Laura Parkes, Director

Adventuring in support of autism: The journey – a reflective diary

19 April 2024
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Laura “The Explorer” Parkes, Director, recently completed a trek to the Colombian jungle raising funds for Autism Jersey. 12 intrepid souls trekked for four days to and from the Lost City in Colombia.

In this reflective diary, Laura shares insights into the challenge and the conditions she faced.

Day 1: Welcome to the jungle

With a mixture of excitement and apprehension I arrived at the expedition. Our guide was a seasoned veteran whose insight would prove invaluable in the coming days.

Setting off, reality quickly set in. The going was tougher than anticipated, and a taste of things to come. The trek was assessed as ‘orange’+ 2 rating(‘red’, the only higher rating, being Mount Everest Base Camp). My training preparation immediately paid dividends.

Days 2-4: The unforgiving path

I won’t sugar-coat it – the trek was savage. Rising at 5am, we’d be fed and on the move by 6am. We typically trekked for six hours before stopping for lunch. This alone felt like an entire day. We then trekked for a further five hours in the afternoon arriving at camp for around 6pm, then went straight into a natural stream to cool off before dinner, having achieved over 35K steps and burnt over 5k calories!

The relentless heat and saturating humidity pushed our physical and mental limits. But we drew strength from one another, over the rugged terrain and slippery river crossings.

The biggest challenge was the relentless 40+ degree heat and 80% humidity. Dehydration was a constant risk, requiring over a gallon of water a day and plenty of electrolytes. But the aching beauty of the jungle, and the overwhelming sense of freedom it gave made it all worthwhile. Even if we had to share it with scorpions, giant spiders, snakes, leeches, ticks and fleas.

An indigenous shaman we met explained their way of life and deep connection to the land. It was inspiring and a total contrast to the complexities of our modern lives at home. His mantra? Stay positive, as positivity breeds.

Day 5: Lessons learned. Memories created.

I am so proud of our group’s resilience. With ages spanning 37 to 73, each completed the challenge, showcasing the power of teamwork and determination, and creating life-long bonds along the way.

Returning home, I reflected on a renewed appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. Cooling off in a stream, or seeing children learning in a remote school reminded me of the importance of gratitude.

Since returning our group has donated £500 towards building a new school closer to the children we witnessed who trek 2-3 hours a day to learn.

The trek is expected to raise in excess of £20,000 so a huge thank you to everyone who has donated and supported the charity. They will use the funds towards a new centre for Jersey Autism.

The journey was tough but transformative, and the experience will remain with me forever. My biggest lesson? Your potential is limitless. You can always work harder and push further. I also realised some things which seemed important to me really weren’t. I will treasure the overwhelming sense of freedom from being off-grid.

I’m looking forward to future adventures (yes, I’m not done yet!) and grateful to have been part of this incredible experience while raising funds for Autism Jersey.

If you would like to support the charity you can donate here: Laura Parkes (Nee Hardwick) is fundraising for Autism Jersey (