Doing what seems to be impossible to others has become a career for former Tuks student Christo Coetzer. On 28 March Coetzer embarked on an expedition to circumnavigate the Jamaican coastline on a unicycle. “It was a challenge on a much larger scale,” said Coetzer when comparing it to his journey around Mauritius last year.
Coetzer was accompanied by his father Theo and a local photographer throughout the entire journey. From the onset of the project Coetzer and his father were faced with challenges ranging from transport to accommodation. When the decision was made to go to Jamaica they did not even have the means to get there until a friend sponsored their air tickets.
On the day of their departure from the Bob Marley Museum, Coetzer, fitted with the Jamaican Olympic cycling kit, was the only person on their team with a wheel roll on. It was through the generosity of one of the locals that a vehicle was sponsored to transport their equipment and supplies.
Due to the condition of the roads, they were often forced to use routes unfamiliar to the locals and to travel in areas uninhabited by humans. “You can’t prepare for everything,” Coetzer reflected. The adventurers awoke each morning not knowing what lay ahead on the terrain they were about to enter. They also didn’t know where they were to sleep each night.
Before embarking on their journey, the Coetzers did a topographical scan of the island with the aid of Google Earth and various maps in order to plan their route. Coetzer himself had to go through rigorous training in the six months leading up to his departure. The training consisted of two sessions a day five days a week, long distance cycling in the morning and strength training in the afternoon. “It was a much bigger physical challenge than anything I’ve ever done in my life,” admits Coetzer.
The same schedule Coetzer used in training was used on the actual journey, which was a counter-clockwise circuit around the island. Coetzer cycled on Mondays through Wednesdays and on Fridays and Saturdays. He used his off days to explore the island. Coetzer cycled for seven to nine hours each day, covering distances ranging from 65 to 80 km: a task he described as “an epic journey around the island”.
The island consists of mountains, wide open countryside and a tropical rainforest skirting the ocean. The main road was riddled with potholes. According to Coetzer, “the roads are horrific to say the least”. The environment was constantly changing as they travelled and in one such instance a 16km uphill climb suddenly became a wildlife park.
The trip had special significance for Coetzer as it had always been his dream to visit the island. This was amplified by the association the locals made between him and Peter Tosh who was also a unicyclist and an original member of The Wailers. During his travels on the island, people kept singing the song One Wheel Wheelie by Early B wherever he went. Coetzer, who had never heard it before, only there discovered that the song was about a man unicycling around Jamaica.
This trip confirmed to Coetzer that he had found his calling. “Every time you go it’s not like it’s gonna quench your thirst,” explains Coetzer. “It sort of goes and builds a bigger hunger within yourself.” Being an adventurerer has become Coetzer’s life and he will overcome whatever odds to continue to follow his dreams. “If you have the courage to do that, it will lead to a much better future for yourself and for people in general,” believes Coetzer.