Disability no barrier to this team’s ability
PROVING a disability won’t hold them back, the Lowest 2 Highest team is cycling from Lake Eyre to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko.
It’s not an easy feat for the able bodied, however the trip will be even tougher for the group as they all suffer from different conditions.
Hemiplegia, paraplegia, Cystic Fibrosis, a damaged spine, and being legally blind won’t stop the five boys from completing the 2100km journey from the lowest point in Australia to the highest summit, an incredible 43 days of riding.
Stopping for a rest day in Echuca, the team was exhausted after riding eight days straight from Broken Hill, covering about 80km a day.
At this point in the trip the group have covered 1520km. And it wasn’t by any means smooth sailing with one of the biggest obstacles proving to be the headwinds.
Cyclist Duncan Meerding, who’s legally blind, said that riding his tricycle on the desert highways was no easy feat.
“We got a real harsh headwind one day and that was actually amazing how much it impacted us because we were on a dirt track riding against it. You’d be pedalling flat out and only doing about 10km/h hour,” Mr Meerding said.
“On the tandem, it’s sort of like rowing; we have to be in time. Part of Paul’s condition is that he’s a hemiplegic, so he gets a bit out of his right leg, but I barely notice it when he’s pedalling because he’s got such a strong left leg.”
“He’s hemiplegic and I’m on the back legally blind, so it’s pretty much the only bike in the country we can ride. Being down at that level, you’re basically a moving speed hump. Hopefully it won’t actually happen though.”
Fellow team member Conrad Wansbrough said the group is taking the good with the bad.
“Wally and I went up a hill from Coburn to Broken Hill with a tail wind of about 50km/h. We were getting pushed up the hill without pedalling for about two and a half hours so it was a welcome break,” Mr Wansbrough said.
“Also, the truckies between Broken Hill and Wentworth did a shout out to all of the other road trains going through to make sure they knew where we were along the road, it was really good to know that they were looking out for us.”
Cystic Fibrosis sufferer and fellow cyclist Walter Van Praag said that while they were doing the lowest to highest climb, the amount of climbing would be similar either way.
“Whichever way we ride, the amount of climbing will work out to be pretty similar once we go down one side and up another hill, so we thought we may as well get the benefit of going lowest to highest rather than highest to lowest,” he said.
The group feels positive about the next 600km while they say they’re going to be averaging fewer kilometres, but they have a message for drivers in the area.
“We had a few near misses, if someone’s driving along at 100km/h, the 30cm some drivers leave just isn’t enough – we’ve had some really scary close calls. But they’re the minority of incidents; most of the people we’re come across have been really courteous,” Mr Meerding said.
“Also people with their headlights on during the day are a massive help. It may not do much for them, but to us it’s amazing how much earlier we can see people and get out of their way.”
The group has nine riding days left, as well as rest days and hopes to summit on the 16th of this month; all up the boys have planned 43 days of cycling and some rest days scattered in between.
To follow their journey head to www.lowest2highest.com.au/