Truly Accessible Holidays on Beautiful Kos: Delphini Studios and Mobility Hire Kos

This is the kind of post that makes me happy! A truly heartwarming story of how adversity has ended up shaping not only a very different future for one couple but has also resulted in benefitting people with disabilities.

We were contacted by Catriona Jones who, with her partner Andy, has started offering accessible holidays on the beautiful island of Kos. Their venture has arisen as a result of their own physical battles; Andy became an amputee after being run over by a stolen car while riding his motorbike and Cat recently had to undergo an emergency hip replacement. When they decided to make Kos their permanent home, it quickly became apparent that facilities for people with disabilities were few and far between and following a lot of planning and some very hard work, Mobility Hire Kos and Delphini Studios, designed with people with limited mobility and wheelchair users in mind, were born. As with all the best support for people with disabilities, everything about both ventures has been informed by Cat and Andy’s personal experiences combined with their enthusiasm for the project and the love of their Greek island home. 

Below Cat tells the story of how she and Andy made their brave decision and how that has led them to what they are now able to offer their guests…

Our story… far

Andy and I met nine years ago. We had chatted a few times before we met and when we decided to meet up Andy became concerned because he hadn’t told me he was an amputee, everyone reacts differently. He said “there’s something I need to tell you – I’m an amputee, I lost my leg below the knee after a stolen car ran me down on my motorbike” and I just said something like “Ok, no problem, my late husband was an above knee amputee, you’re still Andy, it doesn’t change anything” and the rest is history, although my Dad jokingly asked me if I had a fetish for men with one leg?!

Andy had been a regular visitor to Kos for many years, becoming an accomplished windsurfer but when he lost his leg he was told he would never windsurf alongside his son as he used to before the accident………..and he’s accomplished again but to his credit he never lost hope. With lots of encouragement and grit determination, with the help and support from Pace Rehabilitation in Bredbury and friends at Kefalos Windsurfing and Sailing Centre on Kos Andy got back on the board and now uses a special foot for windsurfing which gives him more flexibility. Andy’s aim was to be able to windsurf alongside his son as he used to before the accident………and he’s accomplished this. It’s great to see them sailing together on the water.

Andy and I both took a six-month sabbatical from work in 2012, converted an old police riot van into a campervan and drove across Europe to Kos. We had an amazing six months but when we returned to the UK and our jobs we were different people, our time away had changed us, changed our perspective on life and now we had changed the question in our heads about spending more time doing the things we loved from “Can we do this?” to “How can we do this?”

We worked it out and as time moved on and we spent more and more time in Greece.

During the summer of 2015 I developed a serious problem with my right hip, doctors suspected that my already mildly arthritic joint had become infected causing the joint to collapse, leaving me unable to walk. I required an emergency hip replacement. This was scheduled for November in Athens. Disaster struck while we were preparing to travel to Athens and Andy fell in the garden, wrenching his prosthetic leg off and causing soft tissue damage and swelling so he couldn’t wear his leg! Andy usually does so well on his leg that we only travel with crutches, but it quickly became apparent that he needed a wheelchair – easier said than done. We finally located one to hire on the island, but it came with two broken wheels and a flat tyre – Andy had to spend 2 hours repairing it before it was safe to use!

While I was in recovery from my operation I began thinking about the problems facing people with disabilities who wanted to visit our beautiful island…….I’d grown up helping my Mum cope with MS and with our combined experience of living with disability we hoped we had a lot to offer…….and that’s where it all began!

Our aim was to make Kos more accessible to more people and give them the freedom to do and see more on their holiday. We believe that life is too short not to enjoy yourselves and you shouldn’t be limited by any disability. It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular user of mobility aids or you just want an easier life on holiday, we wanted to help.

Three years ago, we began Mobility Hire Kos, hiring mobility equipment to holidaymakers and locals. We’ve met and helped some lovely people and we know from our feedback that we’re making a difference to people’s lives.

Over the last two years we’ve been asked many times about accessible rooms and studios across the island and while many advertise themselves as ‘disabled friendly’ the reality is often disappointing……and so once again we started to think!

With our first-hand  experience of living with disabilities we understand many of the issues faced by people with injuries, disabilities or just recovering from surgery or illness. We understand the issues faced by people with limb loss or serious limb injury, whether they are post-op, in transition, rehabilitation or adjusting to life with a prosthetic limb. Some want privacy, others just want an environment where they can rest, relax and recuperate.

In May 2019 we are opening three specially designed private ground floor studios, adapted for travellers with restricted mobility (not just wheelchair users!)

We’ve set out to offer somewhere that allows people to have a holiday or recuperate in surroundings that don’t make life a chore! 

The studios are set in a charming olive grove in the heart of Kamari Bay in Kefalos on the beautiful island of Kos in Greece with a central location, just 250m from the beach – perfect for getting away from it all!

The studios are wheelchair friendly with non-slip tiles throughout. We know the importance of safety and comfort and every area of the studios has been designed with thought, care and consideration of the needs of disabled travelers, including the full wheel-in wet-rooms.

We also offer a selection of services that will make life easier, such as Laundry Service, Take-away food, Supermarket Delivery Service.

The work to convert the studios from three very dilapidated small studios into Delphini Studios has been challenging at times. We have been very much hands-on, and Andy hasn’t just project managed the whole process he’s done a lot of the work, constantly surprising friends and workers who often forget he’s only got one leg!!

When we’re not working on the property or managing the business and on days when the wind isn’t ‘good’ for windsurfing Andy likes to snorkel and go spear fishing for octopus in the beautiful clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea, which I cook and pickle or we give to local restaurants! Some days we go fishing or take our quad bike out for a spin and explore deserted beaches around the island. We also have a large vegetable plot, chickens and two dogs! Life isn’t boring!!

Pace Rehabilitation in Bredbury worked closely with Andy to develop separate interchangeable feet (using a ferrule coupling system) so he can have separate feet for different activities, windsurfing, swimming, sailing……..when we travel, he often takes more feet with him than I take shoes!!

Kos is known as ‘the windy island’ which makes Kefalos one of the best places to windsurf in Greece. The wind is quieter in the mornings making it ideal for beginners. If anyone visiting us in Kefalos is interested in trying water sports we can arrange taster sessions or lessons in Windsurfing, Stand Up Paddle (or sit down/lie down!) and Catamaran Sailing, and although ‘one leg Andy’ (as he’s known locally) isn’t a trainer he will happily lend a guiding hand to get you started, having overcome many difficulties on the water himself.

Kefalos is a beautiful village on the southwest tip of Kos island, about 42 km away from Kos town and 16 km away from the International Airport “Hippocrates”. The village is separated into two parts, the traditional village situated on the hilltop and the waterfront and harbour, Kamari Bay. Opposite Kamari Bay is the small island of Kastri with the church of St. Nicholas, one of the most photographed and iconic landmarks of the island. Kefalos village has many different architectures and houses squeezed along narrow streets, alongside traditional coffee houses and shops.

Kamari Bay is the seaside and harbour of Kefalos. There are many traditional tavernas and bars, many offering entertainment to suit everyone, from Open Mike nights to traditional Greek nights. The bay also has shops and supermarkets to explore. Kefalos is famous for its many beautiful beaches, among the best in Greece and Europe, often awarded with Blue Flags. Apart from its idyllic beaches, Kefalos is of significant archaeological interest and historical, value. The Castle of Kefalos, dating back to the Byzantine era and Early Christian churches (5th & 6th century) at St. Stephen, are only some of the area’s findings.There are local fishing trips, sunset beach BBQ trips and a visit to one of the local Traditional Houses in Kefalos is a must, it will offer an insight into the traditions of Greek life and hospitality, you then enjoy the flavours and tastes of Kos with a traditional Greek meal and if you return hungry then you’ve gone to the wrong place!!

​There’s something for everyone………..

(Catriona Jones)

We’re very grateful to Cat and Andy for sharing their inspiring story and for creating what looks like the most wonderful holiday set up – they seem to have thought of everything. Please contact them using the links below if you’d like to find out more or to talk about booking a holiday with them. If you do – have a wonderful time!

Links (will open in separate tabs): 

Contact Details:

Manfit – Second User Profile: Bill’s Story

As you’ll know, our current Bader Grant Recipient of the Month, MANFIT (Manchester Amputee fitness Initiative) kindly agreed to send us personal stories of some of their users. We met Ron last month, now you can see how gym trainer, Bill Shone, became involved…

Bill Shone’s (our gym trainer) story

Here’s Bill Shone, Manfit’s gym trainer! He’s a great trainer and doesn’t allow me to interrupt him when he’s showing our lot the best exercises and machine positions!  Dr. Margaret Tyson MPHe

Manfit's gym trainer, Bill Shone
MANFIT’s gym trainer, Bill Shone

My name is Bill Shone, I’m a Personal Trainer and Strength/Conditioning Coach.  Margaret Tyson approached me through REPS (The Register of Exercise Professionals) to supervise the gym sessions as I have qualifications in adapting exercise for low to medium risk health conditions and in active ageing, both of which are relevant to the MANFIT group.

The Friday sessions are great to be involved in and there’s a really good atmosphere.  The group do quite a wide range of exercise, usually following a circuit including range of motion, cardiovascular and resistance exercises.  I do 1:1 work with several members of the group, largely focusing on functional exercises using stability balls, bands, light weights and medicine balls.  It’s great to see new exercises being tried and progressed over time.

I look forward to the MANFIT sessions on a Friday morning.  It’s always good to see new faces and I’d encourage anyone in the area to get involved with them.


We’re very grateful to Bill for sharing his story and look forward to meeting more of the MANFIT users in due course.

Racing Away the Ghosts – Scott Richardson

Another inspirational older piece that has been moved from a different section of the original website to be included here. Again, apologies that the images have been lost along the way.

Scott Richardson

On Wednesday 31 st August 2005 I was stood hugging my mum, both of us in floods of tears. I had just finished 14th (out of 77 competitors) the Manx Grand Prix Junior Classic race in the Isle of Man. The finishing position wasn’t important. It was the fact that five years earlier I had been lying in an intensive care unit, fighting for my life, not two miles away after crashing heavily in the TT Races.

After four days of unconsciousness, I awoke to see a multitude of tubes and pipes running in and out of my body.

Hmm” I thought. This looks pretty serious”.

A member of the intensive care staff told me that I had been in an accident (not a total surprise!) He explained that I had lost my left leg, below the knee.  A difficult fact to believe as I could still feel it!

Despite the loss of limb; bruised brain; swollen lung; smashed right leg and ankle; broken left femur; broken fingers and general bodily bruising, I felt incredibly lucky to be alive.

I believe that this positive approach helped me to accept my situation and get on with life, despite the three years of intense rehabilitation that lay ahead. Despite my injuries, I never doubted that I would ride a motorcycle again. In fact, a fortnight after my accident, an amputee Occupational Therapist visited me. I asked if she wouldn’t mind raising my hospital bed, using her artificial leg. She duly did and asked if it was better. I had to confess that I just wanted to see if I would be able to pump up my tyres on the bike with a prosthesis! I was determined to lead as normal life as possible.

During my rehabilitation, it was very important for me to regain chunks of my life (and lifestyle) that existed prior to my accident. Previously, I had played in a small squash league and I remember my first game back being tremendously satisfying, even if I did have to leave the court on a walking stick in search of painkillers.

Initially, I returned to riding a motorcycle on the road, then racing on short circuits again. More chunks back! However, this was all leading one way – a desire to compete on the TT Course on the Isle of Man again.

I felt that if I did not ride there again, then there would be unfinished business and that the circuit had beaten me. So, after regaining my National competition licence and developing a prosthetic leg that would allow me to ride comfortably on my race bike, I made my race return to the TT course in 2005.

On my first lap of practice I approached the corner where my accident occurred five years previously. With an intake of breath I rode through it (thankfully) without incident. Then, as I approached the corner on the second lap, there was a slower rider in front. I dived past him on the inside, thinking to myself, “I’m over this!” It was a terrific feeling, only superseded by completing the race a few days later. The sense of relief, accomplishment and satisfaction after the race was absolutely overwhelming. Hence my emotional state with my mum afterwards.

Prior to going to the Isle of Man I would ride my bike around corners on the road, often thinking, “Ooh, that corner was like such and such corner on the TT course”. Since coming back it has not reoccurred. Its like I have got it out of my system and put the ghosts to rest. Mission accomplished. I feel that with this final chunk of my life firmly back in place, that I can move on to new challenges.

(This feature has been reproduced with the permission of Scott Richardson and Chas. A. Blatchfords.)

Bike Egypt – Kiera Roche

Bike Egypt

by Kiera Roche

Night Plane to Cairo
We arrived in Cairo in the early hours of Monday evening after a two hour flight delay. Mike Paterson, a double below knee amputee and myself had the usual airport shenanigans, setting off the metal detectors on the way through customs.

We stayed at a hotel in Cairo, which reminded me of a holiday chalet, of course our rooms were at the furthest end of the complex, so I struggled with my suitcase, spare leg and travel bag until I spotted a porter who took pity on me, thinking I was a weary pack-horse.When we arrived at the room I put my hand in my pocket to give him a tip and pulled out what looked like a reasonably sized note (100 Egyptian pounds) approximately £10, what I didn’t realize was this is about half a months salary C-leg, Otto Bock, and it took us 10 minutes to convince the porter to leave the room with the money in hand.

It is always a difficult judgment to know where to draw the line between being kind and flaunting the fact that we in the west are richer and have access to a better quality of life. This is something that I feel we often get wrong . Once I’d unpacked and plugged the C-leg (a computerized leg made by Otto Bock) in to the wall socket I was ready for bed, Mike and Cathy popped outside for a night cap on the veranda, so they wouldn’t disturb my sleep. They need not have worried; as I lay my head on the pillow, a slow distant chant arose, growing louder and louder: it seemed to last for an eternity.Welcome to the five 0’clock surround sound prayer session. It was quite a moving experience and if I hadn’t been so tired I might have enjoyed the experience. As the prayers subsided and I lay my head on the pillow a rooster belted out the start of his early morning wake up call. Suddenly roast chicken seemed like a nice idea and I was ready to catch the bird myself!

The next morning was a fantastic opportunity to see the Pyramids, something I have wanted to do for as long as can remember, but I had to drag myself out of bed at what seemed like the crack of dawn. Cathy and I kept up our tradition of being the lastof the group to arrive for breakfast. However hard I try to be quick, it just takes me longer to get ready because I have to wash the socket sleeve of the artificial leg with antiseptic wipes, put on the sleeve and a stump sock and finally don my artificial leg, which isn’t always easy. It doesn’t help that I wasn’t Speedy Gonzalez to start with.

After breakfast we gathered our belongings and headed to the coach for what we thought was a long coach trip to the Pyramids, so I nearly fell off my leg when I walked out of the lobby into the bright sunlight to see the Pyramids staring back at me. It was the most bizarre site, standing in the middle of a street in a built-up city looking at the most talked about historical construction in the world. It somehow reduced their magnificence.

As you approach them they seem smaller than expected, which is an illusion because they are actually further away than you think. It is only when you are upon them they you realize their enormity and are awestruck by their magnitude. Chris, one of the bikers, an architect was on hand to explain that we still haven’t unveiled how the Egyptians built the pyramids. He explained about their perfect symmetry and the magnetic force which was created internally, enabling the mummified and other organic objects to remain intact until the tombs were opened.

Walk like an Egyptian
We were invited to take a tour of the Pyramids, but were warned that the entrance passages were small, narrow and dark and should be avoided if you are claustrophobic. I did think twice about this and decided that I would never have an opportunity again to go inside the oldest surviving man made structure, so I seized the moment, but not for long.

The entrance to the Pyramid is a small square tunnel descending into the ground at approximately a 20 degree decline. There were no steps, just a wooden slope with strips of wood attached to stop you slipping. I managed to get down the first section where there was a railing to grip onto, but I couldn’t descend the second steeper section, so I had to turn back disappointed. Even with a C-Leg it was nigh on impossible, because you needed to descend in a crouched position. And it is impossible for me crouch and move at the same time, although quite amusing to watch me try. Mike the double below knee amputee made it though. Everyone was kind and said that I hadn’t missed anything. I didn’t mind because I had a go at it and did my best, besides it gave me an opportunity to be trigger happy with my camera.I only took 400 photos!

It was at the Pyramids that I discovered a new , effective sales technique I had not used myself. The street seller gives you a free gift, of a small blue beetle for good luck. After you say thank you and start walking away the street seller will enquire “Do you have something for me”? Before you know it you are leaden down with gifts for which they require a sum of money. Next we visited the Sphinx with the head of a king and the body of a lion. I did wonder how the Ancient Egyptians knew what a lion was, but apparently the Pharos of Egypt concurred much of Africa during their reign. Sphinx was an incredible site , all the more so because it was created over 4,000 year’s ago.

On the river Nile
After lunch we flew from Cairo to Luxor where we joined the Nile Queen, our home for the week. Staying on a boat on the river Nile was a lovely touch and added a hint of romanticism to the trip.

On the Queen we were introduced to the ground crew led by Theo Peters, an ex-pro cyclist Pro Holland, who now lives in Israel.Those of us who had brought our own bikes had the wonderful task of putting them back together, while the other bikerswere fitted with their bikes. This all took place on the deck of the Queen and was a great bonding experience and gallantly many of the chaps offered their services as temporary bike mechanics and together we put the Pink Lady back together.

During dinner we were given a run down of the next days itinerary and informed that we needed to be up at 6.30, which meant a 5.15 wake up call, yes 5.15. I’m not quite sure how I actually made it out of bed, got washed and dressed, put my cycling clothes and cycling leg on and made it to the deck on time, but I somehow did. The biggest difficulty I have as an above knee amputee is that I weight bear from the Ischail bone (bottom bone) and the socket which encases the bone interferes with the motion of cycling, throwing me off the saddle on each rotation, not a comfortable option for 400 kilometers.

My prosthetist Richard Nieveen and I devised a plan to cut the socket back and load the weight bearing in other areas, which would be more comfortable for cycling, but uncomfortable for walking.

So on the first morning, I had to negotiate my way, not only off one boat, but through a number of different sized and therefore different height boats. Nile Boats are similar to barges; they line up next to each other to dock, so to get to the shore you walk through the lobbies of each of the boats that have docked before you. Quite an interesting experience when each boat has it’s own mental detector at the entrance and exit, after a few daysI simply sidestepped the detectors and went on my way.

Day 1 – Bad Vibrations
The first day’s cycling was mainly off road and, where there was road, it was covered in pot holes and rather large rocks to negotiate. The Pink Lady would have shivered, curled up in a ball and refused to move had it been organic. We started on the first leg of a 115km day which was a lovely ride apart from a small incident involving a car, Cathy, myself and a donkey cart. Fortunately, I was next to the donkey cart and I held on to steady myself and managed to stay upright on the bike. A promising start I felt.

About half way through the second leg I wasn’t so lucky.  We reached a road which had more pot holes than a lawn at a moles picnic. Cathy and Mike were riding in front of me on an uphill stretch, when Cathy stopped suddenly to take a photograph, Mike pulled across my path to join Cathy which left me no option then to go head first into a pot hole the size of a swimming pool, shame it wasn’t full of water to cushion the blow.

I knew before I hit it that I was coming off because my road bike has a rigid frame and my artificial foot is attached to the pedal with SPD clips, so I can’t unclip my foot to get out of danger. A small inconvenience unless you are crashing head first into a pot hole the size of a pool.

Mike said he saw it in slow motion, but couldn’t get to me on time. I landed on the elbow, which has a mental pin in the humorous shaftwhich was a tad painful to say the least, however I was more concerned with my beautiful new bike and my immediate reaction was to check her for scratches. It wasn’t until Doc pointed out that I was bleeding quite heavily from a puncture wound in my arm. I noticed I had a bruise, which looked more like a plum, from an internal bleed. It actually looked a lot worse than it was and once Doc had patched me up with a bit of TLC and given me some pain killers I was ready to go.

Doc suggested that I take a rest but I knew that if I didn’t get straight back on I might not get back on at all and I had done a lot of training and come along way to complete this challenge.I jumped on a mountain bike and was on my way again, or so I thought. The saddle on the mountain bike was too low for me, so for a few miles I cycled with my bottom being thrown in the air with every rotation.I jumped in the van while Adrian from Classic Tours fixed the saddle height and I was on my way again.I worried that I was holding the group up, but them seemed pleased that I had continued and didn’t seem to mind at all.

The next section on a mountain bike with suspension was much easier.Doc stayed close by which helped boost my confidence. We stopped for lunch along the bank of the river Nile in a make shift tent, with lots of beautifully colored rugs. It was a well earned rest and the food was excellent.

I was warned that the first section after lunch would be difficult because it was a road which had been dug up and not resurfaced and that I might struggle; this only spurred me on. I wasn’t quite prepared for how difficult it would be and the distance it would cover; approximately 8 kilometers of strugglingto cycling across gravel and pebbles, some as big as those on Brighton Beach. After about 5 kilometers of pounding my wrists and bottom couldn’t take anymore and I conceded defeat and jumped in the van. To my relief I wasn’t the only person who had found the section too difficult as Cathy and Mike jumped in the Van with Tony and I to enjoy the scenery. I was disappointed that I had missed about 12 kilometers of the days ride, but we got back on the bikes and cycled the next section.The days cycling was 120 kilometers of which I completed around 90 kilometers, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

Day 2 – Aswan to Kom Ombo
Day two was on a much smoother surface, so is as back on the Pink lady. It made such a difference being back on my bike and I had a really enjoyabl morning ride. We spent the morning cycling out of the city of Aswan through traffic which was a bit hair raising to the two dams, the Low Dam and the High Dam.

This involved cycling up a couple of hill sections, but I enjoyed the challenge. Fortunately or unfortunately my bike is exceedingly quick on the descent, which I find a little scary, so I spent the declines holding on for dear life. When we arrived the group went on a tour of the Low Dam with a guide, unfortunately I had to decline because my cycling leg is not made for walking and can be quite uncomfortable. I took the opportunity to bask in the sun and watch the world go by. We then made our way to the High Damn for a photo

Road to Kom Ombo
After a well earned rest we were back on our way. We arrived back in the town during lunch time traffic, which can only be described as hectic.On the way back up one of the hills a local taxi driver clipped Nimesh’s elbow, fortunately he wasn’t badly hurt. We decided to bunch up for the last section of the cycle back through the town to avoid any further incidents. Mike and I were somewhat of a novelty to the locals with our hi-tech limbs. People would shout hello as we cycled past, see my leg and either look surprised or excited and cheer us on. I was amazed at the positive attitude towards disability displayed by the locals. There were both supportive and helpful.

We cycled back to the boat for lunch and some R & R.

In the afternoon we headed north cycling through small villages. The local children were fantastic, shouting excitedly and running alongside the bikes waving their arms in the air, shouting “hello” “hello” “money” “pen”. Some of the adults were a bit more suspicious with the odd stone being thrown. One or two people were hit on the bottom with sticks (sugar cane poles). Chris was cut on the leg by a stone which looked more like a small rock! A minute pebble hit me on the head but I hardly felt it. During the afternoon the wind picked up making the cycling a lot more difficult.It felt like I was peddling up hill for the most of the afternoon.

In the evening we celebrated the half way mark with a fancy dress party and a barbeque on the deck of the Nile Queen. Nimesh came up with the idea of Cathy and I attending the party as Belly Dancers. We snuck off the boat on a secret mission to find some costumes. We found a local shop and bartered for our wears, but definitely paid too much and left with things we didn’t need.

The party was great fun with everyone dressing up including the guides! The only downside was that the alcohol was London prices, as the Egyptians only really serve alcohol to the tourists.

Day 3 – Kom Ombo to Esna
On day three we cycled 120 kilometers. This was the toughest day, with much of the cycling against a strong headwind as we headed northbound along the east bank of the river Nile .

I had to take a couple of rest breaks along the route due to some sores on my stump. I was amazed and delighted that I had reached this far before I started to feel the effects of the socket rubbing against the skin. I would like to thank Assos for their superb chamois cream for getting me this far, not to mention my prosthetist Richard.

It was actually nice having a couple of rest breaks because it gave me the opportunity to take in the scenery, which is breathtaking, with the exception of a few dead carcasses. The last 20 kilometers of the leg was lined by tropical fruit frees and smelled wonderful.

We finished the day cycling in the dark, Fortunately I had my waterproof/windproof jacket with me, as the temperature drops very quickly when the sun sets. Due to the headwind each leg of the day had taken us approximately an hour longer than the previous equivalent legs.

For the last leg of the day we cycled through the town in the dark. We all bunched together between the support vehicles, which provided light, protection from traffic and a bit of security. Although cycling in the dark was a little more dangerous, it was an incredibly atmospheric and romantic way to finish the days cycling. We crossed a cobbled river bridge which could have been in Venice . The bridge was lit up and the locals were milling around cobbled streets going about their business. The whole area was buzzing with life.

Day four—The Valley of the Kings
We started with a scenic ride through the countryside. Today was a shorter day of 80 kilometers. I was conscious the whole day that I wanted to be fit enough to complete the ride into the Valley of the Kings , so I sat out for leg two and took some excellent photo’s of the other riders. I made the right decision because leg three was a full 21 kilometers before we even started the ascent into the Valley of the Kings .

I lost my cycling gloves at the rest stop and road back to find them. By the time I set off again I had lost the group and I rode the whole leg with Doc, We had a lovely ride and we did eventually catch up with the group which I was delighted about. I think I enjoyed this leg the most out of the whole trip, partly because you get stronger as the days go on, partly because we were near the end so I didn’t need to worry about keeping energy reserves so I just cycled at my own pace so I could watch the world go by and just enjoy the ride.

We stopped for lunch at the start of the Valley of the Kings by the Colossi of Memon. It was lucky that I had some energy left because the 7 kilometer ride into the Valley of the Kings was hard work. The entire leg was uphill, but what made it really difficult was the illusion created by the valley that you were cycling on the flat. In some places it even looked like we were on a descent, but when you stopped pedaling the bike would stop. We are cycling into the mid day sun, which also took it’s toll, as the heat was overbearing and there was no breeze. Tony and I had to stop a couple of times while I had a drink of water and caught my breath. The scenery was incredible and I had to pinch myself to make sure that I was really there.

Cycling into the Valley of the Kings 
Although this section was hard I enjoyed it the most and felt a sense of achievement as I turned the last corner and saw the coaches park full of tourist busses. It was a great feeling knowing that we had cycled to this incredible place while other people had come on the bus. We had time to look around the tombs before cycling to the finish line. I just couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to see the tombs so I wobbled up to the first tomb. It was just incredible, the tomb was over 3,000 years old and we could still see remnants of the vivid colours from the original wall decorations. It felt like stepping back in time.

We descended the Valley of the Kings as our final decent of the challenge. It felt like we were in a famous five novel and had just solved the mystery and decided to descend the hill with our legs in the air. If I could have swung my legs in the air for the whole decent I would have.We passed through a small village to reach the finish line, which I crossed a couple of times because I didn’t want it to be over.

We enjoyed some champagne, took photo’s and packed up the bikes. We then embarked on a special boat trip across the Nile back to the Nile Queen, with cold beers waiting on board for us, thanks to Osmond the Egyptian tour leader. My bike had pride of place on the roof of the boat.

In the evening we visited the Sound and Light Show at Karnak Temple . The temple was awesome; there was something mystical about the place. You left with the feeling that the Ancient Egyptians knew something that we don’t or that something valuable had been lost along the way about spirituality and architecture. It was a humbling experience.The sound and light show itself may have been good, but we were all too tired to concentrate with some members of the group falling asleep during the show.

Phil Oakley – Trekking in Morocco

We are extremely grateful to Phil Oakley for sending us this inspirational report of his latest venture and for the beautiful images. You can see all the pictures he sent in a gallery beneath the story.

Not content with a challenging trip to Borneo earlier in the year, Bader Grant recipient Phil decided to tackle the summit of Jebel Toubkal in Morocco in October. Our congratulations to Phil on another successful personal challenge – he is an inspiration to us all.

Here is the story of his climb:


Jebel Toubkal – A fearsome challenge…

During October 2013 I was doing my biggest mountain challenge since losing my right foot: To summit Jebel Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.  At 4178 (13,671ft), it was the highest mountain I had attempted as an amputee.  When I lost my foot to a very rare type of cancer in 2008, I thought my time in the mountains had come to an end.  My surgeon reassured me hill walking would be possible after amputation, but at the time, I did not believe him.  I suppose it is natural to be a bit negative when told your foot needs to come off!  However, he was right; within five months I was walking up Snowdon.  Since then, I have done many mountain routes and rock climbs in the UK and in Scotland – including winter mountaineering.

Phil Oakley and his group with Toubkal in the background

I went to Morocco with a small group of teenagers from my school and a friend who runs ‘Outdoor Ambition’.   We hired a Berber mountain guide – with three mules and muleteers to carry our heavy camping kit.  This helps contribute to the local economy as well as getting to know the Berber people and learning more about the area and life in the mountains. It is also a very popular option when trekking in Morocco.  Having the mules meant I did not need to carry a heavy rucksack making the trekking a more pleasurable experience (and relieving the pressure on the stump).   Jebel Toubkal is a very touristy mountain – on that ‘must do before I die’ bucket list – so most people do it ‘in a day’ rather than spend time in the mountains and appreciating the culture and scenery.  Our trip was six days trekking across the mountains before making our ascent of Toubkal.  During these six days, we ascended over 6000m, crossed very rocky terrain, ascended and descended very steep slopes with sheer drops.  The going was difficult – especially with one foot.  The youngsters in our group were certainly challenged, developing their physical and mental stamina, not to forget their appreciation and respect of different cultures and people.

Tackling some typical mountain paths

I found the ascents relatively easy: it was the steep descents which caused me the most problems as the foot doesn’t flex for the downhill.  I had to take care, as a stumble could have been potentially serious on the rocky slopes; using walking poles certainly helped with stability.  Day temperatures were in the mid to high twenties.  We would trek for about 5-6 hrs with a leisurely lunch break. Some days we started trekking at 5am to beat the day’s heat.   This also meant we got to our camping area by early afternoon, giving us time to relax and wash in the mountain streams. One of the unusual highlights for the youngsters was using mule-dung for the campfire, as wood was difficult.

Phil and his group victorious at the summit of Toubkal

Trekking in Morocco provides a fantastic option for those of all abilities. With an experienced Berber guide, suitable routes can be selected, days varied.   Accommodation can be either camping or in Gîtes.  With warm weather and only 3 ½ hours flight, Morocco is a great adventure destination. Moreover, as an amputee, the support of mules with that reassurance of a lift makes trekking more pleasurable.

By Phil Oakley


Phil Oakley reports from Borneo expedition

Phil with his dive buddies

We are very grateful to Phil Oakley for sending us a report of his recent amazing trip to Borneo with Camps International.

Phil, a lower limb amputee, and Bader Grant recipient, doesn’t let his amputation stop him travelling all over the world. He has already written a report from the Amazonian Rain Forest where he was in July/August last year and is now heading off to Morocco in 2 weeks to climb Jebel Toubkal. He has kindly offered to send us a report of that climb on his – probably exhausted! – return so check in to see it. All at the Douglas Bader Foundation wish Phil the very best of success with this climb – his first since becoming an amputee.



Phil is an inspiration in true Bader spirit, which is why the DBF was delighted to be able to help him to achieve his goals with a Bader Grant. We will be expanding our Bader Grant initiative next year so please do contact us if you’d like to apply for a Grant to help you achieve one of your own goals.


 BORNEO 2013 – A Report by Phil Oakley

After last year’s adventures in the Amazon rain forest, this year I found myself in Borneo with the charity organisation called Camps International.  I went with four students from my school, who were teamed-up with two others schools.   Camps International provides young people with the opportunity to help with worthwhile projects in various countries around the world. Our projects included helping to complete a community centre in a rural village, laying bricks for a kitchen and toilets (including making the bricks) for a new kindergarten and painting at a new rural school.  A more adventurous project for the teenagers was to spend three nights in the jungle, sleeping in hammocks.  With great anticipation and nervousness, they were taken into the jungle by boat along a crocodile infested river.  After several sightings of crocs lying on the mud banks, everyone was nervous sleeping so close to the river.  But their fears were soon forgotten once they got stuck into the re-forestation project.


A croc on the riverbank in Borneo. Photo by Phil Oakley


A marine conservation project took the teenagers to the remote island of Mantanani. Here they helped clear the beaches of washed up rubbish, helped educate the locals in marine conservation (as well as themselves), building communal village toilets (with a filtration system) to help prevent human waste ending up in their water source and building a craft shop from washed up water bottles so the locals can sell their crafts to visiting tourists. Some of their time on the island was spent gaining the PADI open water diving qualification. During their dives they found ‘Nemo’ (these are the reefs where this lives) and saw evidence of the very destructive practice of ‘blast fishing’ by some locals.  Being a PADI Advanced diver myself, I dived for the first time without a dry suit.  My fear was that my leg would come off being directly exposed to the sea water.  But, no problem.  It stayed on during each dive, even down to 17 meters (although I had it tied on with chord).

The group on Mantanini. Photo by Phil Oakley


During the trip I was very much involved in all the projects.  Initially the Camps International staff didn’t realise I had one foot and assumed I just had a bad knee!  Once they realised, they were impressed with how it didn’t stop me from being a fully able participant. Even the 45 minute daily walk to one of the project sites didn’t cause a problem, despite the numerous students and teachers in other groups who complained and tried to get lifts!


I would like to thank the DBF for supporting me on my latest adventure.


My next adventure during the October half term will be mountain trekking with some of my students in the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains.  The main objective is to summit Jebel Toubkal.  At 4167m (13,672ft) it is North Africa’s highest peak. This will be my first major peak since becoming an amputee.


Phil Oakley


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Philip Oakley Rain Forest Expedition

Bader Grant Recipient, PHILIP OAKLEY was selected as a leader for a 5 week British Schools Society (BSES) expedition to the Amazonian Rain Forest during July/August 2012.

Phil is a below the knee amputee keen to show that it is possible to take the ‘dis’ out of disabled. His challenge is to remain an effective ‘able’ leader on an ‘able-bodied’ expedition as a canoe and jungle leader. We are very grateful to him for sending a report of his experience.

Please read his inspirational article and enjoy his photographs below. Philip hopes his experience “inspires others to get out there to explore and discover“.

Up the creek with one foot!

Last summer, I was a canoe/jungle leader with the British Schools Exploring Society expedition to the Peruvian Amazon Rain Forest.  This five-week scientific expedition involved 50 teenagers from various schools across the UK.  “The Object of the Society is to advance the education of young people by providing inspirational and challenging scientific expeditions to remote, wild environments and so promote the development of their confidence, teamwork, leadership and spirit of adventure and exploration.”


Everyone on expedition had to pay their own way, including leaders. The Douglas Bader Foundation supported me by contributing towards my costs. This was my first major expedition since becoming a below knee amputee, four years after loosing my foot to cancer. Before amputation, I organised and lead on various expeditions and was actively involved in outdoor education.  I was determined to continue as normal.  This was a mainstream expedition and I was part of the “able-bodied” leader team.


This expedition provided support for British and Peruvian scientist assessing the biodiversity of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve through wildlife population surveys.  The size of Wales, this national park is one of the few pristine jungles in the world, home to some of the most endangered species on the planet.  It was a real privilege to spend five weeks living in and helping the indigenous Cocama people protect this special environment.


The heat and high humidity did not cause any problems with my stump or fitting and it did not stop me from performing as a leader.  Walking in the jungle was much easier than I thought and when I stood on a coral snake, it improved my odds of being bitten. Sleeping in a hammock was more of a challenge.  After one night sleeping with a foot inside the hammock, frequently waking-up with it sticking into various parts of my anatomy, I decided to leave it underneath the hammock, hoping it did not attract too much attention from the wildlife.


I have been involved in expeditions and outdoor adventure for many years and have not come across amputees. It would be great to see more (especially young people) getting involved in outdoor adventurous activities, as amputation should not stop adventure and discovery.


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Many congratulations from all at the DBF, Philip, for undertaking and completing this fascinating and challenging journey and our thanks for sharing your experiences.

We always love to receive first-hand reports of events and challenges so please send yours in so that others may be inspired or at least do a bit of vicarious travelling!