A partially sighted man from Uckfield has just completed a 100 kilometre trek across inhospitable desert in aid of charity.
On April 12 dad of two Chris Baily, from Rocks Park, joined 20 people - six fully sighted, 10 partially sighted and five registered blind - to fly to the edge of the Sahara in Morocco.
They began their four day, 100 kilometre trek walking up to 15 miles a day in temperatures of more than 35 degrees and camping overnight.
He said: “The terrain was a mixture of rocks, sand and pure desert, including huge dunes. At one point there was a huge incline and we needed ropes but then we could run down the dune. Thankfully, apart from a few people having tummy upsets or heat exhaustion, we all made it round in one piece. It was the most wonderful experience.”
The group took hydration packs, each containing three litres of water, and were helped by Berber guides. He went on: “We stayed in a hotel on the first and last nights. After camping out in the desert, it was the height of luxury.”
Chris, 37, suffers from the hereditary disorder retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and is partially sighted at present.
He explained: “On some of the less technical sections, I got to guide some of the blind people, so it really was a case of the partially sighted leading the blind! This was great for me, and I hope for them too, as the way they coped with the trekking and my guiding with such positivity gives me great hope for me coping with what my eyes have to throw at me in the future. Also, as someone with night blindness, I really struggle to see the stars (I usually can see two stars when others can see 20), but during the trek I was able to see Orion’s belt, with some help from one of the fully sighted trekkers. That was the first and maybe the last time I get to see that group of stars, but it’s a wonderful memory for me to take home with me.”
RP affects a layer of the retina - the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye - which means the eye loses its ability to transmit images to the brain. It affects about one in every 3,000 people, about 25,000 people in the UK.
Chris completed the trek in aid of the charity RP Fighting Blindness and has raised almost £5,000 - well above his target of £2,800.
Set up in 1975, the charity provides information and support for people affected by RP. They also fund medical research into the causes of the disease and potential treatments, encompassing cutting-edge projects at research centres across the UK. It’s this research that will benefit from the money raised from the Sahara trek and Chris hopes it will allow people to see again.