“Beyond limits”, a challenge in more ways than one
Project U/Turn organises an adventure holiday in Tenerife for disabled people.
Beyond limits” is the motto of Project U/Turn, a Belgian organisation whichbrought nine disabled people to Tenerife for an adventurous trek, helped by nine volunteers.
The aim is to challenge disabled people to go beyond what they may have thought they could do, supporting each other in the adventure. It also challenges the preconceptions of able-bodied people, like myself, and has helped me to see beyond the disability to the real people beyond.
The group included four people in wheelchairs, three others with walking difficulties, and others with blindness and deafness. Who would imagine that a young man who is totally blind and profoundly hard of hearing, could, with the aid of hearing aids, push a wheelchair and guide it safely, directed by the person in the wheelchair? And in the process develop a bond of trust.
The trek they are undertook started on Saturday, 24th August, in Poris de Abona on the Arico coast, and after a welcome from Tenerife tourism, they climbed up to Arico for their first night. The next day they climbed further, to the El Contador campsite and barbecue park 7km above Arico. The third day used the forest tracks to go to the Madre del Agua campsite above Granadilla, crossing the deep and dramatic Barranco de Rio. The following days they went to the Las Lajas campsite, Chio campsite and down to Garachico and they finished their adventure on Friday with a whale-watching trip and kayaking beneath the Los Gigantes cliffs. A trek which would challenge many able-bodied people!
The route was chosen to be wheelchair-friendly where possible, using dirt tracks and minor country roads for the specially adapted rugged three-wheeled chairs. How-ever, there were some barranco crossings where wheel-chairs simply could go and then the teamwork kicked in big time. On the first day, I accompanied the group on their crossing of the Barranco Lere on the Camino Real between Arico Nuevo and Villa de Arico. The path is quite wide and the wheelchairs were able to descend fairly easily until nearly at the streambed, when some man-handling was necessary. However, the cobbled ascent which zig-zags up the far side of the barranco was very challenging for the volunteers, with three, and on occasions, five, volunteers needed to progress the occupied wheelchairs up the rough path.
The crossing of the Barranco del Rio was even more challenging. Here the path is narrow, for both the descent and ascent, so it was not possible for the wheelchair occupants to stay in their chairs and be assisted that way. So they had to be either piggy-backed by the amazingly strong leader of the group, Glenn Crynen, or, if they were capable of walking a little with support, they had to walk with two volunteers supporting them. The path down is especially steep, with loose stones, and even fit walkers need to take care, so this was a real challenge for all involved. The crossing took the group over two hours to complete but was an amazing achievement.
More pictures of the trek, taken by Phil Crean, can be seen on the following link: http://www.demotix.com/users/phil-crean/profile