Update from the Taklamakan desert – 19 September

I have just made it to the half way point of the expedition, and taking a day off at my cache of food and water supplies which I had hidden here. My body is holding up reasonably well, and the weather steadily cooling, which is great news for carrying less water. The cart is working well, though I am gradually running out of spare parts. On the latest leg I went for 8 days through the deep desert, trying to follow a series of flatter sections separated by walls of dunes.


On my best day I covered 21km, on my slowest it took me 24 hours to cover 3.5km through some giant dunes and I had to split my load (over 120kg) in two as it was too heavy to take over in one go. Sometimes, especially when progress is slow, the sun is hot, and I am days away from civilisation, I feel a sudden panic rising in me that I am so vulnerable and isolated. But however I feel I have to focus on the facts: I have a plan, I have supplies, I am moving steadily forwards and I knew there would be slow sections I have to get through. So I pray for strength and then focus on moving forwards one step and one dune at a time, and before I know it I am into the next valley.

I recently read researcher Angela Duckworth’s new book, Grit. Her research has shown the importance of having a very clear passion or vision to move towards, and then the need for deliberate practice and perseverance towards that goal. After my day off today, I will be heading into the longest and hardest leg of the expedition, with about 16 days in the deep desert before my next cache, and a river crossing in the middle of it. I think it’s possible, but it’s going to be hard, and I will need to practise a cool, steady approach.