Two fine young men ride for polio

Two young men left Cape Reinga on Thursday morning for a 3358 km bike ride to Bluff.

This is no casual road trip. It's a celebration and a fundraiser by two guys who are best mates, experienced cyclists, and idealists prepared to help out other people.

They are 24 year old Xaver Hausner from Bavaria in Germany and 23-year-old Oliver Macindoe, both students at Victoria University. The celebration is for the end of Xaver's time in New Zealand as a Rotary Ambassadorial scholar. The two met in Germany when Ollie spent six weeks there on a school visit.

The cause is polio. It's been unknown in New Zealand for many years, but is still found in just four countries in the world - India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

For the last 25 years the Rotary organisation internationally has been working with UNESCO and the World Health Organisation to eliminate polio by immunizing children. Through the combined efforts of those organisations and with the help of national governments and thousands of volunteers, two billion children have been immunized. Now 99% of the world is polio free, and Rotary is pushing hard to knock off the last one percent.

Their 3358km journey from Cape Reinga to the Bluff has been divided into segments of 13.4kms and each of the 250 Rotary clubs in New Zealand is being asked to sponsor the guys for at least $10 a kilometer.  Community leaders will be riding with them as they pass through each town. Rotary members are helping out with accommodation and meals and are collecting donations from the public.

All donations will go directly to the fight against polio and whatever is raised will be matched dollar for dollar by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which has pledged US $220 million to Rotary's campaign to end polio worldwide).

Xaver and Ollie left Cape Reinga on Thursday 24 November and plan to reach Bluff on Sunday 16 January. They'll be in Wellington on Wednesday 22 December for a brief Christmas break.

And because it's their ride, they are going their way - not straight down the North Island to Wellington, but via Gisborne; and not straight down the east coast of the South Island, but to Bluff via Nelson and Wanaka.

The Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand will meet and greet them in Auckland and Wellington's Mayor, Celia Wade Brown, will ride with them into Wellington.  

Sponsors have been generous; City Cycle Hire in Christchurch has lent bikes; Ultimo Clothing has donated riding gear. They'll travel free on the Interislander.  Telecom, Vodafone and Leica have all contributed valuable technical support in communications.

With the help of Rotary clubs all along the route, they aim to raise at least $100 000 for the campaign to eradicate polio.

You can follow the progress of Xaver Hausner and Ollie Macindoe on their epic journey at www.polio.org.nz where you can also donate online and get a tax receipt.