Trace:africa – 200 miles later

A retrospective fundraising review

In April 2012 myself (Chris) and a good friend (James) went out for a walk, ten days and 200 miles later we arrived back where we had begun. Each day we walked twenty miles and over the course of the ten days our route around the south-east of England traced the scaled down outline of the African continent across ten counties.

In the search for a fundraising activity we settled on a sponsored walk with a bit of a twist; trace:africa would be a surprisingly tough but very rewarding undertaking. Our original plan was to walk all day and then brave the outdoors overnight, camping in whatever spot was most convenient at each day’s end. To further add to the challenge, for sustenance we budgeted £2 each per day, equating over the 10 day period to the equivalent of a months sponsorship amount (£20) for a primary school child with Friends Reaching Out.

Our 200 mile route around the south-east, heading north anti-clockwise out of Horsham.

We started and finished in Horsham, West Sussex, marked in green and red on the map above. Heading north in an anti-clockwise direction around the route, the yellow markers on the map indicate our end/start point for each of the proceeding days. In the weeks leading upto the walk we received so many offers of hospitality, beds for the night, evening meals and packed lunches from friends and acquaintances along the route; we began to wonder if we’d need to bring our sleeping bags or meager food budget?

All packed and ready to go! From Horsham to Redhill would be the target for day 1.

Day 1 was full of excitement, chatter, ramblings and consequently a few unplanned detours, ending at Redhill station at 7.30pm we were tired and little achy, but happy. Our night was spent at the farmhouse home of one of James’ wife’s work colleagues. A homegrown roast lamb diner, amazing own produce fried breakfast and a packed lunch Nigella would be proud of made for the perfect first night stop over and start to day 2. Thank you so much Max & Adrian, it was a pleasure to meet you both!

We tried to track each day’s walking with the Runkeeper app, some days more successfully than others. Day 1 is split in to three parts due to technical issues and we covered slightly more distance than planned due to the aforementioned detours.

Day 1, Pt.1 (10 miles) –
Day 1, Pt.2 (9 miles) –
Day 1, Pt.3 (3 miles) –

Between road maps, scrawled notes and James’ iPhone, we managed to navigate to day 2.

Day 2 and the 21lb rucksack definitely felt a little less comfortable than it had at the start of day 1. The morning went by quickly, occasionally darting for cover from a rain shower, encouraged by phone calls from friends, in particular fellow Friends Reaching Out Trustee Steve Fishpool. Traveling from Redhill to Oxshott (which was the plan for the day) is approx 10 miles by car, however our route was not so direct as we zig-zagged back and forth to trace the African continent. It was on day 2 that we had our first taste of real hills, Box Hill to be precise, which our route took us up, back down and back up again! Although we finished the day in Oxshott we were hosted that evening in Wallington, by Rev Steve Taylor of Wallington Baptist Church whose family welcomed us into their home. Your kindness and care was so heart-warming and the opportunity to attend your Easter service was a privilege. A huge thank you to all at Wallington Baptist Church for your support, generosity and unexpected additional sponsorship, you were an amazing blessing to us . . . it was also worth the stop just for the creme eggs!

Day 2 (19.5 miles) –

Day 3, Rev Steve Taylor dropped us back out to start the day’s walking from Esher.

Day 3 was a late start, 1.30pm, having spent the morning and early afternoon at the Wallington church service! As a result we jumped on the day’s route a mile into things, planning to cover 19 miles and make up the 1 mile shortfall at a later point (which of course we did). I had been really looking forward to this day’s walk as our lunch spot would be Hampton Court palace, our final destination being Egham . . . via Hampton Court Palace. Unfortunately by the time we reached Hampton Court I needed the toilet so badly I was barely able to concentrate on anything but my pressing need and so the palatial vistas and Thames side ambiance was wasted on me. James on the other hand was rather enjoying the day, whilst trying his best to sympathise with my predicament. Hampton Court translated to around the top of Egypt in relation to our traced outline of Africa and chances are I’d have had more success finding a public convenience in Egypt!

A pattern seemed to be developing! The first 10 miles of each day was relatively easy going, the second half was increasingly difficult. That shouldn’t really be surprising, but it was a little. Day 3 was no different. Once my bladder had been appeased focus shifted to our feet, which we hadn’t been paying much attention to previously. For the first time they were feeling a little sore, dare I say it . . . blistered! The second half of day 3’s distance was a long drawn out slog. Much stopping and starting, removal of socks, many a strange look and I’m pretty sure for every step we took towards Egham it took five away from us.

By the end of day 3 even the rucksack badge was struggling to provide any motivation.

We arrived in Egham at 9.15pm and, as had seemed to be the case thus far, just when we were at a low ebb along came someone so awesome we couldn’t help but to cheer up. Janet, our host in ironically drizzly Sunningdale, was so encouraging and welcoming that we all but instantly forgot about the day’s challenges. Thanks to Janet we were able to switch off for a while, relax, recuperate and refuel, what a difference it made.

Day 3 (19 miles) –

Day 4 was started with yet another fried breakfast! I had eaten better in the last 3 days than I did at home?! Before we started out for the day Janet wanted us to visit her friend who was a nurse practitioner, so James could have his legs assessed as they were rather oddly swollen around both ankles. Satisfied that it was not a major issue, balmed up, bandaged and packed lunch toting we set out in the perpetual drizzle of day 4! The morning was again good, despite the drizzle and my emergency poncho fail.

The emergency poncho, keeps your shoulders slightly less wet than the rest of you.

On the down side we knew that this evening we had no accommodation arranged, we would be outdoors, so starting the day wet was not great. As things panned out this was the only night we had to resort to roughing it, it just so happened to be the only evening of the entire trip that there was some significant rainfall. Unfortunately this also coincided with the only occasion during the ten days that our food options were limited. Having stuck to our self imposed £2 per day budget and consumed our packed lunch we found ourselves dining that evening on out-of-date crumpets and golden syrup, alfresco it was, haute cuisine it most definitely was not! If there was one good thing that came from that long, wet, cold, sleepless night in a roadside bush it was an even greater appreciation for the warm beds, and food we had been offered for the remaining nights.

Day 4 (20 miles) –

Lunching on Day 4 at St. Mary’s Church, Winkfield, Berks. A very rough night was to follow.

Day 5 began at 4.35am! That’s as long as either of us could stay in a damp sleeping bag, kidding ourselves that we were getting any kind of rest. We dragged ourselves off the floor, packed up our sodden gear and forced another syrupy crumpet down our throats. This was without doubt the lowest point thus far! It was still dark and very cold, we were wet, had not slept and were about to set out on a 20 mile walk fueled by old crumpets and syrup. In all the disorientation and general lethargy we somehow managed to take 2 hours from deciding to get up, to then being on the road, so at 6.30am we set out! The walk alone would consume 2,000+ calories, plus approx 1,400 calories simply to exist, it was going to be a long day. One thing is for sure, it was a very quiet day. Neither of us could manage much more than 3 words at a time and with the single file protocol that a lot of the road walking demanded we both knuckled down and marched on. By lunch time we were close to the half way point of the entire trip! Five days of walking had not left us unscathed in regard to injury. Both of us were nursing blistered feet, I was nigh on dehydrated from the amount of fluid my feet were storing!

Despite day 5 being the most difficult of the trip, it was also our speediest day. We took much less time out to rest than on any other day and with our early start and a 6 hour time to cover 20 miles we had completed the day’s distance by 3pm! The prospect of a long rest before the next morning was amazing. Friends of my parent-in-laws lived close by to our end for that day and had graciously offered to accommodate us. We spent the afternoon getting cleaned up and enjoying such simple pleasures as sitting, on a chair, drinking tea, with clean socks on! BLISS!!!! To Marilyn and John who so kindly fed, watered and housed us, I have never been quite so grateful of a hot shower, thank you!

Day 5 (20 miles) –

Day 5, James re-packs his bag on the pavement for the final push out of Reading.

Day 6 and the first 10 miles were bordering on pleasant! After a real good rest and sleep the night previous we were feeling surprisingly good considering the trials of day 5. We set out at 10.45am with the aim of meeting Steve Fishpool, Friends Reaching Out Trustee and Chairman, in Basingstoke (10 miles away) at 2.30pm. Most of the first 10 miles was on very small country lanes with barely any traffic which thankfully meant not so much single file silent walking. We reached Steve at 2.20pm and broke for lunch and a catch up, then we were off again with Steve along for the last 10 miles. It made quite a difference to the both of us having Steve walk with us, if only for the motivational chants he insisted on offering! The second half of the day was more tiny lanes, picturesque cottages and slowly increasing aches and pains. Towards the very end of the day the good weather left us and we got a bit of a soaking, which did give Steve an opportunity to crack out his super bright red Peter Storm jacket! We finished the day at 6.45pm, having walked 21.21 miles. The total distance had taken 6 hours 18 mins minus breaks, not bad going.

Day 6, taking time out to pose for photos. We really must have been feeling better.

We were due to be staying outdoors again for the night but had received an overnight stay offer which we didn’t hesitate to take up. In all it had been a good day, the blisters were still there but had not multiplied or grown, we were able to get another good nights rest and we had an amazing dinner dropped out to us, thanks to Jackie and Trevor!

Day 6 (21 miles) –

Day 7 started off slow (or so it seemed) and continued to be so. The weather was not helpful with rain on and off all day, including two huge thunder storms, one of which we got caught out in while the other we managed to jump into a bus stop to shelter from. We plodded through the day with James singing Queen songs, thankfully just out of earshot (not a complaint against James’ singing, but Queen . . .?). The last three miles of day 7 did seem to take forever! At the end of the day I reluctantly took a look at my now uber blisters to find they had united to form one all powerful blister of a size almost deserving its own monarch. The days walking minus breaks took us 6 hours 20 mins, we left at 10.30am and finished for the day at 7.20pm. Most of the days breaks were unfortunately weather related. Emergency poncho MKII was a slight improvement on MKI, slight, and despite opportunity at no point did James make a single murmur of a smug nature as he strode along all toasty and dry in his all-enveloping waterproofs, as if he would?!

Day 7 (20 miles) –

Day 7, James all smnug and dry under the bus stop, having stayed dry.

For our last 3 days on the road we were joined by another friend, Jamie, who brought much needed energy, high spirits and McDonalds! By this point I think we had settled into a rhythm and our feet had resided to the fact that in spite of their pillow like, fluid filled state we seemed to be continuing indefinitely. Although 20 miles a day was still tough going, it had at least become almost normal for myself and James, Jamie on the other hand was about to find out all about it!

Day 8, heading out full of McDonalds & enthusiasm with the glimmer of an end in sight.

Day 8, midday and we had arrived in Midhurst, the familiar surroundings seemed to serve as a good pick-me-up, that and our pooled daily budgets that we lavished on sausage and chips. It would seem that walking 20 miles a day makes every half decent meal feel like the best food you have ever tasted . . . at the time. Jamie was now starting to get the idea that this walking business wasn’t as easy as you might imagine, but still we were all ready to push on, the thought of the end being only 2 days off and knowing how much money had been pledged was more than enough motivation. On average the 20 miles per day was taking between 6.5 hours and we ended day eight’s walking at about 7.30pm. That evening was spent with Tim & Christine at their home just outside of Chichester, you were both an absolute pleasure to spend time with and we were so thankful for your kindness and willingness to open your home to us.

Day 8, Pt.1 (16 miles) –
Day 8, Pt.2 (6 miles) –

Day 8, arriving in Midhurst things begin to look familiar, which was surprisingly comforting

Day 9 was always planned to be a shorter day, due to the planned stop over in Littlehampton and visit to Littlehampton Baptist church. As a result day 10 would be longer at 25 miles! So day 9 was, well? Day 9 was pretty nice. Only 15 miles, good weather and ended the walking with an amazing meal with the Kerr family, who get the award for Littlehampton’s most extraordinarily epically affable family. We salute you!

The following morning we were able to share with the church about what we were doing, to what end and a collection was taken to further bolster the funds already pledged! Just amazing! I can’t say enough how grateful we are.

Day 9 (15 miles) –

Day 9, arriving in Littlehampton. Just one (very comfortable) sleep and 25 miles to go!

Day 10 was upon us! The final day! We knew we would be arriving back in Horsham late in the evening, having attended the church service that morning, but knowing we’d be sleeping in our own beds that night was the biggest motivator of the whole trip so far! The day was cold and clear and we practically bounded along . . . for the first mile. Sent off with another packed lunch, courtesy of Andy & Judy, we made sure to fully appreciate this, the last day, of what had been a terrific experience. The extra long day meant a later lunch taken at the side of the road, where a group of recreational walkers passed by, some having a double take at our barefoot respite, socks laid out on the floor, boots strewn around. With 10 miles to go we stopped at Jamie’s brother’s house for a taste of heaven in the form of bacon bap and mug of tea and then upped and offed for the final straight!

With only 5 miles left to go we were met by my brother-in-law who cycled out to deliver piping hot tea and Jaffa Cakes!!!! What a champion. Another couple of miles on I accidentally paused the Runkeeper app, but did eventually realise and resume it, only missing a mile and half or so of recorded route. Walking back towards our church, from where we’d started 10 days earlier, we could see a small gathering of friends and family. It was a slightly surreal feeling to think I wasn’t going to be getting up the next day to walk another 20 miles, it was a relief to be finished, but I genuinely could have continued . . . at least for another day or so. We had walked more than 200 miles over ten consecutive days, had spent on average less than two pounds each per day on food and water and had met a small army of people willing to open their homes to strangers in support of education for disadvantaged children. What an amazing testament!

Day 10 (25 miles) –

Day 10, arriving back in Horsham, celebrating with a glass of something bubbly.

In all, your sponsorship raised £7,000.00!!! (including gift aid), so much more than we ever imagined might be the case. As well as the funds that were pledged via the website and in person we also received various sums whilst out on the road and were daily taken aback by the generosity of the people we encountered. The funds will make a substantial contribution towards the construction of the new Christian Community Primary School in Kisimula Village. Our heartfelt thanks and gratitude go out to everyone who supported us practically during the 10 days and of course everyone who was generous enough to sponsor us, you all made it an unquestionably worthwhile endeavour.