At the northern tip of the Red Sea, as the sun rose over the mountains of Jordan to the east, illuminating the vast sands of Egypt to the west, I stood at the apex of three countries and looked up at the mighty Negev. I took my first step on a journey that would last for months, through hundreds of miles of dirt tracks and desert trails and felt an intense mix of wonder… and fear. If I knew then, what I know now, I might never have set off. Days of being cooked in the inescap
I had never hiked in a desert before, save for a brief trip to the Atacama in Chile and it’s fair to say I was a little unprepared for the environment. My thick leather walking boots which were clearly designed for rambling through the lush green grass of English hills, were woefully out of place in the hot, dry desert of Israel. Within an hour of setting off, my feet started to blister and bruise and by the second day I was limping through the desert like a cat on hot coals.
"A burden shared is a burden halved" goes the old saying. Researchers at the Marshall Business School in California have even put this to the test [i] They could have just joined me in the desert. For a week, Pete and I shared each other’s burdens. Sometimes literally when joint items of kit like the tent were split between our backpacks, other times emotionally, as we discussed the trials and challenges of life. We laughed at memories from our time in Bristol, compared our p
Every morning, when the long night finally surrendered to the glimmers of dawn, I felt a small dose of euphoria, as if the battle between light and darkness had finally been won and good had triumphed over evil. Sunrise in the desert is inescapably beautiful and as the first rays of light tickled the furrows and ridges of the valley slopes, I was gripped by relief and excitement for the road ahead. As the days turned to weeks in the lunar landscape of the Negev, I got used to
Before I left on this epic journey, I had a coffee with Ben, a friend in Bristol. He was there for me when the anxiety of the approaching expedition seemed overwhelming and we set up regular times to WhatsApp call en route. He gave me some wise advice as we parted. It was something like this, “Before Pete leaves, make a plan for how you’ll deal with the challenge of loneliness before it arrives.” He was right. It’s good to prepare for a season of darkness when it’s still ligh
In the mountaineering world there’s a cruel phenomenon that has tricked many an optimistic climber. The false summit. From the ramblers of England’s green hills to the pioneers of Everest, pretty much anyone who’s ever climbed a hill has experienced this prank of nature. Maybe you've know it too. Step by step, you fight your way up the slope, eyes fixed on the summit. Little by little, it edges closer, beckoning you on through burning legs and gritted teeth. The view opens up