An excerpt from yesterday’s Schwäbischen Zeitung
The retired teacher Alfred Mähr has already completed two extreme bike tours in South America. We visited him in Vogt, near Ravensburg.
It has been a long time since it mattered to Alfred, if he had to cycle over really tough bits a terrain. He can manage a wry smile when asked about the flimsy 800km tour that he and two of his sporty friends cycled over 11 days, starting in Lima and crossing several Andean passes. His face starts to shine when he starts telling about the motive for this unusual bike tour. His goal was Curahuasi, a Peruvian town near the Andean city of Cusco, where ten years ago the German doctor couple Klaus and Martina John
built a hospital with the stated aim of providing medical treatment especially for the indigenous population, who are among the poorest inhabitants of Peru. Last year Mähr brought a donation of €2,800 personally and on his bike. He continued his tour on his Fatbike – its distinguishing feature is its thick tyres – via Cusco and Lake Titicaca to La Paz and then continued downhill to the edge of the Atacama Desert on the Argentinean-Chilean border.
The 67 year old has travelled extensively through the region around his home giving multimedia presentations about the Hospital Diospi Suyana and receiving donations. Mähr does not only talk about the hospital, to which an eye- and dental clinic and also a school now belong, but especially about his first rendezvous with South America, back in 2014.
The hardest cycling race of the world
Back then the Vogtian took part in the legendary Andes Trail, which counts as the hardest of all cycling races. The following facts give you a gist what the race entails: cycling 11,000km over five months from the Equator to the “Fin del Mundo” (the End of the World), which is located at the most southerly tip of South America, in the course of which overcoming 100,000 metres in altitude. If you called it an “inhuman endeavour”, you would not be far wrong. But for the passionate cyclist, who finished the race in second place, it was a dream come true. He never doubted what he was doing for a moment. “No later was he back on his bike the next morning, he was okay again” says Mähr. He was mostly driven by wanting to know what the next day had in store for him.
Countless Alpine crossings by bike had given the retired sports and technology teacher the physical fitness and stamina required for this South American adventure. His wife, Brigitte, also mentions mental reasons for him taking part in this bike tour: “After a day at school and the extreme stress that his own sport and fitness centre, which he ran on the side, gave him, Alfred just needed a way to clear his mind.”
Mähr’s healthy complexion points to the fact that this man loves being outside. Notwithstanding the wrinkles around his eyes, the pensioner exudes incredible vitality and youthfulness. It does not come as a surprise that, if it has snowed too much in the winter, he does his 80 or 100 kilometre cycling spree on the cross country ski trail. Sport has always been part of his life. He played football for 20 years of his life (for part of the time for SSV Ulm in the Oberliga) and still today he competes in senior tennis tournaments. When he was young he started cycling to be able to get from Vogt to his school in Ravensburg. He comments: “To this very day I have never mounted my steed without having a goal.” But the goal was moved further and further away and finally cycling, especially mountain biking, brought out his sportsmanlike ambition. People who know Mähr are not at all surprised about this.
Inspired by South America
Not only the curiosity to know what lies around the next bend, which it is said is a character trait of the Huskies, do cyclists and dogs have in common. Just like the sledge dogs Mähr also has light-blue eyes, which shine when he speaks about South America, even though he looks through the window at the rainy-grey mountainous Allgäu landscape. During the interview his thoughts are miles away from home. Full of enthusiasm he speaks of the cordiality of the Peruvians and Bolivians and the expanse of the Patagonian countryside. But he also talks freely about the exertions he had during his two big cycle tours through South America, the crossing of glaciers, deserts and salt flats, his companion’s bike accident, the Laguna Trail in Bolivia that you can hardly overcome by bike, the cutting headwinds and the sandstorm that forced him to retire from his second tour in 2016.
The peaks of Hochgrat and others, which one can just make out on the horizon, fade until they become mere hillocks, as Mähr, sitting in his Vogtian living room, describes how he crossed the four-thousand metre Andean peaks on his bike. He does not even need one of his many pictures to make South America become real. Even though he talks about everything in a down to earth sort of way and pushes his sporting prowess into the background, he is able to spellbind his listeners so that they too become part of his adventure. “Well yeah, during the day the temperature was between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius, quite pleasant really. During the night the temperature dropped down to minus 20”, he remarks casually. The time when he had neither water to drink nor electricity for his GPS device and he expected to die, is a footnote at most. But when he gives every detail about how he roared across the Salar de Uyuni with his Fatbike the spirit of a youthful rogue lights up in his eyes. But a second later he is back in his role of a retired, calm teacher, who has jotted down on a piece of paper that is lying ready at hand how to correctly spell this 10,000m² large Bolivian salt sea.
Apart from the sporting attraction, a social commitment also leads Alfred Mähr to South America. He wants to continue collecting donations for the Diospi-Suyana-Project. He is currently working on a multi-vision show about his second South American Cycle Tour, with which he wants to go on several presentation tours. Apart from that he is also organising round trips through Bolivia for cyclists. Next year he himself will probably cycle from the Equator northwards until he reaches Mexico. Perhaps his wife, who is also very sporty, will join him. But it may also be a tour from Mongolia back to Vogt “though I do not think I can motivate Brigitte to join me,” muses Mähr. http://www.schwaebische.de/panorama/aus-aller-welt_artikel,-Radler-aus-Leidenschaft-_arid,10638029.html