In June, Vaune Phan sets off on an epic ride to Everest Base Camp. But even before she leaves, what lessons can we learn from her journey?
SINGAPORE — We all have mountains to climb in life, but determination should see us through. That’s the main message that Vaune Phan wants to get across, as she faces up to a daunting challenge of her own.
In June the 27 year-old biker babe will be setting off on a month-long ride from her comfy home in Singapore, all the way to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
Along the way she’ll be crossing six countries and covering around 8,000km over all sorts of terrain. The temperatures will range from the scorching afternoons of the ASEAN neighborhood, to the freezing conditions on mountain roads up to three times higher than those of Cameron Highland.
And she’s doing it all solo.
“The thought of doing it in a group did briefly cross my mind, but then again, I feel more strongly that I’d want to do this on my own because its an independency that I wish to achieve, and I do not want to rely on others,” she tells us in an online chat.
Why Everest? “It represents mountains which are challenges in our lives, with Mount Everest being the highest one in the world,” she says. “This trip signifies there can be “mountains” in our lives, but if we remain determined and persevere on, we will conquer the “mountain”, we can achieve our dreams.”
Vaune (say “Von”) has only ever ridden up as far as Penang before, but that isn’t stopping her from simply taking aim at an epic journey and pulling the trigger. But then, few things would.
After a few minutes’ conversation it’s easy to see that she’s fiercely independent, and driven by the attitude that one should just get on with things.
She went and got her driver’s licence when she turned 18 and decided she wanted one. Her parents refused to let her drive, so she simply took up riding instead. “They were horrified when I rode a scrambler home one day,” she says.
“If not now, when? That has always been how I live life,” she says. “Mount Everest Base Camp has always been a destination I wanted to go to. And why fly when you can ride there?”
Mind you, as an avid dirt biker, Vaune is probably used to flying over rough terrain on occasion. She’s owned a string of scramblers, and she spent last Sunday competing off-road in Malaysia (she finished third in the female rider category, after a race she describes as “awesome”).
“When I was young, I used to watch motocross, and always liked it since,” she says. Her current flame is a Ducati Hypermotard (though she says the Panigale 899 is a dream bike) but she will be riding a Suzuki DR200 to Everest.
It’s a bike that hasn’t needed any special prep for the trip. “It’s an awesome bike. It’s very durable and very suitable for on or off-road terrain, yet it’s simple. Any mechanic would be able to understand it, and it has very good fuel consumption,” she says. All of which goes to show that you needn’t ride a monster adventure tourer to do huge distances.
Indeed, the “Beyond Everest” ride, as Vaune has christened the journey, is not only about a personal challenge, but seems symbolic to her of the nature of adversity.
“I’d like to share with you that this trip is not just about me conquering this quest, but to also raise awareness for the Singapore Disability Sports Council,” she says. It’s a charity whose mission is, according to its website, “to promote, through sports, the well-being of the disabled in Singapore, helping them to live full and independent lives.”
Vaune would like her supporters to make donations to the SDSC, or volunteer their time to the organisation and its events.
“I’ve always thought, since I am a well-abled body, working on achieving my dreams, how much more can I do through this ride to help raise awareness for the disabled, in helping them get one step closer to achieving their dreams too, whether is it competing in the paralympics or just learning how to walk again?” she explains.
“As a rider, I am aware of the many potential dangers around. And I’ve learnt how vulnerable life is. I’ve had many friends who have gotten into accidents from riding and become disabled,” she adds.
“It hurts me a lot, and I feel this is one thing I hope i can do for them. But not just for bikers, for the community on the whole.”
That said, Vaune is clearly someone who doesn’t take being able-bodied for granted. For one thing, she’s been training hard for the ride to build up physical strength (picking up a fallen motorcycle is no joke).
She’s picked up basic bike repair and maintenance skills, too, just in case the Suzuki throws a hissy fit in the middle of nowhere, as bikes that have a sense of humour like to do.
All that remains is for June to arrive, and for Vaune to depart.
In the meantime she has straightforward advice to people who might be thinking about an adventure ride of their own. Basic off-road riding skills go a long way, she says, and one should always ride defensively. “Anticipate anything that may cross your path so you will be in a calm state of mind as to how to deal with the problem when it happens,” she says.
Beyond that, to someone like Vaune, the saddle and open road are always waiting. “If not now, when?” she says again. “Just do it.”
Words to live by, whether you happen to be a biker or not.
Follow Vaune’s adventures on her blog at vaunephan.blogspot.sg. She’ll be sharing pictures and videos from her trip every step of the way.
All pictures courtesy vaunephan.blogspot.sg