"I would rather die than be paralyzed." This is what Karen Darke thought the night before falling off a cliff at age 21 and becoming paraplegic with no feeling from the chest down. If we are honest, this is the attitude most of us would have, but read on. This story highlights the determination, ambition and downright refusal to live life at anything less than full throttle.
I met Karim Ladki at the end of June at Whistler's Trade Show, where local businesses and organizations were exhibiting their summer adventure products. His t-shirt was the first thing that caught my eye, a distinctive cat emblem with the name "9 Lives Adventures" across the front. Immediately I was intrigued. As he shook my hand he started to explain the logo and his reason for coming to the adventure mecca that is Whistler.
9 Lives Adventures is the brainchild of Ladki and best friend Matt Thola, rooted in an adventure of Ladki's own.
Like most people the travel bug had become an itch they just had to scratch and these boys had their sights set on Africa. The only consideration they had was that Matt is in a wheelchair. Back in May 2006 he was involved in a car accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury that left him unable to walk. Even though they shared the same sense of adventure and ambition, the thought of pushing a wheelchair through villages and on dirt roads depressed them both.
"I will never forget the day I told my friend Matt Thola I was going to Africa. He was genuinely happy for me, but you could tell he was eager to propose that he come. Instead, he replied 'I wish I could go'."
When Karim returned his head was spinning. Although it would have been a tougher journey he believed that the idea of Matt joining him would have been totally realistic. With an enthusiastic partner the cogs started to turn on an idea that would hopefully pave the way for more disabled travellers searching for the same excitement and adrenaline rush that these two were after.
"We are here to open up the world to every able person who has a strong mentality and has a will to fight for more in life. Together we will explore a path of adventure, excitement, and stimulation best fit for different individuals and different disabilities."
After meeting Karim, a quick search on the net revealed similar stories of grit and determination in overcoming disabilities. His statement reminded me of a quote that I had read from Karen Darke's website, which is the perfect example of making what seems an impossible task just another adventurous challenge.