November 6th – 11th
This all started back in February 2019. I recall scrolling through Facebook after sharing my JustGiving page.
In January, I decided to undertake some challenges throughout 2019 in order to challenge my mind. The ‘to do list’ included Brecon Beacons, Mount Snowdon, Ben Nevis and another challenge, to be decided. This “other” challenge would be my last for 2019. Prior to the Brecon walk in February, the challenges were for my mindset and to see how far i can push myself. I wanted to get to the moment where your body wants to stop, you question yourself, every doubt kicks in, BUT you push on. That’s what I wanted. 1 week before I was to go over to brecon, I decided to start a JustGiving page and would use my treks in order to raise money for charity. The UK Sepsis Trust (TUST for the purposes of this page) was my chosen charity. Why TUST? Well, in 2016, my mum died form Sepsis. I had no idea what sepsis was prior to her contracting this following a stint in hospital and a cut on her leg. I don’t think many people knew or still do. So, my journey began with a greater purpose than just myself.
Back to where this began – February 2019. Scrolling through with their MI5 like algorithms, they knew I was looking at the Sepsis site (spies) and an add popped up which read something like “Sahara trek 2019 for Sepsis UK”, through Skyline events. I clicked on the link, had a read, gave them a call and then booked it. This all took 45 minutes. I committed.
Fast forward to November 6th, 2019, heading to Gatwick Airport in London, not knowing too much about what will be occurring during the trek, the group that will be there, the food, even the small fact of where will I be doing my number 2 (taking a shit basically).
I won’t go into each day of the trek day by day – that’s not what I do. It’s still pretty difficult to put into words just how good this trek was. I’ll bullet point some greatness below
- The PEOPLE – Some of the greatest humans I’ve had the pleasure of being around
- Sun sets / sun rises – seriously, these were jaw dropping
- Food – traditional morocco food, in a tent, in the middle of the desert
- Togetherness within the group
Right enough of the bullet points. The people I had the pleasure of meeting were just phenomenal. We just bonded naturally like we had known each other for a number of years. The bond was immense. I’ve been back now 11 days and i genuinely miss being in the company of the group I met. I believe they all deserve a mention here as they are my number one reason for loving this trip
Mark – a man with learning difficulties proving there is no dune too high. Part of the HFT charity crew. No challenge was too big for this incredible human. He touched our hearts and was a joy to be around. Mark would also lead the morning pre walk warm up, like a BOSS! See pic.
Paul – my tent buddy and someone who become almost a brother to me during this trek. That says it all.
Sean – just cracked on. Took everything in his stride
Jodie – i caught her catching flies once when I turned around in the van and took a picture. She was snoozing. 😊 A lovely and kind lady
Kate T – The guru. This woman was incredible to talk to. Almost felt like a mother
Joe & Chris – I put these 2 together as they were a team within a team. The togetherness I seen between them was beautiful. Two people who value each other and the friendship they share. These 2 were not only kind but a laugh to be around. Joe had a mind of a bloke haha. Yes, every innuendo was highlighted surprisingly by her.
Steph – Steph was my scarf go to person. I had no idea how to put it on for at least 24 hours. I shared some quality time with Steph during this trek talking about topics close to my heart. She was a joy to be around and one intelligent woman that’s for sure. I won’t even tell you how many degrees she has
Elaine – Paul and I recently described Elaine as a Pocket Rocket. She literally smashed this trek and not once did she complain or moan. A kind and warm-hearted soul
Nino – This man was everywhere. One minute he is beside you, next minute, he is on top of a dune with a stick looking down like some super hero. A genuinely funny and kind man.
Catherine (Inverness) – a special someone. She lost her dad through Sepsis and was raising money for TUST. Do I need to say anymore about why this woman was special! She is kind, funny, warm hearted and also gave me Scottish money which I still have ha-ha.
Catherine – again, another special woman who I bonded with. A 61-year-old who defied all odds and smashed it. After a minor blip, due to the heat (3 hour break), she totally nailed it. I felt the need to re-instate some confidence in her and this totally worked. Some tears were shed following some words I had to use but they hit home. She smashed this and I genuinely feel she found something within her she didn’t think she had. I couldn’t have been any prouder for anyone.
Chris – Doctor – A proper lad from Glasgow. As a doctor, his priority of course was ensuring we all were ok, health wise. It was a pleasure however to see him as part of the group dynamics and having a good laugh and sharing some evenings with a few of us under the stars, talking and singing to some old school music.
Sophie – Crew – as part of the crew, like Chris, was one of us. Similar to myself, Sophie didn’t like travelling much on what I can describe as the worst roads I had ever been on (through the Atlas Mountains). Some deep conversations throughout the trek and she’s a great woman, to keep this simple!
Kim – Skyline Ops manager – Like Chris and Sophie, one of us. Able to have a laugh and share jokes with but also very caring towards the others during the trek and on multiple occasions I witnessed her hanging back giving company to some of the group.
Ian – Trek Leader – Who’s the daddy ha-ha. I say this because Ian was like the Daddy of the group. The man was pure immense throughout and hands down one of the kindest individuals I’ve met. He of course was the leader but he also took our advice and listened and it as a pleasure to have done this trek with him at the forefront of this.
The above is just a snippet of how wonderful the group was. Like I said before, the togetherness was there from day 1 up until the very last minute at the airport on the 11th.
We would walk throughout the morning and head over to a location in the Desert early afternoon where our local helpers would have a tent set up for us where we would have lunch. This would allow the group to refill water and have some much needed food along with a rest. Following lunch, we would continue the walk. The helpers would then do their bit and meet us at another location where we’d meet them in the late afternoon, early evening. When we arrive at the camp, we’d have to set up our own tents. Paul and I were tent buddies. I did at the beginning pretend I knew what I was doing putting the tent up; I don’t think Paul noticed but I had no idea. I was hoping he did. Luckily, he did. Cheers Paul!
The evening would involve an evening meal and chill out after. The meals were amazing. Traditional Moroccan dishes. I’m not however too keen anymore with Olives in curries. A big NO from me. Once we had all eaten, we were free to do as we pleased. Some decided to head into their tent for a much needed rest. Some of us headed up on a dune and had a good laugh, and above was – the stars! This was epic. Special moments were created. Songs were sung and secrets were shared. It was truly amazing. The temperature around 20:00 onwards would start to drop and a fleece would be required, unless you were brave. It would not be freezing, but slightly cold. As the hours ticked on however, it would get cold. Paul and I would typically roll into our tent around 22:30 – 23:00. Have a good laugh and head to sleep. The mornings were cold. I would probably say about 6-10degrees Celsius. That’s how it felt anyway. Breakfast would follow. One of the days, we had porridge. I was well happy with this; I do love a bowl of porridge. We would also prior to breakfast have to take down our own tent. Our tent was always down before the others. Paul and I both had a little unsaid competitive nature and we just wanted to get it done first. I guess we were the desert kings 😊 This did however have benefits. As we were done before the others, it would allow us to help others in taking down their tent. We did make a great team – bromance was blooming.
The day would then repeat itself when it comes to itinerary but each day was special in it’s own way. The chats, discussions, the banter, laughs, the togetherness each day; this was all building. The bonds were getting stronger and stronger.
What stands out is, I didn’t feel tired, not one bit. The sleep wasn’t great but not the worst. The days were long. We walked a lot. It was HOT. Yet, I didn’t feel tired. Only looking back, I can say there was no external stressors. Well, nothing to worry about anyway. Back here at home, we have bills to pay, food to cook, work to do, study to do, social media to update, family to speak to etc etc. There are things we need to do. Out there during this trek, I felt stress free. I was living in the moment, surrounded but wonderful people, having the time of my life. The most stressful part of the day would be deciding which sand dune should I piss behind so nobody sees me. And even that wasn’t stressful but you get what I mean. Another stressful time; we had chemical toilets set out at each camp which would be within a small tent, cubicle like. It f****ing stank but it was the thought of someone walking up to it not realizing you’re in and opening up the front cover. Again, even that wasn’t stressful.
There were times during the trek where I’d walk alone and have silent moments, stillness of thought. This was beautiful. Once aware of this stillness, I would smile and think to myself how fortunate I am to be alive and being around so much love, because that’s exactly what it was, love, love by the individuals on that trek. It was like a warmth within my heart triggered by the people around me.
The effects of living in the moment for a period of 5 days has had a phenomenal impact on my life since. I’ve not had this smile 😊 removed for 11 days. I feel my inner strength has developed, along with inner peace. This is a feeling very difficult to describe but one I feel within. The only way I can share this is by advising you to get out of your comfort zone and go explore. Go for breaks like this. Don’t think of it as a challenge because the togetherness and love will override the challenge. Go and develop yourself mentally by being uncomfortable. 9/10 however we overthink issues. The issues we think in our mind are exaggerated. They end up being very minuet compared to what we first thought. Let’s get passed the fear of our thoughts and follow our heart. Believe it or not, I get nervous around people I don’t know or around a group of people. I get anxiety. I’m not the confident person people think I am. It takes time for me to get involved but the best way to do this, is by jumping in. I definitely was uncomfortable to start with on this trek. This trip not only allowed me to expand my friendship circle but it opened up a closed part of my heart; again, very difficult to describe but I feel my love has opened up that little bit more and I’m not afraid to share it
Thanks as ever
1 half of the Desert Kings
Take Your Next Step