By Lucinda Jarvis.
OpRide 2018 saw veterans and severely injured soldiers from New Zealand, United Kingdom (two teams) and Canada cycle the length of New Zealand from October, 27th to November, 17th. Participants used specialist recumbent tandem cycles to cover the distance from the southern tip of New Zealand Motupohue Scenic Reserve in Bluff to Cape Reinga a distance of 1,521 miles or 2,500km. This ride was used to help with the recovery of injured soldiers and veterans with the aim of physically and mentally challenge their bodies, to help encourage awareness, and to show no matter what the illness, injury, aliment these inspirational soldiers and veterans can do anything they put their minds to.
New Zealand’s team consisted of Selwyn’s Amy Baynes (captain), rear rider, Dave Benfell, front rider, Bill Blaikie, rear rider, Dion Ngawiki Taka (Selwyn) front or rear rider, Gary Brandon, front or rear rider and Bruce Blackburn, (Selwyn) support person and possible rear rider.
The New Zealand team travelled roughly 120-150km per day on their journey. The Team didn’t encounter many lows or setbacks on this journey and any issues that cropped up were soon taken care of with some well thought out solutions. There were many highlights both for the team and individually. Amy commented proudly that some of her highlights were, seeing the self growth in the riders (especially her kiwi team) as they achieved their individual daily goals, the self confidence and self belief as each day progressed, also when each hill was climbed, and when the team reached the final and finishing points after their biggest days of hill climbs.
The New Zealand team received endless amounts of support from fellow New Zealanders along their journey, also the RSA, New Zealand Defence Force, via their Facebook page (Operation Ride 2018). “It was the hospitality of our nation which made me so proud. I asked for support via my Facebook page and the nation answered,” Amy added. It was reported that the kiwi team spirit was phenomenal, they helped and supported each other through this long and challenging journey.
Amy has now been given the opportunity to take the lead on a new venture linked to the charity that ran this event. She will set up and run ‘Pilgrims Bandits New Zealand. The aim of this is to give injured veterans more opportunities to do this type of endurance expeditions here in New Zealand and overseas, alongside other international injured veterans. “So the future is very exciting for me, also for our injured veterans in this type of endurance expeditions,” concluded Amy.
This was an amazing journey for these soldiers and veterans, so many memories and friendships were made. The next OpRide will be held in 2020, in either Canada or Australia.
To find out more about information, or to see videos and photos of this inspirational journey our fellow New Zealand veterans and injured soldiers were on, please see their Facebook page: Operation Ride 2018.