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…

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).

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.

Phoenix Update: New laser provides a ray of hope for scar reduction in burn survivors

The Phoenix Burns Project, supported by the ABC Charity Challenge Hike and Bike fundraiser events in 2016 and 2017, has donated a brand new Lumenis M22 laser to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s hospital. Read more in the newsletter of the Phoenix Burns Project:

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