Sunday, 28 January 2018

sahara desert diary

Day 1, Saturday 11th November 2017

"OH MY GOD, I've forgotten a tag for my luggage" said the eight of us as we out our bags in the minibus, with my dad frantically running over to Morrisons to find an alternative. Yes that was us at 12pm outside the Ellenor Hospice with five hours before our flight. The car journey was full of conversations of people describing what they did and didn't pack. Everyone of us at one point was sat there quietly reassuring ourselves that we didn't need the thing we didn't pack that everyone else packed, and thinking "I probably should've packed that."

We made it to the airport, met the Skyline team (the organisers of the trip), received our charity challenge t-shirts, which of course has now made it to the pyjama t-shirt pile with great honour. There we met other people taking part on the trek, but from other charities. This was one of the best parts for me, as I met so many different people all raising money for a charity close to their hearts.

17:10pm: I was comfortable in my seat, with a mini bottle of wine that I fully enjoyed knowing it was to be my last one for a week. I saw next to a wonderful friend I made on the trip called Kat who was Russian but had previously lived in; Sweden, China and now the UK doing her Phd in Phycology and Mindfulness. We ended up being placed together on all the flights, so we quickly became "plane buddies".

At 20:14pm our flight landed in Casablanca where we had to wait for our connecting flight to Quarzazate at 22:40pm (I was really sufficient with the timings in the diary at this point) It was a long wait in a tiny airport where it cost £4 for a bottle of water. Here we had a team briefing for the next day ahead. There was Kevin the leader, Skylines representative Yasmin and Doctor Duncan. Well, by this point I was way past the tired stage, wide awake but finally had a window seat where I could make full use of my eye mask and fancy blow up pillow. But of course, there was no luck. Maybe I was just dreading the days ahead or just too excited. (I'm still not sure what it was) The only thought running through my mind at this point was "I could destroy a McDonalds right now and I really hope my bag has made it onto this plane."

Day 2, Sunday 12th November 2017

MY BAG MADE IT! After a long journey, we finally made it to the hotel around midnight; going to sleep straight away wasn't an option though. Me and my room/tent made Sarah had to unpack, repack, enjoy one last normal shower and fit in some sleep before getting up again at 6am.

The journey to the Desert had officially begun. a five hour coach ride took us from Quarzazate, through Zagora; where we stopped at this gross, dodgy looking shop on the side of the road. However Morocco is full of hidden gems and this certainly was one. We stepped inside and came out to a stunning courtyard and trinket shop. Here we drank the first of many met teas and had our head scarfs fitted by the shop owner Abdule.

The journey continued where we stopped off again for a coffee fix up and lunch which actually meant a picnic on the side of the road. We then finally made it to Mhamid, the out skirts of the Atlas Mountains. Here we ditched the coach and traded it in for some camels. We met our local tour guides: Boubker and Mustafa. They spoke amazing English and were so passionate about their country and culture. They all knew the Desert insanely well. They'd turn left at a dune and still know where they were and what route we were going. It's not like the Desert has sign posts telling you which direction to go in is it!

the first leg of the trek has officially begun! I of course managed to come across an old beer bottle buried under some sand. This reminded me of my Uncle so I had to pick it up and carry it with me for the rest of the journey. Thankfully they eased us into this day with only an hour and a half walk in camp. Tents. Uh oh.

Day 3, Monday 13th November 2017

Night one sleeping in a tent wasn't too bad, everyone was so knackered so falling asleep wasn't too hard. This was the first morning of waking up surrounded by nothing but sand. I still managed to fin some signal though after climbing up a dune to call my mum and dad.

Today was a long day. 7 hours to be precise. 7 long hot hours of walking, was a bit of a shock to the system.

Day 4, Tuesday 14th November 2017

Today was a shorter day thank god, after yesterdays struggle I think we were all a little shocked and questioned ourselves about why we were doing this.

Our morning routine was: up at 6/6:30am, pack away our tents and get ready before breakfast at 7:30am, with the hope of setting off around 8am. Sometimes this worked, other times it really didn't. But today was dune day! We set off in the morning with a 4-5 hour walk up and down the dunes. Wanting to build leg muscle? Go to the Desert. The scenery went on for miles, it was truly amazing and went beyond all my expectations. Our destination was camp, where we had a beautiful and long lunch (food images are coming!) and of course a siesta. Here we put up our tents for the night and chilled out.

Around 5pm, one hour before sunset; as a group we climbed up the Erque Zehar, the highest dune in the area. We had to walk single file up this, walking along the edge of the sand hoping not to fall down and have to climb back up. This was tough, but the view was all worth it. We sat there totally out of breath and watched the sun go down. For everyone this was a beautiful emotional moment and we took a moment to remember why we were doing this and who we were doing it for. The only way to get down? By sliding down on your bums. Boubker found entertainment in grabbing my feet and dragging me down. All I can is, sand went in places I didn't want sand to go.

We slept under the stars this night, and for the remaining nights in camp. The sky was too beautiful to miss. everyone played there tucked up in their layers and sleeping bags as the temperatures rapidly dropped. But counting the number of shooting stars you saw before you closed your eyes, was totally worth the cold.

Day 5, Wednesday 15th November 2017

So this morning in particular was pretty stressful according to my diary. The morning was cold and although sleeping under the stars was amazing, theres only so much comfort you can get from sleeping on solid sand. I quickly snapped out of this mood as I didn't want any regrets and wanted to enjoy every moment of this experience! You started the morning trek wearing a fleece as there was still a chill, but after 30 minutes that would be shoved straight back in your bag as you warmed up. Along our route there was a slight change in terrains, instead of sand dunes we walked across dried up lakes and millions of offsides and stones from what was once under water.

My plane buddy Kat had actually by this point totally given up with her boots as they broke on her. She entertained us that day by putting her trainers on instead of putting socks over them. As they days went not, the trainers slowly disappeared and she ended up walking in nothing by socks.

As we stopped for lunch, I felt quite emotional not being able to speak to my family for a couple of days. So of course there came the tears. Everyone had their moments on the trek, but when it was your turn everyone was so supportive of each other. I gave in and called my parents, little did I know I was going to come back with a £200 phone bill by doing this.

Today was full of walking, obviously, and exploring what other landscapes and terrains the Desert had to offer. We ended the day sitting around a bonfire whilst the Berbers (a cultural name given to the Arabs of the Desert, also known as our lovely tour guides) sang us their songs and we played a bit of Ed Sheeran back.

Day 6, Thursday 16th November 2017

This mornings wake up call was from the camels belly that had actually been sleeping behind us all night. What a weird morning experience this was. Today was a fellow trekkers birthday. Despite not wanting any fuss, Nicky of course was going to get a birthday she'll never forget. This included balloons buried into the sand, a mini bottle of sacred prosecco and a heart breakfast of butter and bread sprinkled with some sand.

I also look the fossil hunting very seriously this day. I used a number of nappy bags to carry my treasures, which probably weighed 10kg in total. Why I done this to myself I don't know. This also resulted in me tripping over mid conversation whilst my fossils flew out all over the place. At this point the tour guides thought it was best to take them off my hand for a while and put them in the Jeep. Just to add to the embarrassment, find out what else happened this day...

Obviously when you are in the middle of the Desert, you aren't going to come across western style toilets. So you make do with going behind trees and carrying endless supplies of baby wipes, nappy bags and hand sanitiser. After the first day, everyone was pretty comfortable going toilet together. This was until we found out an number of us had actually gone to the toilet on what we thought was just a man made pile of stones. We later found out this was in fact a war grave. Lets just say this has been one of the low points in my life. 

We were super fast this day and actually managed to get to the lunch sport at 11am! Here we chilled out under the shaded trees. I fed a camel my left over apple and began filming clips of individuals to add to my video. The afternoon walk to camp finished earlier than we expected. A couple of days in and we were used to this trekking malarkey. A group of us girls spent the early evening sunbathing on top of a dune, which was very surreal. I almost forgot where I was for a second, then when realising there wasn't a pool to go cool down in, reality hit. 

As part of the video I was putting together, us Ellenor trekkers decided to go on a photoshopped and put a video clip together. We took this very seriously, maybe too seriously. If you haven't seen my video, take a look over on my youtube channel!

Day 7, Friday 17th November 2017

Today was the final full day of trekking, by this point we had picked up two stray dogs that followed us for a couple of days. We actually named them Nous-Nous and Sandy. Although I wouldn't dare touch a stray dog, it was quite cute to have them follow us and act as if they were protecting us. Well I at least thought this until I saw Nous-Nouse rummage through the bin bag and then try and hop in to someones sleeping bag.

We finally reached the finish line, what an emotional moment this was. I know I've spoken about all the chilling we've done but this actually was a challenge and it challenged people in so many other ways then they imagined. For example one of my inspirations on the trek was a lovely day called Liz who genuinely had Vertigo for the last few days. I can't imagine how hard and uncomfortable that must have been for her, yet she still powered through. this then lead me to think about the changed I plan to make when I return from the trip.

I listened to my dads voice messages that he has left me each day, this obviously made me cry. I facetious my parents, again topping up the mobile charge but hey ho.

This evening was spent taking it all in, singing around the campfire and as if we hadn't had climbed up enough dunes already us Ellenor's wanted to catch the last sunset one last time. (She's going to kill me for sharing this, but I actually have noted down that Vicki went herself whilst running up this dune).

One of my many memories from this trip was of course the food. I think the Berbers drove back to civilisation once to grab some more supplies, but other than that everything was stored on the Jeep throughout the whole trek, including enough water to last everyone all week. Breakfast, lunch and dinner consisted of fresh fruit, veg and meat all cooked under a tent with 2 gas tanks. They even made us donuts one day, I of course had 7. On our last night at camp we watched them make the bread with fresh dough and simply cooking it on a fire made in the sand. This was just insane and tasted amazing. I can barely put the bread in the toaster without burning it.

Day 8, Saturday 18th November 2017

The last morning of waking up outside under the remaining morning stars. 6:07am the sunrise had naturally woken me up. I thought I was going a little crazy because as I lay there ticked up in my sleeping I saw what I thought was a very fast ever ending shooting star. I decided not to mention it to anyone incase they thought I had totally lost the plot. It wasn't until breakfast when Kevin asked if anyone had seen the International Space Station fly over around 6am. Well, I was amazed and hadn't gone completely mad. What a way to end the trip! We sadly ended the trip at this point by saying goodbye and thank you to a number of the Berbers who had travelled along the way with us. This included the drivers, camel leaders and the cooks. A small tip to each of them, meant more to them than you can imagine. 

The last hour walk led us to the pick up point where we handed over the camels and saw sight of our much loved and missed coach. Walking towards civilisation meant we saw what living outside of the Desert was like. We handed over our leftover sweets to the kids running around outside their school and ran to the nearest toilet. An actual toilet seat.

On route back to Quarzazate we stopped off at a pretty awesome rug shop, went back to see our mate Abdule to buy some memorabilia and went for lunch at a beautiful Riad to enjoy a fresh bottle of Casablanca beer.

As we made it back to the hotel showering was the main aim for this evening. After putting our faces on and looking and smelling normal again, we enjoyed a celebratory dinner in a hidden gem of a restaurant owned by a French man. The night consisted of A LOT of wine and speeches whilst thanking our tour guides Boubker and Mustafa and of course the Skyline team.

I could seriously go on and on about this trip. Theres so much finer detail that I haven't included otherwise I'd be slightly worried this might turn into a book. But all I can say is that: despite the no showering, no signal and no bed situation, all I could think about on that plane journey back was wishing I had longer and whats my next crazy trip going to be.

So buying a bauble to add to my collection was a little tricky in this destinations as you can imagine. So instead I made use of my nappy bags and filled a few with sand to put into a bauble when I got home. Best bauble ever.

If you have any questions about this particular trek, having struggle knowing what to take if you are taking part in something crazy like this? Then please done hesitate to drop me a comment below or send me an email at

So, what bauble next?


  1. Yes I'm going to kill you, i did indeed pee myself - it was a harsh reminder that I'm considerably older than you young uns! Fab write up Sam, so very pleased to have met you - see the world and stay amazing. Vicki xx