some light.

Day 13 – 94km ride, 22km on dirt and the remainder pavved! 38 degrees with a NE wind of 25km/h.

Two weeks in …. Day 14′s 140km journey was travelled on paved roads! It must of felt like heaven after such a long stint on more difficult soil! This leg was the home stretch before they were all due a well deserved rest day!

***UPDATE FROM SONIA***

“Happy Australia Day everyone. Hope you all had a wonderful day doing the Aussie thing. I spent the day recharging body and soul, batteries and doing the washing….exciting ha? I did go out for coffee and donuts this morning but could only find the centres of the donuts but hey who’s fussy!!! And im wearing my Aussie headband.
Wow what a week. It just happened to be a Monday morning to start the next leg. Made a quick 100m dash to the horrendous long drops, held my breath and blocked my nose, these arent hygienic at all. I packed the tent and figured as long as I keep my butt cheeks clamped shut I should be right to ride. No bottom burps!! Wrong…the power that be’s from above had other ideas….. Sonia Dada please dismount, I am now striking you down with vomiting to go with your runny bum… In tears again and ready to throw the towel in, I crawl into the truck for the next 2 days.
Its a desert crossing of sand and bull dust.
Tuesday night, feeling so depleted, both mentally and physically I call on my angels and this time I am heard, I sleep all night for the first time in 3 weeks. There is nothing between me and the stars except a mossie net. I wake on Wednesday feeling awesome and ready to ride.
I lasted to lunch, 44km through bull dust and sand. Great ride but had an asthma attack for my efforts and was unable to ride the rest of the day. The chest infection is still playing havoc on my lunges. Thursday was a tough morning with 50kms to lunch through bull dust and 30+ km headwinds. I was bearly alive and the wheels were bearly turning at 8kph I crawled to the lunch truck. The arvo saw less headwinds but the temp reached 43.6 degree. Camp was by some canals so the first bath was under numerous bottles of water the second saw me sprawled out in the canel having a canel spa. Very nice and deserved I must say.
Still feeling great. Friday we left the desert and attempted to negotiate the canels to a Cane farming village. Sonia Dada is lost…onya Sonia… followed by a car of locals that kept stopping became a little frightening as I was alone and only 2 days previous our camp nurse had been attacked quite badly. Luckly I kept peddling and they became bored with my rudeness after a few kms and left. It was a great ride especially when I found an orange marker, these have a tendency to dissappear when the local kids think its great to wear them as head bands or neck ties. Another hot arvo of 42 degree and another 100km down. Tonight we sleep in a Cow Throp patch and still have to walk ages into the wild younder for some sort of privacy for a twinkle. We wait till after dark to do the other one.
Saturday was a pretty boring road ride of 140km, though did pass some camel and goat markets and escorted into Gadaref by a cop on an bike, I felt like a movie star with right of way any everyone looking at me.. tummy had been good up until Gadaref when all hell broke loose again. So far about half the group has or has this tummy bug. Only 2 left in EFI. I sat out side last night and shared a bucket with Ian. It was a case of being close enough to a toilet and a bucket as we weren’t sure where we would need to dash first.
Feeling ok today with the odd flush of queezyness. Fingers crossed for a good night and ready to cross the Ethiopian boarder tomorrow. 166km, 39 degree.

Talk soon mossies are biting and past my bed time xx
Sonia Numbutt Dada
Lol this camel nearly had a numbutt”

Tough Times

Day 7 – Sonia and the TDA competitors cycled with sunny skies from their Desert Camp to yet another Desert Camp. It was a mighty 130km stint in 32 degree heat with North Westerly winds approx 21km/h.

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Day 8 – The last day of riding before Sonia and the other cyclists got a well earned break! Their 124km cycle took them to their next resting point for a day which is at Atbara. This gave them time to spend sightseeing at the Pyramids of Meroe.

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A message from Sonia “Its been a tough week mentally watching others ride whilst laid up. Waking on the morning of stage 5 and making the decision not to ride, saw me change clothes from bike knicks to shorts 4 times, still suffering neck and back pain from stage 4, the tremadol hadn’t touch the sides of the pain nor did all the other meds. Lots of tears, and a hacking chest infection. I am out of the EFI. I managed 76km on stage 6 before collapsing after returning from the Pyramids at lunch time. Stages 7 and 8, I remained in the truck. I have 3.5 months ahead to catch up on all I have missed and hope that I can get my strength back to do it. I have changed my tyres ready for a gruelling 5 days ahead, of rough off road terrain, sand and a mix of both. Day 6 will see us back on paved ground for the final 140km of that leg before our next rest day.
The Pyramids today of Meroe where definately something to see. Not as big as Cairo but still special all the same.
Not looking at the pyramids I could of sworn I was still in Gero, hot, windy and sandy.
I’m sitting once more on the banks of the Nile, this time in Atbara. Again another little town thats happy to pass on tummy bugs free of charge.
We are again staying in an abandoned Amusement Park.
The town crier started at 5am this morning, seriously its rest day! Then greeted with overflowing longdrop dunnies, and an upset tummy. Woohoo Desert Camp tomorrow
…… Thanks everyone for your support, its been tough and nothing like I expected. From someone that rarely gets sick, it was hard to except riding on a truck watching others on their bikes. I couldnt understand why everyone thought I was crazy taking this on but I have a clear understanding now. No Masseurs in Sudan!!!!”

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More updates on the TDA as they come in …….

But before w sign out we want to share information on our fundraising …. Initially we set a goal of $1 per km and on Day 7 of the epic four month journey we had already raised $5,303.30! Leaving only $6,389.70 to reach our goal! We are almost halfway there already – which is incredible!! Thank you to the generosity of everyone so far – every little bit counts so dig deep to help the kids of Camp Quality and to support this massive journey that Sonia is undertaking. Visit http://www.mycampquality.org.au/soniadavies – Laughter is the BEST Medicine!

Day 1 to Day 5 – Highs and Lows

Day 1 stage 1 – After months and months of stress and preparation finally Sonia’s Tour d’Afrique began at 7.30am on the 10th January. Her first leg was an 81km journey to their first camp site. This leg was from Khartoum to Abu Doloca with a road that was mostly paved and flat with a temperature of around 26degrees and Northerly winds at 30km/h

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The Starting Group

 

Day 2 – A distance of 148km in 26 dregrees and winds NE25 the trip on day 2 was from Abu Doloca to Desert Camp

Day 3 – 143km to Sonia’s next camp and next contact. The temp was around 28degrees with sunny skies and winds NE20km/h

Day 4 – Last day of cycling today before Sonia gets a break for a day! After four days of babywipe showers a real shower will be heavenly! Day fours distance covers 146km with a sunny 28degree day and winds N15km/h.

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Latest update (Day 4) – Little bit of upset in the TDA camp for some riders. With the first 4 days being very unforgiving on riders many were and still are sore. Unfortunately Sonia was one of those riders and was not able to ride on Day 5. She is still in a lot of pain from a neck and back injury that has appeared out of no where but with the help of the medical staff, rest day yesterday and a day off hopefully she will be back in the saddle tomorrow!

Day 5 – With Sonia resting her injuries today for the other riders a 112km cycle to a desert camp with sunny skies, winds NE10km/h and temp of 30degrees is ahead!

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Day 6 – 110km cycle to another DC. Sunny skies with winds NE10km/h and temp of 28degrees. Good luck Sonia!

A message from Sonia: “Starting out easy was not an option in Sudan. 4 days heading north, 527km in 30+ km head winds was the toughest thing I have ever done. I have managed to stay EFI however half of our group was out by the second day. EfI for those that are unaware of the term is ” Every Frigging Inch”
Have you ever tried setting up a tent in a desert in 30+ winds? Being with a number of different nationalities I have learnt a whole new vocabulary.
And toilets, well they don’t exist and after a 10 min walk into the desert I was still in plain view of everyone but there were no mounds to hide behind, so with the sand blowing, the nicks were off and all inhabitions were lost.
I wasn’t prepared for the freezing conditions, so cold at night and riding where my fingers and toes were still numb 3 hrs into the morning rides.
Character building I think they call it…..

Rest day today was spent in an old Amusement Park on the shores of the Nile. Just beautiful having breakfast looking over the Nile, a far cry from the past days eating, sleeping and riding sand.
Washing of body and clothes was a beautiful feeling.
The butt is raw and we are all walking around like ducks with our butts poking out to take the pressure of the sore spots.
Tomorrow we start our next leg but turning south east so will be/ should be pleasant riding with only 128km to camp.
Why is it that a weatherman can be the only person to stuff up 80% of the time and still keep his job???? I hope he’s got it right this time
Well its good night from me now till my next rest day.

Cheers
Sonia Numbutt

Stay tuned for more updates as they come in …..

And remember to donate to http://www.mycampquality.org.au/soniadavies – $1 per km for the kids of Camp Quality!

 

Starting Line

The starting line, the first day, the moment an epic journey began on January 10th. Sonia’s belongings were packed on the truck, directions were issued and her backup mount was chosen should her bike fail her. The weather seemed perfect apart from the 30k head winds all the way – the wind had obviously followed her from home!

Stage One:

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The first stage in Sonia’s word “…is just a short ride of 81 or maybe 84 km…” – the distance depending on whether the first camp was uninhabital due to unforseen circumstances then the second camp at the 84km mark was the next option. This is Africa after all and anything goes!

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Next wifi zone was in Dongola on Tuesday 14th – so stay tuned to hear more in futher updates today!

In Sonias own words as she departed on the 10th “Bring it on!” Thats enough reason for all of us to get up today and set our sights high and achieve something we have let fear hold us back from!!