'These Feet are Made for Walking...!'

They did it..!    Scroll down for words and pictures from Mari

Mari's March Madness - the 100km Sahara Stroll!

This page records the achievements of Mari Griffiths, a member of St Faith's choir (and Stage Manager for the United Benefice Dramatic Society's pantomimes!) who undertook a spectacular challenge to raise money for a great cause. She is pictured above putting her feet up - something which had little time to do in the months leading up to her epic journey in the Sahara in March 2009.

Below you can read Marie's bulletins as she prepared for her trek, together with porgress reports on her fundraising. Upon her triumphant return from the desert, she provided three reports on her experiences, which can be read further down again, and which conclude this archive of a gallant endeavour. Hidden amongs these reports is news that she is planning to do another trek in 2010... and when she does we will publicise it and report upon it.

Introductory Bulletin

Next March I shall be walking 100km across the Sahara Desert for Classic FM's charity Music Makers. The charity provides music therapy for disabled adults and children and under-privileged children, nationwide. As one who firmly believes in the power of music, it is a cause close to my heart.

This is someone who doesn't like excessive heat, walking or sand! Yes I must be mad but when I applied I never thought I'd be accepted. To say it's daunting doesn't touch how I feel, but at the same time it's all quite exciting, I've met some really lovely people, and I've been bowled over by the offers of help I've had already.

Fundraising has started with cake sales and plans for concerts and jumble sales. Our local football clubs have responded well, Everton sent me a signed photo of the present team to auction. I have to raise £2,500 by the begining of December. Training has started with me going to the gym on a regular basis and forcing myself to walk.

So far I've only managed one and a half hours. I have to build up to 7 hours a day. We will be walking over sand dunes, salt flats and in "Mirage Valley," we start near the Atlas mountains and walk towards the sea.

I do understand the  pressures on you all to give money but I do hope you will be able to support me in some way, and in return I shall provide you with evenings out, cakes and sales.

If you choose you can donate by accessing

  Here you can see how I raised  my target of £2,500!
So look below for news of my latest endeavours, and thank you.

Mari Griffiths

Training Bulletin: October 2008

On the weekend of the 20th September I travelled to London to meet up with my fellow trekkers at Classic FM in Leicester Square. The afternoon was taken up with a talk from Discover Adventure who have the dubious pleasure of accompanying us on our trip. We heard about our itinerary, the equipment we would need and the more personal aspects of the trip, which I must say are worrying me a bit. I can cope with not washing properly, and not being able to wash my hair, I can even cope with having to sleep with nine other people in a tent or more in the open air. However the toilet arrangements leave a lot to be desired, although I have no intention of going into details at this point in time; whether I will cope with this remains to be seen, but I guess I don't have much choice!

That evening we met up in a Moroccan restaurant in Covent Garden. The food was delicious, the cocktail I had was stunning but strong, and the company was entertaining to say the least (we were given a Pilates demonstration by one of the trekkers), and very pleasant. That evening I met up with my daughters, so I didn't see my bed until 1a.m.

My alarm woke me at 5.00 a.m. on the Sunday when I had to negotiate the London transport system and eventually found Leicester Square. We boarded the bus at 6.30 and set off for Camber Sands in Sussex for our first walk together. The purpose of this trip was twofold: to establish how much training we needed to do, and to encourage bonding amongst the trekkers. However the latter was academic, as we hardly paused for breath all day (talking that is not through exhaustion)!

The walk took us over soft sand and sinking sand, shale and a grassy path. On the way we found a seafood shop (don't think we'll have one of those in the Sahara) where we bought the loveliest cockles I think I have ever had, so they kept me going. Cat and Jo from Classic FM kept an eye on us and provided us with a packed lunch which we had at the end of the walk.

I felt very proud of myself at the end of the walk because I didn't feel that tired or sore. It was the first time I had really tried out my boots and they seemed OK. As we know pride comes before a fall and it certainly did with me, Once we returned to London everything stopped working mind, body the lot, and it didn't really come back until Wednesday morning!

The lesson from that is that I have to concentrate on endurance training, not my strong point, so to help in this I'm applying to be a volunteer at the Freshfield Animal Rescue. I thought if I have someone with me I might be able to go on for longer so I have to find a dog with good stamina that I can take for walks.

I'll let you know if my plan works!

Best wishes,


Now read more about it... from the website manager (NB archived links may no longer work...)

Click on the link in Marie's article above to donate directly and leave an encouraging message (or just to tell her she's mad!).
Help her to raise what she needs to get out there...

Click here  for details of the Classic f  m Music Makers' excellent ongoing project and its many activities.

Click here
  to see biographies of the trekkers - including Mari.

Click here to read Mari's article, as published in the September 2008 issue of our parish magazine, Newslink.

Click here to see the publicity poster for Mari's fundraising campaign - complete with desert pictures...

A quick update from Mari at the beginning of December....

On the 26th November we had a Scouse Night at Ye Crack pub in town, organised by a friend and a friend of his I had never met.
Len heard about the trek and decided he'd like to help, took the idea and ran with it. All I had to do was provide a few cakes and turn up.
The pub was packed, the manager Zardia kindly provided and cooked the best scouse I have ever tasted. We had a raffle and a good night was had by all.
So my thanks go to all involved: we raised £265.
My training has started in earnest, I'm having personal training at the gym, I'm taking part in a two hour spinning class on 1st December
and a friend's son has very kindly agreed to help as well.
I am very close to the total of £2,500 now, and once again I'd like to thank everyone who has supported me in any way.


     Mari selling Cakes for the Cause on August 16th, 2008

Mari is back.....

She writes....
The trek finished at 08.30 March 22nd 2009. 126kms, which included temperatures of 46 degrees, sandstorms, hamada (rocky ground),  salt pans, endless sand dunes culminating in a 1000 foot high sand dune called Chagaga.

To try to put into words what I experienced is almost impossible. Not just the physical aspect, the heat, the thirst and the blisters, but also the emotional side of things, the friendships formed and the incredible courage shown by some of the trekkers.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me in any way. I couldn't have done it without you. You can read about my advnetures in more detail below.

Desert Trek Log

We arrived in Casablanca at 9.30 pm, very much a group of 50+ strangers. 30 for Classic FM and 20+ for Capital Radio raising money for their particular charity. We were delayed in Casablanca for three hours with no money and nowhere to spend it anyway. We eventually arrived at our hotel in time for three hours' sleep before we started our trek. However we were luckier than the Gatwick flight who arrived in time for breakfast. Not a good start

After breakfast we had a five hour coach journey to M'Hamid via Zagora where we had our last cold drink for a week and bought shashes (Arab head dresses to protect us from the sun). We later had a 'wee' stop where we were told - girls to the left and boys to the right! I decided the sooner I got the first time over with the better it would be. So dignity, pride and vanity put firmly aside I went. I don't think I've ever felt quite so uncomfortable. The second time it was more a question of who cares?

At the edge of the desert we were met by Ahmed and Brahim, the Berbers who were the caterers and provided the most amazing food in impossible situations and never stopped smiling for the whole week. Then we started the first walk: only three hours, and I was pretty apprehensive. Actually it wasn't too bad. It was over Hamada (very rocky ground), but it wasn't too hot (about 35 degrees), and there was camp all set up for us, even makeshift toilets (little tents over holes in the ground) but private at least. We were met with hot mint tea and biscuits. After dinner an early night as my head was splitting and I slept like a log.

Up at 6am, breakfast of porridge, bread, jam and cheese and then taking down the camp where everyone 'pitched' in.

This would be our first full day's walk. It started in small dunes with my head still thumping then more Hamada and the temperature went up to 46. We stopped for 10 minutes or so every couple of hours to allow the people further back to catch up. On this day I found myself walking in the middle of the group which by the end of the day was totally soul-destroying mainly because the people at the front reached camp half an hour before me. I spoke to a few of my fellow trekkers today - all of them lovely.

Camp arrived sooner than I expected, but I was exhausted. Some of the front runners actually clapped us in to camp and, lo and behold, there was a shower waiting for us. It certainly puts things into perspective. We were allowed about 2 minutes per shower but I can't remember a better one.

In the evening the Berbers built a bonfire and sang and danced around it, ably helped by Annette (from Kansas) who has been learning to belly dance! A good time was had by all. At night the sky is amazing, with no light pollution the Milky Way is so clear and shooting stars were a common sight. I'm not sure I've ever experienced such a profound silence. Nature I guess is truly humbling.

The second instalment (and news of her next adventure!) is below, following some of Mari's pictures.

Desert Diary continued

 Online July 6th, 2009

Well, you left me at sunset at the top of a dune watching the sunset. We set the world to rights, Karen spoke of her apartment in the Peleponnese, Tig took videos of us all and we walked down barefooted to the camp. That night was like MASH, I had such fun, although maybe that was a bit cruel. Pat one of our older trekkers, had fallen before the trek and being a nurse herself decided she didn't need to go to hospital! Earlier today she had fallen again and opened the wound. Karan (the doctor) decided it needed suturing, so that night after dinner, we set up a minor op department on one of the tables and I assisted him while he stitched. I know it sounds gruesome but it was great : I really enjoyed it and Pat was so brave and it was done in the middle of everyone else almost oblivious to what was happening.

Tuesday 17th March began as usual with breakfast, blister clinic and taking down the camp. Gill and I stayed at the front with Larsen. According to Rolf we are a quick group, sometimes groups can arrive in camp up to 4 hours later than we were making it. I think we were just in a hurry to take our boots off and have a biscuit. Lunch was spent under the only tree for miles and when I went to the ladies' room (i.e. any place where you are not directly overlooked, we were totally blase about this part of our strange lives by now), on the way back I noticed some movement in the dune above me. On closer inspection (but only slightly closer) I saw a rather large scorpion (the scorpions here are large and white so not easy to spot) running across the dune and then burying itself in it.

The previous night I had been walking barefoot up a sand dune totally unaware that scorpions do bury themselves and it was only through luck that no-one stepped on one!

After a fairly calm morning, the wind picked up after lunch. Unfortunately I had packed my shash in my main bag so had to wrap a shirt round my head. The sand in this part of the desert is very fine and is whipped up into clouds more quickly than I could imagine. Immediately the guides brought us all together and we were warned not to lose sight of the person ahead of us. If someone was lost in this the situation quickly becomes desperate. However we were good little trekkers and didn't lose anyone, however hard we tried. Some people were very disappointed to see me in camp at the end of the day!

In camp we were the biggest group of Humpaloompas ever seen outside of a Roald Dahl book - and no shower. Sleeping that night was very gritty. We camped at the base of Chagaga, the largest dune in the area, which we would be climbing the following day. We had an Irish night that night as it was St Patrick's Day and we sang lots of Irish songs - a good time was had by all.

The next day was the day I had been dreading. We had an hour's walk to the dune and then a walk up the 1000 foot face. This may not seem very high, but when you had to take one step forward and three back, it wasn't easy. Having said that it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. We were soon at the top and when Pat arrived we all gave her a huge cheer. There was a choice of ways to descend Chagaga, either the gentler way or down the face that was the same gradient we had ascended. After some thought I decided I wouldn't have this opportunity again so Judy and I, along with with a handful of other foolhardy souls, handed over our rucksacks and with a warning to slow down before the bottom which turned from soft sand to perpendicular solid rock, we tore down. All I could keep thinking was 'don't go too fast, don't go too fast' - not that I had a lot of choice. It was so exhilarating. As I child I was always too frightened to take risks, I think I'm making up for it now!
There is still more to come, but I just wanted to say a little about where I'll be over the next few weeks.

As you may know, I shall be going on a work exchange to Uganda's Mulago Hospital. Our remit is to see if we can influence the number of women dying in childbirth there. At the moment they have about two women dying per week. When patients leave theatre after surgery they are wheeled in to a corridor and left. By the time anyone realises there is something wrong it is too late. We are hoping to persuade them this is not acceptable. I shall be teaching about post-operative care and the consultant I am working with hopes to look at their surgical techniques. I imagine the experience may be traumatic but I'm sure I'll learn a lot. When I return I'll relay my experiences to you.

Desert Diary completed

Online November 16th, 2009

We were coming to the end of our trip with just one major obstacle to face. The penultimate day was to be spent in the salt pans. We had been warned temperatures could reach 50 degrees, so we set off with some trepidation. The first couple of hours were fine, wild rocket to nibble on as we walked. We passed a nomads' village, which sounds a contradiction in terms doesn't it? It consisted of many large tents, some of which had different functions other than just for sleeping. They had a water station, a covered area for the animals and somewhere covered for the children to play. It looked permanent, but apparently they tear it all down within a couple of hours and move on to another site.

Then we hit the salt flats. We were very fortunate that part of the day was cloudy, but when the sun appeared it was easy to understand how people have been blinded walking in the desert. The sun reflects off the salt and for miles around there was nothing to break up the glare. I'm having trouble describing how dazzling it was. I guess the nearest experience I've had to it was being in snow, abroad on a sunny day but even that does not come close. Walking in conditions such as these was tiring on the eyes, I was so thankful for my wrap around sun glasses and the heat was immense, no relief from it, nowhere to rest and no idea when it would end. How our desert guide knew where we were going was almost miraculous.

Our tents were waiting for us at lunch time and for once they had set up the full-sized tent because there was still no shelter for miles, not even a single bush. Going to the toilet that day was interesting! After lunch we were given the opportunity of having a camel ride. I loved that it was such fun and didn't go on nearly long enough.

We were on our way again soon though, moving out of the salt pans back into sand. Then the wind started. Very soon we could only just see the person right in front of us. The leader made us wait until we were all together and said if the worst came to the worst we would have to link hands or even hunker down behind the camels to wait out the storm. If someone was lost in this the only way to find them later on would be through an air search. I had taken ski goggles with me and was so grateful for them, the sand was so fine and stung every part not covered. We were lucky it only lasted an hour or so, but this only served to add to our exhaustion.

A couple of hours later camp was in sight. The leaders had gone ahead  and set it up so we were welcomed by a banner saying 'finish line,' and the Berbers sang and played us in. It was amazing. 80 miles completed. It was an emotional time for so many of us, but I could hardly believe it. It would be a while before it actually sank in.. Thinking back on it, I can still hardly believe it. Whenever I see deserts on the T.V. now I become nostalgic.

It wasn't quite over though. That night we had a party, we sent illuminated balloons into the night sky and we sang and danced until the early hours, forgetting that I had to be up at 4a.m. because I was one of the silly people who had opted to do one more walk. So at 4a.m. we had breakfast, we were spared taking down the camp and a small group of us set out for a sunrise walk. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. The colours of dawn were inspiring but the walk was tinged with sadness; it was nearly over.

Four hours later we met up with the trucks which would carry us out of the desert. We stood in the back of cattle trucks for a further four hours over rocky terrain after which we were battered and bruised but saw the most amazing scenery and rock formations. Monument Valley eat your heart out!

The coach was a very welcome sight. We were to drive through the Atlas mountains through the very highest point where we would stop at a coffee bar and souvenir shop! Life here must be so harsh. In our short journey through these magnificient mountains, we experienced sun, a stunning thunder storm, hail, snow and torrential rain. Marrekesh was flooded and we had to paddle from the coach to the hotel. A bed has never looked so wonderful, never mind a hot shower.
I hope you've enjoyed some of my ramblings. I am hoping to do another trek next March but this time to Annapurna in the Himalayas. I have to raise £3,000 this time. Everyone in cSt Faith's was so kind and generous to me last time that I wouldn't dream of imposing on you all again. I hope you will bear with me though if I have the occasional cake sale and if anyone would like to sponsor me, however little I would be very grateful, you can do so either directly or via doitforcharity.com/giving.

I shall always be grateful for what you helped me achieve. Without you all I would never have had this experience so many thanks,

With my love,


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