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The official website is here: www.coughingthedistance.com
Also, my latest adventures are here: www.coughing4cf.com
Sunday, October 07, 2007
My God, where do we even start...?! How to possibly capture what it feels like to be finished The Great COFE for Cystic Fibrosis?
Well, for starters, you can bet there were wet eyes, wide grins and a few, "I can't believe it"'s.
And what would the final day be like without a giant helping of Wally Luck?
Whether you believe in coincidence or fate, our final day on the COFE challenge was most certainly accompanied by something other than the ordinary. It started with the insane traffic of Istanbul. We had spent the previous night on the outskirts of the giant city hoping for a relatively straightforward ride in to the finish line, which was to be the front gates of the Dutch Consulate General smack in the middle of the city.
Two friends of Walter's, Kathryn Whitfield, a journalist from London, and Laura Bins, in charge of Press and Cultural Affairs for the Consulate (whom Walter just happened to meet on a train in Amsterdam at the beginning of the trip), had exchanged countless emails and phone calls in order to plan a reception for the COFE team at the Consulate. We had no idea what to expect and boy, were we surprised!
But back to the traffic...!
The rider's were Walter, Cindy, David and Heather. Troy and Lucas were in the support vehicle laden with cameras and no small amount of adrenaline to cope with Turkish drivers.
At about 9:30 am, we rode out into the streets, squeezing our way through narrow gaps between sidewalks and buses, metal and flesh. We soon saw that biking through the streets of Istanbul, although completely damaging to even healthy lungs, was THE way to travel. The support vehicle made it approximately 6km before it was wedged deep into the worst kind of metal-hell jam. This was when Lucas got nervous. Our lunch meeting at the Consulate was slated for noon and it was clear nothing bigger than a human body was going anywhere fast.
So, just as any devoted, young film-maker would do, Lucas sprung from the car and started running. Armed with no more than a basic point in direction from Troy, he was off but when the car passed him about a half hour later, he was missed in the roar of engines around him. Thinking fast, Lucas flagged down a taxi and said, "Follow that car!"
Meanwhile, the COFE team was happily summing up the trip during an interview outside our hotel with CNN Turk.
At 11:55, there was no sign of either the support vehicle or Lucas. As you can imagine, it would be very sad not to all travel across the finish line together, so we started getting antsy.
Just then, we spotted the car! A red-faced but calm Troy jumped out, ran to the bathroom and emerged in his biking gear. We were just about to ride the 200 meters over to the Consulate with our press entourage when we heard, “Guys! I made it!”, and spotted Lucas emerge from a taxi.
Together at last, we rode through the gates of the Consulate to sound of hands clapping and corks popping. I think that was when we all started crying.
Our lunch was fantastic and made no less memorable when a complete brass band showed up. The Chaupiques: http://www.chaupiques.nl We were blown away that the Consulate had gone to the trouble, but as it turns out, the band wasn't planned. They happened to be walking by with their instruments and when they looked in and saw a party going on, they asked if they could play for us. The uncanny part of it was...they were on a one week busking tour from Holland and did not even realise they were walking into the Dutch Consulate! Those Dutch must give off a special scent...
There we sat in the garden with our smelly, sweaty biking clothes around dignitaries of the Consulate, but no one seemed to mind. During dessert, we were again surprised by a letter from the Ambassador of Australia expressing his admiration for Walter and his mission to inspire people with CF.
As much as we would have loved to have lazed on the Consulate grounds all day, we had a deeper urge to get showered and relax before our celebratory dinner. Some of us headed off to the Grand Bazaar, where you could buy anything from mosaic tiles to Turkish Delight to rugs to leather bags…..
At 8:30 we all met for dinner. Again, with the Wally Luck - we just happened to be staying in a hotel acclaimed to have the best restaurant in the city. Knowing full well we deserved the best on this special night, we tried making a reservation that afternoon. The hotel reception said, "No way. It is the best restaurant in the entire city on a Saturday night of Ramadan! You cannot just make a reservation now." We tried a little name-dropping using the Dutch Consulate for a start, but they still didn't buy it. They suggested we go up and speak to the host of the restaurant. We were again told there was no way to get a reservation, "For 1 or 2 people, maybe, but 8?" (We were to be joined with Kathryn, the journalist and her friend, Vicente.)
Just then, the phone rang and it was a table with a reservation for 8 calling to cancel……….Yes, I know, it is absolutely freakish!
And that is how we came to spend four hours on the roof of our hotel with the best view of the city, spending hideous amounts of money for small, but delicious morsels of gourmet food.
Around dessert time, we were joined by a nice couple fresh off a cruise (it’s amazing they let our bike-gang into such a place of refined tastes, really!). Poor Jim was subjected to Troy in the urinal, who, by this point, was well and beyond happy and full of affection for his fellow man. There may have been some hugging in the urinal, but it mustn’t have made Jim too uncomfortable as he brought his wife, Heather, over to say hello. They joined us with a celebratory bottle of Moet champagne and here we learned of yet another coincidence – not only does Jim’s wife have the same name as my own, they were from Calgary, Alberta, which just happens to be my home town.
A more perfect day could not have been thought up and we would like to extend our dearest thanks to everyone involved in the reception and to those of you who journeyed along with us for the last 73 days. We are all very proud of Walter and the kind of person he is. Surely each one of us has ingested some of this man's happiness for life and may we all be able to draw from it throughout our lives.
Way to go, Wally!!!!!!!!!!
Please keep checking in with us! We are putting together a Final Slide Show and are hoping to squeeze in a few entries from the other's as well, if they get the chance before leaving tomorrow!