In less than 1 month I will be racing 10K around the Olympic Park in my wheelchair. I am definitely not ready to undertake this challenge, but I am not worried. Because while I wait for a decision from my medical team on whether I will be sent on a 3 week pain management and pacing education programme, the message is clear: relax, don’t push it too hard and be kind to yourself.
So I am relaxing. Focusing on walking and wheeling short distances and relying on my lovely husband to push me around if I get too tired. He is starting to realise that he needs to train a little harder as he is going to have to push me for at least 5K of our 10K challenge. Fatigue has been a pretty big challenge over the last few weeks but I have been hanging out in a country that has an average midday temperature of 35C, so it is not unreasonable that I would want to nap for most of the afternoon.
Rather than wheeling myself miles and miles I have enjoyed the use of a fully accessible pool and a fully accessible beach. Yes, that is right! A beach you can go on in your wheelchair.
We have been staying at C & A apartments in the sleepy town of Polis in Cyprus. Chris, the owner, has meticulously designed the resort to ensure that wheelchair users can get around with minimum reliance on family and carers. It is quiet, friendly and 100% accessible. There are no steps, every bathroom has grab bars and wet room style showers, a hoist for the pool is available and an array for mobility equipment can be hired if it is needed.
The best part of our stay has been the visits to Latchi beach. This place is so well thought through. From the accessible parking bays you have to get up a bit of a steep ramp onto a concrete walkway that takes you past the bathroom facilities and cafe towards the water. As you make your way towards the shimmery blue of the Mediterranean there are sun lounges on wooden boards rather than the sand so you can drop your stuff off and pay for an umbrella to buy some shade. Just a few steps from my sun lounger was the Seatrac chair.
The Seatrac is a seat that wheelchair users can transfer onto. Then, at a click of a button, the solar powered chair moves into the water. By the time the chair gets to the end of the track you are about waist deep in water. From here we watched countless wheelchair users swim right out to sea, climb on to flotation devices or just sit down in the shallow waves and enjoy the water. The water was clear and we spent a lot of time stalking the brightly coloured fish that swim in the deeper water. There were people using the Seatrac on their own who had to leave their chair next to it and there is not much room so, if you can, I would recommend leaving your chair by your sun lounger (or have someone move it back there for you).
My top tips holidaying in Cyprus for other wheelchair users:
- Dropped curbs are not really a thing in Cyprus, if there is one someone will be parked in front of it. We just used the middle of the road, this was scary at times. Be really careful at night, people don’t always put their car lights on or indicate when turning. I remain baffled by Cypriot road laws.
- If you are a manual wheelchair user you may want to consider scooter hire. This place has hills and I appreciate that not everyone is training for a 10K challenge. Scooters are popular in Paphos, everyone has electric tricycles and whizzes up and down the sea front.
- Nearly all restaurants have an accessible bathroom, even the smaller ones. But it is still worth checking them before settling in for dinner. Some of the doors opened inwards and the cubical would be too small to shut the door behind you while in a wheelchair *Sigh*.
- It is hot. We put extra water in the holders at the back of my chair and used a scarf to cover the wheelchair seat and arms to protect it from the sunlight and the sun cream that inevitably turned by arm rests a weird grey colour. The metal of my wheel rims got super hot in the sunlight, even though it was nearing 40C I had to have gloves on to ensure I could touch them, my tan lines look interesting.
- Historic sites are mainly inaccessible.
We did manage the mosaics outside Paphos but it was hard work and the bumps from the poor paths left me in quite a bit of pain.
There are some beautiful places to visit in the mountains that you can tour by car instead, we enjoyed driving around the wineries and historic weaving villages. A car is a good idea so you can do this without joining expensive day trips.
Helpful links if you are planning a trip: