My life-changing Saharan Mini Adventure for Sue Ryder

"Every single reason I did it for, I got rewarded for," said Jillian Allardyce, who took on this adventure of a lifetime with her sister Victoria to raise vital funds for Sue Ryder. Here, she describes their journey in memory of her Mum and husband David.

Losing two best friends, but creating lasting memories

My husband David was cared for by Sue Ryder in 2011 following his terminal diagnosis. He attended the day services and was then referred to the inpatient unit. He had the most expert, professional and compassionate care, and we had the chance to create lasting memories, which meant so much to us.

Five years later, my Mum was cared for by Sue Ryder. She had 12 weeks of pure solace and peace. I was married to David for 33 years and then, with my Mum passing away, I had lost my two best friends.

Due to the outstanding care, I have always remained in touch with the charity and supported them with fundraising events. It was in 2017, when visiting, that I saw the poster about the Saharan Mini Adventure.

After discussing it with my sister Victoria, she persuaded me to sign up. It was out of both of our comfort zones but knowing my Mum and husband would have said "Do it! Push yourself!" really spurred me on.

Victoria and I almost felt responsible to give something back to Sue Ryder to show our appreciation and this seemed like the perfect way to do it.

"Following my heartbreak, I did need something to help me move on... Having a goal in mind just changed my life."

At 61, I hadn’t really stretched myself since I’d been at school . That was the exciting bit, knowing it was going to be an adventure. I thought, 'This is something I’m going to do'. I’ve not travelled the world like my children or the younger generation now often do. My two boys were so encouraging.

We trained by walking at weekends, making sure we covered around 10 miles. We made it more enjoyable by stopping off for a coffee in nice locations and it was a good way for us to catch up. Getting all the kit really inspires you, and I got fit and lost weight.

When it came to actually doing the trek and arriving at Heathrow, I was surprised how many people were doing it on their own; I really admired them. The group ranged from age 22 and I was the eldest at 61. We were a bunch of like-minded people taking on the challenge for charity.

Discover Adventure, who run the trek, were fantastic. From the moment we arrive,d we felt looked after, informed and supported, but not babied.

"That was the spirit of it: all doing it together."

When we made it to the desert, there was just an oasis of calm. We had two really good local guides with a team of Berbers. We had a gorgeous lunch while the cameleers loaded up the camels.

We then set off through beautiful landscapes of palm trees and small sand dunes, and trekked for around three hours. You walk quite fast and at points have to manoeuvre the boulders.

We became such a team and rallied around each other. That was the spirit of it: all doing it together. There were no barriers between anyone and, before you knew it, we had each told our life story!

That night, sleeping in the desert was one of the most stunning scenes. The Berbers set up camp for you with the beds and large tents, but we slept outside to see the incredible star-strewn night sky. The nightly campfires and Berber singing were also such a memorable part of the trip; they are such lovely people.

Coffee, a good breakfast and stretching set us up for each day’s trek. You cover around eight miles in a day and, although it’s very hot, it’s not unbearable like you’d think.

The views across the Sahara are just so vast; seeing all the dunes is just breathtaking and very surreal. I often wondered where on earth we were walking to.

Diverse, demanding but doable

I think ‘bite-sized experience’ is such a good way to describe this trek as you get to see so much in a short timescale. It was diverse and demanding but definitely doable. As a group, we just didn’t stop smiling.

I personally found the trip life-changing. Anybody that ever wants to do anything different, do this trek! You’re doing it for an amazing cause, but you’re also doing it for yourself; I felt so liberated. Every single reason I did it for, I got rewarded for.

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Take part in the Saharan Mini Adventure for Sue Ryder

Image of Jillian and Victoria, who took part in the Saharan Mini Adventure for Sue Ryder

Sue Ryder supporter

Jillian Allardyce

Jillian (left) and her sister Victoria, took part in the Saharan Mini Adventure to raise vital funds for Sue Ryder.