Friday, 31 October 2014

My Sahara Trek Diary #2

The coach arrived at a little village called Mhamid and this was where we met our first guide.  He invited us into his house and laid on a banquet.  Fresh salad, bread, and a tagine.  I was getting used to the mint tea which is always served to guests.  The temperature rose and we were told to relax, as we would be starting our trek as soon as the temperature dropped.  Lying back on the cushions I wondered would I be all right and was Harry, my partner, right to be worried.  A tad perplexed, I put my boots on and joined in the banter of the team who were all excited to depart.  Anita must have known I was worried as she kept an eye on me.  My platypus leaked as we departed and I got even more flustered.  I knew everyone was capable but was I just downright stubborn?  What ifs ?  Too late, I had to succeed as I was determined not to have egg on my face and those villages needed their wells.  OK I am clumsy and downright gormless when in a tight spot.  I could relax and enjoy this adventure couldnt I?  So they had no toilets and no showers and I had soon to learn that they have flies in abundance but I would manage.  Next time I would bring some fly killer with me - if there is to be a next time?

The trek had started and I really enjoyed the walking.  The scenery was to die for.  Tough as it might have been, I knew this was probably the easiest bit of the trek.  I wish I had not been so right.  Why I thought no flies would be in the Sahara I have no idea for, as we stopped, they came.  The tents had been put up before our arrival and the camp looked quite cozy.  My first big mistake when we arrived was to tip out onto the ground the remaining water in my platypus.  Everyone was really surprised.  I nonchalantly stated it did not taste very nice but was told that water was precious and I could not do that in the desert.  Shamefaced, I pretended not to care but inside I wanted to jump into the nearest hole and hide.  We sat on the mats and chatted around the rug where our dinner was to be placed.  I was admiring the sunset when all of a sudden the world took on a different look.  The wind picked up and swirling sand drove us all into a big tent.  The sand storm took us by surprise and the guides tried to make sure our tents were not blown away.  I found a corner where I felt safe and we waited for it to calm down.  Dinner was served and Jim had kindly asked for the cook to make a plate of plain food for me - it was very tasty.  Dinner was always mint tea first, then soup with bread, a tagine of some kind, although we had chicken and chips as well as spaghetti bolognaise, which was very nice.

That night when the sand storm had departed, in its haste it had left most of the sand in everyones bags and tents.  Some of the tents were damaged and had to be sorted out.  Eventually, everyone got into their tents but it was too warm to climb into our sleeping bags so we slept in our liners and tried to sleep.  Even though the desert is a quiet place, it has its own night noises.  One of the most comforting noises was that of the camels; they made me feel very safe.

Dawn and a new day emerged.  Sleep had left me feeling rested.  Although sleeping on the floor was a new experience to me, it was pleasant.  Getting washed and dressed was a bit of a nightmare.  The sandstorm the night before had covered everything in sand and although I used my wet ones I still felt slightly sandy and dirty.  Tents down, bags re-packed and breakfast was a routine that I would get very used to.  With the breakfast came the flies.  I think I must be getting used to them.  Qué será, será’ (what will be will be) came into my head nearly every mealtime.  We had tea/coffee and bread of course, cheese spread, which was really nice, and porridge which got thicker at every serving.  Chocolate spread was a favourite with everyone, especially Chris.

Everyone had got used to me tripping up and knocking things over by now.  It was a running joke.  Water was poured into my glass and passed to me to make sure I did not drop anything and scold anyone, which I had done on too many occasions.  Coffee ended up being put into my glass for me as, for some reason one morning, I missed the glass completely much to everyones amusement.  I really should have bought glasses with me.  (My excuse!)  

The camels did not like being loaded with our bags and they grunted in disdain.  Mind you, I think I would as well. The camels went off and we followed.  However, they were walking at a quick pace and soon were lost out of sight.  The morning was peaceful with some delightful views.  We walked and chatted or walked with our own thoughts.  The desert can be a place where you find yourself and your own inner being.  I found it so tranquil.  However, things change quite dramatically in the desert.  The wind started to get stronger and in the distance you could see the sand being blown across the dunes.  Spectacular as it was, we were walking straight into it.  The rest of the walk I found quite difficult.  Even though I had put on factor 50 sun cream, I was getting quite burnt and we were walking right into the wind and the sand storm.  Our guide asked us to stay put by some dunes and we took refuge there whilst he went on for a while to see if he could see where the rest of the company were.  I had drunk all my water much to the amusement of my friends.  Jim our organizer gave me some more although I was told that that would have to last till we reached camp.  That was quite a while away.


Thursday, 30 October 2014

My Sahara Trek Diary by Karen Stead #1

The train departed at 12.13 a.m. and I had a nervous feeling inside.  What on earth had I let myself in for this time?

It had all begun when I was sitting on the couch feeling very sorry for myself.  Two broken bones in
one foot and the world had stood still.  No walking with Bertie, my dog, no networking in London.  Sitting watching the world go round was very frustrating and expensive .

My laptop pinged I had a new email, even as bored as I was.  Even if  junk, I might as well read it.  Amailia, Anitas daughter and Marketing Manager from the Family Business, had sent me some mail.  It looked interesting but from where I was at the moment, anything would have been.  However, I read the email a couple of times and checked out the Fields of Life website and I was hooked.  So what if my foot was broken in two places; bones mend dont they?!  There were quite a few questions to which I needed answers so I picked up the phone, but I knew in my heart I was going and so I did .
The journey had begun but where would it end and was I up for the challenge?  I had just about raised the £1,500 for the trip and I had been walking miles in my new desert boots and desert socks. These two purchases were the best money spent or so my feet would find out.  Bertie had also lost weight with all the additional walks he had been on.

The journey into London was uneventful, changing at Victoria then on to West Malling to Anitas home.  I felt welcomed and knew that I had an early start so to bed I went.  I kept thinking about the conversation we had had over dinner.  Spicy food, no bathroom facilities, no access to a shower, putting a tent up .  Why had I not done some more research?  I would ask myself that quite a few times over the coming days.  What had I let myself in for?

Just outside of Marrakesh, I found myself sharing a hotel room with Angie who, for some reason unknown to me or Angie, I called Jackie or Anita. She was extremely kind and did not get offended. However, when I started killing every fly in the vicinity, I think she decided that perhaps I might have OCD.  Dinner over with me eating some bread and fruit; I thought I should have brought along some breakfast bars for the journey.  Eating was going to be interesting!  Jim the guide was a tad concerned and asked if I ate spicy food at all.  My reply was NO and the team wondered what I thought I would be eating in Morocco?  So the challenges increased and we had not started the journey as yet.  Breakfast was edible and I made up some sandwiches for the journey.  Good job really as I think I would have been quite hungry.

As we travelled to our destination, I fell in love with the scenery and the Atlas Mountains were amazing. The team fell into slumber and peace prevailed whilst we climbed and descended to our ultimate goal.  Villages were passed through and toilet breaks were taken.  My heart sank as we were shown where the toilets were at the last village.  Flies and a distinctive aroma that I could not place crept over me as I climbed the stairs.  Hilary stepped out from behind the door and her face told me what I did not wish to know.  I went downstairs into the fresh air and was met by Jim.  I asked him if we were stopping elsewhere and the answer was no.  He told me in no uncertain terms that I had to pay a visit or else I would make myself ill.  I approached Angie and asked her to accompany me.  Feeling quite a fool, I gritted my teeth and not for the last time on the trip the sense of nausea and stupidity wrapped itself around me like a cocoon.