In a small matter of two months, I will be back there - doing exactly as I am in the photo. For two and a half thousand kilometres, the first leg of the next stretch runs from just south of Boujdor, where I left off, down to Atar in Mauritania and then a dramatic run through a contraband route to Neima; and finally across into Timbuktou. Every time I think about being back, I get the excited shivers; especially when I consider that it may be possible to walk some of it without a guide. Truly alone in the desert! If all goes to plan, I shall definitely be doing at least some of it completely solo.
But right now I have taken another scenic detour, and one hell of a long flight, and found myself back in my home country for the first time in quite a while. Melbourne in the middle of winter is something of a stark contrast to the heatwave in London I left behind; somewhat ironic, I dare think, that I should have left the hot weather in a country definitely not known for it. Nonetheless, weather beside, it is heaven to be back with my Mum again. She has been terribly sick this year, and right now is rather in need of a bit of care, and I am very grateful I am able to be here and with her. Although I am not so sure that sitting up all night talking her head off is necessarily the best cure, it certainly feels good to me!
Being back here gives me a chance to speak to the various Australian partners involved in the walk - the National Breast Cancer Foundation, who have been marvellously supportive of both the walk and my Mum during her illness; Dove, with whom I hope to partner my walk from here on; and the Australian media in general, who are infinitely more approachable than their British counterparts.
Dove has been my choice of corporate partner from the beginning, as even deep into the desert, I could still manage to find their stuff in shops. Can't begin to explain how much a good moisturiser starts to mean when your face is dry and tight after a few months in the sun, even when you are a feral walker like my good self. Just for reference, I actually haven't got anything from the company yet, so this is not a paid plug! (Thought it couldn't hurt, though, eh?)
I speak to friends back in Morocco and shiver in horror at the thought of the summer heat, currently topping some 50 degrees; but at the same time, I just can't wait to be back there. A thousand thankyous to all the people who have donated to the site and have subsequently been entered in the raffle; I didn't expect such a great response, and with every entry, I am one step closer to going, sponsor or no sponsor. Quite frankly, nothing but a tram would stop me anyway - I prefer to look at funding as a minor rather than major obstacle. I have not walked 7,500km to stop now - not when I have the best part of the desert in front of me, and the chance to walk with the salt route caravans, through some of the most dramatic country in the world. Oh, okay, I know I will get back and start moaning about sandstorms, grumpy camels, and severe alcohol shortages, but at the moment I cannot think of anything more wonderful than waking up and just walking again. I get so frustrated sitting down all day on the computer that I have taken to having long and brisk walks nearly every day; it is kind of fun doing it back here in Melbourne, as around every corner it seems, there is yet another fabulous coffee shop. I had forgotten what a gourmet paradise this city is - and cheap to enjoy, too. I have been indulging in truly magnificent coffee rather too often, which may explain the frenetic walking. Permanent caffeine buzz. I can't help it - I left my desert tea set back in London, and I have to drink something to replace my addiction.
Well, this is just a quick one to keep you all posted, and to say thanks again for those of you who have donated to the raffle. Just in case you missed the last post, a box of aloe vera products has been donated to the walk, and is subsequently being auctioned off on this site - see the post below for details. I shall write again soon and let you know when I am setting off. (I just keep on using the "when" word, rather than the "if").
Big smile to you all from coffee heaven...