January 17, 2009

Turning Toward South Africa

SA race

Through the end of January and for most of February I will be evaluating the accessibility and inclusion of South Africa's tourism products. Travelogue posts will start January 23 and continuing episodically as Internet access is available.

As a teaser, here is a preview of where I am scheduled to be for Valentine's Day (alas, sans sweetheart):

Outenqua Wheelchair Challenge

A wheelchair race exclusively for disabled athletes!

And - every year it is getting bigger and better! The number of entries has increased dramatically, with disabled athletes and other persons in wheelchairs flocking to this annual event.

The Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge has been staged successfully during the past six years, growing from its humble beginnings of only 27 entries in 2002 (then known as the Outeniqua Chair Challenge -OCC) to the magnificent race attracting 511 participants in 2008!

The Challenge is not only unique as being the first and only event exclusively for the disabled in South Africa, but it is staged in the picturesque town of George, in the heart of the spectacular Garden Route in the Western Cape, situated at the foot of the splendour of the Outeniqua Mountains.

Athletes in racing wheelchairs, adapted bicycles, hand cycles, basketball chairs and ordinary wheelchairs have made this into the premier sporting event for the disabled on the South African sporting calendar. It undoubtedly has the potential to develop into one of the best events of its kind in the world!

The six-day "Toer de Kaap" will form part of the OCC for the second year, with its first day being the OCC’s marathon. The next day (Sunday, 15 February), 15 hand cycle riders will leave George on a 600 km tour through the coastal regions, desert landscapes and mountains of the Southern Cape and Karoo, before returning to George. It is organised by Hilary Lewis, a paraplegic who was previously and remains an active sports persons.

Says Esther Watson, director of the OCC, ‘These events are helping to raise awareness amongst abled bodied people that persons with disabilities are just differently able, not disabled, and are fine athletes in their own right.’

Posted by rollingrains at January 17, 2009 06:11 PM