CEO of KGN Training, Keegan Hargreaves, has completed a 75km trek across the Jordanian desert, ending up in UNESCO world heritage site Petra. Keegan joined a group of women, many who have had cervical cancer, and Love Island star Amber Gill, to raise money for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity.
The trip – led by Charity Challenge, who organised the itinerary and looked after everyone involved – kicked off at Heathrow on May 14.
The energy was high when we all met, most of us for the first time. There was a fantastic mix of accents, with the group coming from all over the country – from South Wales to Galloway, Bolton to Newcastle – and a lot of nervous anticipation.
Six hours later we landed in Jordan’s capital city Amman, only to find that Amber’s bag had been lost by the airline.
Most of us would have had a minor meltdown, but laid-back Amber took it in her stride thankfully, she had packed her hiking boots in her carry-on luggage. We headed for the hotel, tired but full of team spirit.
After savouring what would be our final night in a real bed for a while, we set off for our first day. We were scheduled to walk 15km across the desert in the energy-sapping heat, our wobbly legs taking their time to get used to the rocky terrain as people swapped stories about what had brought them here.
After six hours of trekking behind our guide Abdullah, the Bedouins who looked after us – driving our luggage to and from each camp – and the two donkeys who carried our water, we were relieved to arrive at our first camp. The lack of shower and toilets came as a rude awakening, but bonds were strengthened as we settled into our tents.
We had to be up and ready for breakfast at 7.30am, but most of the group were trying to find a rock to do their, ahem, business behind long before that.
Our Charity Challenge leader Ian warned us that the day ahead would be the hardest of the week, with 10km to trek and uphill ascents of 2,000m – and he wasn’t kidding!
But when we made it to the top of the peak we were rewarded with breathtaking views.
We ploughed back down the other side and, six hours after setting off, walked into our new camp for a dinner of delish veg curry, rice and home-made flatbread, prepared in the make-shift kitchen tent the Bedouin guides set up each day and night.
Not long after sunrise at 5.30am, the heat felt harsher than ever at 40°C, as flies buzzed around us.
We had 14km of walking ahead of us, and with legs still sore from the intense climbs the day before, we all had to rally round each other.
The day’s trek was worth it when we got to the camp later that evening and could settle down to watch the epic sunset.
The moment was made even sweeter by the arrival of Amber’s lost luggage – which Charity Challenge had managed to track down.
We were 11km into the day’s walk across the rocky landscape when we crowded into a shaded spot under a tree for lunch, and one of the locals cooked us flatbread using a hot pit in the sand, serving it with tomato stew.
Those suffering from sore feet, like Kate Mullinger, 28, from Leicestershire, used the time to retape their toes with the help of our doctor Andy.
Kate was told she had pre-cancerous cells aged 24 and had a LLETZ procedure to remove them.
The Jo’s website was a lifeline for her as she waited for news from the hospital. “It meant I didn’t feel as alone,” she explained.
Friday was the day we were all waiting for – when we got to finish off our walk at Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
We spent hours roaming about the 2,000-year-old archaeological site, which covers more than 100 square miles.
Later that evening at our hotel, we laughed at everyone’s transformation now we were showered and rested.
As we sat down for dinner, we sobbed at the farewell speeches given by Jo’s rep Kate, leader Ian and guide Abdullah.
Kate told us just how important the money we had raised was to the charity, helping to boost awareness of the importance of smear tests, take up of which is at record low levels.
Despite our blisters and sunburn, none of us wanted to leave Jordan as we headed for the airport.
Written by Molly Reynolds