To say the last 24 hours have been a major challenge would be a massive understatement! The central purpose of our 1,400 mile trip to Merzougha Dunes in Southern Morocco was to work alongside the injured paratroopers in a number of challenges which began in earnest last night as we were all marched into the desert and given a brief training in desert navigation before being told we were to spend the night without any food, tents or light. To top this at some point in the night there would be a raid on the camp followed by a 10-mile dawn hike through the desert which was going to really test our physical and mental endurance.
We’re all now recovering from these challenges and will be returning North over the coming days and this blog will be devoted to telling the story of what went on and how it has helped us all gain a much better understanding of what our Paras have had to face in Afghanistan.
The films of all these challenges will be uploaded to the blog over the coming week as well as interviews with the Paras and the Nissan team members which we hope will give you a real sense of what Mission Morocco has all been about.
Keep following us and check out the films which will be on the site over the next five days as we travel home. Please share them around and help us achieve our single most important aim of raising funds for the Afghanistan Trust.
To help explain this competition – we were split into 3 teams:
- Team 1 was Pte Pat Burns, Matt Thomas and Jess Tanner
- Team 2 Private Urquart, Rachael Gregory, Helen Marshall
- Team 3 – Private Mark Vidler and Paul Lloyd.
The first challenge was to cross a Whaddi – a former wetland which has suffered many sandstorms that have created a vast area of small dunes – some measuring up to 3m in height. They don’t look that tall but they are all very bunched together so you need a lot of power to get over them otherwise you will get stuck – which we all did. We had to dig each other out and even get winched out a couple times.
The next challenge was the treasure hunt. This was great fun although a real test of your navigational skills. We were given 1 GPS co-ordinates and at each spot answer a question. If you navigated wrong you could end up in a tricky situation. We ended up on the side of a rocky mountain which took us across sand dunes, flat plains and rocky areas! The final results were (Scores) 1st Pte Burns, 2nd Pt Urqhart, 3rd Vidler. (Time) 1st Pte Vidler, 2nd Pte. Burns, 3rd Pte Urqhart.
The final challenge was the Blind Driving Challenge where we had to complete a course around the sand dunes blindfolded with your co-driver as navigator – so it tested both trust and commitment skills. The key to success was the trip “drive it like you stole it”, meaning don’t stop or be too cautious otherwise you will get stuck. We were marked out of a score of 50 and points were deducted for reversing, hitting the flags, or if a winch was required to get you out of a mess. The scores were as follows: 1st Urqhart, 2nd Burns, 3rd Vidler. Captain Clamp and Sgt Jackson also had a go only showing the team “how not to do it” by totally going off course!