The Great Outdoors
For years now SANParks have been the only accessible way to our gorgeous South African bosveld but more parks are opening up and, with the development of 4x4 wheelchairs and add-ons like the FreeWheel, readers are gradually finding their way back into the sunshine. Three of our readers share their experiences.
Thinus van Staden: I'm 16years old. I'm a keen archer and love the freedom of the outdoors. I'm a wheelchair bound paraplegic as aresult of being born with Spina Bifida. For 3 years I struggled with severescoliosis of my back that left me hunched over like a huge question mark and Igot tired easily. In a seven-hour operation in April 2008 they inserted rodsand screws to straighten my spine - say hello to Mr Iron Man III! In May 2009 I went to Sterkrivier for the annual traditional archery competition where I testdrove a "Predator 4x4" demo wheelchair for Radical Mobility. I needed the Predator as it was very, very rough terrain (long grass, no pathways, dongas,rivers, rainy weather and boulders) and, to get to all the targets that I had to shoot at, would have been impossible with a manual wheelchair.
What an experience! Never before had I had so much fun shooting a few arrows.The Predator 4x4 chair was an absolute stunner! It didn't get stuck once. Even when it was raining cats and dogs, I was able to shoot at all the targets. I want to congratulate Oom Martin with his design of his Predator Electric 4x4 wheelchair. The chairwill provide disabled, wheelchair bound people with the opportunity to explorenature and difficult terrain. It will give them the freedom of choice in placesto visit that aren't always wheelchair accessible.
Ari Seirlis: I have not been into the bush for years and was not sure if I would cope with the quiet, very little mobile signal and no bright lights, in fact electricity only supplied in the evening for a few hours. It took me some time torelax but now I am desperate to go back! There is something about the bush that I realise I have missed. We checked into Bush Stoep's Seekoeiself-catering chalet. It is has a small kitchen with all appliances needed and two large bedrooms with any configuration of beds on request. Each bathroom has a corner bath and a roll in shower! Of course I use the outside shower, looking into the heavens whilst bathing my body.
There is a swimming pool and a jacuzzi with a hoist to get you in and out! A wonderful pathway took us to the main lodge where we were greeted by our hosts,and a large fire, some lager, rooibok salami, and the sizzling steak and "skilpad" on the outside braai.
The game vehicle has a ramp and a hoist to allow easy access for wheelchairs onto the viewing platform. You can travel in your wheelchair,with a tie down system, or transfer onto a seat. I did both and was equally comfortable.We went to a lookout point over a waterhole. They have installed a hand cranklift! I wheeled myself into the cage, and 10 metres later, I was on the timber deck overlooking the waterhole! There is even a toilet, basin and shower on this elevated deck area. Imagine doing your business overlooking miles and miles of some of the most beautiful landscape.
We headed off to the bass dam, teeming with bass, plus a mother hippo with her calf on her back and the resident fish eagle. The dam has a deck and boma so its easy to fish and just chill out. A tented camp is being built, next to the water, which will also be wheelchair accessible. There was so much to do that we did not get to see the bird hide, lovers' rock or the hunting hide, all of which are accessible. There was no where that I couldn't go in my wheelchair. Gerrit Kroon had given the instruction that everything must be accessible and it was.
Jacques Lloyd: After adiving accident in 1988 I thought that being a C6 Quad would prevent me from practising my favourite hobby: hunting in the bushveld. I love the outdoors, the wildlife, the crisp cold air at sunrise and campfire at night with biltongas a bonus. Two years ago I got the opportunity to hunt Gemsbok in and I grabbed it with both hands. It was an amazing adrenalin rush with a biltong reward after a perfect shot at 200 meters. I made no adjustments to the rifle and only used the "snipers gun strap technique"to pull the rifle into my shoulder!
This year I went hunting with a crossbow at Buyskop Private reserve, Bela-Bela. This is a very different experience as you need to get within 50 meters of your target. To achieve this you get up while it is still dark, set yourself up in a "hide" at a strategic point, and sit as quiet as possible and wait for the game to come to you. My aim was to shoot a warthog. I spent nine hours in the hide over three days. It was awesome watching giraffes and other animals passing within meters from me without noticing me. Success came Saturday afternoon, 20 minutes before the Bulls/Sharks kick-off - perfect timing! The Warthog was killed with one shot through the heart at 30 meters. Crossbow hunting is extremely exiting. I can recommend it to anyone as an alternative to rifle hunting.
Although I do not have any hand function, no adjustments were made to the crossbow and I was able to use the standard bow supplied by the reserve.