Alan is our trekker of the month. He is a truly inspirational man he has taken part in three overseas challenges and has never let his disability get the better of him.
- What made you want to do a charity challenge
The chance to travel to places that I had not considered before. I’d never been beyond package holidays. To go to the Sahara Desert, then Namibia, was something other people did. With Iceland, lots of people will say it’s a place they would visit, though most just don’t get around to it.
- How many have you done
- Which was your favourite?
They are like children; I like each for different reasons, and can’t really choose. I guess the first is extra special. Namibia, where we built school playground equipment and took part in some school classes, had the special element of giving help to a community.
- Which charity did you raise funds for and reasons why
RP Fighting Blindness – the charity’s main purpose is to raise funds for research into finding cures and treatment for the eye condition retinitis pigmentosa, which I have myself. The Charity also focuses on information and support to individuals and families affected by RP, via its Helpline service, for which I do a weekly session.
- Tell me a bit about your training and fundraising – for example: was it hard, at times difficult to get motivated, what was your best fundraising event/idea
The thought of fundraising for the first trek was scary – I’d wake in the night thinking ‘what have I let myself in for?’ Then after a week I decided if I really couldn’t raise the money, and had to pay for it myself, it would still be worth it for the experience of the Sahara Desert. Immediately the pressure was off and from then I was very motivated. I could set about ensuring I paid as little as possible. Even every £10 raised would be £10 less for me. Then ideas flowed, some good some not.
I didn’t have any single event, but lots of little ones. Supermarket collections were top fundraisers; writing to the Cambridge University colleges brought in £400; my own family was a good source – if I were to say ‘could you give to the charity’ that would be rather rude but to say ‘I’m doing a trek’ meant all those I wrote to donated.
For training, the area in which I live is not hilly so I used to walk on a 10 mile route which included a footbridge with around 30 steps each side. I would cross the bridge 5 or 6 times with rucksack and walking boots.
- Best thing about your treks
The impact of the camaraderie amongst the trekkers, which was instant and constant, and the superb attitude of the trek leaders.
- Worst thing about the treks
Probably when the airline lost our luggage for 4 days in Namibia. However, our trek leader handled the situation brilliantly as he put us in his house for the first night, and his wife cooked a superb lasagne made with oryx meat. We lent each other spare clothes to stay decent and sociable!
- Best bit of kit you took
Has to be the boots – the first pair were donated by a manufacturer (Magnum) and the second pair (Scarpa) were at a much reduce cost, as both companies wrote to tell me that they thought the trek was a worthy charitable cause.
- Joke/funniest moment of the treks
Wow, there are so many! The Icelandic guide liked my quip about our charity RP Fighting Blondeness, referring to the fair haired Vikings. Passing round thee hand gel with the question ‘Have you gelled?’ A sighted trekker falling into the arms of the guide in Morocco, our Moroccan guide walking in white plastic crocs, and…me saying to a colleague about the risk of getting toothpaste mixed up with Savlon; result Savlon on teeth and toothpaste goodness know where. ‘Ring of confidence’ maybe.
- One thing you’d recommend to anyone thinking about going on a charity challenge
Pack some underwear in your rucksack! If there is an opportunity for an extra walk or trip (e.g to an Arab village or to Casablanca as we did), do it no matter how tired you feel. You can sleep when you get home!
- One thing you’ll take away with you
Thoughts and crystal-clear memories of the awesome sights and sounds and the wonderful trekking colleagues.
- Was there good camaraderie amongst the group
Absolutely: Extremely good from the moment we met to departing, I think because of the visual element. On each trek the sighted people constantly looked out for potential obstacles throughout, including getting us through airport checking in/out procedures.
- Can you sum up the trip in a sentence……
The proudest achievements of my life, which I will remember all my life; proudest, because I gratefully accepted the opportunities that came to me because of my disability, and overcame the challenges despite it.