Amputee, Mark Pattenden, recently undertook an extraordinary challenge to drive through 14 capitals across Europe in 14 days in order to raise money for BLESMA. Having heard about the first half of his trip, he tells us how he managed to complete this challenge…
We couldn’t pitch the tent, so we made room in the car and tried to sleep the best we could whilst the weather beat down on the car like a drum. We were restless and my hearing impairment didn’t seem to help in reducing the noise, so as soon as we saw a break in the weather we set off towards Vienna.
Unlike the black cabs in London, horse drawn carriages here are the equivalent, enabling us to take in the architecture of some of Vienna’s amazing buildings.
Switzerland and its capital, Bern, appear to be the cleanest places I have ever had the pleasure to visit. The Bear is the national symbol for Bern and is displayed everywhere. Being a predominantly medieval city and ranked as one of the top ten cities for quality of life in the world, it’s easy to understand why so many people want to live here.
Having taken in this part of the challenge, and spending a few hours wondering around, we really needed to mark this as another city to be revisited to fully appreciate the history of the town before moving on towards the Alps and then south to Rome.
Crossing the Alps
Rome and Vatican City
Having completed over half of the trip my partner and I began to feel much in need of a long rest. The notion therefore of crossing off two capitals in one fell swoop, Rome and Vatican City, was a welcome relief. The Vatican City is a walled city-state within Rome, so is classed as a capital in its own right. Having been to both before (although not by vehicle) and knowing that the drivers in Rome tend to act like Formula1 drivers, I knew it was going to be interesting. On reflection, we could have avoided the chaotic scenes by travelling outside of rush hours, although this normally lasts from 8am to 8pm!
But this came as a happy point to meet up with some friends, rest, talk, eat and for the first time have a single beer to refresh the pallet. Drinking and eating on the go can become very boring, especially if you’re avoiding local foods which might otherwise upset your stomach.
At this point I had begun to notice a few worrying ailments; my right ankle was slightly swollen, I had stiffness in my neck and shoulders and some nasty blisters on my stump. Somehow I had also managed to trap a nerve in my right elbow from resting it on the door, and as anyone who drives a Land Rover knows, elbow comfort and space is always an issue, far more so than in the older vehicles. Before coming on the challenge I had specifically had my reserve leg adjusted to allow for better movement in the car. But this had not really helped as I knew if I took my original leg off for any long period of time, then I would more than likely have issues getting either leg back on. Plus, I had forgotten an important piece of kit, my crutches, so unless I intended crawling anywhere I had to suffer the pain and get on with it.
The Pyrenees Mountains
Read about the final stage of Mark’s fantastic journey next week on Disability Horizons. If you missed it, take a look back at the preparations for this trip and the first part of his journey to discover how it was possible.
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