Paraplegic adventurer Karen Darke handcycles 750km from Goa to Alappuzha

Karen, who was a geologist, was left paralyzed chest down following an accident while scaling a sea cliff in 1993. Photo: Instagram/handbikedarke

The inspiring message - Ability is a state of mind, not a state of body – on her specially-designed handbike sums up British woman Karen Darke’s courage and determination. She may be paralyzed from the chest down but that didn’t stop her from traversing 750km in 12 days on her tricycle from Goa to reach Hope Community Village at Kanjikuzhi in Kerala’s Alappuzha district, recently. The unique tricycle, which also tows a wheelchair, is designed in such a way that Karen can stretch her paralyzed legs and ride the bike with her hands. Fifty-two-year-old Karen’s constant companion in her cycle expedition, which started from Goa on January 13, was her friend Glyn Stanworth.

Karen, who was a geologist, was left paralyzed chest down following an accident while scaling a sea cliff in 1993. Notwithstanding her physical condition, Karen is actively involved in cycling, surfing, and skiing. She scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in style, won Paralympic hand-cycling silver at London 2012 and took the top podium position at Rio 2016. Karen came to know about Hope Community Village through one of its trustees, Britisher Alan.

Glyn, who is Scottish, accompanied Karen after he came to know about her cycle odyssey and rode a bicycle that was bought from Goa. After completing the tour on January 24, Glyn gave the bike to Sharan M Jose, who is a resident of Hope Community Village. Children on bicycles accompanied the duo from Kanjikuzhi Vanaswargam Church to Hope. As the ground clearance of the tricycle was low, road repair works posed a lot of problems, said Karen and Glyn. Karen sustained minor injuries during her cycle odyssey.

Hope Community Village was started by British citizen John Veitch in Kanjikuzhi in 1995 for destitute and abandoned children. John Veitch had undertaken a cycle expedition from Hope Village to Goa to raise funds for the institution in 1995. Hope director Santhiraj Kolengadan said that Karen’s trail to the organization retraces the return journey of Veitch.

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