Our founder and CEO Deborah and her new husband Dieter decided to do something different for their honeymoon in Cuba, but as it was hurricane season things didn’t get off to the best of starts!
An unusual wedding gift
Dieter and I got married on 1 October 2016. Instead of the traditional wedding gift list, we decided to choose a challenge and ask for charity donations to JDRF. This is a cause close to our hearts because we understand how type 1 diabetes can affect peoples’ lives. Our son Solly got type 1 diabetes suddenly when he was 10. It has drastically changed his life, and ours too.
We want to do what we can to support the JDRF in their mission to find the cure for type 1. We decided to help by doing what we do best – cycling long distances and exploring! Yes, it was our honeymoon. And no, we weren’t going to do much lazing around on beaches. We had chosen to spend our honeymoon in the saddle, doing a tandem bicycle tour of southern Cuba.
Hurricane Matthew hits Cuba
The lead up to our challenge was … challenging. It was hurricane season in the Caribbean and Florida. Just as we were leaving the UK we heard that one of the biggest hurricanes for decades was heading towards Cuba and then on to Florida. So instead of spending the first couple of days relaxing on Caribbean beaches before our ride, we had a three day delay boarded up in Miami waiting for Hurricane Matthew to wreak havoc.
Eventually we managed to get to Cuba to start our cycle tour. The first morning we got straight on the bike. Riding long distances in 35C heat was not easy, particularly due to the lack of food, water and shade. The roads were in a very poor state and in many areas they had collapsed into the sea. Over long distances we came across only the occasional ‘cafeteria’ but all that was on the menu was rum, cigarettes and sometimes beer.
By the third day of riding we started to enter in the area that had been hit by Hurricane Matthew. While holed up in Miami we had been watching the news and social media to get as much information as possible about how Cuba had been affected and whether it would be safe to go there. It was shocking and saddening to cycle through an area of nearly 200km in which most of the houses had lost their roof and palm trees were strewn across the landscape like boxes of matches. Electricity was down and water and food was scarce. After five days we emerged from the destruction zone, dirty, tired and hungry. And we managed to complete the final few days cycling in relative normality.
Despite recent stories of Cuba changing so much, becoming commercialised and being overtaken by tourists, we saw no other tourists or travellers for days. In many places the horse and cart was still the most common vehicle. Where we did see cars, many were still the beautiful, colourful 1950s American cars that people imagine when they think of Cuba.
We rode 712km over nine days. It was much tougher than we imagined and we definitely feel like we earned the brilliantly generous donations to JDRF of over £2,000 that we’ve received. We are really grateful for all the support friends and family gave for this very important cause.
Why not plan a big fundraising adventure yourself? We highly recommend it! Few people had come across the idea of doing charity donations instead of a wedding list. But many people have so much ‘stuff’ these days. So instead of receiving yet more plates, towels and cutlery, why not put money to good use by supporting research to help find a cure for type 1 diabetes. We challenge you to a challenge!
Dieter and Deborah