Fearless local ladies, Liezel van der Westhuizen and Cindy Jacobsz are the first South African all female blind and sighted pair to tandem cycle from Manali to Khardung La, India, 18 330 feet high covering 550km.
Not only did this courageous pair conquer the challenging route, but they did so while battling strong winds, rain, sleet and sub-zero temperatures – being challenged by every imaginable technical problem.
They covered the mean distance of 550km in 10 days at altitudes of up to 18 330 feet. Liezel says it was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event that cyclists around the world only dream of.
The expedition starts at Manali, which is known as the door to the heaven of the Himalayas, the route takes you cross five passes with a maximum altitude of 5602 metres reached at Khardung La, one of the world’s highest roads.
Both ladies are extremely passionate about philanthropy, and decided to use the event to raise funds for two medical charities – Operation Smile South Africa and OneSight.
Operation Smile South Africa dedicates their time to providing free surgery to children and adults born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate, while OneSight provides refractive error services and prescription spectacles to people without access to affordable vision care.
“Cycling this distance on some of the highest roads in the world, is a daunting challenge, especially because the roads are non-existent at some places, and you have to be physically and mentally prepared to complete it,” said Liezel.
What sets this unique event apart, is the fact that it allows for participation of visually impaired and other physically challenged athletes to participate. It was organised by Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundations with the aim to promote inclusion by enabling Persons with Disability and able bodied people to participate in Adventure Sports together.
They stayed in tents along the way with limited access to water for showers. Some of the technical problems the women had to endure included Liezel’s ‘camelback’ (water backpack she carries for nutrition) breaking, her left-hand cycling glove being blown away and everything getting wet – all on day one.
On the second day, Cindy contracted a bad eye infection. And on day three the tandem’s left crank broke which meant they had to walk a far distance before they had access to technical assistance, where a crank from a spare bicycle was fitted to their tandem to aid them to get to the finish.
On subsequent days, Liezel battled a stomach bug, their bicycle brakes stopped working due to the altitude, and on the final day of cycling the screw on Liezel’s seat post that held Cindy’s handlebar to the tandem broke off. The duo then had to walk the final two kilometres to the top of Khardung La on the highest motorable road in the world.
Nonetheless, these inspirational women never gave up and achieved their goal with their heads held high.
People can still make donations to their fundraising efforts:
- SMS the word “tandem” to 42030 and donate R30
- GIVE AND GAIN DONATION PAGE https://www.givengain.com/a/riding4sightandsmiles_liezel/
If this inspirational story touched your heart our article about the courageous Cape Town gran who drove to London is a must-read or the heartwarming story of Braveheart the cat coming home.