Two friends have conquered 185 miles, 10 islands and six causeways on two wheels in aid of International Justice Mission, the largest anti-slavery organisation in the world.
With travel support from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Mrs Elspeth Griffiths and Mrs Melody Ansara have completed Just Ride19’s Hebridean Way - a remote and spectacular ride through the Outer Hebrides on the north west tip of the British Isles, passing through the 10 islands linked by a combination of causeways and ferries, over rugged hills and along the wild Atlantic coastline.
The duo, together with seven other intrepid cyclists, were stuck on the island of Barra for the whole of the first day due to the tail end of Hurricane Dorian, which brought winds in excess of 50mph and saw the cancellation of all ferries. This meant that the intended three-day cycle had to be compressed into just two and a half days.
During the enforced stay on Barra they cycled to Barra Airport to watch a plane take off from the beach during the worst of the storm before completing the Barra to Vatersay section of the route. Day two’s ride from Barra to Berneray (85 miles) was followed by a 66-mile route from Leverburgh on Harris on day three, which included seeing the amazing standing stones at Callanish on Lewis, as well as a five mile detour to enjoy the beauty of Luskentyre Beach. They completed the ride on the morning of day four, with a 35-mile journey from Callanish to The Butt of Lewis before catching the ferry back to mainland Scotland.
Despite Elspeth and Melody not being experienced cyclists, they decided to complete the challenge to raise awareness and money for International Justice Mission. The global organisation is committed to protecting the poor from violence by rescuing victims, bringing criminals to justice, supporting survivors and helping local law enforcement to build a safe future.
The pair have already surpassed their £2,000 fundraising target by £500, with final donations still coming in. The total fundraising amount of Just Ride19’s Hebridean Way has already raised enough money to fund four rescue missions, with the potential to change many lives, not just for the people who have been enslaved but also their families.
Elspeth was born in Scotland but has lived in the Isle of Man for more than 10 years, residing in Gordon, near Patrick. She said: ‘We live on a beautiful island and take for granted the freedoms that other people can only dream of, so the idea of being able to help rescue people from conditions of slavery was a driving force in why we wanted to undertake this mammoth ride.
‘It is fantastic to be part of something so amazing, I feel a real sense of achievement for completing the ride. On the Monday we had to negotiate the highest hill in the Outer Hebrides - The Clisham at 799m. That was probably my greatest mental and physical challenge but I was lucky to have Mel by my side as she kept me going and helped me push myself to my limits! It was an incredible experience and we’re delighted to have raised so much.’
Melody was born in Zimbabwe, and after some years spent travelling and living in South Africa, Australia and London, she settled in the Isle of Man in 2013 and now lives with her family in Glen Maye.
She explained: ‘Since Elspeth introduced me to International Justice Mission, I have been in awe at the work that it does and the reality and horrors of worldwide slavery. It made me realise that we simply can't be ignorant to what is happening and must do our bit to help. I really enjoyed testing my limits and seeing what I am capable of achieving on the ride, especially considering I have never really cycled before!
‘We must say thank you to the wonderful Steam Packet Company for offering discounted return ferry travel for Elspeth and I when travelling to and from the UK, it was a huge help!’
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward added: ‘International Justice Mission is making incredible progress in tackling slavery and is a really important cause to support. We were delighted to offer our support to Elspeth and Melody for this challenge and congratulate them on their achievement – 185 miles on a bike is no mean feat!’