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On Safari … From left, Dan Schroeder, Rhys Frampton, Mike Boulton, Andrew Boulton, Kate Douglas and Ricky Harpur, all of North Canterbury, prepare to set off from Sheffield during the Tranz Alpine Scooter Safari. PHOTO: ROBYN BRISTOW

By ROBYN BRISTOW

It was a hard slog for the body and mind, but already several North Canterbury participants in the Tranz Alpine Scooter Safari are keen to take part again in 2020.

The camaraderie and joy of buzzing along with 270 other scooter riders in aid of cancer research, education and support, has them hooked. “It was great fun. Everyone was so friendly,” one said.

It sounded akin to a mad bunch of bumble bees arriving at the first stop in Sheffield for a shake down and a hot Sheffield pie, before tackling the rest of the gruelling 250km journey.

The journey started at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park, in Christchurch, early last Saturday morning where, after several laps, they headed for the alps and the Kumara Racecourse beyond, arriving in Hokitika around 5pm.

This year’s fleet raised more than $300,000 for the Cancer Society, pushing funds raised from the safari to more than $1 million since it began in 2009.

Many donned fancy dress and decorated their bikes, while others elected to stay warm and dry in gumboots and wet weather gear as they contended with nor’west winds on the Canterbury side of the divide, and chilling wind and rain after scaling the heights of Porters and Arthurs passes on the other.

There were themed groups of riders – one lot having gone to the trouble of dressing in Santa suits and decking their bikes with bells and holly, turning them into Christmas sleighs.

Registrations for this year’s event sold out in just four days, with many North Canterbury riders taking part, which was fitting, given that the safari had its origins in the region.

Jayne Rattray and her husband, Mike, began the novel fundraiser in support of a young friend and colleague, Blair Newton, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

“It started small, with the idea snowballing into what is now a massive biennial event. It’s not a race, or for the fainthearted. It is designed to be the coldest, longest, hardest, most gruelling and uncomfortable test of endurance on a city scooter to raise money and awareness for cancer sufferers,” Jayne says.

She says it was a great distraction for Blair during his treatment and recovery.

“He rode with us twice as the Stig and Elvis, before sadly passing away in 2014.

“The ride has carried on in his memory and in support of the thousands of others that the event has inspired and supported through the funds raised.

“Nine years on, we still organise the event in between raising two kids, running a lifestyle block in North Canterbury, and work,” says Jayne, a freelance graphic designer by day who manages all the registrations, website, media, prizes, catering and more.

Her husband, Mike, who works with Air New Zealand Engineering, looks after the traffic management and health and safety aspects of the journey.

“We couldn’t do it without all the support from our team of helpers and marshals on the day, our suppliers and sponsors.

“And, of course, all the riders who take part and get out there raising awareness and bringing in the fundraising dollars.

“Over the years we’ve taken over 1000 people on this journey with us coast-to-coast on scooters.”