Cape Town – Adventurer Dave Barr, 62, has circumnavigated the world, battled through 5 000km of sleet and ice in Siberia and faced off with crocodiles in Australia.
He has been called the “toughest biker” in the world and the fact he is a double amputee has never deterred him for a second. Barr is in South Africa for theChutzpah Adventure – a motorcycling tour aimed at raising money for the disabled.
The tour members left Joburg on April 15 , stopped in Cape Town and were travelling through the Garden Route this week.
A Californian, Barr joined the US Marine Corps when he was only 17 and received 57 air medals while serving in Vietnam. In 1972, he became a professional soldier, serving in different armed forces, including the SADF during which time he lost both his legs in a landmine explosion in Angola in 1981.
“I was 29 years old. I had 20 operations and four amputations. Nine months and 18 days later I returned to combat duty in a training capacity. I really learned how to walk again once I was back in the bush,” said Barr, during the tour’s stopover in George this week.
With a twinkle in his eye, Barr describes himself as “a professional cripple, and I tell some of the worst amputee jokes you will ever hear”.
But it’s a case of hard core with a heart. It was during the long months in hospital when he first started counselling other patients who had similar injuries.
“I wanted to help other disabled people come to terms with their circumstances, as well as show them that anything can be done if you put your mind to it.”
His plan was to set up a foundation to help disabled people and circumnavigate the world on his Harley Davidson motorbike.
“I did a test run by crossing the Namib desert alone to see if I could do it,” he said. He completed the 1 500km trip, returned to Joburg, rebuilt the bike and set off again.
His solo world trip covered a gruelling 135 000km and took three-and-a-half years, which earned him his first place in the Guinness Book of World Records and the Harley Davidson Hall of Fame.
He has since earned two more Guinness World Records: for completing the first motorcycle journey between the four geographical corners of Australia and for the first journey across Siberia, Russia, and Northern Europe in winter, which he completed on a 1996 Harley Davidson Sportster. He had no support teams during his journeys and his records were not for a disabled category, but for an able-bodied person.
“I’ve made it through snowstorms in Siberia, sandstorms in the Gobi Desert and had to cross rivers full of crocs in Australia. I still use a map and a compass and don’t know how to use a GPS,” he said.
Travelling around South Africa with Barr are former US war veterans as well as South African bikers.
Cape Town biker Derrick Geary from Moth Motorcycle Association said: “Stopping in at the Cheshire Homes has been an eye-opener for me. It’s not only the enjoyment of the ride, but also that you are doing something worthwhile for our community at large”, while Joburg biker, Edmund Von Krause described the trip as “a ride with a legend and a ride with a purpose”.
The 2015 Chutzpah Tour will raise money for Cheshire Homes South Africa for people with disabilities and the Quad Para Association. From the Cape they will stop at Ballito, Nelspruit and Tzaneen as well as smaller towns, ending in Soweto on April 30.
South African motorcyclists are welcome to join the ride at any point on the route and for any length of time.