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Marrakesh: Take only memories. Leave only footprints - Chief Seattle

Updated: Jan 23



50 km in the High Atlas Mountains - Marrakesh, something i never thought i would say i completed! I am blessed to have experienced this at such a difficult time. I saved for almost a year to make this happen, if i could give you all one piece of advice, you can do it! Don't worry about the money (i know that is easier said than done, there were months i couldn't go for lunch with friends, or buy that new top but trust me, it'll all be worth it) but honestly guys, i am single, live alone, and don't exactly have a high paying job but can live comfortably and i saved my butt off for this! Put something small away and take the trips! Take the adventures and live your life. Tomorrow isn't promised, but today is!




In October 2021, i sat at mum's house on a regular weeknight, nothing extraordinary or exciting was happening, but that was soon to change. Robyn came to visit and informed us of a trip she had signed up for. Marrakesh, hiking 50km in the High Atlas Mountains. A few hours later, by the time Robyn was leaving, i had agreed to sign up the next day and pay my deposit.



September 2022, Robyn and inset off on our adventure, before this, we raised funds for Breast Cancer Now, and hoped by the time we were leaving to donate £1,000 each! Although i am not directly affected by Breast Cancer, i have lost two uncles to cancer and know others who have been personally affected by varieties of cancer including Breast Cancer.


Robyn and i hit our target and spent the 11 months saving for our trip, we covered all costs associated with the trip including flights, accommodation, tips, equipment and anything else we needed. We wanted all the money raised to go towards Breast Cancer Now and helping others affected by Breast Cancer.


Fundraising:

Anyone who follows my socials will have seen i received the most amazing support from my friends and families! I ended up raising a total of 1092 pounds!! To raise the money i posted a few times on social media, where people could donate online, friends and family donated cash which was then added online and with the help of my big brother and many others, we organised an 80-mile motorbike ride out. The Burger Run was a lot of fun, on a sunny Saturday in June we invited bikers from all over Northern Ireland to meet us in our local village and ride 80 miles around beautiful Northern Ireland, when we returned mum, Kirsten and Jennifer had been busy cooking burgers for everyone. We had some amazing sponsors for this event including Eurospar Armagh, Pinkertons, Killylea Village Spar, Emersons and Autobits.

A massive thank you to my big brother who planned the route!!

Killylea Park, Armagh City, Tandragee, Scarva, Newry, Newtownhamilton, Castleblaney, Ballybay, Monaghan, Killylea Park.


We raised an amazing 820 pounds at this event, for anyone who doesn't know how an event like this works, bikers meet up, pay 10 pounds (we had stickers for everyone to put on their bike etc) take part in the route, return and get a free burger and drink for taking part. Hence the name, Burger Run :D




Training:

I'll make this one easy, i had done no training! I do regret this, as it would have benefited me to do more, but i still got to the end of the hike! I did two small mountains here in Northern Ireland and a 10 k walk around country roads. One piece of advice train with the backpack you will be carrying and load it up!! I struggled with my bag even though i had loaded it up and carried it when training and was used to riding the bike with it, and a lot of the time i had to give it to Frank - ill explain who Frank is later :D

I would recommend doing more training, especially with the pack. There are more mountains here in Northern Ireland close to the height i reached on t


Travel:

As the group was flying out of London, Robyn and i hopped on a plane on Thursday evening to London and crashed in a lovely Air n&b close to Gatwick airport. When i say crashed we did, as we had to be up at 3 am, to be at the airport at 4 am, we had a super early flight to Marrakesh and the plan was to start walking as soon as we got there.

Travel over was pretty simple, we had the usual border checks when we got there, i would recommend having paperwork printed for Marrakesh. We were informed that they do not accept electronic copies, so save yourself the hassle and print everything.

For safety reasons and what have you, i printed off the following documents:

  • Copy of my passport (which Robyn carried, and i carried hers)

  • Travel insurance documents (We had emergency evacuation cover due to the nature of this trip)

  • Vaccinations (COVID-19 booster and recommended vaccinations from your local pharmacy. I had to get 3 and they cost around 70 pounds)

  • Boarding pass (each way)

  • Passenger locator form



*Keep in mind how your main bag will be transported, if the company is using mules, you need to bring a soft bag with you. Honestly anything along the lines of this style of the trip i would not recommend a suitcase. My bag did have wheels, only because my other bags didn't fit my walking poles, and i couldn't bring them on the plane. I had gotten approval from my team that i could bring this bag.


Preparing got the trip:

For this trip, we teamed up with Fairfax & Favor and they used a company called Tribal Tracks, before this trip i will admit i had never heard of them, since this trip i have been on their website several times, thinking about where i can go next! They were amazing, Gaynor was in constant contact throughout the year leading up to the trip and even hosted a very informative pre-departure zoom, talking us through the trip and allowing us to ask questions. She also took us through the hike we would be completing and honestly, it put the fear of god in me!!

Tribal Tracks did send out a packing list, which was a huge help! I brought everything that was suggested on the packing list apart from a coat, i'm not a lover of bulky coast, so instead in the evening when it was cold, especially the first night as we were higher up and out in the elements, i put my windproof coast on with layers and a puffy body warmer, looking back now, i probably would bring a coat, or warmer fleece for that one night, and some sort of spare leggings or warm bottoms for the evening, something comfy and cosy. There were items on the packing list which i brought and never used, but these were items i'm glad i didn't need, such as water proof trousers, luckily on day 2 when the rain started we were back at camp and tucked up in our tents because it POURED down!!

Most of the items listed on the packing list i had from previous hiking, there was very little i had to buy, but there were items i chose to buy.

Some of these were:

Yeti water bottle

Water purification tablets

Medical supplies (savlon, paracetamol, blister plasters etc)

new boots *If you are planning on buying new boots do your research and make sure you buy them in plenty of time to break them*.



Day 1:

Once we arrived in Imlil we were treated to a beautiful Moroccan lunch! We then got changed, packed our day bags, removed anything we didn't need from the airport/ travelling and got ready to go! We set off into the mountains, on day one we completed:

7.4 mile over 4 hours 30 minutes with an elevation of 2,507ft and decline of 646 ft


We finished day one with some traditional Morrocan tea, we had this at each meal and although i don't drink tea, i did try it. Tip: Add your sugar!




Day 2:


Day two was defiantly set to be one of the hardest, although we weren't reaching our peak of the hike, it was the longest day! We had an early start, i believe Robyn and i was awake around 4/5 am and we started walking before 6 am! We covered a lot of miles and on some tough terrain. One thing about this trip, is when hiking here at home, you're walking up bogs, mountains, and hills, in the High Atlas Mountains, you're on much rough terrain, sometimes on the edge of the mountain unable to put a foot wrong, because i wouldn't want to think about fall!

I can remember we stopped for a break at one point, and as we were sitting taking a rest, enjoying the views Kate turned to me and said, see that second dip in those mountains in front.... 're going over that! My heart dropped, and all i could think was ill never make it, for reference, this was going to be done the next day, but the goal after lunch was to reach as close as possible!

My asthma was my main concern on this trip, with the height we were reaching, i was scared i wouldn't be able to keep control of my breathing, twice on our second day i lost control of my breathing and had to use my inhaler, this was simply because i wasn't paying attention. The entire time we were hiking and on an incline, i couldn't let my mind wander, i had to constantly tell myself, in, out, in, out, in, out. I know that sounds so stupid, how hard is it to breathe, but if i didn't tell myself this, i would lose control and that's when shit gets scary because the air is simply not getting to my lungs. I don't know how to explain what it feels like, but all i can think is, hold your breath, and just when you can't hold it anymore and need to take another breath DONT! You are not allowed, because the air won't get t your lungs. So, if repeating to myself in, out, in, out kept me breathing in a way my lungs could cope, that's what i did. .


*Where the white cloud goes behind the mountain, that's where we were headed!*



Have you ever seen such an amazing view for lunch? Each day our team ensured we had a beautiful lunch prepared, and each evening we had tents, mattresses, water and soap and a dinner tent to eat in. We had some of the most beautiful food i have tasted, and even treas like fizzy juice with dinner!!


Before Lunch: 10.3 miles over 6 hours 10 minutes, 1,535 ft incline and 4,150 ft decline


After Lunch: 6.1 miles over 3 hours and 50 minutes with a 2,178 ft incline and,644 ft decline



Day 3:

Day 3:

We completed 7.3 miles over 4 hours and 50 minutes with an incline of 2,940 ft and a decline of 2,700 ft.

The last day was tough for me, on Day 2 as we approached and i could feel the back of my heel getting sore, i never thought anything about it.

We started the day tracking up a road which was pretty smooth and then headed into a local village which was constant steps/stairs. At this point i was carrying my backpack, i wanted to try to carry it when i could, but it got too much, i couldn't keep going and Abraham kindly took my pack for me, as Frank didn't get with us. We continued and got back into the mountains on a thin trail, heading up and up and up. I kept going with the pain in my heel increasing until i could go anymore. I stopped and the tears teamed down my face. I couldn't move my foot, the group stopped and Robyn was straight down to me. She got me to a rock and they proceeded to try to get my boot off. in between sobs i told them the back of my heel was unbearable! They couldn't get my boot off without me crying in pain, but i knew it needed to come off. I looked at Robyn and told her to just get it off, if anyone can in-flight pain on me, my step-sister can :D Kate kindly wrapped my ankle, and boy did she do a good job! We took a break and i was adamant i wanted to keep going, were so close to the top!

Kate and i slowed our pace to something i could manage, the group continued with Jamal, and i could see them up ahead, but Kate, Abraham and i took it a little slower until we reached the top!!

This team! They were amazing, we cheered each other on, shared snacks chatted and made friendships i will never forget! After day 1, you would think we were lifelong friends and had known each other for years! Ladies and our amazing team from the Imlil team thank you for getting me to the finish!



This team! They were amazing, we cheered each other on, shared snacks, chatted and made friendships i will never forget! After day 1, you would think we were life long friends and had known each other for years! Ladies and our amazing team from Imlil team thank you for getting me to the finish!

As promised, i would like to introduce Frank, Frank was our mule who did the walk alongside us, carrying my pack most of the time! Frank was there encase anyone wasn't able to continue or needed a break, there were times i was tempted to get on Frank and take the break, but i am glad i didn't. Frank didn't have a name, but on day 1, i decided he needed a name, so as a group we settled on my suggestion of Frank. I have to say, the love the group had for Frank was intense! We gave him fruit snacks and always finished the day with a pet :D


Marrakesh:

We stayed in a beautiful hotel right in the heart of Marrakesh! Once you left the hotel and walked to the right, you were in the main square with the entrance to the markets!

On the Sunday, we chilled on our roof top terrace and enjoyed the hot tub. I can honestly admit apart from being tired each evening, and my angle giving out, i didn't really have that many aches and pains, now, don't ask me to go up or down stairs, but i thought i would have been in a lot more pain after each day. AND i didn't get a single blister! Invest in good boots and socks guys!!

We were treated to a beautiful dinner on Sunday night and then headed to a cocktail bar, we didn't stay out very late as many of us were exhausted and excited for a proper bed. Personally i didn't want to 'Party' to much as we only had a few hours Monday morning to explore the markets and that's what i wanted to do most.

When we woke Monday, we started the day with breakfast on the rooftop terrace! We then headed to meet our tour guide, he showed us around some local attractions such as the prime ministers house and a few other places. It was interesting the learn some of the culture.

With a quick lunch stop (which was a traditional Moroccan meal and was super yummy) we headed off to the markets! I was legit fly to Marrakesh for a weekend with an empty suitcase just to go shopping! The markets are definitely an experience in itself. I had heard stories before leaving about the stall holders being very forceful, and it can be a scary experience but i don't agree with that. There was one incident where a stall holder got a little intense but i learnt from it, and luckily we had Kate there to show us how to haggle!

The girls and i set off into the markets and got some great bargains! I couldn't believe the quality of the items and i don't honestly think ill buy leather items again outside Marrakesh, i got myself a beautiful leather backpack for 28 pounds! So cheap!

My advice for the Marrakesh markets is, look with your eyes, not your hands, if you show to much interest the stall holder will pester you and try to sell you something, people, your not in Tesco, you cant browse!

What ever they offer you in price, always go lower, the man was originally asking 600 Derium for my backpack and i got him down to 300 i think. If they wont lower their price, walk away and keep walking, yes some stall holders may come after you, or call after you and sometimes they will agree to your lower price, sometimes they will let you walk away. The stalls are all unique, but they do have similar items, so you will find that thing you liked again! I promise!



This trip was defiantly very emotional and difficult for me in many ways. I honestly didn't think i would be able to complete it, but that feeling when i got to the finish will always stay with me. On Friday (Day 1) it was exactly 1 month since we buried daddy, and i couldn't think of a better way to remember him and celebrate his life, the views i had sitting around the campfire, dad would have been proud. I have done this trip for many reasons, to prove i could with my many injuries and asthma, to experience a different part of the world, and to make memories and make my dad proud. Dad grabbed life with every opportunity, he was always up to badness and making memories, this is defiantly a memory i will never forget.

Thank you to Tribal tracks for everything through the trip, to our team in Marrakesh, i couldn't have done it without you, to everyone who donated in some way or supported my fundraising and to everyone who send messages of support and wished me well. Fairfax and Favor kindly gifted each of us a beautiful navy peaked cap- Thank you. Thank you all!




Now the big question.... where to next?

Do not follow where the path may lead.Go instead where there is not path ad leave a trail. - Ralph Waldo Emerson



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