I’ve never been one for grand gestures, but when my Mum died earlier this year, I felt I needed to do something to mark her passing.  She had Alzheimer’s disease and, whilst this was not the main cause of her sudden death, it was, unfortunately, the thing which defined her for the last couple of years on this earth and the thing that ruled our lives, too.  Shortly before her death, I heard about the work of Admiral Nurses; nurses specially trained to help dementia sufferers, and their carers, to cope with this dreadful disease, in much the same way as the more well-known MacMillan Nurses do for cancer patients.  This information came too late to be of use to me or my Mum and, besides, I discovered that there were, as yet, no Admiral Nurses working in our area. 
As if it were meant to be, soon after Mum died, a link popped up on my Facebook timeline asking for people to do something to raise money for Dementia UK, in order that they could train and employ more Admiral Nurses.  When I clicked on the link, a range of options presented themselves – marathon running, mountain climbing, abseiling, parachute jumping, and other extreme sports were on offer.  I quickly dismissed all of these.  As a pair of fifty somethings leading pretty sedentary lifestyles, I really didn’t think we were up to it.  Mark may have disagreed, but, at this stage, he wasn’t party to my thought process!  Having discounted the too energetic or downright dangerous, I opened a link marked ‘treks’.  We’re both keen walkers, so this seemed as if it might be doable!  
I particularly liked the look of one entitled ‘Trek Maasai, Tanzania’.  We loved our trip to Kenya a few years ago – Mark was even made an honorary Maasai due to his ability to make fire by rubbing two sticks together!  Perfect!!  I read all the details and looked at the costs (I’d already decided that we would fund any trip ourselves, so that all our sponsor money would go straight to the charity).  I decided that 170km or so in eight days was within our capabilities, although doing it in intense heat might cause us a few problems.  Now all I had to do was run it past Mark!
Happily, Mark thought it was a good idea and, after I’d mentioned it at my dementia support group the next morning and got pledges and promises of help with fund raising, there was no going back – we really were going to do this!  When I contacted Dementia UK, they were very supportive and sent me some balloons, collecting boxes, leaflets, and other merchandise to help with my fundraising.  I set up a Just Giving page and the money started coming in.
Our packs at the start of the Thames Bridges Trek
We then realised we better get serious and start doing some training – nothing too strenuous, but some lengthy walks around our local area to get us going.  We were lucky enough to be living by the sea during the summer, so we were able to take advantage of miles and miles of beautiful coastal pathways.  We also signed up for the Thames Bridges Trek in September – 27 km backwards and forwards across the bridges over the River Thames, starting in Putney and ending beyond Tower Bridge.  We did it, but I have to say it nearly killed me – I hadn’t bargained on all the steps up to, and down from, each bridge!  Mark was fine, but I knew I needed to redouble my efforts!  We vowed to walk every day on our forthcoming holiday to The Gambia.  (I will write separate posts about some of our training walks.)
Meanwhile, the fundraising was going very well.  Friends and family were very generous.  The highlight was a coffee morning held in July in Jean Male’s garden.  She is one of the founders of the dementia support group who helped me so much when I was trying to care for Mum.  This one event alone added almost £650 to our total.  Before too long, we had reached the halfway point of the £5000 target we had set ourselves.
Simien Mountains
So, imagine our disappointment when, just before we left for our holiday in November, we heard that our Tanzania trek had been cancelled!  We were devastated!  All that work and all the support we’d already been given!  We were offered the same trip much later in 2016 (we had been due to go in March), but felt that we wanted to get it done within our original time frame.  So, we contacted the charity and, with their help, we found an alternative.  Hence, our Tanzania trek has morphed into our Ethiopia expedition!!  Eight days has become twenty one!  We were worried to begin with that some of our sponsors might feel cheated, that this trip could be seen as a bit of a jolly – more of a holiday than a challenge.  Not so!!  When we studied the detailed itinerary, we discovered just what we were letting ourselves in for!  Wild camping and drop toilets feature rather a lot in the truck journey from Addis Ababa to Gonder, as well as five days trekking in the Simien mountains.  So, as I write this on the plane on our return flight to the UK from The Gambia, we are looking forward to setting off again about four weeks from now – the difference being that this time we can expect fewer golden sandy beaches and palm trees!

Oh, and there’s still time to sponsor us – just click here.

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