MBW Presidents Defeat the Dunes

14 August, 2023

By Marie Smith

In March this year three Moray Business Women Presidents, past and present, took on the experience of a lifetime. Their mission? To trek 100km in the heat of the Sahara Desert for charity.

Back in the spring of 2016 an opportunity arose to support Moray Women's Aid in their bid to raise funds through a Sahara trek challenge. Past Presidents Susan Longmuir and Carole Small (both of CAG Architects Ltd) and 2017 President Marie Smith (Highland Occasions By Design) joined seven other Moray Women - together they are known as the "MWA Tartan Trekkers".

With each of the "Trekkers" needing to raise a minimum of £2500 there followed almost a year of frantic fundraising. From Tombolas to camel themed craft donations by Varis Crafts and Hellygog, to coffee mornings. From a joint Highland Hydrotherapy/Dogrobes "Humans and Hounds" charity day (thanks to MBW members Sharon Whiteley and Margaret Reynolds) to a Masquerade Ball. And somehow the Trekkers also managed to fit in walk training in all weathers - in Lossie dunes, up mountains, anywhere so long as they were walking (many) miles in preparation.

So with rucksacks and sleeping bags packed, they finally flew out on 9th March. They faced higher than average temperatures as they climbed some of the highest dunes in the region. Each day they walked (and climbed) between 14 and 20 miles. Over soft sands, dunes, gravel and rocky plains and following the dry stony river beds. Eventually climbing up into the lower and slightly cooler mountain area to reveal the most amazing views below. Following in the footsteps of a single camel and their guide, with a doctor trekking alongside in case of any emergencies. Each night they wild camped - strictly primitive sanitation and definitely no showers in the desert. Though that would be the least of their concerns when high winds almost took their mess tents down in the lower mountain ranges.

Fast forward to April 2017 and the challenge is over - they are back! Each having trekked almost 109km (circa 68 miles) in the Moroccan Sahara in just a little over four days. Each undertook the challenge for very different reasons. This is what they had to say.

Carole: "I feel incredibly privileged to have been given the opportunity to undertake a personal challenge whilst raising funds and awareness for such a worthwhile local charity. The experience far exceeded any expectation and the I can truly say that Morocco touched my heart"

Susan: "I was offered a fantastic opportunity to undertake this Sahara Desert trek early last year and was determined to "˜celebrate' a special birthday this year by getting fit, completing the challenge as well as raising awareness and funding for Moray Women's Aid. It became much more than that and the trek itself was the icing on top of a fantastic cake with the whole year of training and fundraising celebrating friendships, support and charity success! It was an amazing experience which I will forever treasure"

Marie: "I undertook this as part of my own One Million Boot Steps challenge and the whole thing has been an amazing experience on so many levels. I am a lot fitter and already thinking "what next". That would never have happened a year ago. I am especially proud to have completed this alongside these women. We have made some great friendships which will last long after the blisters have healed and the photos have faded".Trekking the Sahara

So what about that fundraising then? Well we can reveal that the last total was sitting at £23,350 with more pledges and cheques still to come in. "It just shows the phenomenal feats that can be achieved when ten strong, determined women put their hard hats on!! The whole experience has taught us we are a "˜can do and will do' group of women. Moray Women's Aid are enormously thankful for the sacrifice that the Trekkers have made. And to everyone who has sponsored, donated or given generously through all our events. These amounts ensure more families needing support from us will not be turned away" said Elle Johnson of Moray Women's Aid.

Sponsor pages will close on Easter Monday so you still have time to show your support for these ladies. Meanwhile it's a massive well done to all the Tartan Trekkers on a fantastic achievement. We bet they all have some great stories to tell. If you would like to read more about their experience then follow the Sahara blog series on www.onemillionbootsteps.co.uk.

Meanwhile keep a look out for news of our Vice President, Sam Dowdall, who is in the throes of her own "Challenge 100" just now. We wish her luck with her next leg (no pun intended) - the London Marathon!

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