By Sarah Maund
St James London North pledged to raise £30,500 for the North London Hospice over the course of a year and as Foundation Rep it was my responsibility to organise the different fundraising activities. I really wanted to sign myself up for a big event and (with a little persuasion) I decided to go for a Charity Sahara Trek. Soon after, I had another 4 ladies from the Finchley office and a handful of Hospice Volunteers sign up too.
16th October 2014: The 3am start was a real struggle. This was made worse by the lack of McDonald's in Gatwick's North Terminal, resulting in our Sausage and Egg McMuffin breakfast became nothing but a pipedream. However we made do with a Starbucks and hopped on the plane to Marrakech.
Once we landed we got straight into a non air-conditioned mini bus and commenced the drive, across the High Atlas Mountains and to a town called Ouarzazate. The views and landscapes were amazing; however the travel sickness, suffered by many was not. Nor was the spot of Moroccan road rage we unwillingly became spectators of.
17th October 2014: After another early start we continued our drive into the arid scenery of the Sahara desert. We eventually came to (literally) the end of the road where we met our camels and trek staff. The start of our trek commenced after lunch with everyone clambering up our first sand dune.
The first night was one of my highlights of the trip. We ate fantastic Moroccan food and listened to some traditional music from our Berber guides. Sophie and I decided to sleep outside our tent where we watched showers of shooting stars, laughed way too much and took it in turns to use our 1 working flashlight to visit the 'toilet tent'. The desert acting as your litter tray is an interesting experience and one I'd rather not repeat!
18th October 2014: The next two days were comprised of a 4 hour walk in the morning, a long stop for lunch and 4 hour walk in the afternoon. Everything was fantastic fun on the 18th. We scaled a rock face (another huge highlight) and got to see some more fantastic scenery.
19th October 2014: The next day was a little harder for everyone. We'd all had very little sleep due to the brewing sand storm the night before. Although we were in our tents, the sand was so fine it got in through the seams and went everywhere! I spent a lot of the night trying to empty it out of my sleeping bad and a couple of people complained about finding sand in their ears. I, like many trekkers would've happily given up that morning and found a nice Saharan hotel, with a working shower and toilet. However, with a little encouragement from our trek staff and a few group hugs we set off again.
A few people became ill this day. Unsure whether it was the water, food or just dehydration there was very little we could do apart from drink plenty and keep walking. We reached our final camp and rested until it was time to watch the sunset and make Moroccan bread in the sand. We all slept under the stars again, and spent the night joking with each other (mainly at the expense of the snorers in the group).
20th October 2014: We woke up early to complete the final leg of the trek to a village where we bid a final farewell to the trekking team and the camels.
The whole trek was fantastic. I'm so pleased to have been a part of such an unusual fundraising experience. Together we raised over £30,000 for the North London Hospice and the 5 ladies from St James London North raised £13,000 of that figure.
The experience was truly unique and if I ever had the opportunity to do something like it again I would.