Monday, January 15, 2007

Kathy's Visit With Ray!!!

I have finally settled back into my normal routine after spending a week in Niger with Ray, the team, and Lisa and Nicole (Charlie and Kevin’s girlfriends, respectively). We had an amazing week! Ray and I had not seen each other in 2 months; it was incredibly emotional to see his smiling face when I arrived! He has lost some weight but looks great - one would never guess he’d already run close to 4000kms at that point!

Unfortunately both Lisa and I lost of luggage on the way to Agadez (still in London as it turns out!). I felt terrible as I had packed some pencils, paper and Canada teddy bears for when Ray and the guys have the opportunity to visit the local schools. Also in the luggage were gifts of coffee and chocolate (desert treats!) from our family and friends to Ray for Christmas. Even though the bags did not arrive, Ray really appreciated the fact he was in your thoughts. Ray was happy to see I arrived safely, and I was happy to see that he is doing so well!!

We spent the next five nights camping in the most spectacular areas of the Desert. It is very inspiring how day after day after day these guys wake up, have a quick bite to eat, and are running before sunrise. Myself, Nicole and Lisa would typically sleep in until after sunrise, eat, and catch up with them via the Land Cruiser (we actually did get up a few mornings in time to see the sunrise)! Our routine would be to drive ahead of the guys maybe 5-10km, stop and prepare Gatorade for them, offer them words of encouragement and then continue on. While we were in the Desert there were several sandstorms which would be reason enough to stop the average person from running…not these guys! The 50-60km winds only fueled their fire to finish those days…coming into camp with sand-caked faces! They are so strong and so motivated!

As Niger is a French speaking country, our friends in Quebec will be pleased to know that Ray is pretty much bilingual now and speaks fluently with the local peoples (the Tuaregs). The Tuaregs we met were so kind and gracious, and they have a strong sense of community – it was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about their culture. Being there also made me realize that even with the lack of infrastructure, including wells to supply clean drinking water, people make the best of what they have and do not waste anything. The Desert itself is extremely beautiful – we saw lots of camels and donkeys, huge sand dunes, and you can see so many stars at night. Ray and I would count our lucky stars (all pun intended!) – it was an amazing way to spend out first Christmas as a married couple!

Since 2004 Ray has raced in Morocco, Niger, Libya, and Egypt and has always told me how much he loves the Sahara – in particular, the people and the sand dunes. Having just spent only 1 week in the desert in Niger, I too know its lure.

What Ray, Charlie and Kevin have accomplished thus far is a feat of strength and perseverance. Raising awareness with respect to the lack of clean drinking water in Africa is of paramount importance. Please check out the website at www.runningthesahara.com for more details on the expedition, the charity (H20 Africa), and the documentary film.

Cheers, Kathy

No comments: