14 June 2017: After 1,132 exhausting miles (1,822km), the three Team Essence trekkers have completed their crossing of the Gobi Desert on foot.
Former military policeman Mathew Bennett, fellow Atlantic rower Luke Richmond and his wife Elise Hoefsmit hope to raise £30,000 for UK children’s charity the NSPCC from their efforts.
The three adventurers set out on 16 April to cross the Mongolian desert from its western edge to far eastern corner. They arrived in Sainshand on 11 June (fittingly, Luke’s birthday) after 57 days of being battered by near constant winds and wildly fluctuating temperatures.
As a Team Essence sponsor, Inmarsat supplied the trekkers with two IsatPhone 2 satellite phones for safety communications and to stay in touch with family and friends.
In addition, the built-in tracking function on the phones provided live updates every three hours so supporters could follow their progress online.
The team was also provided with an extremely compact Explorer 510 BGAN terminal, which they used to send video and regular social media blogs throughout their adventure.
In one report, Luke described the huge culture shock they were experiencing: “We are currently in what would be considered the absolute middle of nowhere but in reality this is somebody’s somewhere. This place is the whole world to the Nomad family we have camped close to tonight. Husband, wife and three beautiful kids, two dogs and 200 sheep, this is their home.”
Throughout the crossing, bemused residents of the isolated towns en route would drive out to take a look at the strangers, on one occasion returning with a Mongolian barbecue to share with them.
The team had hoped to establish the first official world record for an unassisted crossing of the arid desert on foot, but their decision 16 days into the expedition to lose some weight from their 180kg carts, offloading some food onto a support vehicle, means it will not be recognised.
Receiving the news while still on the trek failed to dent their determination, since fundraising rather than record setting was their key aim. “If I had struggled this far with excess load purely to salvage our chances of a record and then got that news it would have been a bit of a kick in the guts,” Elise admitted.