Sahara 2012

This is a compilation from my original Sahara Blog.  If you want to read in chronological order, then start from the bottom 🙂

Trek Completed – So what was it like?

Posted on October 27, 2012


Let me start on a serious note about why we did this and why you sponsored me.

Homelessness is more prevalent than ever in Ireland and the Peter McVerry trust is there to help.  Sadly, the trust has heard a lot of stories lately where the homeless are being woken up by someone kicking them while they sleep rough.  Commonly, it is done by those going home drunk after a night out with friends and recently a group of students were caught urinating on a homeless person as he slept in a Dublin city center doorway.  How sad and disgusting is that ? It is even more degrading to that person, who is in a tough enough place in their lives being homeless in the first place.  Those ignorant people who do such acts seem to think that a homeless person is less of a human being than themselves. Thankfully, part of the work that the Peter McVerry services team do, is to help those homeless get that feeling of self worth and dignity back, which they may have lost along the way and they help them rebuild their lives.

So this is where you come in, thanks to the donations you made for this trek, which has come to €4,223 (at time of writing) and along with the other trekkers combined we are all set to raise circa €80,000k!

You are helping to make a difference.- so thank you from me and the trust.

Now I am sure you are all wondering what was it like, so let’s start with a video compiled from a few clips that I took:

Day by Day – A description of the trek

I have uploaded a bunch of pictures from the trek onto the web which you can see by clicking on this link:

Redmond’s Picasa Web Photo Album of the Sahara Trek (now disabled)

Also thanks to technology the Geotags on these photos let you view them in Google Earth where you can see our journey and locations at each key step of the way! Just click “View in Google Earth” on the bottom right of the Picasa web page.

So lets begin…..


We all met each other in Dublin airport with a buzz of excitement, sporting our blue Peter McVerry Trek shirts.  A pint of Guinness in the airport bar and plenty of banter got the spirits high as we all looked forward to the adventure, which was finally starting after all our weeks of preparation.

The flight to Agadir got us in late and stepping into the airport I got a wonderful unique smell in the air that brought back memories. Two Irish trekkers, Noelle and Brendan joined us having just flown in from Spain and we all posed for the first of many pictures.


So we speed into the night, dropped our bags and headed to the top floor of our hotel for a late night meal and our first debrief.  “Gel up” was the key message from our guide Jenny as Hygiene was a focus.  Lots of laughs were had over supper and I took a stroll afterwards to the balcony and saw the very hotel that I stayed in 30 years earlier across the road, quite a coincidence.


The Sun woke us with an early start of a breakfast.  Boiled eggs and orange juice all round – a recipe for disaster a few of us reckoned! I got some time to dash across the road and reminisced with the manager of the “Studiotel Afoud” hotel opposite and he expressed a great fondness of the Irish.  A quick visit upstairs to the pool where we swam as kids and I noted how little had changed in all that time.  In 1982 one evening we were in the apartment facing the pool and we heard our father shout out as if he was drowning (he never learnt to swim).  So we all ran out in a panic, only to find him knee high in the baby pool holding his glass of wine without a drop spilt.  We all laughed a lot that night.

red2012 red young

Agadir has not been through quite the same changes that Dublin has and still retains a warm charm.  Sadly, one of the McVerry team had to return to the airport due to a sudden family bereavement.  While dropping him back to the airport, the driver of our minibus was pulled in at a checkpoint and we got to see an animated exchange of opinions over some paperwork, I wondered whether a bribe would be called for but a formal fine was paid and we headed off on a 5 hour journey to Ouarzazate.   The roads are good and one clear improvement is some solid walls on the steeper, vertigo inducing, mountain crossings.   Funnily enough, these walls have nice big gaps between them for some unfathomable reason, so should you have an accident up high, you just need to make sure you hit the wall instead of falling a few thousand feet down to your death!  A sort of real life Tetris depending on your vehicle and angle…

We got to Hotel Karam and learnt that one of our trekkers was going to be stopping at the hotel for the week due to unfortunate foot problems.  Better safe than sorry as we had a heavy trek ahead of us. So after another debrief we were able to relax and enjoy the sun set over southern Morocco.



Boiled eggs featured again in breakfast but thankfully the aroma was one of warm honey and we dined amongst French and Germans who, based upon the 4×4′s outside, were going to trek the easy air conditioned way.  The coffee was just what I need and we hopped back on our mini-buses and headed off on our 4 hour drive south to M’Hamid EL Ghizlane, the “gateway of the desert”.  We crossed miles of  empty land, occasionally passing a town where butchers hung their meat for the locals to view and flies to taste. mmmm…  As we reached then end we passed what seemed like thousands of acres of palm groves with a long via duct reaching on and feeding the depths of the desert.


Finally, the road came to a simple but abrupt end on the far side of the town.  We all hopped out to stretch and we were quickly surrounded by children looking for treats or small currency.  Our Berber Camel trek were waiting for us to load up our main luggage and we kitted up with our day packs and filled up with water.

ready to go

Most of us had bought a Shesh (Head Scarf) which would prove invaluable in the days ahead.  Finally we set off and started our walk through ruins of a village that was only consumed 20 years ago and then another of 50 years ago! The desert is encroaching upon M’Hamid and it seems the water from the via duct does not run as far as it once did.  As I walk past the skeleton of long dead goat, half buried in sand, I gulped a deep gulp…

30 minutes in and one of our trekkers is red faced, out of breath and suffering from the heat. So the doctor makes the call that the trekker needs to head back now, rather than suffer further.  A camel is called for and she heads off with one of our Trust companions back to the village for a few days of mud hut experience.

team 1

Sad at another loss to the team we headed past signs of life into the deep blue sky and found our moods lifted by the stunning scenery.


As the sun climbs high in the sky, we stop for lunch under the welcome shade of some acacia trees.  Now, when I eat a salad back in Ireland I don’t often stop to enjoy and rush it along with the rest of things to do, but out here we savoured every morsel.  Delicious lentils were served up with a very fresh salad of onions, cucumber, tomatoes and corn.  Even the locally made bread baps tasted special as the wind whipped sand around our heads.


After the lunch we rested and dozed out of sun rays for an hour or so, before heading off  for our main overnight camp.  Boots came off and no one seemed to mind eachs others steaming socks drying amongst each other.

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On arriving at camp we did the opposite of a warm up with Jenny getting us stretching in all sorts of poses.  A great laugh was had as we squeezed our glutes and stretched the latic acid from our muscles.


Boots and socks were off, dinner came out and Night fell.  A birthday cake, carried all day through the heat by one of the Berbers, arrived for Rosaleen.  It tasted good and was washed down by a “sleepy tea” .  We all cheered and siged relief as one day was completed.  Dinner started with bowl of vegetable soup with bread and then a meal of rice and beans with some tinned fish. Simple but really tasty, gobbled down and topped up with  a fruit salad which have a lovely crunch thanks to pomegranate seeds. Yum.


Our first night in the desert had the Berbers banging drums and singing traditional songs, then a few of us embarassed ourselves with dancing.  Thankfully the desert is dark, very dark!  A few of us stole ourselves away to look at the magnificent arms of the Milky Way Galaxy stretch herself over the full length of the sky.  Not even in the darkest depths of Western Ireland have I ever seen such a sight and the hours passed like minutes under the sky. Most of us were so tired we hit the bed at 10 or so and fell into a deep sleep.


Some of us woke before 6 to watch the sunrise, it was incredible to see the surrounding dunes change colour in the space of minutes.  I always wondered what was meant by “deafening silence” and it was so quite and peaceful it was almost such, you would only here the crunch of a foot or the rustle of a camel.


We all packed our main bags to be clear of the tent for dismantling circa 6:30…Yes and some of you thought this was more of a holiday than a punishing trek!  Just try pouring a cup of cold water over your head with a squadron of flesh eating flies buzzing around your nether regions……  Breakfast was coffee, a type of fried pancake with some fantastic local honey….manuka eat your heart out, this stuff was like treacle of the gods.

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Our bodies warmed up thanks to some jiggin with “Jenny and the Crew” , if you remember 1980′s morning TV then you’ll have a good idea of what we looked like!  Then around 7:30 web headed off on our walk for the day.

Our first full day of trekking takes us across a region of hamada – a large, rocky plateau.  Now a number of you asked me how hot it was and for all the items I brought ( I was noted for being prepared for most eventualities!), a thermometer was not one, so I put typical the daytime heat in the mid 30′s, sometimes higher and sometimes lower.  A few of the nights got very cold and I was thankful for thermals and my all season sleeping bag.


As the day drew on, our Berber reassured us 20mins more before lunch, a few of us noticed him looking for the lunch spot.  One of the Berbers headed off ahead and soon we were told 20mins more.  It was on the third 20mins more that some realised that perhaps we might be lost…there was no sign of our Camel with the lunch mats !  Thankfully, contact was made and we rested in the shade of a Tamarisk tree with our final goal of the day in sight, the Erg Zehar dunes. One of these dunes, pictured below, was massive and towered higher than many office buildings.


So after a well deserved rest from the heat and a good feed we set off for just another hour or so before we reached camp.  It turned out that apparently we had gone too fast that morning and had passed by our camel train.  Maybe, but we were all grateful to be in good hands and not to be worrying about our source of food or water.   It was very apparent that the Berbers know this land as you or I would know the streets around our own cities, but the thing that surprised me was after a few days in the desert I started to see the subtle differences in the land, whether it was a different texture to the ground or the different types of dried out bushes dotted around.


So I started to feel at home and started to think 200,000 years or so back when all of civilisation had come from this Northern part of Africa before going on to spread across the world and inhabit all corners of our blue planet. That night we camped in the shadow of those wonderful Erg Zehar dunes.  Another stunning sunset led to Dinner and another beautiful night of stargazing, meteors, Berber music and a great nights sleep.


Our usual warm up routine set us up for a trek up the massive dunes as we continued west.  The views were simply stunning, just as you would imagine and more.  The dunes tended to be hard underfoot in parts and soft as you walked up.  Lots of photos were taken and we relaxed for a little while to take it all in .  Then we changed directly from West to North as we headed towards Bouguerne.

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We all chit chatted amongst ourselves as each person got to know the other over the few days together, but I believe most of us were highly aware of how peaceful and serene it all was.  Lunch was tasty and we relaxed under a tree to the sound of nothing, nothing at all…


It is a simple but wonderful life and chatting with one of the Berbers he explained to a few of us how the lack of water and changes to the environment meant that the were dependent on tourism now. They are slowly losing their own independence, recalling when they all use to grow vegetables, breed goats or camels and make cheese to trade amongst themselves.



Today we headed back east, towards Oued Naam and the day was wild.  Slowly but surely the wind picked up and before we knew it we were walking through a Sandstorm!  It blew and blew, getting in our eyes, but luckily this was only a minor storm compared to some and we stopped for lunch, staying an extra hour while we tried to sit out the worst of it.  No one complained for the extra rest, lunch was fun trying to pick tuna from a tin without slicing your fingers and balancing your food plate under the sheesh to keep the wind and sand out was tricky.  I’m glad I didn’t need to use the loo and I am sure those that did at least gained a bit of exfoliation to their rears ends in the process.

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That afternoon we crossed Morocco’s longest river which had bit up a tiny trickle running through it.  The area was surrounded by bushy areas and we walked carefully through, passing used snake eggs and small dark holes that hid away snakes and other creatures of the night.  Thankfully, the only thing we came upon were the past tracks of the venomous reptiles.

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We then spent our last beautiful night at Berkame where, by tea time, the wind had eased off a little and some of us climbed the sheltering dune surrounding our camp, to see beautiful views of camels strolling amongst bushes, munching as the sun set.

A dramatic scene then unfolded.  We had spotted one or two motorbikes and rally cars fly by and the end of our trek that day.  Then after tea we saw a helicopter flying around.  We presumed someone was lost or injured while tearing through the dunes and the helicopter came close and landed right beside our camp.  Like a movie scene, two bikes appeared from nowhere and some sort of exchange happened and the whirly bird flew off across the mountains, leaving us back in the middle of nowhere under heaven’s gaze.


Our last day in the desert started with a beautiful sunrise again, I was almost taking them for granted by now, the camels were silhouetted against the sky and I noticed how they were tied at the feet to stop them from wandering too far.

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The mood was peaceful and we were keen to reach our goal.  We trekked across the desert plateau, some smaller sand dunes and then back to M’Hamid EL Ghazlane.


Finally, we met up with our transport and said a sad goodbye to the desert and our Berber friends who had shown us great courtesy and friendship.  Cold sparkling wine was popped and we all had a small glass to cheer our achievement.  A very satisfying moment, stopping and looking back, feeling the muscles ache, the sweat drip but a deep feeling of accomplishment.  So much more than just 5 days walking in the desert had come and gone, now we faced a reluctant return to our normal life.  A little part of me wanted to stay behind….


After a long drive back to Ouarzazate, I had planned the moment and headed straight for the bar.  I took my “Ice Cold in Alex” moment with a cold  “Casablanca” beer…ahhh how good it was.   We were all pretty jaded and each of us headed for our first wash and shave in a week…

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That night a thunderstorm crossed the town and provided some refreshing rain with cooler air.  Our final night was a meal sitting around a table for a change, followed by a boogie in the hotel disco where we had the craic with the locals, as we unwound.


Some of us awoke early to wander around Ouarzazate with a Berber to keep an eye out for us and we picked up some fresh nuts and spices for home, spotting how the Anti-Atlas had a nice coating of snow in the distance.


We headed off at 10:30 for a long days driving of about 6 hours to Agadir and an overnight flight to Dublin which has us all back in the cold Atlantic rain at about 1:30.  We said our goodbyes to new found friends and set about our journey back in the modern world.  New friends had been made and not one of us weren’t touched by the impact of the trip……..


Some extra detail:

Distance walked 92km (excl. up and down all the dunes!)

Distance travelled by mini bus 1,108km


So what items do I think helped me get through the trek…

Water, water water – regular water throughout the day and I would say I drank an average of 5ltrs a day.

Hand Gel – before every meal and every other suitable occasion kept the bugs away.

Trekking poles proved to be a life saver in helping the weight off my legs over the 5 days

The Nuun tablets for electolytes I reckon helped me alleviate cramps and my muscle function

My Injinji socks stopped me getting ANY blisters – very surprising but a great relief!

Trek Completed

Posted on October 22, 2012

I have returned and will update with a post in the coming week.

The time is now – Week 10

Posted on October 7, 2012

Over €4,000 raised – Thank you!

You have done your part, now I need to do mine.

1 week away from Family, Friends and Work. 100km to cover in 5 days across a hot and arid desert. No home comforts, no toilets, Scorpions, Snakes, hot days and cold nights. There will be sore feet and other parts, but I expect to be looking forward to each evening meal. Perhaps it will be a bit like what Michael Palin had here:

OUTLINE ITINERARY of the Sahara Trek October 13th – 20th 2012

I’ll probably be thinking of this :

We board our flight to Agadir and on arrival we transfer to our hotel and after our full briefing from our venture leader we head to our rooms for a good night’s sleep.


After breakfast we will board our bus for a 5 hour journey over the Atlas mountains to Ouarzazate, the capital of southern Morocco and the threshold of the Sahara.


Today we begin very early in the morning with a four hour transfer to M’Hamid EL Ghizlane: the “gateway of the desert”. Here we will meet our local staff team and camel drivers and give our travel-weary muscles a welcome stretch as we begin our desert trek. Leaving the palm groves of M’Hamid behind, we get our first glimpses of this extraordinary landscape. Passing some small sand dunes, we cross a dry river bed which rarely sees running water, and head towards the old Kasbah of M’Hamid. As the sun climbs high in the sky, we stop for lunch under the welcome shade of some acacia trees. Tonight we will spend our first night in the desert near Sidi Naji Marabout, a mythical area for the nomads of this region.

Trek: 18km

Our first full day of trekking takes us across a region of hamada – a large, rocky plateau, where we might experience one of the poetically named but bullying desert winds. We eventually come to a band of acacia and tamarisk trees that cling improbably to life amid the shifting sands. Here we stop for a rest and take lunch in the shade. We will gradually approach the huge dunes on the horizon, from the top of which we can watch the drama of the Saharan sunset. Tonight will camp in the shadow of the Erg Zehar dunes.
Trek: 22km


Today we will continue our trek through the desert towards Bouguerne. We will set off after a good breakfast, cooked over open fires by our local Berber camp staff. If we are lucky, we may come upon a caravan of camels, or herdsmen tending their goats. The great trading caravans that used to criss-cross the

desert are no more, but a surprisingly large proportion of the desert people still cling to their traditional nomadic way of life.
Trek: 22km


Today we continue our trek and head towards Oued Naam. Again the landscape consists of sand dunes, tamarisk trees and rocky plateaux. We spend our last night in the desert at Berkame.
Trek: 18km
Accommodation: camping

It is worth rising early to witness one last spectacular desert sunrise, before we trek across the desert plateau and smaller sand dunes and back to M’Hamid EL Ghazlane. Here we will meet our transport, and say goodbye to the desert. The return journey to Ouarzazate takes around 4 hours, where a welcome shower and a final night of well-deserved celebration await us.
Trek: 12km
Transfer: 4 hours


This morning we have an early start as we leave the hot, dusty plains of the Sahara behind us for the cool of the Atlantic coast, and transfer back to Agadir. We arrive in Agadir in the late afternoon, before transferring to the airport in the evening for our flight home.
Transfer: approx. 5 hours

Dreaming of a Starry Desert – Week 9

Posted on September 30, 2012

Thanks to a local Physio , I have seen an improvement in my strained leg muscle which seems to have been caused by my legs not being used to walking long distances, weak glutes and also my lack of stretching!  In hindsight, I should have listened to a trainer I have used who has some great videos online to give me and you the guidance needed in removing tightness and improving flexibility.  Here is a great  article of Dominic’s specifically on this subject .


The recent Meteor/Space debris that fell over Ireland on the 21st of September, got me thinking about what a great treat all the trekkers are in for.   The week that we are in the Sahara will be the darkest time in the sky, with a beautiful waning crescent moon just before sunrise at the start of our week.  It will also be the week that the earth passes through the orbit of Comet Halley and those particles that hit the earth, known as the Orionid shower,  will be at their peak just at the end of the week too.  Most of all I can’t wait to see the Milky Way Galaxy in all it’s splendour. I hope it is something like this picture below taken by Babak A. Tafreshi .


Finally, with just two weeks to go and over €3,600 raised I am looking forward to taking a few hours to watch Lawrence of Arabia:

Sugar Cane, Blonde Hair and an Oasis – Week 8

Posted on September 23, 2012

One big disadvantage that the Irish homeless have in Ireland is our weather.  With the cold turn in the air this week, I expect many will be looking forward to having a roof over their heads throughout the coming autumn and winter months.  Your continued support is fantastic and it will all help towards the shelter and other services that the Peter McVerry trust provide.

When we landed in Agadir 30 years ago the poverty was very visible, with barefooted adults and children dressed in rags sitting all along the Airport road.  It will be interesting to see what has changed when I return in just 3 weeks.

The Desert has is own respites from the heat in Oases and as a family we we did get to stop at one in Tioute, after passing through Taroudant.  It was the sound of birds that surprised me most, looking around we were surrounded by palm trees and various flowering plants.  My younger sister got the biggest surprise that day as we stopped by a Sugar Cane field for a drink.  The two mineral bottles that we had bought earlier that morning were now too hot to drink, just from sitting in the boot.  Luckily we had bought a melon and Dad proceeded to slice it up for us.  As we stood around sucking on delicious slices of water melon, we saw one local after another walk out from the fields around and headed straight towards us.  They all approached my younger sister smilng and proceeded to feel her Blonde hair!  She wasn’t too happy herself, but I am sure it was my father who was most unnerved by it all.  They seemed to have never seen such a sight before and thankfully they were all very friendly.

Here is footage of Tioute, that I found on Youtube, as it looks today – just skip to about 50secs:
This was a great week for donations with the total steadily rising – thank you! I was also very pleased to have the donation of a brand new suit by Niall of Henry Jermyn and you will see a new tab on this blog, where you can bid!  The winner bidder will be able to pick a suit of their choice from the store in a couple of weeks time.

As for fitness, I swam my usual amount this week, but unfortunately the strain from Week 5 came back and 5km into today’s walk I turned around…perhaps some Physio will help?  Next week I can look forward to meeting my fellow Sahara trekkers from a long trek, one more time before we depart.

A Taste of Morocco – Week 7

Posted on September 16, 2012

I enjoy Heston Blumenthal’s recipes and his incorporation of smells into the dining experience.  For his Black Forest Gateau, he uses an atomiser to spray the smell of Kirsch as you tuck in, although I wouldn’t need any such encouragement to eat a slice of it!

That brings me onto a smell that lingers in my head from when we stopped by a Patisserie in a little town called Tiznit in ’82.  It was a narrow but deep shop with a white facade that enticed you with a wide array of delicious goodies visible through the window. However, it wasn’t the wonderful sight of cakes and pastries that pulled you in, but the fabulous smells and I got to taste my first ever crunchy honey Palmier, otherwise known as Elephant Ears!


For our Sahara walk I am looking forward to seeing what types of meals we get served  each evening in the middle of the desert.  My earlier TV research showed some interesting uses for various parts of Goats, but I hope to try some delicious Lamb and I expect it will be cooked in the classic Berber Tajine.  If you don’t have one and would like ataste of Morocco then you should try my friend Grainne’s Lamb Meatball recipe.

Anyhow, this week was one of rest for my leg and my injury is abating.  So yesterday  I took a small hike up the Sugar Loaf in Wicklow with my family and enjoyed great views across Dublin.


I hope to be back to normal for a good long hike or two next week!

Planes, Strains and Automobiles – Week 6

Posted on September 9, 2012

Well my previous week of rushing for a plane, hopping between taxis and the underground, led to a strain that came back to haunt this week’s training.  After getting through last weekend, I kicked off with a strenuous swim only to feel the muscle behind my knee pulling again. This Homer clip kind of sums up how I felt on Monday:

Anyhow my “Gastronemius” is somewhat better thanks to some muscle relaxant, a knee support and a good massage.  So I am taking it a little easier for a couple of weeks to prevent further issues.

It didn’t stop me from meeting half of my fellow Sahara Trekkers on a hike up Three Rock Mountain today for a little 10k jaunt up to the Fairy Castle atop the windy mountain with fabulous views of Dublin.  It was great to meet some of those going and with the spirit shown today we should all have some great craic.


We’ve had quite a few warm days this week, today was a fair bit cooler but nothing will prepare us for the heat in Morocco, even in October.  When I was there as a young 12 year old I remember it passing 50°!


One of the days we went on a roadtrip to Fez and we had packed some drinks in the Renault’s boot when setting off early in the morning but by the time we stopped a few hours later, they were too hot to drink. That day was a treat for the senses and it burned memories into my brain that are still as clear as yesterday, with the markets providing a feast of smells and magical colours.  However, having paid off our two local “guides”, the best part was going into an old bar and having a cold bottled CocaCola while watching dad drink a beer like Alec Guinness in the famous scene from Ice Cold in Alex.
I’m sure it’ll be “worth waiting for”…

Secrets of the Sahara – Week 5

Posted on September 2, 2012

I am looking forward to seeing some great night skies from our desert camps in the Sahara.  The lack of lighting leads to great views of the Milky Way, which is apparent from the I.S.S. images as it crossed over last year (no lights visible until it crosses the Nile!):

The Sahara holds many secrets, I didn’t realise that it was covered in lush vegetation, tropical forests, human villages and many types of animals (9,000 to 7,300 years ago). Even a large river called the Wadi Howar used to cross all the way over to the Nile.  Being so exposed now,  I’ll also be keeping my eyes peeled for the possibility of a fossil or even a rare meteorite find as we do our walk.

Morocco holds many secrets and one of those I remember from 1982 was the day we drove to Taroudant and stopped by the Hotel Palais Salam.  Walking in from a dry and barren road through old 16th corridors, we were suprised to find a fabulous pool in the centre  and threw ourselves in.  Surprisingly the pool looks just the same in pictures online today.


Another secret that I uncovered in the last week was a set of old pictures in my attic. Captain Redmond, a great uncle of my grandmother, was a Master Mariner who sailed ships from Dublin and in circa 1908 returned from a voyage to North Africa with paintings of Berbers in the Sahara for his new house of the time in Fairview.  My father recalls growing up having these in his dining room as a child, as do I in the 70′s.


As for this weeks preparation for the walk, I strained a leg muscle during a busy couple of work days running around London, but by Saturday I was in good shape to take a scenic 21k walk from Greystones to Dalkey (via Old Conna Village) with my sister.


This week I also passed my original €3,000 target thanks to everyone’s generosity and I even had some luck with a competition where I won a PS3 from Parcel Motel and subsequently sold for funds towards the walk!


Finally I’ll leave you with a video I did a couple of years ago with my two girls on the Sandymount Strand that I crossed last week.  I’ll be dreaming of that chocolate at the end of the walk whilst lying under the stars!

50 Shades of Sand – Week 4

Posted on August 26, 2012

It’s funny looking back at some of the old pictures of Agadir, here’s my younger sister with Morocco’s equivalent of Great Uncle Bulgaria back in 1982, a Water Seller with a furry goatskin full of cold water.  I hope they have a few of them on our stops in the Desert.


This week my latest purchase for the trip (Injinji socks) came up trumps, but I would soon suffer for ignoring anther item of clothing. Underwear.


Yesterday, I walked around Dublin Bay from Cabinteely to Howth.


With the tide out, I stepped onto Dublin Bay  at Blackrock and walked across Sandymount Strand to Ringsend. With no one in sight it was just like a huge desolate desert, only the temperature and rain reminded me otherwise.

I crossed one of the many rivers on the strand and my waterproof boots sank deep into the wet sand.  A flash of  Bear Grylls’ piece on the lethal Sahara quick sand came to mind.

I lay in the sand, decided to take a panoramic shot of Dublin bay and realised I could see at least 50 shades of sand. Now, I haven’t read the infamous woman’s book of similar name but I wondered if the author had read James Joyce’s Ulysses, which has a infamous scene set on the same Sandymount strand that got his book banned in the U.S.

Anyhow, I got through unscathed and my socks went on to prove their worth but some sand got into my trousers and had consequences for later in my journey!


I had one reflective moment as I crossed, thinking of a cousin of my Grandmother, Richard Brennan who lost his daring life as a Dublin Bay Hobbler in 1926 aged only 19 .

At the East Link bridge I paused to see the Tall Ships moored in the Liffey and didn’t stop again until at a Clontarf coffee shop to seek relief from the sand.  Hobbling into the cafe/restaurant I unknowingly skipped a number of diners awaiting tables.  Luckily a member of staff saw the look on my face, quickly took my order for a cup of coffee and directed me to the rest rooms.  When I came back outside to sit with my coffee I turned to see a lady reading the aforementioned book and I laughed heartily and got a few more funny looks.

The Synchronicity got me going again and I trugged down the long path to Howth and as I hit the last 2km my legs were suffering, I jerked my way towards the village not to dissimilar to that famous footage of Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham, except I wasn’t doing an Ironman Triathlon, I’d only walked 27km.

As I sat on a Dart in Howth Station after nearly 5 hours on the go, looking forward to getting home, this funny John Culshaw impression came to mind…

Storms past and present…. – Week 3

Posted on August 19, 2012

This weeks storm in Ireland had some suffering and others wondering what the fuss was all about.  It reminded me of my trip in 1982 when on one of the days we drove from Agadir through Tiznit and eventually onto Bou Izakarn.


On the way we stopped our Renault 12 (see pic)  by the Hotel Anti-Atlas for a break, little did we realise what was ahead of us on our journey that day.

Within minutes of driving off we passed beyond a small town and encountered a number of men with guns, riding horses outside a building and firing into the air.  In my 12 year old head alarm bells were going off, but it turned out to be a wedding celebration and much excitement was being had!   However, it had distracted our attention from the road ahead and from the side we could see an enormous red cloud billowing across the land towards us.  It was a huge Sandstorm and to this day I have never seen such a sight.  Luckily we drove on through without suffering as much as the poor bride was about to.

A similar Sandstorm to what we encountered:

Now back to 2012 and with the kids Summer holidays coming to an end, I was surprised but pleased to see my two daughters busily tidying and clearing up their rooms.  My wife too had spent the last couple of days preparing and baking an voluminous amount of cakes and buns.

So on Saturday morning I set off on a longer walk with my eldest sister to Bray via Dalkey and back along the beach.  A great 23km walk, which will be similar to our longest walk in the Sahara trek, minus the heat and deep sand dunes though.  I tried different socks that fared better this time and my feet held up well, although my joints might need some oiling.

However, the great surprise on my return was that my wife and kids had put on a “Sale of Work” in my absence and invited friends from all over the area to come and buy all those home baked goodies, toys and books.  All of that hard work and combined with some generous donations, led to an additional €352 into the fundraising pot!

How lucky I am


Rabies, Scorpions and a Dead Camel’s stomach! – Week 2

Posted on August 13, 2012

After a great kick off to the fundraising, it has been a week of revelations on what I really have signed up for.

A visit to my Doctor gave me an expected tick in the box, but also led me to discover that I need a plethora of Vaccinations for the “just in case” scenario.  Typhoid, Hep A but also Hep B, Rabies (yes!) and a few others.

Then a trip to the local Trespass store lightened my wallet for a whole range of items, from a backpack to a water pack and purification tablets.  I can’t wait to drink that lovely Chlorine cleansed water!  Thankfully my old friend Jeff had the staff lined up to sort me out with advice and the 50% sale they have on at the moment helped greatly.


I consider myself reasonably fit, as a regular swimmer, but also realised that I needed to test my feet and boots out for a nice long walk.  10km around the edge of Dun Laoghaire on Saturday morning showed me that Blisters might become a challenge.  For the trek itself we need to be prepared for up to 8 hours of activity a day and they suggest you need to be able to walk comfortably for 8 hours per day over a min of 2 consecutive days before heading off.

So when I got home I decided I would rest up and research further by watching a Sahara programme with my daughters, to learn from from the real experts.  It probably wasn’t the best idea in hindsight because we watched Bear Grylls Sahara special and he certainly knows how to set the scene in the Sahara, Lawrence of Arabia would have been a better choice.  All I can say is you would not want to be of a nervous disposition watching it, aside from trying to avoid Sun Stroke and Dehydration leading to organ failure, it also seems that somehow the most deadliest animals around the world hang around the Sahara.  Lethal Scorpions, the killer Horned Viper and Cobra Snakes, Rabid Bats… to name just a few.
My eldest daughter asked me would I really need to eat a goats private parts and sleep inside a Camel’s stomach ?…….I sure hope not!


Decision Made! – Week 1

Posted on August 7, 2012

Hi All!

Well after thinking about it over the weekend, chatting with my family and working out holidays, I made the call and decided to sign up to the Peter McVerry Sahara Trek in October.   I have a great fondness for the desert for many reasons including a childhood ad for Turkish delight!

So Just 10 weeks to go and now I need to go and find out what I have let myself in for!

To kick off my appeal for funding I started with some background to this adventure:

30 years ago, my younger brother and sister along with my parents and I got lost at the edge of the Sahara in an old Renault 12 having taken a wrong turn at a roundabout in Tiznit, Morocco. With the sun going down, running low on fuel, with a fan belt about to go and in the middle of the Atlas mountains somewhere, it was my first real experience of fear and having faith in my parents.

20 years ago I sold a computer system to Fr.Peter McVerry and learnt about all the good he does for the Irish Homeless, who deal with fear and faith every day.

Since then things have developed considerably and the Peter McVerry Trust charity now provides vital support in Ireland to those who need help in breaking the cycle of homelessness and to aid their move towards independent living.


I have continued to support the charity over the years and just last year with some work colleagues we volunteered a day at their detox facility in North Dublin and we also secured a $2,000 community grant from IBM for them.

So this October I am taking time away from work and my family to go back to Morocco where I will be walking 100km across the hot Sahara to raise money for the Peter McVerry trust.

It is the first time since I left school 26 years ago that I have asked friends to sponsor me, so I do not do this lightly. I would appreciate any amount that you can donate to help this great cause. When I return I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

You can donate to me personally or through my site: