Eleven travellers with disabilities who set out with the students of the Department of Adapted Physical Activities of the Faculty of Physical Culture to the Austrian Alps on the APA Expedition enjoyed a week full of challenges. They experienced hiking and cycling trips, mountain rafting as well as via ferratas – all in the vicinity of the towns of Zell am See and Hallstatt.
There were participants with different kinds of disabilities among the eleven guests of the expedition with the motto "Where the others give up, we set off", as people with hearing impairments, some on wheelchairs and others with intellectual disability all participated in the Alpine adventure that might have otherwise been impossible for them.
One of the participants, Lukáš Polčák, was born without part of the right upper and lower limbs. He would like to repeat the expedition. "I will never forget the beautiful nature, the mountains, the lakes we were cycling around or the rafting. But above all, I will never forget my first via ferrata experience. It was there where for a few seconds, I felt like I could not move anymore and I would stay on the rock until a helicopter would rescue me," he remembered the toughest moment.
"The biggest barriers were when I did not feel mentally well, when I could not get fully involved or when I felt I was a burden to others. For example, one day I just needed to relax and take a cable car trip while others wanted to walk. It was annoying to wait for someone to put out for me and join me. Fortunately, one such person showed up pretty quickly and in the end it was a really beautiful day," said another of the participants, Alžběta Vlková, who is partially paralyzed.
She thinks that the greatest benefit of the expedition was that she had to learn to ask for help and try new things like a handbike or rock climbing. "It made me stop and organize my thoughts. And it also made me realize that I had absolutely forgotten what camping is about, and that I would not be able to survive in nature for a longer period of time. Now I'm willing to try it again. Since the expedition, I've even slept under the stars, and that's really something as before I was afraid of one week in the tent, " says Vlková.
They both appreciate the work of the students who organized the expedition, assisted the guests throughout the week and were gaining practical experience for their future jobs.
"I guess everything went as planned. We have made the right decision to choose only two places for our activities, unlike our colleagues last year. This way, we didn’t need to worry about relocating and we also took advantage of the places around our campsites. In the end, the weather was great. There was rain during the first days, but the sky was clearing gradually and we spent the last day by the lake in the sunshine. This definitely improved everyone´s mood as well as the feedback," said one of the organizers, Robert Mazouch.
During the expedition, he was assisting a wheelchair user Eustach Janoušek. Although there were some critical situations caused mainly by exhaustion, they got on very well. "It was not a holiday or school. The expedition taught me so much, I improved my organizational skills and gained new outdoors experience. Throughout my studies, I did not experience anything so intense, but I was glad to get out of my comfort zone. The strongest moment for me was definitely when we were climbing the ferrata with Eustach. He needed a great deal of help, but we did our best and this experience, him climbing a rock, that cannot even be described," said Mazouch.
However, the expedition did not end with the return from Austria. You can see some photos and videos from the trip on the social networks, there will be an exhibition and also a presentation on the Night of Scientists in October.
Moreover, it is also necessary to do the accounts as the organization of such expedition costs hundreds of thousands. It should be noted that although part of the costs were paid by the participants themselves, the students were able to obtain a subsidy from the city of Olomouc and the Olomouc region, which covered the costs of accommodation, as well as the support of companies such as Hamé or Nutrend. The sporting goods retailer Decathlon was also an important partner of the expedition, providing not only its jumpers to the participants, but also assistance with a public sports event held outside its Olomouc store and organized to raise money for the expedition.