On Wednesday 19th June 2013; I began one of the craziest adventures of my life. The Catalan Tourist Board had invited a group of UK disability specialist travel agents to view their accessibility facilities. Enable Holidays kindly suggested I accompanied them to test the facilities and share the experience through my Disability Horizons work.
In only 3 nights and 4 days so much happened that I’ve written 3 articles; one on Barcelona city plus the general facilities, and 2 on the adapted activities. Enjoy!
Part 2 – the activities by land and air
During the following 3 days I did so many activities. It is still difficult to give enough detail, without writing 6 articles. Therefore I shall cover the amphibian wheelchair, hand biking, horse riding and hot air ballooning here. Part 3 will explain snorkeling and sailing…
After a good breakfast, we took the bus passed the infamous Lloret De Mar to Tossa De Mar. We were greeted by the local tourist board employee, as became common place on the trip, and headed to the beach.
I was lifted by Diego and a lifeguard onto one of their amazing amphibian chairs. I’d not got my trunks on and the sun was being shy, so I didn’t go right out to sea. However it would be possible. The chair is pushed along the sand with ease and floats in water too. The lifeguards placed some sea water on my feet, something I’ve not done in years!
After an exhilarating ‘stroll’ along the beach and shore, we headed for a coffee. The view was amazing as the sun shone harder. A world away from home! We learnt about the chairs, the lifeguard training and other adaptions made in the area.
Having viewed and audited a couple more hotels and grabbed lunch; we drove to the bike activity.
The rest of the crew had traditional bikes. The adapted aspect was a hand bike. Unfortunately I had neither the balance or upper body strength to operate one. So as always I adapted and cruised along in my wheelchair. The views were stunning, I kept up as my chair goes ‘like a bat out of hell’ and we arrived at the beach in good time. The bikes are great for other disabled people with a bit more strength than myself.
The evening saw yet more good food, and a sunset filled with great conversations overlooking the sea.
The third day was water based activities and will be covered in part 3.
On the fourth and last day, we had an early start and an amazing time. I had never thought about, let alone done, a hot air balloon ride. I was rather apprehensive to say the least!
Waking up is never my favourite activity, and waking at 5.30am Spanish time was tough. We drove out of the beautiful volcano surrounded hotel into the fog. Fortunately by 7am the fog had lifted, as we studied the balloons being inflated. I was concerned on the general adventure and how it would be adapted for me too.
I was relieved to see how much had been thought of. The basket opened, so no being thrown over the side and into the situation head first. There was a chair with full head support, straps and a system to raise me up to look out of the balloon more. We gently went up to 1100m, overlooked the beautiful Catalan scenery, drank Cava and enjoyed the tranquility.
The landing proved difficult. We struggled to find a suitable field, had to go higher a couple of times to avoid electricity cables and you could feel the suspense build. Upon landing I was firmly strapped in, whilst the others stood holding on to the side of the balloon. Suddenly the balloon thudded to the ground, dragged along, started tipping and with a blast of gas went up a touch. It then landed again and started to tip once more! Just as I thought we were going over, tossing everyone out, a guy appeared on the basket and pulled us back to earth. My heart was going very fast!
Following a further delay, which was good for composing ones self, I was lifted back in my chair as we drove to the final destination – horse riding.
I had rode many moons ago before my spinal operation. Already in two minds if I had the energy, we were to pushed for time before our flight home to actually ride. Instead, we were just shown the facilities.
With a ramp taking a wheelchair user up to the horses height and a hoist present; transferring to the horse would be simple. The staff were very well trained and the horses too. It would’ve been amazing to have a go, but I’m more than content to have just viewed this time.