Rikto took part in our sponsored Sahara Trek last month and raised £1,752 for Martlets. She tells us all about the challenge, and why she took it on. Rikto asks ‘will you join the Martlets team in 2023 for the next big trail adventure?’
In 2019, a group of Martlets supporters signed up for the challenge of a lifetime. Each had their own personal reasons for taking part but were united in their commitment to fundraise for Martlets. As a result of the COVID pandemic the challenge was postponed several times. But the group’s patience paid off. In March 2022 they boarded a flight to Morocco to complete ‘Trek Sahara’, a six-day adventure on foot through the Sahara Desert. This trip of a lifetime provided an insight into the Berber people’s nomadic way of life in this vast and unforgiving landscape. The group trekked across ancient dried-up river beds, sand dunes, and sun-baked plains in temperatures of up to 40°C, camping at night under the stars.
Why I took up the Sahara Trek challenge
“Since my husband Krishna died, I’ve been on Martlets’ mailing list as I’m keen to stay in touch with all the wonderful things they’ve got going on. I got a flyer through the door about the Sahara Trek and to begin with I thought ‘I can’t do that!’; I’m in my sixties and had never been in a desert landscape before. But I do love walking and I’m quite fit in that way. I thought maybe I could do it if I trained by walking longer distances here in Sussex with friends in advance.
I knew that if Martlets was organising it I would be in safe hands and I’d feel supported even if it was a big challenge. My husband loved Africa and I thought ‘gosh, what would he think of me doing this in his memory?’. It just seemed such a lovely thing to do to thank Martlets for the care they’d give both of us.
Caring for Krishna
When my husband became terminally ill his condition began to deteriorate quite quickly. We were referred to Martlets and he decided that the inpatient unit felt like a safe and comfortable place to spend the end of his life. I was a bit worried as I wanted to spend every last minute with him, and I didn’t think I’d be able to do that if he was in a hospice. But incredibly Martlets made it possible for me to stay overnight in his room and to have meals there so I could be with him as much I wanted.
I remember how open and accommodating they were about everything. Our names, Rikto and Krishna, mean a lot to us as they are connected to our spiritual beliefs. But they are not our official names on documentation and so on. The team at Martlets were so cool about that and called us by the names we had chosen. They made a point of enquiring about our spiritual beliefs and being respectful. When someone you love is dying that feels so important. The place felt so homely and the warmth coming from everyone made us feel so held. It was a difficult time, but there was so much love surrounding us which made it easier to bear.
Raising sponsorship for the trek
I was so pleased to sign up for the trip in memory of Krishna, and to support Martlets. The fundraising team gave me so many ideas on how to raise money and get sponsorship to go on the trek. That was great as getting sponsorship was such a new thing for me. I put up a Just Giving page where friends, family and work colleagues could make donations. My daughter also helped me put on some events like cake sales and quizzes. I did a quiz about Morocco that I invited people to and gave them a meal for about £10 a head. Also, I did some wellbeing things that I charged for such as massage, and my daughter did haircuts and a friend did colour readings.
I had more than two years to raise the money, as COVID prevented the trip when it was first planned. So many people helped me fundraise in small ways and large. Eventually I reached my target and thanks to people’s generosity I went beyond it to raise £1,752 for Martlets. With Gift Aid that’s worth more than £2,000 to Martlets which is great.
Camels, blisters and makeshift toilets!
When I met up with my fellow Sahara Trekkers everyone was so friendly and supportive. There were 12 of us, and several mums doing the challenge with their daughters. When we landed at the airport in Morocco, we were immediately introduced to our two Berber guides who told us all about the Berber people’s nomadic lifestyle. We stayed the first night in a hotel near the desert and left our heavier belongings there so we could then trek with lighter packs and camp out in tents under the stars. The camels were amazing, and they carried the heavier stuff like tents, food and water. We needed to drink so much water to stay hydrated! The longest trek was 18 km, but there were regular rests in shade where we could find it.
Some of us got bad blisters on our feet but we had medical supplies to treat them, and it was tiring walking long distances in the heat. The makeshift toilets were also a challenge – squatting over a stinky hole in the ground and carrying our used toilet paper with us in nappy bags! But we got used to it and there were so many high points that made it all worthwhile.
Food, glorious food
The food was delicious; our guides cooked flatbreads, cous cous and soups over a fire and there were plenty of options to choose from. Seeing the stars so clearly at night and sharing the experience with so many wonderful people was such a high point. I was lucky enough to see some flowers growing on the edge of the desert, as that part of Morocco had had more rain than usual in the past year. That was lovely to see as it’s quite rare. It was a reminder of how life can thrive even in the harshest of environments.
I learnt so much about what I’m capable of. I’d say to anyone thinking of taking part in a similar trek – don’t miss it! It’s a wonderful opportunity. Make sure you train beforehand and can manage the distances, but if you can then go for it, whatever your age. You’ve got to be up for the challenge, but the support of the group and your special reasons for doing it really spur you on.”
We’ll be announcing our next big adventure soon. If you’re interested in taking part, it’s time to get your walking boots to train for next year’s exciting challenge! Check out our website for details coming soon. You can also log your interest with our fundraising team by calling 01273 747455 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.