Nadine Rist

The Swiss Nadine Rist is hobbling on crutches after she was hit by a beer bottle thrown from a car as she and her partner, Eskil Laubli, cycled around New Zealand.

A beer bottle thrown from a car has brought a Swiss couple's round-the-world cycling trip to a halt in New Zealand. The bottle crashed into the frame of Nadine Rist's bike as she and Eskil Laubli battled on a country road into a north-westerly wind on Boxing Day 2003. Shards of glass cut into her right leg, severing tendons near her ankle and below her knee. Nadine Rist, 29, a competitive skier, got a plaster cast around her leg. Afterwards she was contemplating how lucky she was to escape a more serious injury. "It was a big smash. It could have killed someone," she said. The incident happened near the intersection of Carleton and Oxford roads at 1.50pm. The car from which the bottle was thrown did not stop and the police could not found it yet.

Rist and Laubli, 31, an international ski coach, had planned their year-long trip for 18 months. And now they do not know if they could continue the journey by bicycle. They began their trip in North America and were due home at the end of June 2004, after visiting Asia and Europe. The New Zealand leg of their trip started November, and they were quickly introduced to the rigours of riding on local roads. Nadine Rist had something thrown at her in Northland that missed, but Eskil Laubli ended up in a ditch in his bid to evade a sheep truck that was getting dangerously close to him. "We found it very hard to ride in New Zealand. We have ridden through Canada, the United States, and Mexico and they are not nearly as bad as here," said Rist. Motorists often did not give any space around cyclists and some were impatient and abusive. "We think of New Zealand as being sporting, outdoors country but it doesn't feel like that," she said.

But while the incident has put them off the country "a bit" they have been humbled by the kindness shown by several people since the accident. Nadine Rist was taken into Oxford by the wife of the local doctor before being taken by ambulance to Christchurch Hospital. There, Radiographer Jenny McCusker was so upset at Rist's plight that she offered the couple their Pyramid Valley home, inland from Amberley, as their base. "Jenny has saved us. Otherwise we would have been under a bridge somewhere," said Rist. The Radiographer emphasized it was the least she could do and she hoped the same kindness might be shown to one of her children if they suffered the same "unfortunate" experience while travelling overseas. Jenny McCusker is determined to get Nadine back on the road in some form of transport so she and Laubli can see the rest of the South Island during the two months they have left in New Zealand. The two Swiss are sure to continue their journey around the world afterwards, maybe on bicycles ...

Story by Robyn Bristow, Rangiora (New Zealand)