by Roger Kirby and Marcus Setchell
The idea of a joint fund-raising trek in support of Prostate Cancer UK (formerly Prostate Action) and Well-Being of Women (WoW) dates back to 2005, when almost 100 trekkers joined us to walk across the desert to Petra in Jordan to raise more than £600,000 for these two noble causes. Neither Marcus Setchell nor I thought then that subsequently we would go on to trek in Kenya, Sinai, Kerala, and most recently Morocco, to raise an eventual cumulative sum of £1.3 million.
The fifth and final Hike for Hope started inauspiciously with dark clouds and pouring rain, even though we were in Morocco in September, just a couple of hundred miles North of the Sahara desert. They told us it hadn't rained for the whole year before we got there! Undaunted, but with little in the way of rain-gear, rather, an excess of redundant sunscreen products, we set off across the Ante-Atlas mountains in the direction of Marrakesh.
This time, there were 27 intrepid trekkers, including the redoubtable Andrew Etherington, Felicity Hoare and Rex Willoughby, veterans who had each accompanied us on all the previous four Hikes for Hope, as well as Rosemary Macaire. Unfortunately on day one the rain became steadily heavier, with the result that the beds of the mountain streams, usually dry, became minor torrents, which were more and more difficult to cross. We made the decision to abandon the last hour's walking to the camp and instead managed to persuade some of the local people to let us shelter in two of their mountain huts for that night.
Days two and three were tough trekking, but in fine dry weather. We got to the very highest point of the mountain before holding a minute's silence for those relatives and friends who had succumbed to prostate or pelvic cancer, the cures for which we were raising money. Perhaps as the result of our efforts, we are a little closer to that goal.
On day four the rain returned, this time with even greater intensity, and accompanied by a bitterly cold wind. With little in the way of protective clothing, hypothermia became an issue. Again the amazing hospitality of the local Berber goat herders came to our rescue. Cold, wet and shivering, packed in again like sardines, we managed to get some sleep, occasionally interrupted by a goat or two, who seemed justifiably irritated to be displaced from their usual place of nocturnal shelter! To the credit of the guides, the trek doctor and the trekkers themselves, morale and good humour were maintained.
On the final day the weather improved sufficiently for us to trek down the mountain to join the first road we had encountered for five days. A drive through the Atlas Mountains took us to the wonderful city of Marrakesh, where a well-deserved celebratory dinner and award ceremony took place. The trials and tribulations of our mountain trek had brought us all much closer together, so it was with a tinge of sadness that the Hikers for Hope disbanded and headed for home. The final sum of money raised and the camaraderie and bonding that occurred during the trek made the whole experience so very worthwhile.