Our Sahara Trekkers have now departed! If you would like to donate to their efforts you can do so below:
8th to 13th March 2019
Sahara Trek Blog
At Ouarzazate airport we watched the sun rise over the Moroccan hills for a final time. A perfect, sultry morning with the promise of a long, hot day ahead that we left behind to start the journey home.
After 18 hours travelling, what a treat to arrive back at the hospice with the fundraising team and our friends and family there to meet us. We said our goodbyes and shared our final moments as Sahara trekkers 2019 together. But it’s clear this won’t be our last team effort. Plans are already afoot for the Moonlight Walk and Cross Bay Walk in June – there’s a good chance that many of us will meet again on a future trek – we shared a fabulous time together, many of us are keen to have another go.
If our blog has inspired you to have a go too, why not give the fundraising team a call on 01524 382538? It’s the Nepalese foothills trek in 2020 and there’s still plenty of time to raise the money needed. You can choose to self fund your place or you can use the money you raise to pay for your place as long as you are clear about this when you advertise your events. We have loads of ideas and inspiration to share with you, so go on, challenge yourself to do something amazing whilst raising money for St John’s, our fabulous local hospice!
After another night sleeping under the stars, our final day in the Sahara began with taking down tents and packing at 6am in total darkness. After more fabulous food, rustled up in a tent on a one ring burner with a pressure cooker! we said goodbye to our desert crew with a short ceremony to thank them for all their hard work. They were AMAZING, transporting our bags, cooking our meals and being on hand for those whose camping skills were a little lacking! Their final gift to us was a ride on their camels as the sun rose.
We headed off across a dry river bed flanked by endless dunes for our final three hours’ walking. The wind had changed, it was coming from the North, so our final trek was in weather similar to a fabulous spring day in England. Again, a time for reflection and conversation about our personal motivation for being in the middle of the desert and not washing for three days!
Our walk ended at a ruined fort just before a sandstorm blew up again. It was as though the weather waited for the SJH team to cross the finish line and have their final group photo together.
The first leg of our long journey back to civilisation began with an exhilarating one and a half hour jeep ride back to M’hamid where we picked up our minibus to start the 5 hour leg back to Ouarzazate and a shower!!!!
We met in the hotel bar, hardly recognising each other after washing off 5 days’ of desert dust before heading out to a local restaurant for a celebration meal. This was a chance to thank our wonderful Skyline team and our local guides. We couldn’t have done this without Simon, our trek leader (for the third time!), Sophie, our doctor plus Mohammed and Mohammed, our Saharan desert experts.
After much frivolity and laughter, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for our long journey back to Lancaster in the morning.
Who would have thought it was possible to miss a sandstorm?! Today’s walk was tough, in 30 degree heat with little or no shade. The beauty of the undulating sand dunes made the heat seem bearable though. We were heading for the largest sand dune in the area, with the promise of a spectacular sunset.
More fun pitching tents, but the heat was unbearable as we tried to make camp.
Just before sunset, we began our final steep ascent. This was tough at the end of a long searingly hot day, but teamwork and brute force ensured everyone got to the top in time to don hospice hoodies and watch the sun finally slip behind the dunes to end day 4. On the way down, as the stars began to appear, there were a few tearful moments as people took time to reflect on their reasons for trekking and their physical and emotional efforts on such a challenging day.
This morning we headed off into uncertainty. At our impromptu dinner at the gite, our guide, Simon, explained that we need to take a chance on the weather improving and make up the miles we lost yesterday. It looks like an 8-10 hour trek is ahead of us and, at the end, we may need to camp in the wild sandstorm after all.
After 10k walking, the wind really picked up. Even with our now-beloved sand goggles, it was impossible to see. With the heat increasing and water running short, even our desert guides were lost. We took shelter from the still- harsh mid-day sun underneath an area of dry desert shrubbery, trying to find a small patch of shade. As we waited and waited for the camel train to arrive, our talk turned to home and our reasons for joining the trek. It’s clear the hospice means so much to so many people in our community. It was humbling to hear. We waited for 2 hours in the burning heat but the storm didn’t abate. Even our guides looked concerned and eventually called for 4×4 assistance. One of the 4x4s got stuck in the sand so our rescue took longer than expected. Our rescue ended with a hair-raising jeep ride to a clearing where the guides set up a communal tent for lunch at 4pm!
We continued our walk after “lunch” and arrived in camp just in time to learn how to pitch our tents. After an amazing dinner of Moroccan tagine and delicious vegetables, we were all ready for bed. Most people chose to sleep outside, ending our 3rd day with an amazing display of shooting stars in the black night sky.
Day 2 – Saturday
After a subdued start – yesterday’s journey was a long slog – we headed off over the ante Atlas Mountains with a fabulous view of the snow capped Atlas Mountains in the distance. The mountains look folded and dramatic. Crisp, cool air at 3000 feet was not what we expected from our first photo opportunity and some of us weren’t dressed for it!! As we descended on the other side we passed beautiful Kasbahs which are actually fortified threshing floors protected because of their value to the communities they serve. We stopped for mint tea and coffee at Kasbah Draas before heading to the nearby town to get fitted with our traditional desert headwear…. it’s fair to say, it suits some more than others!!
As we progressed towards the trek starting point, the weather changed and the hot desert winds whipped up. When we met the berbers (our desert guides) and our camel train, we were told it was too windy for us to camp as planned. A quick discussion led to us donning our newly acquired head-gear and skiing goggles (yes, when we saw them on the kit list, we laughed too!) before trekking through the late afternoon and early evening to a gite a little off course but a really fabulous mirage in the middle of a Saharan sandstorm. The family greeted us with peppermint tea and local snacks and the unexpected treat of a shower – 1 between all of us, but a shower none the less!
After a fiercely contested quiz we headed for bed in small dormitories rather than our tents. It’s fair to say, this was a relief for some of us!!
All checked in!
Team St John’s Hospice have arrived at Heathrow and are ready to start the next part of the journey! Extremely excited, nervous and apprehensive but one thing is for sure raising over 40k has involved team work and dedication from them all, all for Hospice care in our community.
And we’re off! On one of those fabulous, crisp North Lancashire March mornings, 17 of us left the hospice, a couple of people are meeting us in London. A mix of excitement and apprehension is in the air – how many service stations (wee stops!) are there between Lancaster and Heathrow?? It was fab to see so many friends, family and team members up so early to wave us off. A long journey lies ahead now – coach to Heathrow, flight to Casablanca, another flight to Ouarzazate then a long drive into the Sahara to meet our local guides and camels! We’ll let you know when we’re there!!