Wheelchair Adventurers Pursue South American Wilderness

What disability? Polish friends Maciej Kamiński and Michał Woroch don't let wheelchairs get in the way of adventure.


Calling them wheelchair-bound sounds misleading. Polish friends and adventurers Maciej Kamiński and Michał Woroch definitely aren't stuck.

The duo photographed far-flung locales, road-tripped around Europe and ditched wheels altogether to reach remote communities on horseback. Next week they're flying to South America to begin a new journey from one end of the continent to the other.

Kamiński and Woroch, both in their early 30s, made a strong pitch to the jury of the annual Kolosy travel and exploration awards. They won the 2015 Andrzej Zawada Award, named after the famed Polish mountaineer, given to recipients under age 35 who present the most extraordinary expedition proposal. It also comes with a grant that will support their South America expedition this month.

Polish kayaker Piotr Chmielinski served on the jury and recounted on Pythom how Kamiński and Woroch transformed him and the other jury members from skeptics to enthusiasts for the South America idea in the short five minutes they had to share their idea.

The plan really is wild. On November 9 they will fly from Poland to Buenos Aires and then pick up a 1996 Land Rover that has been converted so it can be driven entirely by hand. The vehicle also has lifts so they can get into the driver's seat and to the rooftop, which doubles as a tent platform.

After making their way to Cape Horn, they will drive along the Pacific coast all the way to the Peruvian Amazon, where they plan to visit local shamans. Depending on how they're feeling, the two might continue to Costa Rica and up into the United States. Chmielinski reported that they got U.S. tourist visas just in case.

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The friends first met at a physical therapy clinic in Bydgoszcz more than a decade ago, according to Chmielinski. He doesn't say much about the causes of their wheelchair use beyond mentioning that Woroch was an avid cyclist before a disease forced him to give up the sport. United by a passion for challenging popular misconceptions, they decided to drive around Europe together.

That adventure took place in 2012, and looks like a fun, laid-back time (video). Over the course of three months they traveled through 13 countries by van, ferry and sometimes wheelchair. Rocky beaches, muddy mountain passes and even crazy steep stairs are no match for these two - with a little help from friends. Their website also chronicles traveling by train from Moscow to Mongolia, where they made their way to a tiny settlement and rode on horseback to visit nomadic reindeer herders.

We clearly need a new descriptor. I recommend boundless wheelchairing.

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Mount Huashan, in Huayin City, is one of the five sacred mountains in China. The path to the top of the mountain is incredibly steep and treacherous. Its cliffs are almost perpendicular to the Earth but the views from above are breathtaking. A cable car takes tourists from the east gate to the North Peak directly, but many people go for the trekking option, if for nothing more than athletic accomplishment. Check out the

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This photo was taken by amateur photographer Vivian Lee at Mount Huashan in the autumn of 2012. "We were given a chest harness, two carabiners, and with minimal instructions, off we went. The most daunting part of the initial dissent was down a narrow ladder of iron rods hammered into the side of the mountain."

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"With two way traffic, there were times when two people could be standing on the same rod at the same time," Lee said. "At the bottom of this makeshift ladder is a 2-foot-wide plank to traverse across and a metal chain to clip your carabiners as you make your way across."

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"The tea houses dotted around the mountain," Lee said, "used to be Taoist temples, now converted to allow hikers to take tea breaks or camp overnight during their visit. We also enjoyed a pot of freshly brewed Chinese tea when we finally reached the south peak.

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An estimated 100 people die every year on Mount Huashan. "I wanted to capture the emotions of these daring hikers, and at the same time, find that for myself," Lee said. "What compels them to take such risks? What was at the end of this plank walk?"

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When we reached the end, all we found was a small shrine," Lee said. "But I felt it was the sheer adrenaline of being in the clouds that attracted people like myself here."

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