Beyond Boundaries

I didn’t sleep well last night, and whilst flicking through the channels trying to find something dull to send me into a deep slumber I discovered the penultimate episode of Beyond Boundaries on BBC2. The series follows…

“eleven people about to make history, attempting a journey that’s never been done before. None of them have expedition experience, but halfway round the world from the UK, they’re going to cross Nicaragua from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean.

They’ll start on the treacherous Mosquito Coast, escorted by armed soldiers to protect them from bandits and drug traffickers. They’ll make their way through impenetrable jungle, crocodile-infested rivers and climb a live volcano in order to make it to their finishing line – the Pacific coast. Accompanied by expedition leader Ken Hames, they have 28 days to cross 220 miles … and they are all physically disabled.”

The disabilities of the people taking part in the Nicaraguan expedition include deafness, blindness, amputations (one or more limbs), Spina bifida and paraplegia. The expedition started with 11 disabled participants, one able-bodied expedition leader and an able-bodied medic.

I’d heard about the show previously but pretty much dismissed it as a new low for reality TV. I’ve just finished watching the final episode this evening and was amazing. The expedition took 28 days in total, and the final episode followed the team through the last four. The following is taken from the expedition leader’s log for the final week:

“after covering 180 miles from the Atlantic coast, the team reach the island of Ometepe. A short ride by cattle truck leaves them just 50 miles short of journey’s end: the Pacific coast. But first they have chosen to take the island’s most punishing route – up the five and a half thousand foot active volcano called Concepcion.” – Ken Hame

Yeah you read that correctly. They chose to climb up a five and a half thousand foot volcano – simply because it was there. Ken continues:

“The terrain was appalling: it was steep, rocky, and unbelievably hot, with loose ground underfoot all the way. Everybody just got on with it, though. One of the most significant moments for me was when Ade was forced out of his chair and had to climb two and half thousand feet on his hands, dragging himself up all the way.”

I sometimes consider myself physically disabled as I’m slightly overweight and have a dodgy knee. As a result I don’t allow myself to do too much in the way of physical activity. I enjoy a good game of badminton and hockey, but walking? Forget it. I don’t do any lengthy walking without anti-inflammatory medication to soften the post-exercise effects.

I can’t describe how utterly pathetic I felt as I watched these guys drag themselves through the pain barrier and beyond.

Toward the end the expedition leader was pretty uncompromising – making hard decisions and forcing the others to make some too. But always with a view to encouraging the team towards its goal – reaching the Pacific Ocean. Also, each of the team members, despite their own excruciating pain and physical struggles, took time to encourage each other. The teamwork had to be forced at times – but it was only the mutual encouragement which got them through the challenge.

“Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:14The Message

Seven of the original eleven made it from one side of Nicaragua, through the jungle, across the rivers, up the volcano and to the Pacific Ocean at the other side. Their joy was uncontainable. There were screams of delight as they walked, limped, stumbled and rolled onto the beach. My eyes filled up as one of the participants removed both of her prosthetic legs and ran on her stumps, racing the others into the sea.

I’m sure the programme will be repeated in the near future. Don’t miss it.

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