Fairfield duo reach Machu Picchu to raise money for MND

Susan Bell and Grant Ager reach Machu Picchu to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease Scotland
Susan Bell and Grant Ager reach Machu Picchu to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease Scotland

Fairfield Housing Co-operative work colleagues Grant Ager and Susan Bell shrugged off rain-lashed days on the trail and took altitude sickness in their stride tackling the gruelling 51 mile Salkantay trail to reach Machu Picchu.

The duo’s efforts have raised more than £11,000 for Motor Neurone Disease Scotland.

They formed part of a 27-strong team which signed up for a challenging six day trek to Peru’s stunning Unesco World Heritage Site. After the long-haul flight to Lima, they flew on to Cusco to begin two days acclimatisation before facing a four-hour bus journey and an exhausting first day tester trek to reach 4200 metres.

IMG_5053Having picked up the gauntlet thrown down by their experienced guides, they were given the green light to press on towards the ‘City in the Clouds’.

Grant, Fairfield chief executive and Perthshire Chamber of Commerce vice-president, said: “There were tough times along the way but it was amazing reaching Machu Picchu.

“I have to admit I was quite emotional. The Inca capital was even more spectacular than the photographs I had seen.

“People have been incredibly generous with their donations. So my biggest fear had been the slagging I would take from mates if I failed to make it or had to be helped onto a mule along the way high up in the mountains.”

IMG_5036Corporate manager Susan was thrilled to eclipse their initial £8000 fundraising target, with contributions still flowing in. The challenge was inspired by the courage shown by political researcher Gordon Aikman as he promoted awareness of MND before succumbing to the cruel condition earlier this year at the age of 31. The Scottish group’s Peruvian expedition has generated an amazing £142,000.

Susan said: “We helped push each other on. Everyone was determined to complete the journey. The first few days were horrendous because altitude meant you were left breathless by the simplest of tasks. It was pouring down as we progressed through the Cloud Forest so getting anything dry at the overnight campsites was a challenge. It was my first ever experience of camping and the mosquitoes also took their toll. Temperatures dropped to minus 5 overnight but thankfully the weather improved because the terrain was rough at times.”

IMG_4991Grant added: “The Salkantay Pass, at 4900 metres, is actually 2700 metres higher than Machu Picchu and there was a 12-hour, 17 mile final day on the trail. Team members who had been up Kilimanjaro with MND in 2015 said this was much tougher but we had excellent guides and a team pushing on ahead to set up the tents and prepare meals.

“We had plenty of company when we reached our Machu Pichu because it’s a major tourist attraction. But we had time to take in one of the wonders of the world and reflect on achieving our goal.”

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