Queenstown operators make dream come true

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Queenstown tourism operators have pitched in to give some thrills to a traveller who is rapidly losing his sight.

American Mike Walsh is travelling the world for 40 days following wherever he is directed by Facebook followers on his page Flight4Sight. 

Walsh, who was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome Type 2 in 1997, has moderate to severe hearing loss and has been gradually going blind since 2011.

“My vision is going. The world will not wait for me,” he writes on his Facebook page, announcing the trip which he hopes to use to get in adventures and raise awareness for vision-impaired people.

“In 2011, my night vision became so bad that driving at night was no longer safe.

“In 2012, my loss of peripheral vision stopped me from being able to drive at all.

“This past year, I began to use a cane. Today, I bump into things all day and every day.

“Crossing streets is a challenge. Darkness is darker for me, and all forms of light are extra bright.”

On arrival in Queenstown last week, he listed 10 activities and said he’d do the three with the most likes – which ended up being Shotover Canyon Swing, SkyTrek tandem paragliding and Ziptrek Ecotours’ flying fox and nature walk.

Walsh did say he was surprised and a bit gutted skydiving came in fourth.

Ziptrek gave Walsh his trip free of charge.

Marketing and sales manager Nicky Busst tells Mountain Scene: “Personally from our perspective this was a decision made due to the moral ground and how it fits within Ziptrek philosophy and culture.

“He is deaf and now losing his sight so he is on a world trip to experience as much as possible before he loses his sight forever.” 

Walsh noted on his Facebook page afterwards that the tandem with SkyTrek was “very scary” though it is not known if he did this for free – operator SkyTrek was unable to be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, he did two canyon swings last Saturday, with Shotover Canyon Swing gifting him his second one free plus his photos and a CD of his swing.

Canyon Swing sales boss Sarah Norton says Walsh didn’t hit them up for a freebie.

They weren’t aware of his global mission till after he’d paid and came out to the site.

“If we’d known, we’d have been grateful to help him out a bit more,” Walsh says. 

“We then gave him his photos, CD and another go for free.

“Anything like that, we’re all about helping people out if they’re going through a tough time.”