Trekkers tackled a mud slide and conquered a rickety suspension bridge on a trip of a lifetime to India.
The 42 men and women have returned in the knowledge they have raised £77,000 for St Barnabas House hospice in Worthing, a tremendous achievement.
The Dalai Lama India Trek was an emotional experience and those taking part of spoken of what it meant to them to be involved.
Yoga instructor Gail Chandler, 61, from Storrington decided to take on the trek in memory of her husband Clive Mitchell and was joined by her friend, Carole Pickworth, 76.
Gail married Clive at St Barnabas House in 2013. He had proposed to her just weeks before he died at the age of 52.
“St Barnabas are the most caring, loving people I’ve ever met,” she said.
“The way they helped Clive and I, and the rest of the family, it has been beyond anything I have ever come across before, the care and the love.”
Gail was also trekking for her daughter, Jemma, who is currently battling cancer.
Gail added: “They have been so helpful with my daughter. After Clive died the counselling was very, very helpful.
“Clive is actually in my bag. I’ve got him in spirit and I’ve got a bit of him in my bag that I’m taking up to the top. I take a little bit of him whenever I go on a journey and I sprinkle him in waterfalls and lots of beautiful places because he loved to travel.”
Sarah Tuhey, 26, from Brighton trekked in memory of her adventurous uncle, Mike Buck.
Sarah said: “My Uncle Mike was cared for by St Barnabas on their in-patient unit at the end of November 2015. He was a big adventurer and he absolutely loved to travel and just anything really that was a bit extraordinary.
“I thought he’d be really excited about me coming out here and doing this trek, so I’ve just been trying to do my best and hopefully make him proud.
“I was really anxious coming out here because I came on my own and I didn’t really know what to expect – it’s the first time I’ve done anything like this. I’ve absolutely loved every second of it, even the challenges.”
Tracey Shaughnessy from Worthing inspired to take part by the care provided to her stepfather, Richard Sampey.
Tracey said: “My wonderful stepfather visited the day hospice – for seven months he had COPD – and that completely changed his life. The counselling that they gave him was amazing. We’ve had some incredible support from the whole of the staff at St Barnabas, including the bereavement team.
“He actually came out to India three times and loved the country. The day after he died, the hospice’s Life magazine came out and Richard was featured on the front. Three pages in was ‘Come and join us on the Dalai Lama India Trek’ and I thought it was meant to be.”
Tracey said they had to deal with landslides on the first day, which was ‘pretty heart in mouth’ and on day two, they climbed the sheer side of a mountain.
Sandra Grant from Worthing decided to do the trek in memory of her mum, Joan Cox, who died in December 2016.
She said: “It was interesting, challenging and very, very scary at times but absolutely exhilarating.”
Sue Reed from Worthing took on the trek with her friend Carly Rogers and was walking in memory of her husband, Trevor.
Sue said: “I’m doing it for my husband because he passed away six years ago with pancreatic cancer and St Barnabas was such an amazing help for him and me. We had the Hospice at Home Team come to us and they were amazing.
“It’s been amazing; really tough, really emotional but what a five days it has been. I just can’t believe how far we’ve walked up these mountains. It’s been incredible. The views, the atmosphere, the camaraderie of everybody, has just been great.”
Caroline Smith, 27, from Goring decided now was the time to give something back, as her friend, Alun Bowen, was cared for by the hospice in June 2017.
She said: “I worked for St Barnabas for three years, so I know how amazing they are and the great work they do in the community.
“A friend of mine actually passed away last year and he was only 24 and he stayed at St Barnabas House. They treated him and his family really well.”
Fiona Walsh from Brighton was took on the challenge in honour of her friend, Debbie Darling-Duckells, who has received care from the day hospice.
“It was physically much more demanding than any of us thought and emotionally exhilarating – truly an awesome experience,” she said.
“We trekked along narrow ledges, traversed a fast flowing river, negotiated a landslide, climbed steep gradients, crossed high suspension bridges, coped with rocking rocks, shale, snow, and hot sunshine – extremes.
“Thank you to so many of my friends who have sponsored and supported me with their help in running events, lending gardens and houses, hosting, performing, baking cakes, so much. My grand total currently stands at £6,494.42.”
The team set off on Thursday, October 18, flying from Heathrow to Delhi. They travelled on an overnight sleeper train to Pathankot and continued by coach to Dharamshala, the spiritual home of the Dalai Lama.
On Sunday, October 21, the team started the trek and on this first day, witnessed the incredible outpouring of emotion at an Indian funeral, crossed a rickety suspension bridge and tackled a mud slide which had destroyed part of the route.
The Monday saw the team trek from near Kareri to Bal village, a walk with amazing views of the Dhauladhar mountain range early in the day, a river crossing after lunch and a tough incline towards the end of the day.
On the Tuesday, the team continued the ascent to Triund, a campsite which stands at 2,995 metres above sea level and has some truly spectacular views of the snow-capped Dhauladhar mountain range and the valleys below.
The fourth day saw them reach the highest point of the journey, Laka Got at 3,500 metres above sea level. Here, everyone was invited to hang prayer flags to honour loved ones cared for by St Barnabas House.
This was an extremely emotional day, with some trekkers really struggling, but they were spurred on by the reward of reaching the top. Some scattered the ashes of loved ones at the highest point.
The final day of trekking consisted of a steep descent to Bhagsu Nag. In the evening, the team enjoyed a celebratory meal in Dharamshala before making the long journey back to Delhi and on to Agra to conclude the trip with a visit to the Taj Mahal.
Event manager Kerry Foy said: “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, an opportunity to remember loved ones, and everyone made some great news friends along the way.
“The money raised through sponsorship will help St Barnabas House to provide care for local people with more complex clinical needs, including those with heart, liver, kidney and respiratory conditions.”
St Barnabas House has just opened registration for its next overseas trek, the Great Wall of China Trek, which takes place in October 2020. For more information, visit www.stbh.org.uk/china or contact the events team by emailing email@example.com or calling 01903 706354