We are not quite sure if our feature guest has covered quite as many miles as The Proclaimers did in their famous 1980’s hit. However, we are pretty sure they are not far off. This week we asked Dream Challenges repeat challenger Joanne Chapman to tell us why, in the past seven years, she has completed no less than nine challenges with Dream Challenges.
It started with a love of walking…
I have always had a love of walking, having grown up in the Pennines with the Pennine Way on my doorstep. I walked that one with a friend and her father at the tender age of 16 and followed it the next year with the Coast to Coast. Long distance walking was then curtailed to weekend walks as I headed off to university and then started my career as a Chartered Accountant.
However, I never lost the bug and in 2008, after seeing a poster for the JordanianDesert Walk, I took the plunge, signed up and have never looked back.
I did not know a soul on that walk, but within minutes of meeting everyone at the airport I had made new friends, many of whom I remain in touch with. I followed Jordan with the Inca Trail in Peru in 2009, which remains one of my favourites. Seeing Machu Pichu for the first time, through the Sun Gate in the early morning light, is something I will not easily forget.
I took a break from the Dream Challenges treks in 2010 and headed off to Yosemite with a group of friends to walk part of the John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada (more on that below). The break didn’t last long as 2011 saw me back with Dream Challenges for my first visit to Nepal and the Annapurna trek.
I then upped the ante in 2012, heading back to Yosemite with an old university friend to complete the 210 mile John Muir Trail passing through Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We carried full kit and camped out for most of the trail. There were a couple of nights when we stayed in ranches along the way and enjoyed a hot shower rather than a freezing cold dip in the mountain tarns. A fabulous walk with stunning views, but not one for the faint hearted.
How do you beat the John Muir Trail…..well, I guess by signing up for the Everest Base Camp trek. That was 2013 sorted and in 2014, my fiftieth birthday year, I climbed Kilimanjaro, completed the Snowdonia Challenge and for my actual birthday, flew out to Uganda on the Gorilla Trek – fabulous. To track and then sit with the mountain gorillas is one of the highlights of my life.
So what does the future hold?
Well, September 2015 is the Great Wall of China trek with a tour extension to take in the Terracotta Warriors. 2016 is another private venture with some friends when we head out to Nepal to trek in the Upper Mustang Region with the Sherpa who led us to Everest Base Camp and for 2017.
I plan to walk from John O’Groats to Lands End with a couple of friends. I have no idea what I will do after that, but I have no intention of hanging up my walking boots whilst I can still put one foot in front of the other. The challenge is now on for Dream Challenges to come up with something new for me to do as I have just about exhausted their trekking list!!
For those who are tempted to sign up for their first trek, I can only say DO IT. You won’t regret it and you’ll meet some amazing people and make some friends for life. Just make sure you are fit enough, your boots fit properly and are well walked in (blisters can make for a miserable trek) and you are capable of carrying your day pack. For the John Muir Trail when I had a full pack and camping equipment I trained by putting three large granite rocks inside my rucksack and endlessly walked the cliff paths by my home. I also cycle a great deal and make sure not to cheat on the steep hills. When the going gets tough, put your head down, grit your teeth, think of the charity you’re fund raising for and get on with it. You’ll be amazed at how far you can push yourself and the sense of achievement when you reach the top is phenomenal.
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