2016 has been as unpredictable and chaotic as I could ever have imagined. In the same year I thought my entire life was falling apart around me, thinking I had picked the wrong course and altogether wanting to give up and go live in a cave somewhere; I also conquered Africa’s highest mountain, spent a lot of time figuring out what I wanted and put a lot effort into making positive changes to the way I live my life.
At the beginning of 2016 I wrote a list of all the things I wanted to leave behind in 2015 and then burned it. A year on I can barely remember what was on that list but a few things come to mind when I think about it. A lot of what was on there was to do with my attitude towards life; I wanted to stop caring what people thought about me, I wanted to build bridges with people who had fallen out of my life, most of all it was about leaving anything negative behind in 2015 and having a positive year. I can’t say that has been 100% successful, those who know me well enough will know that there have definitely been a few struggles along the way. I can however confidently say that I am ending 2016 on a positive chapter in my life.
When I think about what I have achieved this year it always out weighs the negative experiences I have had. This was the year I got my first A in University, the year I pushed myself and my body further than I ever have before on Mount Kilimanjaro, I visited Germany, took a 12 hour bus journey to London TWICE, (the second time to visit some of the fabulous people that Kilimanjaro introduced me to), with the help of three wonderful ladies organised what I would say was the most successful Gray’s Winter Ball of the past three years and, maybe most importantly, I rediscovered just how much I love photography.
This year I also started at a new job which, so far, is going well and has put me on track to my hopes of visiting China and working with pandas towards the end of 2017. I feel it is important to enjoy even a part time job and as much as I may dread going to work some days I can honestly say I really enjoy waitressing. When I started at Cocoa Ooze in 2013 I knew it was something I was going to be able to do along with my studies with ease. Unfortunately and much to my sadness I had to make the decision to leave Cocoa Ooze when I realised how much money I was going to need not only for my future travel plans but also just to get me through my fourth year of University. The job I have now gives me better hours to work around Uni and also means I can save my tips away for next year.
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” – The Doctor “Doctor Who – Vincent and the Doctor”. This quote came up on my Facebook feed on my birthday a few days ago and it reminded me that just because bad things happen all the time that doesn’t have to make your life bad. If you focus on the good things in your life then you have more chance at creating a positive environment around you and I feel that only with that positive environment can you really succeed and achieve your goals.
In short 2016 might have been a mess in some respects but I refuse to let that dampen the love, gratitude and general good feelings I get when I look back at the achievements I have made this year. I wish anyone reading this all the love and happiness they could ask for in 2017. My only goal is to stay positive no matter what life may throw in my direction.
I’m pretty much winging my way through life, but if you make a plan there is no guarantee it will work they way you want it to. To me life’s more fun when you let it play out in front of you, adventure is out there. TTFN.
*I use the word positive way to many times in this post. Drinking game, take a shot overtime you read the word positive!
It’s 12am, it’s pitch black, all you can hear is the sound of your own heart beat and someone being sick a few steps in front of you. It’s cold, it’s windy and all you have is a head torch to guide your way. It’s summit night on Kilimanjaro and it’s about to be the hardest night of your life!
I had such high hopes for this blog post, I was going to write notes from each day, record everything, do a video diary. By the time I got to camp on day one all I wanted to do was eat my popcorn, sip my tea, locate the nearest toilet, curl up in my sleeping bag and pass out! (Which is exactly what I did.)
Don’t get me wrong I didn’t for a second think that climbing the highest free standing mountain in the world was going to be easy, in fact a small part of me was convinced I couldn’t do it but I just told that part to go to hell and kept pushing on. The thing I found both this year and with Toubkal last year was that it didn’t seem to matter how physically fit you were if you weren’t determined to make it to the top. It was mind over matter with me, my body wanted to give up, it was falling asleep as I walked but my head wasn’t going to let that happen.
This is my Kilimanjaro experience (as well as I can remember) it day to day over the six days it took to complete the biggest challenge of my life!
Day one started at the Machame gate 1640m above sea level, it was a bit of a gloomy day so we didn’t get to see the whole mountain before the climb (probably for the best to be honest…) It was like walking right into the Jungle Book, hanging vines and stone steps all the way to camp. I was glad of the cloud cover if the sun had been out in full force the heat and humidity would have been unbearable. It was quite pleasant walk to Machame camp stopping for a lunch of chicken and chips under the trees about half way. A couple of times I felt I was going to tumble back down the path, my awful balance and walking poles being attached to my back pack were not helpful, but there was always someone behind me to give me that slight push I needed to correct myself.
At camp we met our porters who showed us to our tents (I’m just going to say now that my porter was the best human being I have ever met and I owe him so much because he pretty much did everything for me, including putting aftersun on my very burnt hands, and I love him). We were shown the mess tent and given a briefing for the next day and then it was straight to bed for me because it got unbelievably cold as soon as the sun went down!
Day two the sun was out and we raced the clouds up the mountain. I thought they were going to catch up with us but we stayed ahead of them until they couldn’t climb any higher. I found this day one of the hardest because we had to walk all the way to camp before lunch and it felt like a life time! I also dropped half of my NAKED Banana Crunch bar at our second snack stop and it was heart breaking. Staying at the back allowed for a lot more conversation though I felt like I got to know some of my Brunel team mates a lot better on day two.
Everyone told me about how beautiful the stars look from Kilimanjaro before I went but I can’t say I really saw them properly until summit night. They were there, I was just absolutely exhausted every night when we got to camp that I went to bed straight after dinner and looking up while walking in between 20 something tents is not advisable. A few people stayed up to watch the stars and came back to me with tales of shooting stars and the milky way but I just couldn’t keep myself awake to watch with them.
Day Three was acclimatisation day, we climbed high until lunch time and then back down to sleep low giving our bodies a chance to get used to a thinner atmosphere at higher altitudes. The climb to lunch was hard, breaks were very welcome, but I did not feel any symptoms of altitude sickness and made it to the Lava Tower in the first half of the team. After lunch I decided to stay back with the team members who were suffering from altitude sickness to make sure everyone was doing ok and to provide my encouragement. This was going very well until about ten minutes before camp when out of nowhere altitude sickness hit me and the entire contents of my stomach emptied onto the side of the trail. It completely knocked me for six. I felt dizzy, weak and wasn’t entirely convinced I wash finished throwing my guts up. My head guide, James, had to hold me up for the short distance to camp, my vision was blurry and I don’t really remember getting to the check in point. All I remember thinking was how impressed I was with the members of my team who had been dealing with this all day, I felt absolutely horrendous and could only imagine what it must be like to experience altitude sickness from the morning knowing how far away camp was! When I finally got to camp all I wanted to do was go to sleep but I knew that would just make me feel worse so I made myself go to the mess tent for popcorn and a hot cup of tea, followed by a handful of pain killers and a lot of water. Within the hour I felt absolutely fine again.
Day Four we tackled the Barranco wall. This steep ridge was an almost vertical scramble on which I ripped my nana’s walking trousers she had lent me, almost had my hand pulled off by the guides (they did not know about my dodgy wrist) who yanked us up that wall like their lives depended on it and saw the most spectacular view from above the clouds. This was actually the fun part of the day because they then made us walk down a valley, back up a valley, down another valley and finally back up a valley and into camp. What’s wrong with bridges Kilimanjaro?? I have never wanted to pee more in my life than the last twenty minutes of that day and I was so relieved (in more ways than one) to see a toilet block just out side of camp, there was no way I would have made it through check in without an accident occurring!
We had made it to base camp! There wasn’t exactly much time to celebrate though, we were to leave again at midnight for summit so it was dinner, toilet and bed! Having said that dinner was still an emotional meal; a couple of my team were very upset because they did not believe they could make it to the summit! I had full belief in every member of my team and to see them so upset made me completely break down into what was the first of many tears in the 24 hours that followed.
Sometimes in life you believe you have been super sneaky and no one could possibly know what you are up to! I tried to organise a surprise for my team along with the team leader from Brunel by contacting the teams loved ones asking for a letter of encouragement to read before summit night. I would like to think that most of the team were completely clueless but one member of RGU had asked me on several occasions if I was organising said surprise. Getting more and more frustrated at this members willingness to spoil the surprise for himself when he finally called me over after all the letters had been handed out I thought it was to gloat that he knew what was going on the whole time and I hadn’t surprised him one bit only to be handed a letter from my own loved ones and have to return to my seat feeling bad for all the times I told him to let it go! My letter is pictured below and while most of the team were sitting in their seats crying I couldn’t help but laugh at my mum’s favourite story of me and my stubborn ways!
So here we were, summit night, with two to three hours sleep my nervous chatter had already set in, I had one mouthful of “breakfast” and thought I was going to see it again almost immediately, the cold was unbelievable, the sky was glittering with star light and my water bladder had already frozen solid. For most of the climb I focused on Mars, it was usually directly in front of me and distracted me from the tiny head torch lights in the distance that reminded me of just how far we had still to climb. My day bag was taken off me by a guide almost straight way so I could focus solely on where to put my feet. This guide (who fell over once and scared the absolute living hell out of me, if he had fallen over then all I could think was that there was absolutely no hope for me and my clumsy self!) stayed with me the whole way to the summit and for the life of me I couldn’t pin down his name. I know I would never have reached the peak if it wasn’t for him, shear determination and a packet of Haribo Tangfastics that I had saved specifically for that night.
I almost gave up on several occasions, absolute exhaustion and fear threatened to overcome me at any moment. Every time we stopped for a break I thought I was going to fall asleep. When James said it was time to move again tears came from nowhere, but he grabbed one arm and my guide grabbed the other and hoisted me to my feet, up we went higher and higher until we started to see the sunrise over the clouds so far below us. That was the moment I knew I could do it, my phone had died from the cold so I had no idea what time it was but when I saw the sunrise below and Stella point above and beyond that Uhuru Peak I knew I was almost there, to give up now seemed as impossible as the whole climb had felt 6 hours before and I pushed myself that last hour and a half, to the Summit of the worlds highest free standing mountain.
I didn’t summit with anyone but my guide, I was about ten minutes behind the first group from my team to summit. When I got to the rest of the team I was swallowed whole by a group hug and burst into yet more tears at the sight of my team mates tears. Then there was the queueing for photographs (other groups had summited at the same time as us), the realisation that my camera had died from the cold, losing the friendly square that a kind man had given me for good luck on the bus to London, my phone getting a second wind and switching back on for photos at the summit and finally a member of my team collapsing from hypothermia in his legs*. This all happened in about 30 minutes and then it was back down the mountain.
Heading down was arguably harder than the way up. Firstly the ground was no longer frozen so it was like walking down the biggest sand dune you have ever seen in your life, secondly it was about eight in the morning and I had had about two hours sleep and thirdly there was no motivation left in my entire body. I’d made it to the top, I was done, I just wanted to curl up on a rock and go to sleep. This was not helped by the fact that every couple of meters I would fall on my back and lie there like an overturned beetle until the James caught up with me again and put me back on me feet. By about the fifth fall I told him I was staying put and he would have to drag me down because I refused to fall over again. So that is essentially what he did after I had one more cry, this time asking for my mum and pizza. He took my bag on his back, threatened to piggy back me down the mountain, took my hand and led me down the sand dune of death with complete ease despite his allergy to dust (wise career choice there…). When we reached solid ground I got a complete second wind and marched of into the distance only to be met with yet another impossible downward climb and had to sit for about 20 minutes for someone with a bit more technical skill to show me the correct path.
Finally, after what felt like a life time, I made it back to base camp. I was met by my porter who gave me the biggest hug and a cup of pineapple juice which lasted all of five seconds. He led me back to my tent, took my boots off for me, ran to fill my water bottle up, gave me a well deserved fist bump and zipped me into my tent. I should have had a nap here, I was exhausted so it should have been easy but I just couldn’t fall asleep! I spent the rest of the time we had at base camp packing as best I could with my sunburnt hands, eventually admitting defeat I had to get someone to help me stuff my sleeping bag back into it’s compartment.
We had lunch and then set off again down the mountain. I think we had been walking all of two minutes when I had to stop. I couldn’t breath properly, my vision was blurry and I was about 90% sure I was going to be sick. I was right. Up came my lunch, up came my pineapple juice, up came my Tangfastics and, you guessed it, out came the tears. Altitude sickness is not a fun thing, why it only happened to my on the decent I do not know but I am very glad that it didn’t happen before then because I don’t think I would have managed to summit if it had. Instead of the four hours it should have taken me to get down to the last camp of the trek it took more like six and it was pitch black by the time I arrived. My porter, being the absolute amazing human that he is, guided me to my tent, took my boots off for me and even offered to take my dinner to the tent. I refused this last offer as food was about the last thing I wanted. I struggled into my sleeping bag, closed my eyes and passed out till morning.
The last day was definitely the easiest but it also felt like a never ending trail of trees upon trees. I was impatient to get down but also very aware of how slippery the ground was and if I was to go to fast the likely hood of me ending up on my backside was very high. When we finally made it to the bottom there was an enormous sense of relief. I signed out, took of some layers, found my porter and that was it finally over. This is where my porter very kindly put aftersun on my hands for me and took my day pack off my back. He even carried it all the way onto the bus for me. The final day was a good day for chatting and reflecting on the day before. For myself it still sort of feels like a dream, I know it happened but there was such a big build up to that day and then for it all to be over already is just surreal. This was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, there is no way I would have made it with out the support of my team, my family, my friends and the amazing guides and porters.
I took on this challenge partly to prove to myself that it was possible (partly because a certain RAG chair who shall remain nameless convinced me it was a good idea) and also to raise awareness for an amazing charity who do work all around the world. If you would like to donate to Childreach International you can still do so on my fundraising page linked below.
*this team member is absolutely fine and still has full use of both of his legs. The guides acted amazingly and got him down to base camp quickly and safely and part from feeling a little bit silly for not listening to the head guide about wearing more layers no harm was done.
For the past year I have been fundraising in order to take part in Childreach International’s Summit to Sea Challenge. This involved me climbing Mount Toubkal and trekking along the Moroccan coast line in every weather condition imaginable. Instead of writing a day by day blog of my experience in Morocco, like I did with the Big Build, I have decided to share with you my top ten tips for tackling the highest mountain in North Africa.
10. My first tip is you will see bugs, they aren’t everywhere on the mountain but they will sneak up on you when you least expect it! I found an ant in the squat toilet, after I had been!! A reminder to all arachnophobes out there “the spiders in Morocco don’t bite”. I for one am terrified of spiders and this was proven to everyone in base camp on summit morning when three of them decided to invade my tent as we were preparing to leave. Much to the guides amusement I screamed bloody murder and ran from my tent hyperventilating, crying, the works. The guides will then try to show you the spiders after they have removed them and this will send you into another fit of screams and them into a fit of laughter!
9. Next have fun and don’t take it to seriously. If you make it to the summit then fantastic well done you did it! But if you don’t it is not the end of the world you made a pretty good crack at it. There were times when I thought there was no way I was getting to the top but what kept me going was the two people I was with at the end, Scott and Carol, knew how to have a laugh. The distraction combined with the team spirit we had is what got us all up that mountain. I was determined to make it but I also knew that there was no way I was going to make it to the top if I thought about how much I couldn’t breath, instead I focused on the very strange conversations we ended up having (must have been the altitude.)
8. Leading on from that; also be prepared to cry! It might be a lot it might be a little but it will probably happen at some point on the mountain. My time came at the most unexpected moment for me, we had to jump across a river. This sounds easy enough but when you have already been going for about 9 hours and you have fallen at least ten times during that time, jumping over a river from one rain soaked slippery boulder and landing on another rain soaked slippery boulder seems like an impossible task. I ended up holding up the entire group by about five minutes I was so determined I was going in the river not over it, but when these moments hit you have to just keep going because otherwise I would still be half way up that mountain, alone!
7. Pack for all weather. The first day of trekking in the mountains will be hot, the second day it will hailstone so hard you will be left with multiple bruises (ok this isn’t a guarantee but still be prepared, they hurt like hell) and the third day you will go from being to hot to to cold every five minutes as you climb to the summit. Buy a proper fleece for summit day, take your down jacket but a fleece is top of my list. For one thing it is more breathable than a down jacket so this makes the climb so much easier. I am not for a minute saying that you do not need a down jacket because trust me you do. It gets pretty cold at night, also if you have just been hailstoned on and your waterproof jacket is out of commission while it dries you will be so glad to have it. Also if you are on the summit for more than about twenty minutes you will start to feel the cold and it will come in very handy then.
6. Be prepared to do very unusual things. For example; you will get up at ridiculous o’clock on summit day because breakfast is at half two in the morning, oh and did we mention you are going to be climbing in the dark? Head torches on everyone! Also our guides preferred method of getting down the mountain was to sit on our backsides and slide down in the snow, if you have had no experience in snow sports then it can be very difficult to steer in this mode of transport and you are very likely to crash. I crashed five times in total, three of those were into other people! Another strange experience has to be going to the toilet on the side of a mountain, sometimes you are lucky and you will find a nice secluded area in which to go about your business, other times you will not be so lucky and random American climbers will try to make conversation with you.
5. Take snack bars. This is especially important if you have any allergies like myself because you will find that although the guides do a fantastic job of catering for us awkward coeliacs, the lack of fibre in your diet will leave you feeling tired and very hungry! Even if you don’t suffer from any allergies I would still take things to snack on during the day. Snacking isn’t really a thing in Morocco, they will occasionally pass around a bag of nuts and biscuit type things, but apart from this the only time you will eat will be set meal times. Times between meals can vary depending on how fast your group is moving and also how far the guides want you to trek for each day. There are stops along the way on the first part of the mountain where chocolate and fizzy juice can be purchased but these won’t keep you going for long and on summit day there will be no shops. I took a veriety of different snacks but my life saver was definitely “Trek Cocoa Oat Flapjack” they fill you up and taste amazing all at the same time and an added bonus, they are gluten free!
4. Talk to the guides. Ask them questions about the mountain, about the culture and about themselves. They have a lot to say and you can learn so much more about the country from someone who lives their than you ever can from a travel guide book. Also our guides were fantastic, they were up for a laugh and they valued the advantages of sticking together as a team.They know the mountain like nothing else and are also very capable of rescuing you if you slide half way down a vertical slope, after flying of a makeshift slide and are clinging on for dear life thinking “this is how I die!” (yes this did actually happen, sorry Nana.)
3. Take a camelback!! They might be expensive but they are completely worth it and 100 times better than any water bottle could ever be. Trust me I learnt this the hard way, I ended up borrowing a friend’s camelback on summit day because she had injured her foot and it saved my life! The water bottle I had taken with me may have looked practical and fancy in the store with it’s fold away feature and large capacity but it was the most impractical thing I have ever purchased. Nowhere in my bag could store it with out either the issue of easy access or just the fact that it fell out every two minutes! Save yourself so much hassle go out and buy a camelback, like right now!
2. Take walking poles!!! I can not stress this enough, if this is the first mountain you have ever climbed then take walking poles, if you have weak knees then take walking poles, if you are of medium fitness (as the itinerary suggests you should be but really you need to be super fit) then take walking poles! My walking poles are my best friends now, they helped me scramble up impossible looking paths and helped me keep my balance on paths so thin they were probably built for ants!
1. Finally, celebrate!! You climbed a mountain, you made it to the summit! You might not remember most of it because you were to busy focussing on putting one foot in front of the other and not falling and remembering to breath, but you did it. At the top you will see the other Atlas mountains which surround the highest peak of Mount Toubkal, you will be above the clouds. If you are scared of heights I advise you not to look down at this point, if you are scared of heights what on earth are you doing climbing a mountain in the first place you eejit?! When you get to the bottom, look back up, you were up there, you made it, celebrate!
So for those of you who have me on Facebook, this post will resemble a rant that I posted earlier today. For this I apologise but the more I read the more I want to rant so I have decided to put it all in one place; that place being right here.
So let us begin with the article that first caught my attention as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed:
This is such a cynical article and while I agree with most of the points she makes in it I couldn’t help thinking “Oh my god lighten up woman!” If these celebrities think they are making a difference by recording this song then there is no harm in that and I am pretty sure that behind closed doors some of them (not all of them) do donate to charity and do genuinely care about what is going on in the world. This preconceived idea that all celebs are heartless and only care about themselves really gets to me. They are human beings just like us. Lets think about it this way; a lot of young people would not think to donate to charity but they look up to these people. They see that one of their idols have made a cool christmas song with a bunch of other pretty cool people and they think “Hey, I’ll buy that”, by doing that they have donated money sometimes without even realising it. Its about reaching an audience in the best way you can to get the desired out come (in this case reaching teenagers and young people who do not get the chance to sign up for monthly donations). Yes the charities that are actually out there in the countries helping should get way more recognition for what they do and really Bob Geldof is just doing the same thing he does every year but when you put it into context like this then its a case of every little thing helps and celebrities should not be publicly shamed whether they are on the single or whether they refused to be on it for personal reasons, such as raising their new family.
To sum up my thoughts on this article, I do agree with quite a lot of what she is saying if someone would rather donate money than be on a single fair enough they should not be bullied for not taking part, if she feels she has enough on her plate with raising her family then that is her decision but at the same time I then disagree with how the article turns into the writer pretty much shaming the people who are on the single. Its like she doesn’t understand that what she is doing is exactly the same thing she started her article complaining about!
I then continued in my Facebook scrolling only to find this lovely little piece of work right here on wordpress, as a suggested link because I had clicked on the one above:
My problem with this should be pretty obvious! The author of this post is analysing a song written in the 1980’s using data from 2014. When “Band Aid” was released Ethiopia was a country full of drought and failing crops, the lyrics in the song mirror this image. Geldof has himself said that he hates the song, he thinks “I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history,” said in 2010. “One is ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ and the other one is ‘We Are The World’.” To quote one of the commenters on this post “The phrase “Do they know its Christmas” was intended to highlight the contrast between the pictures and atmosphere in the UK at the time and the devastation in Ethiopia.” I do not understand why people feel the need to take this line so literally as this commenter points out the line is meant to show how these people were in such a desperate situation that the very thought of christmas and celebrating probably never even crossed their mind, of course, if they are christian, they know it is christmas! Also the line “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” is slated in this post, who actually believes that this is a literal statement, that Geldof genuinely thinks this? It is so obviously a statement on the minds of people as a whole, as long as it is not happening to you then it is not happening. He is trying to make you think about the way you see the world from your cosy little seat in front of your fire with your food and think wow I am an extremely lucky person.
Giving him a bunch of up to date facts about modern day Africa and saying “You are wrong” is utterly pointless and down right cynical, why don’t you get up and do something about the problem and see how well you do? Or maybe the reason you wrote the post in the first place is that you think there is no problem? At the time he wrote the song it was about raising awareness and money to help battle a major problem. Which is what he is trying to do with his reincarnation. I am not sticking up for him and saying that he is an angel and everyone needs to back off him (mainly because I recon he can take it). I am saying think about what he is trying to do and instead of shaming this man and all the other celebrities who have joined him ask yourself when was the last time you thought, I am going to donate some money to help cure Ebola. If you have then well great! Why do you assume that all of these celebrities have not donated? I am not saying they have or will or have not but who are we to shame them on an assumption based on absolutely no evidence.
Now as an end note I am not saying that these songs are the answer to the problems in Africa or any other country in the world but at the same time if you hate on this song then what is the point of charities such as Comic Relief and Children in Need who use celebrity endorsement to raise money, should we not have bought the album released in reaction to the Earthquake that happened in Japan a few years back? Where do we draw the line on Western help in developing countries or in fact any country that suffers a crisis?
Our last day in the village of Marigha. We felt so welcomed and accepted by the people in the village that it made us sad to think we had to leave. I know that we will all miss the children so much. In terms of building work we were back to sand chaining and shovelling. We wrote our names in chalk, along with the footballer names the children had given us, on the walls that we plastered the day before. Just like that it was lunch time.
There was so much going on after lunch; parachute games, frisbees, skipping, chase and ball games. Just before dinner we had a game of football with the older boys in the village. I think it is safe to say football is not really my game, although I did manage to tackle someone with only minor injuries. Then they put me in goals… bad idea, I prefer to run away from the ball rather than dive in front of it.
After dinner we went to the house next door where they had prepared some cous cous, some people tried their luck at eating it traditionally by making it into a ball and just eating it off your hand. Unfortunately I am allergic to cous cous but it was really old fun to watch everyone trying to through handfuls of it into there mouths.
We then went back up to our house where the villagers were waiting for us to show us some traditional drums and dancing. It was an amazing experience to be involved in the dancing and some sort of take on the conga in which I ended up piggybacking one of the younger boys because he couldn’t reach my shoulders!
So this concludes my Moroccan Adventure. It was one of the most amazing experiences and I feel so privileged to have been a part of it. In the speeches that were given that night the village council told us how grateful they were for what we had done for them but I want to just say that I am grateful to everyone involved in making this project happen, to the village for taking us in and trusting us to build such an important feature in their community and to friends I made along the way.
Plastering walls in Morocco essentially consists of throwing cement at walls. We spent the day being taught the technique that means the cement actually sticks to the wall; this does not mean that the cement actually stuck to the wall.
The children were waiting outside the house wanting to play after we finished building, so played music on our phones and had a dance off which was hilariously fun. I was attacked by tiny children wanting to play catch (they wanted me to chase them and then tickle them pretty much), by the time I got to tea I was absolutely exhausted from the heat.
After dinner we all sat in our “Scottish Room” and ate our junk food and chatted for ages; which made it really difficult to get to sleep when everybody left…
I think the villagers were becoming more used to us being there, we had a bigger audience at the build site and even a couple of the local girls came out to see what we were doing. One of the the girls wanted to give us a hand with the building, she must have been about thirteen or fourteen, so she joined our sand chain.
We played outside the house again after lunch and the girls joined in as well, up until then it had only been boys that had wanted to play, but now the girls were playing with the parachute and the football and duck duck goose. I discovered that duck duck goose can actually be a very dangerous game if you play it in the mountains, as I dramatically slid into my spot while being chased by a 7 year old around the circle. My legs (which were already covered in bruises from the buckets) were now cover in scratches from my ankle to my knee.
We met out side out house at four o’clock so that our guides could take us to visit the local salt mines and for a hike around the village. We walked down to the mines and they explained to us how the salt water is taken up from the wells in buckets and put into the reservoir, it is then let into large, shallow, concrete squares on the ground and left to dry out for three days in the sun. Then the salt is bagged and taken to the local markets for sale.
From the mines we walked up behind the village to where the castle was and started our mini hike from there. We walked all along back of the village and up onto the foothills of the mountains above. Some of the older children joined us, they seemed to have no problem with the steep slopes or the heat as they ran ahead of us. The views were incredible. We could see the whole village from the highest point on our walk.
We were so exhausted from our hike and the heat of the day. After tea we went to the local shop and bought a bottle of ice cold Pepsi each which was a perfect way to end our day…
The site had gained an audience, the children came to watch us build and some even wanted to help. They had also brought a tiny little kitten with them which was just adorable.
We were making more sand chains but because I was on a slight slope I kept managing to batter my legs with the full bucket of sand and ended up with a leg covered in bruises.
We took the parachute out after lunch again for the children to play with because they absolutely loved it. They had the kitten with them again,we soon discovered that they did not think of the kitten as a living thing, I think they just thought of it as a toy. I was really impressed with how quickly they picked up that we didn’t like how they were handled the kitten and started to treat it nicely.
When got beck to the building site at half four some one had written on the wall outside of the education centre: “Big Build 2014 Marigha, Childreach International, Big Build Morocco, Thank You” and then a drawing of a chef…
The first thing I did in the morning was look across to the the mountains opposite us. The clouds were tucked in-between them, just under their peaks, hugging the sides like fluffy white glaciers. It was a beautiful start to my day.
We had a free afternoon after our morning’s work on the building site so Imogen, Lorna and I went explore the village a little bit. We walked up to the castle that Abdul had taken us to on the first day and the hills next to it. We then decided to go somewhere new and followed a path that went past the castle and back into the village but we had never been to this part before. While we were trying to decide which way to go next some of the villagers start talking to us. Of course we had no idea what they were saying so Lorna tried speaking french to them, which worked until they exhausted her knowledge of french and both sides settled with pointing at things.
We met for tea at the usual time but instead of going to the main house for it, we were invited to one of the local builder’s house where they would show us how to make traditional Moroccan Mint Tea. We sat around a long room on the floor which was covered with brightly coloured mats and cushions to put behind our backs. Abdul was sitting down at the far end with a tray full of various tea related items and began explaining how they made their tea
After the tea had been boiled for five to ten minutes we were each given a glass and some traditionally baked bread. I had really started to like the mint tea but I still had to wait for it to get to at least room temperature before attempting to drink it.
When we came back from dinner there was a good fire burning outside the local cafe type thing that was under our house. The children were sticking branches in the fire and chasing each other while spinning these branches around. They found this game hilarious fun but all I could think of was that it would end in someone getting burnt. As far as I know no children were hurt by flaming branches of doom that night…
Here is a blog of the first three days of my trip to Morocco for you to enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLcbUBP9wbU. This is the first VLOG i have ever done and it to me two days to get it uploaded to YOUTUBE, stupid internet…