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NEWSLETTER #3 - 31st July 2007

On the Road at last!

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Perhaps itís coincidence or otherwise but welcome to the third (roughly) six monthly update to Riding for Education. Itís been an extremely busy year so far preparing for departure. Leaving date was postponed a number of times as things simply werenít ready and co-ordination wasn't in place. However, with this newsletter I can proudly announce that weíve left! More on that over the coming weeks.

This newsletter focusís primarily on R4Eís news over the past six months since the start of the year.

Donations

Current Donations stand at £1630-56, an increase of £70 since the last update. The Donation section to the website has now been updated with a comprehensive Donation section to answer any questions related to donating.

What are donations used for? All donations through R4E go directly to ActionAid International to fund established primary and secondary school projects in India, Pakistan and China. Iíve visited some schools already but there are still millions of children in all three countries for whom access to an education is rumour not reality. Think of how important an education is to give children a choice in life and thatís why this ride takes place. This is why I ask you to donate because at the end of the day, reaching the target is great but with my own eyes Iíve seen that every donation makes a difference, YOU can make a difference.

Fellowship of the Royal Geographic Society

As the year kicked off I became the proud recipient of a fellowship of the RGS in London. Thanks must go to Cuchullaine & Basha OíReilly of the Long Riders Guild whose nomination and encouragement made this possible. Thank you to both.

Sponsorships

New sponsorships with:

  • Newsletter PhotographMailaSail - Free email Compression Service over a satellite connection bringing email updates to you every week.
  • McNett - An entire range of products from their award winning Seamgrip (link needed) to Cotol-240 and Free Sole to repair rips and tears in any tent, sleeping bag or vital equipment piece over the coming months.
  • Ichi Design and Translation - All the rideís graphic design and translation was provided courtesy of Ichi whose helpful Hong Kong staff provided leaflets, certificates, t-shirts and banner designs.
  • Global Solar - Provided the ride with a hugely discounted 25W Sunlinq (link needed) solar panel for the rideís power independence.
  • Loco Engineering - R4E is testing the brand new Solar Universal Power Source (UPS) 3302 for the company. The UPS is a remarkable piece of kit. More to come.
  • Nomads Travel - Reasonable discounts on essential first aid items including their Independence Medical kit and Where there is no Doctor book.
  • Tekkeon - Although not a new sponsor, Tekkeon showed how important sponsors can be by replacing a faulty battery free of charge.

Riding for Education now has a total of 18 sponsors. Remember to look out for gear reviews uploaded during the ride over the coming months.

Departure!

Newsletter PhotographSo without further ado, I am proud to announce that weíve left! Though Iíll be coming on to that with the next update and photos in a weekís time, everything is going well so far and the camels are fine.

There are now three humans, three camels and one horse traipsing over the Chinese Pamirs along the start of the Chinese Silk Road. The camels were chosen through a series of difficult decisions from Karakul Lake in the heart of the Chinese Pamirs (about three hours SW of Kashgar). Whilst I was in Hong Kong at the start of the year, Kashgar Mountaineering Adventures (KMA) were busy co-ordinating permits, camel drivers and local equipment for the journey. Huge credit must go to them for their continual help.

Horse - Boran was found through the fray and bedlam of Kashgarís Sunday Animal market one month ago. Heís a beautiful black stallion with the heart of war charger in a little horse body. If he trustís you, youíll have a companion for life and a noble friend through the worst hardships to come. Few other horses could be better suited than he.

Newsletter PhotographCamels - One camel is a handful and three is almost too much. Choosing camels was like shooting at a bulls-eye in the dark but with the help of two new camel drivers everything has gone smoothly so far. All three camels are from the mountains, eat everything in sight and complain all the time. There are possibly few creatures on planet Earth as alien as camels and Iíll elaborate more on this later.

Rosa Khun - If you were to navigate through the heart of the second biggest sand desert on Earth, then Rosa Khun would be your man. In 1999 he guided a three week expedition to Mazar Tagh at the heart of the Taklamakan desert with no more water than what they carried on their camelís backs. His quick laughter and easy demeanor make him a good travelling companion. Aside from the fact that he speaks no English heíd be positively perfect.

Korban ix - Coming from the same Kyrgyz community that helped arrange and look after my camels by Karakul Lake, Korban speaks enough English to make the first two weeks of the journey practical. Although I can communicate with Rosa, the first few weeks of a journey are inevitably the hardest and though Korban claims to know little about Camels, his help has been invaluable so far.

Newsletter PhotographMaria Lagarde - Flying from vacation in SE Asia, the ride was very fortunate to have Maria on board for six weeks throughout June and early July. Maria hailed from Mexico and practically filmed the entire start of the journey from choosing the animals to our leaving party cum disco at Karakul Lake. Maria flew on to another shoot in Cairo, Egypt on July 10th.

Karakul - Since I returned to Kashgar from Hong Kong in early June, almost a quarter of my time has been spent around the Kyrgyz people of Karakul Lake. As I lamented when I arrived in China, few locales on Earth inspire me as much as Karakul and the Karakorum Highway. I can only say thank you to Ayesha, Manas, Zaire and family for a great stay and huge support in looking after the animals whilst I was preparing events 300kms away in Kashgar.

Where Websites Dare

A huge amount of effort has gone into the R4E website, as youíll no doubt know. New features to the site now include a new ĎJoin the Rideí section where you can ask a question to the saddle, send a message, enjoy a host of downloads as well as a major section for Schools due up in September when schools come back after the summer.

Iíve also put quite some effort into the subscription part of the site, as this will be a major way of keeping people informed on progress (/subscribe_me.htm) updates by email, RSS or Newsletter. The site also now has three new updates, (/Diary) 50 new photos (from Hong Kong to Karakul), podcasts and an all new Vidcast. Thanks to sponsorship through MailaSail, the journey also now has live Google Earth tracking aswell.

Other News

Newsletter PhotographBBC Webpage - Riding for Education now has a blog on the BBC, which will be updated exclusively every week. This is fantastic as it means more people can learn about the ride and hopefully increase donations towards school projects in India, Pakistan and China.

ActionAid Schools - The ride intends to visit several ActionAid projects across Northern China later this year, including several in Gansu and neighbouring provinces. Iím also hoping to visit several DFID schools in Gansu, but this remain subject to permission.

Website feature - The R4E website was made website feature of the month on G2sites.com in May and continues to drive increased traffic to the site today.

The next update to the site from the Pamirs will be next Monday and every Monday thereafter unless otherwise delayed. Everybodyís support to the ride and its goals is phenomenal and continues to uplift and drive me forwards. Donations do matter and your support counts. Iíll be doing my best to check emails every 2-3 days from now on, so do keep in touch and enjoy your summer break.

Steve McCutcheon



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