Dis­abil­ity no bar­rier to this team’s abil­ity

The Riverine Herald - - NEWS - By Lach­lan Durl­ing

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/

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