Ex-Army officer with Parkinson's solo driving across Sahara desert to raise money 'while he can'

Guy Deacon has so far raised over £1,000.

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 6:00 am

An ex-Army officer with Parkinson’s disease has raised over £1,000 for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust while driving a VW campervan across the Sahara desert.

Former Colonel Guy Deacon set out on his journey to Sierra Leone in November, shortly after his retirement from the Army, and hopes to complete the 4,000 mile trip before April.

Mr Deacon, who lives in Edinburgh, had been planning his trip for 35 years, since his first visit to the Sahara as a student in the early eighties.

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Cure Parkinson's Trust patron Shelagh Nichols, Guy Deacon, and CPT's Helen Matthews. Picture: Cure Parkinson's Trust.

It took until his retirement for him to have the time and the necessary equipment to make the journey again.

“I first visited the Sahara desert as a student at Durham University in the early 80s,” he said.

“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’.

Guy Deacon began his journey at his former school, Sherborne, in Dorset.

“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."

But despite years of planning, disaster struck in 2011 when Mr Deacon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

However, he decided to continue with plans for the trip anyway, and to add a fundraising element for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust as well.

“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,” he said.

“But despite that, I am going to carry on with my plan and not let Parkinson’s Disease stop me from living a full life.”

Mr Deacon set out from Dorset, and travelled through France and Spain to Morocco, where he spent Christmas and New Year with his wife and daughter.

He will now follow the coast of West Africa through Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea, before reaching Sierra Leone.

He is determined to reach Sierra Leone before the rains begin in April, making roads impassable due to mud.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Those wishing to sponsor Mr Deacon can donate via Justgiving.