How to survive trekking across the Sahara Desert - Q+A with Chris, a WWTW IPS Support Worker
In January 2020, Chris from the WWTW Team, set-off on the trek of a lifetime as he walked 100km across the Sahara Desert with Tribal Tracks. A WWTW team will be heading out in early 2022 to take on a similar challenge and in this blog, Chris offers his top tips on what to expect, what to pack and he shares his favourite memory.
If you would like to join the 2022 team, please follow this link.
What is your favourite memory from the 2020 Sahara Trek?
My favourite part of the trip was the second day. We had climbed to the plateau and walked some distance when we stopped off for a glass of chai with a Berba family who lived on the route. To see how these people live, move their animals around, and sell homemade trinkets was amazing. They have very little in way of personal effects but what they have is well used and very much needed. I purchased a toy camel as a memento for my trip. It is made of sticks, bits of wire, rags and stuffed with smaller bits of cloth. The family was so happy to see us and give us chai and dates whilst the children played with a couple of Kid goats. It was wonderful to see how these hardy people live.
What is your top 3 survival tips for anyone heading out on the 2022 Sahara Trek?
I used a Camel Back hydration system which was good, but you cannot see how much water you have left as it is inside your daysack. I would suggest taking a clear Nalgene bottle as you can see how much fluid is left every time you drink, also you can fill it with warm water and use it as a hot water bottle at nights, (it does get cold).
I wore Nosilife shirts a couple of times. It was great for stopping bug bites, but it was not very breathable. I would advise loose-fitting baggy Craghoppers or Berghaus shirts and strong mosquito repellent (not that we were bitten a lot, best to have it just in case).
I thought I had worn-in my boots sufficiently, I was wrong. If you can, get out walking on sand dunes. I found my feet moved about in my boots a bit when going down the dunes in the trek. Also, take short Gators, they great for keeping the sand out of your boots.
What is the one item you wished that you had packed and why?
I wish I had taken a spare phone. Due to the very fine sand, my phone stopped working on day 4 so I had to use my camera to take pictures. It was a bit of a pain getting it in and out of the drybag (trying to keep it sand-free).
Did you do any training leading up to the trek? If so, what?
I did plenty of training prior to attending the trek but still feel I could have done more. I hit Snowdonia a few times and lots of walks in the Shropshire hills. I would suggest if you can get on dunes, do it. Different walking uphill on sand to normal tracks and paths, you tend to slide back a bit on the sand. If you cannot get out to do any hill work I would suggest trying a treadmill in a gym, incline it, and wear your day-sack with a minimum of 3 litres of water in it to get used to the weight. I would also recommend carrying some energy bars, they are a great little snack, and they are lightweight.
Was the trek difficult in any way? Either physically or mentally and how did you overcome that?
Physically the trek was not that bad, morale went down a bit looking at the height of some of the sand dunes and the climb on the first day was demanding but small steps make a big difference, so we took it one step at a time. For me, it was meeting new people that I find difficult, I need not have worried. Everyone on the trek, including the guides were amazing.
Everyone was so warm and welcoming. I am more of a plodder than a mountain goat and was worried I would slow the team down. Again, I should not have worried, everyone stuck together during the walk and one of the guides was always at the rear to ensure nobody was left behind.
I was also a bit worried about the food. I do not do well with foods I have never tried before, also I do not like people cooking for me (odd I know) but again, no issue, the food was amazing, always fresh, well-cooked, and really tasty.
Would you recommend the trip to anyone?
Yes, I would I recommend it to people. If you enjoy raising money to help those who served, and you like a challenge then yes. Honestly, it was a well-run event from start to finish. Brilliant people, amazing views, great food, fantastic walk, everyone should have the chance to do this at least once in their lives.
The Sahara Trek is an adventure that you will remember forever. And you get the chance to help military Veterans get the mental health support they deserve.