Two Brits, two bicycles, one Gilbert and a fluffy All Black mascot. The mere thought of a 28,000km bike ride is enough to give most men odd shaped balls, but this UK couple are doing just that – all in the name of charity.
Tom Hudson and girlfriend Jodie Burton, who left from Twickenham Stadium last May, are now less than 10,000km from their finish at the Rugby World Cup final in Auckland, New Zealand.
The Roar caught up with Jodie and Tom in Laos.
“Judging by the ferryman’s face this morning, it’s pretty obvious that rugby hasn’t yet found its way to Khong Island on the Mekong river.
Our travel companion ‘Gilbert’, who we have carried from Finchley Rugby Club (London), was dangling from the back of Jodie’s bike and captivating the attention of everyone onboard, all five passengers.
It was 5:30am and after being woken by monks at our last unauthorised campsite, we were already on the road and into our first rugby lesson of the day.
The conditions onboard the 3 metre boat were a little cramped, and trying to negotiate the three motorcycles and two bicycles to demonstrate some of the rules around the breakdown brought its difficulties.
Like most of the world, they will still believe they’ve touched an American Football and if you somehow organised a fixture on Khong Island, there is a slight chance they would expect to play the match on their motorbikes.
Besides trespassing in monasteries and disrupting local ferry services, we do have a fairly specific agenda on our 28,000km cycle: to uncover the real world of rugby, and to raise some cash to support global rugby projects run by the TAG Rugby Trust.
So here we sit, about to reveal our story to readers of ROAR, and at the same time keeping one eye on the forest for huge dyslexic gorillas.
For anyone interested in a little history and background on our journey, I’ll do my very best to maintain your attention.
For those who just like rugby because it gives fat people the chance to be part of a sports team, you can skip the following notes on history to an amusing story involving my bicycle shorts and a mountain goat.
In 1870, a Kiwi (born of Scottish ancestry) called Charles Monro, took four Gilbert rugby balls from Finchley (London) to Nelson (New Zealand) and started a match.
We wanted to repeat the effort, perhaps with a modern day twist on the journey, but maintaining as much historical integrity as possible.
We therefore collected our Gilbert ball, a NZ mascot called ‘Charlie’ and started a 15 month cycle that should hopefully see us arrive at the Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park.
Unconfirmed reports of the original journey indicate that Charles Monro often overruled common sense, usually carried insufficient supplies and complained endlessly about being too hot or too cold.
Jodie will support the notion that I am accurately reliving his experiences.
Stepping back from history to the real world, there was sadly no mountain goat present, however irrelevant that might have been when we officially departed from Twickenham Stadium on 1st May 2010.
There was, however, a very handsome and athletic bloke wearing a pair of cycle shorts. Tragically for Jodie, he was cycling in the other direction that morning, but he wished us both good luck and we started our 28,000km voyage together.
Our ‘Rugby Road’ has taken us through 22 countries to date, through deserts, over mountain ranges, narrowly avoiding huge floods, earthquakes and tsunamis along the way, and yet it seems we will miss most of the Lonely Planet ‘sights to see’.
At times, it really has been a lonely planet for us, and nowhere more than the desolate winter ride around the Taklamakan desert in West China.
Throughout the regular struggles, our constant drive has been the rugby communities, knowing that at the end of the road, there is a group of people with the same shaped balls as us.
Sometimes it has been George Gregan waiting for us, and sometimes it has been Rambo from Hong Kong, but in our eyes, they are all legends of the game.
So what is it that we love so much about rugby? This journey is about ‘seeing’ the world, and there was no better place to start than through the egg shaped keyholes of our international cousins.
A rugby club is much more than just changing rooms and a roof. In some countries it is more than a metaphor and quite literally a home.
A rugby team is not just a group of mates, it’s a family, and in many parts of the world, it’s the only family they have left.
It’s a beautiful sport, combining agility, skill, courage and communication. If – like me – you don’t have any of these, you will always get a run in the 2s, 3s or 4s.
Our journey is about celebrating the principles of rugby, principles such as teamwork, integrity, responsibility for others, and for justifying why flankers are seemingly excluded from these principles.
More important still, we aim to champion the individuals who make this sport accessible to so many of us. We want to congratulate rugby volunteers worldwide, people that coach the minis, the guys and girls that manage the paperwork, and the lucky few who wash 15 dirty jockstraps every Sunday morning.
I’m sure you do too, but you won’t because you are rugby fans. You will just put chilli sauce in their beer when their backs are turned.
If you want to hear about rugby in Pakistan, Iran or even dare I say it, Slovakia, we will be cycling Darwin to Melbourne via Brisbane and Sydney between June and August 2011.
If you or your club would like to be involved in our journey please check out our website, drop us an email and we can hopefully stop
by for an evening and explain to you the nutritional difference between minced camel testicles and steamed frogs.”
Check out Jodie and Tom’s ride to the Rugby World Cup in the name of charity via their website and get behind a great cause: Cycling To The Rugby World Cup.