Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Trekking the Inca Trail to raise funds for adoption & fostering

Last month, BAAF Chair Anthony Douglas trekked the Inca Trail in Peru to help raise funds for adoption and fostering. Here, he talks us through the amazing achievement and encourages others to think about undertaking a challenge of their own.

When I decided to trek the Inca Trail for BAAF, it was a long way ahead (9 months) and a long way away (6,200 miles). Although my training did not conform to the plan I was scrupulously sent, I realised from speaking to some friends and colleagues who’d been there and done it that prior training might make all the difference between completion in style or the potential humiliation of having to turn back or, even worse, to be carried down the mountain by a team of fleet-footed porters. So I spent two weekends climbing in the Brecon Beacons, one of them in a minus 10 degree blizzard in April! The effort paid off. Other trekkers prepared by climbing up and down stairs at home for hours on end.

Starting out in the middle of the night from Heathrow, I wondered what I had let myself in for. Some trekker’s kitbags were straight out of a Mountain Warehouse catalogue: two pairs of everything and exquisitely squashed down rather than packed like a binbag. But what was instantly reassuring was that all 55 of us were there to do whatever it took for our charities, and to justify the faith and optimism placed in us by our sponsors. The charities ranged from unique and local, particularly hospices, to unique and national like BAAF. I wore my BAAF orange T shirt with pride at strategic moments during the trek, including one night in a dimly-lit tent when I gave an after-dinner speech about what BAAF does for vulnerable children in the UK. It was just as much a privilege to do that high up in the Andes as it is in the Westminster village. And both matter to BAAF, as they increase the number of people we reach, who in turn can talk to others about what we do, in a network of influence.

The 4 day trek was preceded by 3 days of vital acclimatisation. Being alcohol-free from the moment we stepped off the plane at 9,500 feet in Cusco until we reached Macchu Pichu was also good advice! Crucially, we were taught by our guides, both back in England and on the trek itself in Peru, to find and understand our own pace, so that we could walk at our own pace when the going got tough, as it did from time to time. The trek itself was an ascending crescendo of personal effort for all of us, culminating in seeing Macchu Pichu through the legendary Sun Gate. The scenery throughout the trek was like being in Avatar, with the most amazing shapes, smells, sounds and sights. For the Incas to have built a city like Macchu Pichu in such a wild and inaccessible place was a feat of community engineering. The mysteries of how, why and who remain to this day, which adds to the magic.

I was proud to raise more than £5,000 for BAAF. It will make a small but significant contribution to our work. What drove me on was what I was doing for BAAF.

If you would like to undertake an overseas challenge to help raise money for BAAF, please visit the fundraising section of our website.

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