Henry's peddling on a mission

MAN ON A MISSION: Henry van Campa is cycling the length of New Zealand to raise money for the Spinal Injury Trust.
EMMA DANGERFIELD/Marlborough Express
MAN ON A MISSION: Henry van Campa is cycling the length of New Zealand to raise money for the Spinal Injury Trust.

A former raft guide paralysed in a paragliding training flight is travelling the length of New Zealand on a recumbent trike to raise money and awareness for the Spinal Injury Trust.

Originally from Finland, Henry van Campa (real name Heikki Kaariainen) moved to Australia in 1990 to work as an electronics technician. He came to New Zealand two years later for a cycling holiday and has stayed ever since.

Deciding to complete an adventure tourism course in Nelson, Henry became the country's only Finnish-speaking raft guide. His passion for adventure tourism took him to Queenstown, where he ended up as an electronics technician again, but still followed his love for the outdoors, and enrolled on a paragliding training course.

On January 23, 1997, Henry crashed into a paddock at Arrow Junction, near Arrowtown, a forced landing breaking his back and paralysing him from the waist down. The 52-year-old spent a month in the Burwood Hospital spinal unit, where doctors told him he would he would never walk again.

On November 25, he set off on a cross-country endurance ride from Bluff to Cape Reinga using an ACC-funded 42-gear $7500 recumbent trike.

The purpose is twofold – to strengthen his legs and to raise money for the trust.

After pedalling an average of 25 kilometres each day, he hitchhikes back to collect his campervan, which he has lived in for most of the time since his accident.

"It's great that I have my van. If I had to carry all my stuff, I would be so much slower. With the van, I can be at home anywhere.

"I'm happy to be on my own at night. When I'm on the bike, it's like a state of meditation, like any sport. I forget all my worries. It's only me, the bike and the road."

But reality hits when he gets back to the van, he says, and has to clean, cook and get fuel when he is tired from a day's cycling.

One of the highlights of his trip so far was his entry into Christchurch. He arrived on the same day as the Coast to Coast. "There were people clapping on the side of the road. It was such a buzz."

Henry took a week off in Christchurch, and the earthquake hit.

Unscathed, he left Christchurch on March 1 and arrived in Kaikoura last week. He set off again on Monday and hoped to reach Blenheim in about 10 days.

His goal is to raise $10,000 for charity.

To follow his progress and make a donation, see fundraiseonline.co.nz/HenryVanCampa/

The Marlborough Express