Trailblazer shows the way on Alps 2 Ocean

Outdoors accessibility advocate Merle Bradley, of Hokitika, in her rough terrain capable...
Outdoors accessibility advocate Merle Bradley, of Hokitika, in her rough terrain capable wheelchair, pushed by designer Peter Thompson, pulls into Oamaru on her fourth day on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN
The sun finally came out as Merle Bradley, of Hokitika, completed her four-day mission in a wheelchair from Lake Tekapo to Oamaru, on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, smiling.

The advocate for outdoors accessibility, who lives with motor neurone disease, averaged about 15km a day and covered about 60km of the 301km trail in a specially designed rough terrain wheelchair with her support team.

Greytown design engineer Peter Thompson, who designed the wheelchair used as she finished last Friday, and Mrs Bradley, endured several days of cold, wet weather on route last week.

Last Thursday, Mrs Bradley rugged up in the chair and used a black plastic rubbish bag to keep her feet and legs dry in the inclement weather.

``We're determined as each other,'' Mrs Bradley said of Mr Thompson who, along with her husband Neil Bradley, pushed her along the trail.

``One day, the entourage woke up and [said] `Merle, you're not going to go today','' she said.

``I said, `I'm going - wet or fine'.''

The Southern Cross Medical Library describes motor neurone disease as ``a neurological condition that causes the progressive degeneration of specialised nerve cells, called motor neurons, in the brain and spinal cord''.

``It has no known cause and is invariably fatal, with a likely life expectancy of 2-4 years from diagnosis.''

Mrs Bradley was diagnosed in 2014 and now spends much of her time in a wheelchair.

She had enjoyed an outdoors lifestyle and meeting Mr Thompson and using the chair he designed ``definitely'' changed her life.

``A year ago, I was never going to be able to go to the beach, or go on tramps anymore, and along came this wheelchair and now I can,'' Mrs Bradley said.

Mr Thompson designed the ``Vitality in Motion'' chair Mrs Bradley used after his late wife Ginny suffered a stroke.

His design was one of the three off-road wheelchairs trialled by Mrs Bradley in March when she covered 24km in a Department of Conservation and Halberg Disability Sport Foundation initiative that tested not only equipment but also the Abel Tasman coast track's accessibility.

After raising $10,000 for motor neurone disease as the organiser of the Hokitika Walk 2 D'Feet MND (motor neurone disease) in June, Mrs Bradley decided her Alps 2 Ocean trip would benefit Lions the Clubs New Zealand Child Mobility Foundation.

Her efforts last week raised about $3000 for the foundation.

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