By Evie Andreou
ONE man’s desire to help those in need has made him ignore a back injury and embark on an 8,400-kilometre journey, on foot and in sandals, across Europe and including Cyprus all the way to Jerusalem.
The aim of retired British Army Lieutenant Colonel Mark Randall’s long trek is to raise UK£30,000 (€35,000) to help a number of charities supporting children and families of retired soldiers.
Fifty-three-year-old Randall, who lives in the Gibraltar, was actually obeying doctors’ orders last year when he began travelling the world on foot to raise awareness for several charity organisations, as well as funds for their support.
He began his Walk to Jerusalem expedition on April 1 from Gibraltar and aims to reach the city on foot by April 2017.
At the moment, he is heading for Cyprus via Rome.
Ironically, it was a long-term back injury that had forced Randall to retire early from the army.
“I could not walk to the toilet unaided and spent over six months unable to leave my home. The doctors told me to walk,” Randall said in his Walk to Jerusalem blog.
And so he did. And never stopped.
This is now Randall’s second charity walk. Last year he took 75 days to walk all the way from Cardiff Castle in Wales to Gibraltar, a total of 2200 km, also in sandals. This achievement led him to write and publish his book Walk to the Rock, whose sales in addition to the donations he received, helped raise £17,000 (€19,900) for charity. He donated the money to the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Benevolent Fund and the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) Open Day Trust.
At the moment Randall is well on his way on his 8,400-kilometre walk from Gibraltar to Jerusalem. He set off from the Shrine of Our Lady of Europa in Gibraltar on April 1 and has already passed through the plains of south west Spain, crossed into France through the Pyrenees. He then walked all the way to Italy, passed from Genoa and is now somewhere near Rome. On the way, he found himself 100km away from the earthquake that hit the town of Amatrice in central Italy on Wednesday which claimed the lives of more than 260 people.
“My heart goes out to the Italian people who have suffered from the 6.3 earthquake,” he posted on his Facebook profile.
After Rome, Randall is heading to Venice, then Trieste, and then down to the Albanian coastal city of Durres. He will then walk to Thessaloniki in Greece, and from there to Istanbul and across to Izmir on Turkey’s Aegean coast, before continuing his walk to the Turkish resort of Antalya.
“From the Turkish coast he will take a boat to Cyprus and then continue by sea to Israel for the final stretch of his fund raising walk to Jerusalem,” his friend George Valarino told the Cyprus Mail.
Randall hopes to reach Cyprus between mid-December and mid-February. If he arrives near Christmas, he will spend the holidays with a relative of his who lives in Limassol, Valarino said.
“So far, I have worn out five pairs of sandals – suffered extreme summer heat, had blisters and aches all over, and got lost more times than I care to remember,” Randall said in his blog.
Randall’s walk is not sponsored by anyone.
“I carry all my stuff in my rucksack and pay for my food, my lodgings, and all my needs,” he said.
All he asks for is donations to help meet his set goal in aid of charitable organisations.
The charities he is donating to are the Tourarte Education Charitable Association which helps with the academic and vocational education of children in the village of Tourarte, in Morocco, and Por Una Sonrisa association which aspires to improve the quality of life of children and adolescents in Gibraltar who are undergoing cancer treatment. Another organisation that will benefit from the donations is the Royal Gibraltar Benevolent Fund that supports serving and retired soldiers and their families, and the GBC Open Day Trust, which raises money for a variety of local charities.
To follow Randall’s walking tour: https://www.facebook.com/mark.randall.77770194
For donations: https://www.gofundme.com/walktojerusalem