On Sunday 10 November retired Colonel Guy Deacon set off from his former school in Dorset (pictured above with CPT's Shelagh Nichols and Helen Matthews) to travel to Sierra Leone in his VW campervan, 35 years after his first trip to the Sahara Desert. This time, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s eight years ago, Guy anticipates that his journey will be one of adventure but also challenges anew!

Here Guy shares his story.

"I first visited the Sahara desert as a student at Durham University in the early 80's. Since then, I have always had an interest in that part of the world including a crossing of the desert from north to south with 12 soldiers. On that occasion I met an American couple that were in a campervan and I thought to myself “that was the way to do it.” That was my first insight to the VW campervan world and the Syncro, the four-wheel-drive version, in particular. Since that time I’ve had a hankering to repeat the journey in a similar vein. It has taken me 35 years, and ultimately retiring from the army to be able to have the time, the vehicle and inclination.

With this trip in my mind and in the planning for a long time, rather frustratingly, and almost catastrophically, my plans have been knocked by the fact that I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011. As a sufferer of Parkinson’s Disease there are many things I cannot do as well as I could before, and every day things get a bit worse and routine matters become more difficult. But despite that, I am going to carry on with my plan and not let Parkinson’s stop me from living a full life. Quite the opposite, I am now undertaking this trip to raise awareness and funds for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust – a charity dedicated to finding a cure for the condition.

My intention is to drive in my VW campervan from the UK to Sierra Leone, or perhaps further, over a four or five month period. Leaving from Sherborne School, my alma mater, my route will take me down through France and Spain where I will spend some time visiting friends and places that I’ve never been to before, getting to Morocco in time to meet my wife and daughter for Christmas and New Year.

Thereafter my African journey will follow the coast of West Africa to Senegal and then on through the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. What is most critical is that I get into, if not through, that part of the world before the rain begins in April when roads become all but impassable because of the mud.

Although nominally travelling alone, I will be joined by friends for certain sections of the road and given the effectiveness of communications I am likely to find like-minded travellers following the same route. Whether old friends or new, I suspect the chances of getting lonely are slim!

Having Parkinson’s Disease does not make life easy but it has strengthened my resolve to carry out this trip, despite everything being more difficult than I would normally expect. Every day, the effect of the disease means that one gets a little bit worse and it is essential for me to make the most of the time that I have left being reasonably capable and not to allow the practicalities to beat me. There will be a time in the future when I can no longer drive and I will become dependent on others but that time is not yet. And the longer I can put it off the better; and the more chance there is that a cure will become available from which I can benefit.”

To read more of Guy’s story or to support his fundraising please visit his fundraising page. You can also follow Guy on his adventure via Polarsteps where he plans to post updates of his progress.