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Globetrotter in a Wheelchair:
"Men with Kalashnikovs Have Arrested Me"
Far countries, foreign cultures – this are the challenges Andreas Pröve faces up to over and over again with enthusiasm. His wheelchair does not hinder his thirst for adventure, on the contrary: Just because many people do not think he is capable of doing it, he ventures the apparently impossible.
Andreas Pröve has no fears of contacts at all; © N. Chhikara
REHACARE.de talked to the travel journalist and writer about helpfulness, earplugs and why he was mistaken for an Israeli spy.
REHACARE.de: India, Vietnam, Jordan, Persia – in all these countries you have already been. Mr. Pröve, why did you choose especially these countries?
Andreas Pröve: Over and over again it is a challenge for me. Especially India is after my 14th trip still fascinating. Besides, this country is a heavy nut, above all because of the bad sanitary arrangements. And then the surrounding: From the Himalaya over the desert up to the tropical rain forest – there you can find all possible different natural forms.
REHACARE.de: So it is the versatility of the country what attracts you?
Pröve: Yes, India is in such a way as if one left the world. Extremely exotic. It is not European at all, similarly foreign like China. Indeed, I am glad that everywhere English is spoken. This simplifies the communication.
REHACARE.de: The areas which you travel around are hardly barrierfree. How does one move forward there completely alone with a wheelchair?
Pröve: This functions only with the help of the people on site. Helpfulness must be there if accessibility is absent. If it becomes uneven or arduous, I do not get further anymore if nobody is there. There I already had to turn around several times.
REHACARE.de: But it did not discourage you from trying again.
Pröve: That's right. In countries like Nepal it is usual, for example that people are carried. Of course being carried on the back costs – depending on how much expenditure the distance for the carriers means. Then, at least, they have to carry me, with my 80 kilogrammes, and the wheelchair, plus eight kilogrammes of luggage as well as ten kilogrammes of photo and film equipment.
Andreas Pröve is accompanied by nine carriers and five horses;
© Nagender Chhikara
REHACARE.de: Whom or what do you miss mostly on the way?
Pröve: A really good grain bread! You do not get this anywhere in India or the other countries in which I am on the move. But in the big cities I go to, you get something to eat at every corner.
REHACARE.de: And what is an absolute must-have when you are on the move?
Pröve: Earplugs and a dark cloth. The earplugs are very important, because I always visit very loud countries. No matter whether in the coach, in the train, on the street or in the hotel room – it is always loud. Especially in the hotels the room walls are often very thin and I need my sleep. Therefore, with the dark cloth I cover my eyes so that it is darkly enough for sleeping. One cannot darken properly many of the mostly cheap hotel rooms in which I spend the nights or there are neon lights directly in front of the window.
REHACARE.de: How do the people react on site if you appear with your wheelchair?
Pröve: For them I always stand out like a sore thumb. Then the people are so curious and fascinated by me that real human grapes gather around me. By this I have already caused some traffic jams on the streets of China. Even the police had to come several times.
Andreas Pröve loves loud and lively cities. Here he arrivse in Kunming/China;
© Nagender Chhikara
REHACARE.de: Where do you see differences in how different cultures handle your handicap?
Pröve: According to country and culture helpfulness is not natural. Standing at the sidewalk and looking sad is not enough there. In India people with handicaps are said to be hit by karma. They will often casted out and live as a beggar. Moreover, in countries with Buddhist faith feet are impure. Then there it becomes quite difficult to lift somebody in the wheelchair. Since they would not touch the feet.
REHACARE.de: But there are also countries in which people are more helpful.
Pröve: Yes, in Iran, for example, one often does not even have to ask. There are hardly fears of contacts. There one is lifted fast sometimes whether one wants or not. (laughs) In general, handicapped people are often valid as heroes and are highly respected in countries, which have experienced many wars.
REHACARE.de: Have you already experienced dangerous situations?
Pröve: After I had climbed a mountain top in Iran the look above a wonderful valley came up to me. I simply had to take a photo of this. Besides, the small building in the middle of the valley did not disturb me further. I thought it would be a factory. However, it was the nuclear research centre of Natanz. Suddenly a military jeep came up to me. Men with Kalashnikovs have arrested me. They thought I would be an Israeli spy. Of course the film from the camera was pulled out and destroyed.
The Mekong is famous for its brown colour; © Nagender Chhikara
REHACARE.de: Certainly an unique situation?
Pröve: Well, something similar has happened to me six years ago in Syria. Actually, I only wanted to go to bed in the desert, I did not have a tent. And promptly there came some soldiers who were very angry. I was on a military area and was led off directly. It took some timeuntil I had explained why I had a film camera and several photo cameras with me. The soldiers thought it was a spy equipment. Making mistakes is easy and therefore one should pay attention well.
REHACARE.de: How do you organise these costly trips, actually?
Pröve: I investigate a lot on the Internet. In the meantime, thanks to Google Earth I can have an exact look at the area and at the geographical state of my destination. Concerning the Mekong head I found out by that that it was a high moor level and I did not have to face steep slopes. I used to risk more back then and have failed several times. It is very important to find out a lot about the culture, religion and also the political situation.
REHACARE.de: Do you have any tips for other thrillseekers?
Pröve: The most important questions to begin with are: What kind of auxiliary means do I need on the way? Can I buy them on site? How much luggage do I need and how much I can really carry? After all, the quality of a trip depends on the fact how much money one wants to and can invest. Then if necessary, one is forced to lower one’s sights in the matter of hygiene and comfort. But a lot is possible if you really want it. Everything is not always that negative like it is often reported in the media.
REHACARE.de: You have already seen so much from the world. Is there still any country you still want to go to?
Pröve: I love the liveliness, the people, the coloured markets, the different odours. This is where I want to be. Africa would still be attractive. But I am not ready yet with Asia by now. I still want to go to Tibet, in the Himalaya. Even if a lot of people think, wheelchair and mountains – this does not fit at all. But nothing is impossible to me. I would like to travel more off the road, away from the streets. Thereby new worlds will open up to me. I want to extend my horizon and cross boundaries.
This interview was conducted by Nadine Lormis.
Globetrotter in a Wheelchair: Andreas Pröve
Andreas Pröve knows no hurdles! For him it cannot be uneven and steep enough at all. What he experienced on his last tour along the Mekong, he tells you in our photo gallery.Globetrotter in a Wheelchair: Andreas Pröve