In October last year, one of our blogs featured Bex and Gil, the intrepid couple who had undertaken “Scoot the Loop”, a unique challenge to raise money for ACE. At that stage, they were about to embark on another amazing challenge – to walk the length of Israel for the charity! Bex writes about the experience:
“That light bulb moment! Out of nowhere, one day I just decided that I would walk the Israel National Trail (INT). A 1020km trek that stretches the full length of Israel passing mountains, coastline and crossing the huge Negev desert. In recent years, I have started to get into long distance hiking and the thought of doing a thru hike had been sitting at the back of my mind. When my job and renting lease came to an end, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to take a break. If I didn’t take the leap now to do it, I never would. So, I booked the flights. October 4th 2016, myself and my husband would be setting off to hike the INT.
Once the flights were booked, there was very little to organise. I bought a book which had maps to help me plan each day, something I would do while I was on the trail. I already owned most of the equipment. That’s part of the beauty of hiking, it’s very simple. It was really important for me to use the challenge to raise money for charity. I am fully aware how lucky I am to be in a situation that I can travel and take on such adventures and I have no doubt that it is education that has provided my life with these opportunities. It led me to a good job and a decent salary, something which I can come back to, even if I do take a break. It’s more than just work and money though. Having an education has instilled confidence and ambition in me that has given me the characteristics and belief in myself to do such things. That’s why I chose to support ACE. A small charity that is changing the lives of disadvantaged children in Tanzania through education. They are focusing on sustainability and 100% of donations go directly to the cause – everything a good charity should be doing.
With nothing really to organise for the hike, I put my efforts into fundraising. I wrote to a couple of local companies who kindly donated prizes that we could use at a raffle. I did a raffle amongst friends and family and a second one at a local quiz. I sent my sponsorship page to everyone I knew, asking if they would support us doing the hike. I wrote to press to tell them about our challenge and asked them to write about it with our sponsorship details attached. I really enjoyed getting creative with fundraising and, every time I got a donation, no matter how big or small, it felt like a huge achievement as I knew that money would go to making a difference in someone else’s life.
I knew a lot of people would wait until we finished the hike before sponsoring us, which meant there was only 1 thing left to do….actually get hiking. The first 2 weeks were exceptionally difficult. Israel was hot and dry. The pack was heavy on my back. My legs ached and my joints complained. The terrain was rocky and it felt like every day consisted of an uphill struggle followed by another and another until, with nothing left in me, I pitched up my tent and fell into an exhausted sleep. I knew it would be tough, but, not this tough.
Then, something started to change. My legs got stronger. The climbs became easier. My back muscles became accustomed to carrying a large pack. I got used to camping and even started to enjoy sleeping out under the beautiful stars each night.
As we reached the desert stretch of the trail, the most difficult part, I was feeling good. This section took a bit more planning as it was far more remote and even involved us arranging for water to be buried in advance as there was a lack of water sources. As soon as we left the final city, Arad, we hit beautiful desert. Long stretches of mountains that went on as far as the eye could see. Crossing the Negev was truly memorable. The scenery was stunning, the stars shone brightly each night and the isolation was humbling. It was an amazing experience.
52 days after we set off, I stood in front of the final climb of the trail. As I reached the top and saw the Red Sea, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. I sprinted off the mountain and straight into the sea, fully clothed. After almost 2 months of hiking I was tired, fatigued and ready to stop, but, at the same time I wasn’t ready for it to end. My simple hiking life, living close to nature, had been great and I had met so many incredible people and had so many memorable moments along the way. I would miss it.
So, what happens after you walk 1020km? An adventure like this changes you. With all that space and time to think, I realised I had a lot more adventures that I needed to undertake and a lot of different things I wanted to be doing with my life. ‘Real life’ would have to wait a little longer, or, maybe, forever. I have new adventures and travels in my sights. I can’t wait! In everything I have achieved in the last months, there is one thing I am most proud of – being able to make a positive difference to the lives of others through fundraising for ACE. If you are reading this and have your own charity challenge in mind, I really hope I can inspire you to make it happen. Now is always the perfect time!
If anyone reading this would like to support my fundraising efforts, I would be hugely grateful! You can sponsor our 1020km hike at – https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/walkingisrael. Thank you in advance!”
Bex and Gil’s fundraising efforts for ACE are amazing. They are making it possible for us to do so much more for the children. Now, with their Israeli trek successfully under their belt, as the next part of their adventures, they are at Arise School volunteering for three weeks. Don’t miss next week’s blog to find out more!