Blind cyclists make their way around Portugal

BLIND and partially blind cyclists from across Northern Ireland have completed a dream cycle around the picturesque resort of Vilamoura in Portugal.

The seven day trek was organised by members of Coleraine Blind Centre, which also included seven volunteers.

The holiday of a lifetime was made possible thanks to events carried out throughout the North at various locations.

The blind cyclists, all accomplished cyclists, completed over 150 miles in sweltering heat, sometimes as high as 30 degrees.

Their ages varied from 25 to 69-year-old Elizabeth Chestnut from Coleraine.

Organiser, Mr Robert Downes, a volunteer from Coleraine Blind Centre, said that the trip was a huge success, one which will live long in the memory of all who participated.

“We are indebted to David Barnes, manager of North Region RNIB, for giving permission for this overseas challenge to go ahead.

“It was gruelling at times but the spirit and willingness of everyone particapting was undaunting throughout the seven days.

“Each blind or partially blind cyclist rode tandem with a volunteer, started as early as 8.00am and finishing before high sun every day.

“The joy on their faces spoke volumes of the immense sense of achievement. It really was quite remarkable and hopefully this will be the first of many such ventures in the years ahead.”

Fundraising for the trip took the volunteers to all parts of Northern Ireland.

The organisers are indebted to the following for making this dream trip a reality: Tesco (Coleraine & Ballymoney); ASDA (Cookstown & Coleraine); Sainsburys (Coleraine); SuperValu (Ballymoney); Ballymoney Fire Station; Coleraine Borough Council; Sperrin Sports and Social Club; Members of Bann Wheelers (who completed a sponsored cycle).

Thanks also to all collection volunteers; the tandem riders and the parents who travelled to Portugal for their support.

Finally, a big thank you to the pilots of the tandems, who at their own expense, funded their way to Portugal.