James McCraith summaries his experiences of the ABC Challenges and gives us a glimpse of the daily excursions

We survived! Our first day in the rain was a baptism of…water. I think it gave all of us a bit of a shock. It rained ALL DAY. As we climbed our first hill completely sodden after just an hour in the saddle I think most of us were wondering if we would manage 5 days if it was like this. Luckily we reached a sizeable summit and were told “that’s the only hill today. There are a few bumps though.” We later discovered that in professional biking parlance, hill = mountain and bump = very steep but not too long hill. The fun began on our descent. We had a 7km steep downhill along a mountain pass (65.7km/h top speed!! Don’t tell Mum). That was great fun and made it worth it.

Day two was a far more gentle experience. We began with some rolling hills where a short climb was met by a short descent and it was all balanced out. This ride took us way out in to the countryside and we were exposed to the isolation of some of the tenant farmers/workers in rural South Africa. They studied us with bemused smiles. We were able to sees bits of game here and there and were challenged to cycle through rivers; we all fell off, and sand; we all fell off.

The third day was the road to Damascus. Long, hilly and even Di and Rocky (our guides) warned us to conserve energy. At every water stop Sele (our support bus driver) was greeted as a hero. There were a few short steep hills today and then a mammoth one at the end. The sort you can see winding its way around a hill in the distance and you think “we can’t possibly be going up there.” We were.   We were lucky that mountain bikes have about 100 gears because even firmly in the granniest of granny gears we only made slow but mostly steady progress up the 5km incline. This hill led us to Honeywood Farm which has a spectacular view across the valley, amazing honey, extremely friendly hosts and 3 dogs with 11 legs.

Thursday, shortest and personally the hardest day. With legs lacking energy and wind blowing firmly in our faces all day I found this 53k to be exhausting. Having to pedal when going downhill quickly became unamusing. After what seemed like an eternity we reached a river and where pulled across it on a raft to a waiting burger.

FRIDAY!! We took a short drive the prior evening to land us at Boulders Beach and were due to cycle to Camps Bay. So with a quick swim in the ocean (freezing) with some penguins we were on our way. We were immediately treated to an impressive coastal road before cutting inland through a nature reserve. We spotted kudu and springbok running along beside us (think Jurassic park) before meeting the coast again. Enter wind stage left. As we attempted to get over Chapman’s Peak the wind literally blew some of us off our bikes. With a 100ft drop over a small wall it wasn’t the most relaxing ride but it was an amazing coastal road to witness on a bicycle. We rode 75km to Camps Bay but it felt like much less. Perhaps our fitness had improved? We bunched together and rode to Camps Bay as a peloton in to the triumphant arms of Caprice (a beautiful, down to earth and very affordable…bar).

On Saturday we visited the Red Cross Hospital and specifically the burns unit. It was a humbling experience and to see the strife and hardships being overcome by the children was saddening and uplifting in equal measure. Roux and Peter Martinez, along with the nurses and support team do an incredible job and we were very glad to contribute with the money raised and the gifts we had brought with us. Our cycle ride felt very insignificant and we all felt a bit guilty whinging about the wind and rain on various days. There were mothers at the unit whom had walked with their children for days and taken journeys across borders in order to reach the burns unit. It somehow didn’t seem fair that we had bicycles.

Zoe de Lantsheere explains how the challenge affected her both physically and emotionally

It was my first time in South Africa and it was probably the best way to discover this vast and beautiful country. It was so rewarding in so many ways. I have never had to raise such a significant amount of money before, and even though the bike ride was probably the most physically demanding challenge I have ever undertaken – it was definitely worth it! I would say that the most emotionally challenging aspect of the trip was at the end when we visited the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. There were a few tears from a number of us. And to think that there are less than a dozen nurses and doctors taking care of over 1000 children passing through this hospital per year!

We arrived from London with bags full of little teddy bears which we gave to the kids. I didn’t know what to say : I thought I had just accomplished a mammoth of a challenge in the past few days with all that cycling, but it all seemed insignificant when I gave my teddy bear to a little girl, barely 7 months old covered in bandages. I could only see her eyes, nostrils and mouth. Just imagine what challenges she has , is , and will face in her life – incomparable to what I had just done. Visiting the kids put everything into context and I was very happy to see what my efforts had gone into.

I am very happy I took part in this bike challenge and helped these burnt survivors. The rest of the team were great as well as Day Trippers for making the journey go so smoothly – except for the “occasion” hills, mountains, bump, rain, wind, and so forth… One could really feel the team work, determination and encouragements following us until the end.

Everest test is a wheel challenge

Matt Griggs, taking part in the ABC 2014 Challenge committed to ride the equivalent of Mt Everest in one week in an effort to raise funds for The Phoenix Burns Project.  We are very proud to say that so far Matt has raised over AU$2K for his efforts which is fantastic.

Every morning before work Matt did laps of Mount Street (it’s very steep) in Perth for his preparation.

Please click on this link to read about the full story in the West Australian which happens to be most read newspaper in WA. This will certainly raise awareness for Phoenix now Matt’s story has reached a wider audience is western Australia.


Also have a look at the Phoenix Blog which the Phoenix Flyers, a group of Bikers taking part from Australia, updated throughout their ABC 2014 Challenge


The ABC 2014 Hikers tell us their story…

Progress of the 2013 Event

Follow the progress of these amazing individuals who are participating in this arduous event in support of burn survivors. If you can’t participate in the event, but would like to make a donation,

Day 0: Sunday 17 November 2013, Arrival in Cape Town!

After many months of planning and preparation, the event finally gets underway! The team arrived in Cape Town on the morning of Sunday the 20th November in good spirits, after an all-night flight from London. After greeting some old acquaintances from Phoenix, checking their gear and posing for a group photo, the group set off on a four-hour journey from Cape Town to Knysna, with all their gear and bikes in tow.

Day 1: Monday 18 November – Bikers

The bikers set off this morning from Knysna fresh and energised. The first section was flat and somwhat deceiving for what lay ahead. We climbed many steep hills, which demanded a big effort from the from us all but the scenery was vast and beautiful and made it all the more exciting. The last leg was tiring but the first sight of the ocean gave us an extra push to make it to the wildnerness in good time. All safe and well for day 1. Laura

Day 2: Tuesday 19 November – Bikers

Day 2 started with a short climb to see a beautiful view of the town wilderness. We continued on tarmac at a steady pace grouping together a little more than yesterday and riding down some steep hills and back up again. Puff, puff- hard work! Sadly one man down before lunch and some bandaging required. Mark grazed his arm quite nastily but rejoined the team after lunch. Unfortuneatly ji came off her bike just before the river crossing and needed four stiches! But all ok. The river crossing was quite adventurous. No chance of riding across, we had to carry our bikes across…waist deep at some stages which caused one or two to fall in but we made it in the end and were blessed the other side with a wonderful view of three adult elephants. A wonderful site. Thunder and lightning came soon after… Luckily we made it back to the truck to be transferred to the Santos Express at Mossel Bay. Another 75km done. Laura

Meanwhile…. the hikers were winding their way along the coast towards Mossel Bay.

And just in case you thought this hike is a walk in the park…

Day 3: Wednesday 20 November – Bikers

Today was tough! This was the first day the wind had been a-problem – and not just a measly gust – it felt like a hurricane! The lowpoint was cycling up a never ending hill in hail/rain/pouring rain-It was like cycling up against a waterfall and the hills kept getting steeper and steeper! For the afternoon however, the sun came out and there was a (short) period where the wind was behind us…absolute bliss. But for the majority of the day we were fighting an oncoming wind which used twice the energy. I am praying that tomorrow is milder! Whilst transferring in the van we saw giraffes and saw a very bodged attempt at some workmen putting up Christmas lights. Our destination and overnight stop for day 3 is Albertina. Dinner was delicious – sampled some local delicacies including Ostrich Goulash followed by and early night! Sophie

Day 4: Thursday 21 November – Bikers

The Bikers began the day apprehensively after a difficult day on Day 3 due to horrific weather, but Day 4 looked much more promising. We managed a 20km stretch without too many nasty hills before a brief pause and then another bash until we reached Riversdale, where we had a brief break and refreshments! Little did we know that lunch was only 10k away! But having said that we still had to make it up the first of two very steep hills! What happened to no hills thursday!?? 🙂 After a good lunch we headed downhill and although warned by Steve, our guide, there were few tumbles, but all managed to get back on their bikes and carry on with a few cuts and bruises. The day’s cycle ended with a hard, steep climb to our overnight stop at Honeywood Farm. A beautiful place run by a husband and wife and perfectly situated on top of the hill. The views were divine! We had a braai, which was delicious. Everything homemade and eaten off the land. What a wonderful place. We must come back again! A great reward for a tough day. Laura

Day 5: Friday 22 November – Arrival in Cape Town

Both groups of hikers and bikers arrived in Cape Town on Friday 21 November. The teams celebrated their accomplishments in a dinner at the Africa Cafe in Cape Town, where they sampled a variety of African foods while reminiscing about the more colourful moments of their hike and bike journeys.

Day 6: Saturday 23 November – Visit to hospital and St Joseph’s Home for Children

Today the team got an opportunitiy to meet their beneficiaries. In the morning, the group visit the Burns Unit at Red Cross Hospital, where they learnt about the alarming incidence of paediatric burn injury in Cape Town and about the excellent medical treatment offered by the unit. The team also heard about the beneficial impact of an earlier donation by ABC to the unit of a state-of-the-art Humeca Dermatome. The team was able to interact with a number of the mothers of children in the ward through an interpreter and this gave them a sense of the particular socioeconomic context in which burn injuries occur.

Thereafter, the team visited St Josephs Home for Children, an organisation with which Phoenix has partnered to educate and care for children who have no stable home environment outside of hospital. The partnership with St Josephs allows these children to receive ongoing medical attendtion, but otherwise to experience life outsife of a hospital setting. This is one of Phoenix’s newest programmes – the Phoenix Education Fund – an it was made possible through the ABC Charity Challenge events of 2011 and 2012. Phoenix currently supports two children under this programme, with plenty of scope for gorowing the programme, as resources permit.

Day 7: Sunday 24 November – Returning home

Today the team began their journey home, with many fond memories of an incredible shared experience that they undertook to help those less fortunate than themselves.

On behalf of all burn survivors, a big THANK YOU to all who participated in the 2013 ABC Charity Challenge, and to all their supporters and sponsors who completed the journey with them in spirit.

ABC 2012 Challenge raises nearly £25,000 for charity

28 February, 2013

Presentation of cheque to Phoenix by ABC. L-R: Peter Martinez & Carolyn Cripps OBE

Cripps Sears and its fundraising vehicle, ABC were delighted this weekend to be able to donate the £24,730.15 raised through the ABC 2012 Challenge to the Phoenix Burns Project.

The presentation of the cheque was made by Mike Cripps and Laura Gaze of Cripps Sears, Carolyn Cripps OBE and Phil Loader of Mubadala, to Peter Martinez, Chairman of Phoenix.

Participants of the ABC Challenge with Peter Martinez, Chairman of the Phoenix Burns Project (2nd right). ABC Challengers (L-R): Phil Loader (Mubadala), Laura Gaze & Mike Cripps (Cripps Sears) and Carolyn Cripps OBE.

Formally established in 2006 in response to the devastating physical and social consequences of burn injuries to children of the Western Cape, the Phoenix Burns Project (“Phoenix”) helps to facilitate the physical and social rehabilitation of burns victims, through raising awareness and contributing to burn prevention initiatives. Phoenix works closely with the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, with the ultimate goal of establishing and running a dedicated Burns Rehabilitation Centre for children.

Peter was delighted to represent Phoenix at the celebration and highlighted the story of one girl in particular whose plight has touched so many associated with ABC. Michelle Motibi, who’s story has been picked up by the South African Media, suffered burns to 86% burns of her body. Those who took part in the ABC 2012 challenge in November last year met Michelle and learnt about her shocking but truly incredible and story. She grew particularly attached to one of our Bikers when they met at the burns unit of the Red Cross Children’s memorial hospital in Cape Town, and now, thanks in part to the donations of supporters like ABC, has now been placed in a new home and school with the skills and experience necessary to support her evolving needs as she grows.

L-R: Tom Isobe (Cripps Sears) & Michelle Motibi (Burns victim – Childrens’ Red Cross Memorial hospital, Cape Town)

Find out more about the Phoenix Burns Project here.

ABC 2011 Challenge: Hikers & Bikers return home triumphant!

20 Hikers and Bikers succeeded in completing the ABC Challenge in South Africa in October last year. 6 Hikers trekked 100 km over tough mountainous terrain across the Cederberg, 200 km’s north of Cape Town whilst 15 Bikers rode over 450 km of extremely physical and strenuous tracks, trails, tarmac and rivers(!) along the stunning Garden Route.

Although a number of the Challengers found it tough along the way, no-one was defeated; each and every one of the group completing their challenge with great satisfaction and triumph. The great sense of achievement was also shared by those who had helped to organise the event, and, of course, by all as those who supported and sponsored the Hikers and Bikers.  The success of the ABC 2011 Challenge went far beyond individual successful completions of the challenge with total funds raised for the chosen charity reaching a magnificent £25,000. This has been donated to the Phoenix Burns Project who do fantastic and vital work towards burns preventions through education and supporting discharged burns victims – psychologically, physically and socially. The Phoenix Burns Project further welcomes enhanced international exposure the charity has received due to its support from the ABC 2011 Challenge.

The Hikers experienced a genuine wilderness; they barely saw another soul trekking and climbing across high mountains, dazzling waterfalls, floral meadows and, perhaps the most striking of all, bizarre rock formations from millions of years ago when the region was under water. There were also many individual points along the way that made the tough and strenuous terrain easier to bear and served as a goal each day to motivate the intrepid hikers.  The Maltese Cross, ancient Rock Art, The Wolfberg Cracks and Arch, as well wildlife, served as breath-taking views and exciting company casting a delightful backdrop for their journey.

The Bikers’ experience was a far cry from the Hikers’; a totally different terrain but just as demanding – although maybe not as tough on the feet – certainly very testing on the buttocks! Many commented it was an immensely demanding adventure but worth it to witness some spectacular sights and scenery, game and whales, and especially to make some great new friends of all ages!

After hearing the interesting stories of both routes one perceives two sets of distinct experiences –due to the vastly different scenery and pace of the two routes – however, the two groups experiences were united in Cape Town completing the journey at Camps Bay. A night of well-deserved celebrations rounded off the experience  with beautiful African song and dance. Certainly a once in a lifetime trip to remember.

On their penultimate day in Cape Town, the Challengers were fortunate enough to visit the townships where so many burns issues occur; one can see how dangerous fire can be in such a cramped and densely populated area. Millions upon millions of homes are still susceptible to fire hazards allowing small and vulnerable children to be exposed to the horrors of this unmerciful problem. The Challengers were also invited to view the Burns Wing of the Red Cross Hospital in Cape Town. The visit inspired a diverse and challenging range of emotions. The children, wrapped heavily in dressings, showed tremendous spirit; the visitors told stories by doctors about the patients’ abilities to surprise them with joy in the face of the kind of pain most of us, hopefully, will never know.

ABC 2012 challenge

Following the success of the ABC 2011 Challenge, ABC are looking to the future to grow and bring more awareness to ‘The Phoenix Burns Project’ and child victims of burns and scalds, with the ABC 2012 Challenge taking place in South Africa from 2nd-11th November 2012.

Why not join us? Please contact abc-challenge@crippssears.com to find out more information.

Corporate Sponsorship opportunities

For information about Corporate Sponsorship opportunities for the ABC 2012 Challenge, please contact Graham Spencer (gspencer@crippssears.com or 0207 440 8999).

The Gentlemen of St John’s, Cambridge

In Chelsea on September 28th at 7.30 pm, in aid of The Phoenix Burns Project, South Africa.

In Chelsea on September 28th at 7.30 pm

In aid of The Phoenix Burns Project, South Africa

The extraordinarily talented Gentlemen of St John’s College have kindly agreed to perform a concert in aid of our chosen charity this year, The Phoenix Burns Project, at St Peter’s Church, Eaton Square SW1W 9AL (www.stpetereatonsquare.co.uk) on Wednesday 28th September 2011 at 7.30 pm.

The Gentlemen of St John’s (www.gentlemenofstjohns.co.uk) comprises the Choral Scholars of the world-renowned, Gramophone award-winning choir of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, and they have enjoyed an impressively busy schedule of concerts and recordings for over thirty-five years.  Aged between eighteen and twenty-three, The Gents sing in ‘A capella’, performing and recording sacred and secular music as well as many of their own arrangements of folksongs and close harmony versions of contemporary pop music and classic jazz stachorndards.  Last Christmas the Gents released a new CD, A Gentle Christmas, covering repertoire from Mouton to Wham! – a mix which has proved very popular! They will be singing a selection of contemporary and classical pieces throughout the evening and their concerts are always great fun!

James McDonald (whose son, Basil is one of the gentlemen) and I are also, along with several others, cycling 450 kilometres across South Africa in late October and simultaneously my wife Carolyn is leading a trek over a similarly challenging distance to raise funds for the vital work of this charity. The Phoenix Burns Project is a fantastic charity and works to reduce the long-term suffering of badly burnt or scalded children mainly through paraffin created, accidental fires and other burns and scalds created by, candles and hot water- all too common for children in the impoverished townships of South Africa. (www.pbp.org.zaand www.abc2011challenge.com)

We would be delighted if you would join us for this special evening. We are asking for a minimum donation of £25 for each ticket. There will be refreshments in the concert interval and a Reception afterwards when South African wines and canapés will be served. The church is five minutes’ walk from Victoria Station.  This promises to be a lovely evening and I hope very much that you and friends will be able to come and support.  Tickets/sponsorship can be arranged using the sponsorship/order form below.

If you cannot come to the concert but would like to sponsor our cycle ride or hike then please visit Just Giving (referencing your name) or use the attached order form to send a donation.

Many thanks in advance

Mike Cripps

Harmony in Chelsea

An evening of harmony and serenade in aid of the Phoenix Burn Project was held at St Peters Church Eaton Square, London on September 28th 2011.

This historic church was badly damaged by an arson attack in 1987 and after 10 years being lovingly restored and raised from the ashes, it provided a most suitable venue for this charity.

International rugby star James Haskell launches hike and bike challenge to raise funds to support South Africa’s burned children

An impressive number of eager potential bikers and hikers participants congregated at London’s the Firestation Bar and Restaurant Tuesday 7th June to witness James Haskell, international rugby star, launch the ABC Hike and Bike Challenge South Africa 2011 to support the badly burned children.

The Challenge 21st 31st October 2011 -: Intrepid Bikers will travel the challenging 400 kilometre route from Tsitsikamma to Cape Town via South Africa’s Garden Route and the hikers will trek 85 kilometres up in the famous Cederberg mountain range.

Both teams will converge in Cape Town for a grand finale fundraising dinner.

Carolyn Cripps OBE, who leads the activities of the fund, expressed her extreme gratitude to James Haskell for his support and for taking time out to launch the 2011 Challenge. “We are over the moon to have James here to launch our campaign. His commitment to rigorous training and outstanding performances on the field for England, London Wasps and recently Stade Francais means he’s an excellent role model for this year’s bikers and hikers.”

James, who will be cheering on the hikers and bikers from New Zealand where he will be doing his best to catapult England to another Rugby World Cup victory, expressed real admiration for those undertaking the challenge.

“There will be lots of laughs, perhaps even a few tears. It will be tough, it will be hard but by the time you reach Cape Town you will have made a difference to so many young people who without your direct help would suffer hugely.

“For my part, I will do my level best with the England Rugby team out in New Zealand to make this a joyous occasion for you when you reach Cape Town, by winning the World Cup (!) and thereby allowing you a couple of celebratory ‘Castles’ with your SA mates! Now the very thought of that prospect alone should get you through the 10 days in double quick time!!!” said James.