Scooting over the alps

Peter Donaldson ponders the prospect of crossing the Southern Alps on a 50cc Suzuki scooter. ...
Peter Donaldson ponders the prospect of crossing the Southern Alps on a 50cc Suzuki scooter. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Next Saturday, at a time most people are tucked up in bed, Peter Donaldson will be leaving Christchurch on a commuter scooter, hoping to reach Hokitika before the sun sets.

I should have known better than to ask Mike Pero and Rod Price if they fancied joining me on a 250km scooter ride across the Southern Alps.

Motorcycle racers from way back, both immediately switched into competitive mode.

Within minutes, Pero, the Christchurch-based mortgage and real estate entrepreneur had emailed a picture of his weapon of choice, the biggest and most powerful scooter he could find.

From his Wanaka Airport hangar, Price, the owner of Helicraft, talked about taking an engine from one of his race bikes and fitting it into a scooter chassis.

Time to back up and explain. The Trans Alpine Scooter Safari is not a race, gentlemen.

Rather it is an endurance ride to raise funds for the New Zealand Cancer Society.

Good cause, they agreed; we've all had family or friends affected by the disease.

Oh, and in the spirit of the event, we'll be riding 50cc commuter scooters, supplied by Suzuki New Zealand.

Top speed of a Suzuki 50?

Well, let's say there's no point in police setting up speed cameras on State Highway 73 on May 26.

For our protection, Draggin have supplied Kevlar and Dyneema-lined jeans. But we don't get to keep them; they'll be sold later online and the proceeds will go to the society.

Now in its third running, this year's biennial safari again starts at dawn, from the Air New Zealand hangar at Christchurch Airport, finishing about 10 hours later in Hokitika.

Early winter snow and ice on the Porters and Arthur's Passes are just a few of the challenges along the way.

"The scooter safari is not for the faint-hearted," organisers Mike and Jayne Rattray say.

"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.

"We're doing this to show our support for the hardship those living with cancer go through during their treatment - the safari is nothing compared with that."

This year, the Rattrays placed a limit on the number of riders. The 250 places were filled within 18 days.

The fundraising target of $100,000 was passed earlier this week.

As for the competitive edge, I'm still leading our three-way fundraising "race".

However, I'm still way short of the $20,000-plus effort of Chris Sutherland, of Christchurch.

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