ZAGREB, May 20, 2020 – Damir Simunic, a former deminer from Karlovac and current ambassador of Ottobock Adria, is currently passing through the Via Adriatica Trail, the 1100-kilometre-long mountain trail that stretches from Prevlaka in southern Croatia to Cape Kamenjak in Istria.
Simunic is walking it in one piece, from start to finish, and thus will become the first person with a prosthetic aid to do so. It is a very demanding trail that connects the most attractive mountain ranges, peaks, and areas along the Adriatic coast and passes through three national parks, three nature parks and many significant landscapes.
So far only five people have walked from start to finish and Simunic is the first person with a disability to decide to tackle this challenge, and in the first nine days, he has walked 250 kilometres and as many as three sections from Cape Ostra on Prevlaka to Ploce. The fourth section follows the ascent to Biokovo mountain.
“I am happy and excited that after a short delay due to the pandemic, I embarked on this great adventure. I will literally get to know a good part of Croatia, and my philosophy is to enjoy nature and see cultural and historical sights. I am impressed by the kindness of the trail angels who helped me with the first three sections and the support of the mountaineering companies. Mastering this path would mean a lot to me personally because I would move my boundaries to a higher level, which would help me in the future with similar activities. However, the greatest success will be if I encourage one person with a disability or not, to future activities in nature,” Simunic says, adding that this trail is a real challenge because he has never used his prosthetic aid continuously on such a demanding terrain where unforeseen situations can occur.
Simunic lost his foot in 2008 while out demining in the field terrain. Shortly after the accident, he came in contact with experts from Ottobock Adria, a company that produces prosthetic and orthotic aids for people with disabilities, after which he was provided with a prosthetic aid. Simunic is very active and often goes on longer hiking tours both in Croatia and abroad, so it was extremely important to find technical aids and support over the years.
“Our collaboration has been going on since 2008, practically from the first steps with prosthetic aids, through hiking tours in Asia, Africa, to this biggest challenge. When Simunic mentioned that he wanted to cross the Via Adriatica, the first thing we thought about was how the prosthesis should be comfortable, safe, and durable. Of course, it is as light as possible because every gram of weight is important in a section of 1100 km, and the functionality should be as similar as possible to natural movement with as little energy consumption as possible. We believe that we have achieved this with a certain optimization,” said Tomislav Švigir, who has experience of working in the official service team at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Ottobock Adria technicians are in contact with Simunic so that they can provide him with support in the event of an accident on the track. Simunic must be especially careful not to get injured because he will have a load of 25 kilograms on him for several weeks in a row. Since the logistics, ie the supply of food and water in some parts of the trail is difficult, he is assisted by various individuals, mountaineering enthusiasts, trail angels, but also the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service and mountaineering societies.