VELDDRIF – One of the last pit stops well-known blind adventurer Christopher Venter made before finishing his Blind vs 2020 Challenge, was late afternoon on a Saturday at the Riviera Hotel in Velddrif, where he and his team could rest before cycling to Langebaan the next morning.
But for this man, being blind for the past 6½ years, rest is a relative concept, as they were again on their way to take some photos at the Berg River mouth and the harbour at Laaiplek, and that after a day of cycling from Langebaan via Paternoster to Velddrif, in quite bad wind.
Christopher became blind on a trip that he undertook from Cape Town to Dublin in Ireland through Africa on a Vespa scooter. Many thought Christopher to be a bit nuts for using a Vespa for this humongous task, but for Christopher it is about going slowly, looking at your surroundings in a relaxed manner, and making time to meet the locals, hear their stories, and then tell it to others.
After all, that was exactly his goal when he resigned as a chef, tired of sweating in a kitchen. His dream was to become a writer about travel and adventure, and what better way than to live it, to experience it first hand?
He got sick in the middle of Africa, contracting a virus that ultimately left him blind, though it took doctors a long time to figure out what exactly was wrong with him. Only after his sight disappeared completely and many more tests were done, the diagnosis was confirmed. They managed to save Christopher
s life, but his sight was gone. The ordeal left him pretty broken. During his long recovery he even had to learn to walk again. It took him almost two more years to have his first book on the shelves. Those near and dear to him started urging him to do adventures as a blind adventurer, as it is kinda cool and it will proof that he can still do things. His first trip was basically following in the footsteps of blind adventurer James Holmon, who travelled sightless in the 1850s from Sicily to Southern France. For Christopher this involved amongst other things climbing the active volcano, Mount Etna, sea kayaking along the Amalfi Coast, hiking in the forests of Tuscany and cycling on a tandem bicycle around the wall of an ancient town.
And just like that, Christopher
s dream came true to be a travel write, using his four remaining senses, smell, listen, feel and taste. After the birth of his son Tate, wife Tamlyn suggested that Christopher travelled closer to home in order not to miss out on Tate growing up. Home is Milnerton in Cape Town. This is when 2020s challenge started taking form, travelling by boat, boot and bike from where the Ceres Mountains spits out a river called the Breede. From the Breede it separates at the only natural watershed into the Kleinberg River, which eventually runs into the Berg River and into the Atlantic Ocean. The Breede River runs into the Indian Ocean.
The plan was first to paddle the two rivers, but as this was a logistical nightmare because the rivers can only be paddled at certain times of the year and might take years to accomplish, it was decided to tackle the route along the two rivers by boat, boot and bike and also travel the entire coastline between the two river mouths.
And then lockdown happened!!
Christopher lost five months. The challenge was renamed to Blind vs 2020. The challenge also changed a bit to include beast and bird…
A few weeks ago Christopher managed to convince the marketing manager at Stellenbosch Landrover , Marius, to allow him to drive one of their newest Landrovers, a beast of a vehicle worth around R1,5 million. Obviously Christopher
s first request on the matter was met with a shocking: “Are you mad?”, but realising the marketing value of such an undertaking and with the blessing of traffic departments, mayors and the municipalities in Agulhas, Gansbaai and Hermanus, Christopher got what he wanted and Marius navigated a blind man for 50 kilometers at a speed of 40 kph, with all the necessary vehicles and officials escorting them all the way. Christopher chooses his guides very carefully, using friends and/or professionals to accompany him. They must definitely be experts at the task at hand, like Neil Buckland, who owns a bicycle shop in Cape Town and was a professional cyclist before. They met briefly when Christopher was still sighted, but got to know each other very well after Christopher visited the shop asking Neil for help with his tandem bicycle. The two managed to break that same tandem a while later. Then came Rosa, the red tandem that took the two of them on unforgettable rides through wonderful places, with Neil in the front telling Christopher all that he sees, warning him of obstacles in the road and large trucks and strong winds and Christopher at the back, asking a lot of questions, taking in his surroundings by smelling, listening, tasting and feeling, to later put pen to paper and involve his readers with the most amazing stories of living life as a blind man. His remaining senses are so sharp that some of his guides wont belief that he really ís blind and that he is playing the fool with them.
Christopher and Tamlyn was on a visit to Italy when they went for a drive on Vespas. On the way he asked the pilot, a lady: “Oh, are we at the market now?” Very surprised she asked him how he knew that. “I can smell the food and hear the people.”
A while later: “Are we at the beach now?” She was not impressed. How could he possibly know that? “Well, I can smell the sea, I hear seagulls, there is a distinctive smell of suntan lotion and other sounds suggest a beachfront.”
The last straw was Christopher
s question on a sweet, lovely smell in the air. They were driving passed a gelato (Italian ice-cream) factory. “Hes not blind!! He
s joking!! It is impossible!!” Such experiences makes for lovely stories in Christophers books.
To get to know this unique man better and/or order his books, visit his website www.blindscooterguy.com.