What I learned from my Macmillan Jurassic Coast Mighty hike experience

Wow. I realised I haven’t written for 20 days. I can’t believe it.

It’s been busy and stressful, trying to sort everything out before I leave Southampton and it took me about a week to fully recover from the Macmillan Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike challenge, mainly mentally.

Although I’ve done my best I still feel terrible for only reaching mile 20 and not finishing it and I’d love to go back and try again.

I won’t get into details on what happened on the day, you can get a taste below (the whole story in the description) but I thought I’d share what I learnt to help future hikers who decide to take the challenge.

I wish I prepared better. Physically I was OK, the first half was tough but I managed, I’m not too unfit, I could have finished it but I wish I had done a walk as long as the hike just to test my shoes. Had I known my hiking boots would burn my feet when I hit the road and I’d been in pain for over two hours I would have either worn another pair or brought an extra pair of comfy trainers for the second half. I’ve changed socks once but didn’t seem to help.

I wish I’d had a look of the route beforehand. No need to explain much, but I had no idea how scary the first half would be with those steep hills.

I could have taken fewer snacks with me to reduce the weight of my backpack. It feels heavier and heavier the longer you walk.

I should have put blister pads on from the beginning and not wait until half way when me feet were already sore.

I wouldn’t have made it to 20 miles without my waterproof and walking poles. Especially the walking poles. I’d still be on the top of those hills, paralysed in fear.

Maybe if I stuck with others I would have gone further. Staying on my own, alone with my thoughts and in pain was probably the wrong decision. The only thought in my mind for those two hours I was in unbearable pain was how disappointed I was in myself I couldn’t take up this pain, when thousands of people suffering or who died from cancer, like my aunt, experience pain ten times worse every single day for months or years. How lame, you are so weak, you can’t even walk 26 miles. You are quitting??Pathetic.’

As I’m writing this a lady going through chemo wearing a cold cap to save her hair comes up on the ITV news. She looks tired but so positive. I remember reading about this infamous cap and how horrible it is, giving you headaches, as if the chemo side effects are not bad enough and half of the time it doesn’t even work. My shame for not finishing it’s still there.

Finally I wish was prepared for the mental, emotional challenge, which was at times more overwhelming than the physical. I had no idea that everything would trigger me crying for three days after the hike.

Two days later on the Monday, my feet were still a bit sore and I got my period three days early, which didn’t help with the pain but I could have gone to work. I would have been sore but I could have gone. Mentally though, I wouldn’t manage.

Partially, it is a natural reaction, your body is not used to such a physical challenge and although self induced, you are exposing your self to trauma. You are in pain but is self-inflicted. The brain does not know how to handle it.

If you are struggling with anxiety and depression and you can feel everything more intense than the average person, after such a challenge, the intensity reaches new heights.

I wish I was honest about it, I wish I’d admitted the main reason I couldn’t go to work was that I couldn’t control my feelings. Instead I let people tease me I couldn’t handle the soreness. I’m ashamed I did not ticked ‘mental health’ when I filled in my sickness absence form.

So be prepared and take a day or two off afterwards.

But what it’s done, it’s done. I can’t change what happened. All I can do is learn from it and as Mark who is fighting cancer for the second time and did the hike said:

“…don’t feel ashamed, take it from me, this happens to us all the time, you hit a barrier and you fall down. You get back up and crack on, that’s what you must do.” 

Despite my disappointment, it’s been an amazing experience I shared with lovely friends, I met incredible humans and I feel blessed I was part of the Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike 2019 raising money for such an incredible cause, Macmillan Cancer Support, a day I’ll never forget.

If I’m around next September, I’ll definitely give it another go.



Cakes, Christmas, Crafts and bears: Communicare Vintage and Craft Fair

Saturday, 3rd of November 2018.

My first Communicare Vintage and Craft fair as a volunteer.

I’ve been before with my SingNow friends a few times. I still vividly remember the scrumptious slice of carrot cake I had the first time I’ve been and that’s where I got the  hand-knitted peach hat from my brother Andi loved so much, he kept after climbing Snowdon  because it reminded him of me and brought back with him to Ben Nevis a year later.

If you haven’t heard of Communicare before, is a great charity offering befriending, shopping, DIY, transport and other services to those who need it in Southampton.

I always loved the bi-annual Communicare fairs and now I got to be part of it. I’ve been volunteering with Communicare as an events assistant for a while now but since I unfortunately work full-time I can’t attend many of their daytime events, I couldn’t wait for the Vintage and Craft fair, the first event I could help out with.

I was asked to design a flier for it months ago and thanks to Canva, an online platform with free templates- I highly recommend if you want professional-looking leaflets and posters, I came up with this one:

Vintage Fair Flyer-JPEG (1).jpg

After months, the day finally came. And I had such a wonderful time, I went home tired but with a huge grin on my face that lasted for days (well until Monday morning, when reality kicked in and I had to go to work and spend hours staring at spreadsheets).

I made it on time, I know, some of you may be surprised but I always make it on time for things I really care (getting a taxi also helped!).

Communicare fair

Collecting the prizes for the raffle gave me the opportunity to meet and have a chat with all the wonderful stallholders. There was a great variety from antique items, to Beach themed crafts, Christmas decorations, jewellery and paintings.

I spent some time giving out fliers outside with Vicky who was dressed as a bear, adorable, and I was so happy some of the people I gave fliers to, a lovely man with his three daughters who promised to pop by after the girls had their nails done and two couples, amongst others, decided to pop in and see what it was all about.

After a little wander and some purchases- it was hard to resist- I had a break for some delicious cake, again it was VERY hard to choose because of the endless options but I went for banana and chocolate. Yum!



I spent the rest of my time manning the stand for the impressive hand-knitted Nativity kindly donated by Bob ( I think, apologies if I mixed up the names) and selling our wonderful Communibears, of course I bought one too, they were too cute not to, and hand-knitted hats and scarfs.



I loved everything about it. The atmosphere, the live music, Jim Rogers (I can’t believe he sang one of my favourite Ryan Adams songs, Come Pick Me Up is a tune) and Serena Lin, who initially thought a CD was on, she was that good, were incredible, the stalls and all the lovely people I got to meet (and of course lovely people I already knew such as the wonderful Barbara, I love that lady so much, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met).

I’ll never forget Margaret, a retired teacher who went around to sell more teddy bears and ended up buying one for a little girl, she then bumped into one of her students from 30 odd years ago who told her she was the best teacher she ever had. After she took a picture of herself and her student’s family all together she asked her if she could record her saying that she was the best teacher she ever had. The joy in her face was indescribable.

Margaret was just one of the many wonderful humans I had the pure pleasure of meeting that day. There are too many to list and it’s impossible to remember all the names, but every single one made me feel welcome, something I always worry about as an expat living in the UK.

I wish I got to do this every day. Spend all my time making people smile. Maybe one day I’ll start my own charity to do just that. Who knows. Maybe…

In the meantime, I can’t wait for the next Communicare event. Thank you to the lovely Annie, Bryony and everyone else at Communicare for letting me be part of their wonderful charity and help a little little raising money for such a noble cause.


PS Communicare is always looking for more volunteers, so if you fancy joining this beautiful community, or you’d like to donate or attend future events,  all details are here.

Ben Nevis, on top of the (UK) world…

I’m at the top of Ben Nevis, having wholemeal pita bread (no hummus, halloumi or lountza, just bread) my adopted brother Andi, like a modern Jesus brought with him and shared with me and the rest of us, a group of colleagues/ex-colleagues, family and friends. How did this happen?

About a year and a half ago Fraser, Rob, a couple of other colleagues and I are gathered around Fraser’s desk brainstorming on how to sort out a work issue.

It’s busy, loud and three or four different conversations going on at the same time. Chaos.

Rob and I ended up talking about his weekend plans. He was going to climb Snowdon with his daughters.

When I went back to my desk I told Donna, and that’s when I had the idea of climbing Snowdon and raise money for a local charity to make it worthwhile.

Last June, six of us climbed Snowdon, an amazing experience, and raised £1,226. After that, we were itching, eager to do something similar again, but bigger!

‘What to do next? What about Ben Nevis? The highest peak in the UK’ Darren suggested.

I wasn’t sure if it would happen, it will take longer preparation, organising, planning. Flights to Glasgow, drive to Fort William, accommodation.

A year later, somehow, we are in the car, five of us, Priya, Mike, my Sofy, and Syed driving us to Luton to catch our flight to Glasgow, Andi is already in Glasgow and the Allens, Darren, Donna and Georgia and Andy are at Southampton airport waiting to board their flight.

Even then we were not sure it would actually happen. We almost missed our flight (for once, thank God for flight delays) and though the weather was not too bad the poor visibility forecast for the following day, the day of our hike, was not promising to say the least.

The drive from Glasgow airport to Fort William was stunning. Lakes, mountains, deer, sheep. I didn’t even get car sick.

Fort William

We stayed at Travelodge at Fort William, which I definitely recommend if you are on a budget. Clean, comfy and right next to Loch Eli, one of the most serene, breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever been.

Fort William

After quick dinner, I went to bed early, although I kept waking up- what if something goes wrong and any of these lovely people get injured? What if I die? I’m not gonna see my family and friends ever again, they’ll be devastated (of course overthinking and anxiety made its appearance).

We agreed to have breakfast around 7am the following day and get to Glen Nevis base by 8am. The next morning, after a light Wetherspoons breakfast and food shopping, around 9am we began our hike.

We took the Mountain/Tourist/Pony track, the easiest route to the top as the rest require experience and preferably a local guide.

We were advised at the Glen Nevis base camp to turn back if at any point we could not see the signs (not real signs, just pile of rocks the locals put together to mark the Mountain Path) on our way to the top. But we really wanted to make it. We may never get the chance to attempt it again and we are raising money for a great charity, Dan’s fund for burns who were close to Mike and Sofy’s heart, as they supported the families of their beloved friends Jon and Ellie who sadly died a couple of months ago at a horrific accident whilst on their honeymoon. Life is so painfully cruel sometimes.

Off we went. The start of the climb was not too physically demanding, it wasn’t that cold, we were all in our t-shirts after half an hour and we were all smiling and laughing.

After about three hours and many stops to catch our breath and re-fuel on Jaffa cakes, Mentos, hobnobs and other random snacks we were halfway through, just by the gorgeous waterfall with clean, tasty water right under our feet. It was not easy, there were a lot of steep turns and unsteady rocks. I wouldn’t have done it without the hiking poles my lovely friend Pat lent me.

The Water of Nevis

The closest we get to the top, the more tired we get and the terrain is harder to climb. At least it’s not as misty, that means we’ll make it.

‘About an hour and 15 minutes to the top, a couple of steep turns and it then evens out to the top’ a sweet green-eye man told us.

We didn’t ask other hikers as often as we did last time when climbing Snowdon as none of the estimates were accurate. But Sweet Green Eyes was right.

We asked another lady, after the last steep, painful climb before the top who said ‘I promise you, ten minutes‘. She did not lie.

We made it! We made it to the top! Andy, Andi and I got there first and waited for the rest to climb the last bit together. We put our gloves, hats and waterproofs on, it was drizzly and cold. Andi kept the hat I gave him last year and brought it with him, so sweet. I miss not seeing him every day.

You definitely need extra layers and gloves and hats to keep you warm at the top.

After some snaps, delicious pitta bread and a quick lunch break we made our way down. It started raining, it was foggy and the longer we delayed the harder it would get.

I could see how most accidents happen when climbers blindly try to find their way back to the Mountain path. There are dangerous cliffs around the top, although it’s beautiful and mystical and feels you are in the clouds, you can easily fall into if the visibility is poor and you don’t know how to use a map and a compass.

That was the hardest part for me. The rain and the slippery rocks meant I had to concentrate and watch every step I take. I slipped a couple of times but didn’t fall thanks to the hiking poles, I wouldn’t have made it without them. Andi’s knee hurt and the rest struggled too.

After 3 hours we finally reached the bridge were we started off from 9 hours ago.

We were exhausted, in pain, I couldn’t bend my legs, but we made it, relatively intact!

The end

After a hot shower, dinner and a celebratory drink, bruised and tired we went back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.

The following day we passed by Glennfinnan Viaduct, the bridge to Hogwarts, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see Harry, Hermione, Ron or the rest of the gang.

The Harry Potter bridge

We arrived at the airport about an hour and a half before our flight to return our cars. Word of advice: If you rent a car with Enterprise Rent-A-Car make sure you thoroughly check the tyres for any scratches before you get in the car and drive it, otherwise they will charge you for any marks they may find when you return the car.

After a short flight and taxi ride from Southampton airport to my little castle back in town and a long sleep, I was back at work the following day.

It still feels like a dream. I can’t believe we not only made it to the top, I’m so proud of all of us, but we managed to raise £1170 for Dan’s fund for Burns so far!

If you get the chance, even if you don’t want to climb Ben Nevis, visit Glen Nevis and Fort William it will not disappoint. Clean, fresh air, idyllic mountain and lake scenery and friendly locals.

If you decide to climb Ben Nevis, I recommend training for a month or two in advance. You can do it without any training if you are relatively fit, but it will take you less time and it will hurt less afterwards.

If you want to find out more about hiking at Ben Nevis, you can do so here.

Thank you to Donna, Darren, Georgia, Syed, Priya, Mike, Sofy, Andi and Andy for an incredible, once in a lifetime experience. It’s  totally worth the soreness and pain.

Love you all.

PS Thank you Syed for some of the pictures xx