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Am I?

Am I going walking next week? ✅
Am I prepared?✅
Is everything organised?✅
Am I fit enough?✅
Did I have a full-blown panic attack at 3am?✅✅✅🤪🤪🤪

No matter how well prepared I am, just before I set off on a long walk, I have a mini crisis
Am I excited? Yes I am!!! 💃💃💃
Will it be exhausting? ✅🥵
Will it hurt? ✅😪

But oh my gosh, the places I will go, and the things I will see makes it all worthwhile. 😃😃😃

This is by far away the longest distance I have ever walked on a continuous day to day journey.
But I’m going to fulfil a long-held dream of not only seeing Hadrian’s Wall, but actually walking the route; a journey through history.👏👏👏

As well as which, I’ll be adding to a newer dream (2020 to be precise) of walking another section of the English Coast 🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️

Prepare for frequent posts to say how excited I am as I countdown till 01.09.2021 😁😁

Life lessons

Not my copyright, but very good advice to follow as you journey through life

This was posted by a friend on Facebook, and it really spoke to me, especially #2 – so often in life decisions are made on “what will…….think” fill in the gap. It took me decades to get past worrying about what other people may or may not think. But now I’m in a good place and it’s freeing.

Prewalk practice

With just over 2 weeks till I set off on my epic (😁😁) walk along the Northumbrian coast path and Hadrian’s Wall, I decided it was time for another test of my mettle.

I had already scheduled a walk into my diary for Monday 16th; the penultimate stage of the north-east section of the Saxon Shore Way, from Rainham to Rochester, so it was an easy decision to take Pepe along, fully loaded except for water supply, and check out how we got along.

We had a brilliant day, it was overcast and cool (I even wore a cardigan), perfect for walking but not so fantastic for photos.

I headed back to where I left off a few weeks ago, and not finding any signs to direct me, and considering it’s a residential area, I decided to just follow my nose and my intuition. After all, it’s a ‘shore’ walk, and the general direction (useful) is along the shore heading north/east…🤪🤪

I found the first sign 5 kms in, pleased to note I was on the right path.

Saxon Shore Way
Useful 😁

I discovered what a teasel is…I’ve seen this fascinating little flowers/plants all over the place but hadn’t idea what they were…now I know 😉

I came across a funfair and was reminded of one of the most terrifying fairground rides of my life…I took my daughter (8 years old) and sister on one of these many years ago in South Africa. It went wayyyy higher than I knew and she nearly slipped off the seat and under the rail. O was holding onto her and my handbag that contained my whole month’s salary in cash. 😳😳

Pirate swing
The funfair

In all it was a very successful walk, I frequently forgot Pepe was on my back..ergo, its comfortable and not too heavy, which was my main goal – how comfortable will it be? Fortunately I’m now aware of those little straps that work loose, so checked them every time I stopped for a break (every 5 kms) and pleased to say the corner of the bag didn’t dig a hole in my hip like it did on the final stages of the Pilgrim’s Way.

Enroute is an island near Chatham; St Mary’s island that I simply had to visit; its there, how could I not? And for good measure, and totally unnecessarily, I walked virtually the whole perimeter thereby adding over 2.5 hours and 4.42kms to my journey 🙄🙄 But now I can add that to Project 101…another island done and dusted. Saw a gorgeous sculpture

St Mary’s island
St Mary’s island
The Mariners
And saw Upnor Castle…didn’t realise it was so close

I did however find the history of how the island came to being rather disturbing. Built on the backs of 19th century convict labour from desolate Marsh wasteland, the convicts lived on rotting hulks on the shore and were marched daily, 1000 strong chained together, to work on building the island. Ghoulish history.

So, I had a very comfortable 22.46km walk on Monday with very little discomfort except for the usual spots, which I’ll resolve with fleece.
But the weight is good and as with the Camino and Pilgrim’s Way, I mostly forgot it was there. Although I was tired without doubt from 16km onwards, and ready for bed.

So pretty…seen in Rochester

I slowed down quite a lot in the last 6kms.

Seen in Chatham
Seen in Chatham
Seen in Chatham

Feet no worse than usual,  in fact, better than usual in recovery, hardly any pain in my heel, just a couple of twinges and no blisters. My 2 toes on my left foot as usual were red and sore, which is totally bizarre since there’s loads of space in the front of the shoe and no obstruction. My right foot toes never have the same issue… weird 🥴🥴

So all good. Ready to go 1st September. I even got to test my poncho. Conclusion: it kept the rain out = waterproof. But…my arms got wet coz the sleeves are so short, and I’ll need to finesse the hood so it stays snug around my face instead of either covering my eyes, or blowing off the back of my head 🙄🙄

In all a pleasing day.

I will of course give this stage of the Saxon Shore Way a proper write up when I do those articles, but I’m well pleased with my progress so far.

I took my precious BooBee on an action packed adventure today. He’s so much fun and an absolute joy to be with.

He had ice-cream on the beach, jumped and did head rolls on a trampoline, rode on a merry-go-round, went on a pirate swing boat, jumped on a bouncy castle and played a game of table tennis 🏓

We stopped for lunch and rested a bit. Afterwards we walked through the harbour and to the beach where we built a stone pile and paddled in the sea before covering him up with sand.

We then climbed the cliff path and stopped on the way to look for dinosaurs in the chalk and draw his and my name with chalk

From there we went to the funfair where he enjoyed a pirate stage show and a couple of rides on a bouncy slide.

A fantastic day all round and we (read me 👵🏻) covered 9 kms…most of which he was sitting on my shoulders. Entered my kms to the Conqueror Kruger Park challenge and boom 💥 another post card!! 👏👏👏

Kruger National Park

Having left Hluhluwe my first stop was the Manyoni Private Game Reserve.  Privately owned and one of the largest reserves in Kwazulu-Natal, Manyoni was established in 2004 when 17 landowners dropped their fences and opened up their lands to create a protected area for wildlife.  One of the main drivers was to create a release site for a founding group of black rhinos as part of the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP).  

The project is a collaboration between Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).  Their aim is to transfer black rhinos from provincial and national parks where they are at capacity to privately and community owned sites where they can continue repopulating under protection.  Black rhinos once roamed much of Africa and had a population of 100,000 as late as the 1960s.  Over the next 25 years the population diminished by 97% leaving a mere 2450 rhinos that were under protection in small reserves putting them on the critically endangered list.  

However, with the aid of BRREP and sites like Manyoni the population is slowly growing.  Manyoni has also reintroduced endangered cheetahs and African wild dogs whilst also focusing on conserving the landscape and ecosystem. 

The next location is the Zimanga Private Game Reserve.  Originally known as Hlambanyathi Game Reserve, the game on site were nearly all wiped out due to neglect and poaching.  All that was left was 7 zebras, 1 wildebeest and some impalas and warthogs.  In 1998 Charl Senekal, a sugar cane farmer, purchased the estate the reserve was a part of.  He rebuilt the game reserve, fenced it and expanded the land.  Over a period of time he reintroduced animals that were historically present in the area. Today it has 80 species of mammals including giraffe, buffalo, rhino, elephant, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, kudu, nyala, hippo, cheetah and lions.    

The final reserve in Kwazulu-Natal was the Pongola Game Reserve.  This 31,000 hectares reserve is over a century old and the first proclaimed reserve in Africa.  Within its reserve is the 15,000 hectare Lake Jozini (aka Pongolapoort Dam).  Besides typical game species, the reserve also has four of the Big Five: elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard.  

The lake primarily used for irrigation is fed by the Phongolo River which runs right through the Pongolo Reserve.  Dammed in 1973, the lake is home to the pink-backed and great white pelicans, the Nile crocodiles and hippos.  The dam also supports more than 350 bird species such as Pel’s fishing owl, the green and red Narina Trogon and the red-beaked, black and white Saddle-billed Stork.

The Space for Elephant Foundation are also working at the Pongola Reserve aiming to create a habitat for more than 1000 elephants and re-establish an old migration route.   Baby twin elephants,  Dingane and Shaka were born at Pongola in 2014.  Twins are extremely rare, as little as 0.5% of elephant births worldwide, making these twins extremely special at Pongola.

I’ve now completed 94 kms of the Kruger Park challenge

I finished my latest booking today, so from 3.30pm my time is once again my own – for 6 days 🤪

When I got home, after unpacking my suitcase I had a quick sleep and then I popped Pepe onto my back and took us for a practice walk.

We need to start becoming seriously reacquainted now coz it’s less than 3 weeks till we do some serious walking. It’s good from a few aspects; I test all the pressure points from the weight, I test the pressure points of my feet…where does it hurt? What needs strapping up – like my little dislocated toe on my right foot…I’ll have to strap that. Where on my heels? Etc. And testing my distance vs time.

I walked via the harbour, then up the hill…immensely pleased to not even break stride, or huff and puff.

Ramsgate Royal Harbour

Pushing myself the last 16 days has paid off big time 😄😄👏👏👏 From there I walked along the clifftop past the fairy woods where I saw an orange egg with feathers and a funny face, to my favourite sunset spot overlooking Pegwell Bay.

Fairy woods
English Coast Path above Pegwell Bay

I was too early for the fireworks, but it was still beautiful.

Pegwell Bay
Looking back towards Pegwell Bay

Then back down via the harbour again and past ASDA where I bought myself a packet of my favourite crisps…which I haven’t had for 16 days and I think after all my hard work I deserve it 😁😁

I just got home and my stats are 7.83kms 2 hours 4 minutes at just over 13 minutes per km. I’m on track 👏👏👏👏

Pressure points: right hip – on checking Pepe I found one of the smaller shoulder straps had worked loose, so the backpack was unbalanced (note to self…check the straps every morning before walking).

Left foot – I have very high arches, and the top of my foot on the bony area is painful from rubbing against the tongue and laces of my shoe, so that needs looking at, albeit not a new problem, walking for 26 kms is going to make it a real problem, so I must sort that before I go.

The little dislocated toe is not happy. So that will definitely need looking at.

Other than that, just my right knee was complaining, but I think that’s from the pressure of the unbalanced backpack pressing on my hip.

I’ll go out for another test run tomorrow night and see if the tightened strap makes any difference.

The bonus is that I’m still very comfortable with my gorgeous ‘Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest 40’, and it’s like we’ve never been parted…it’s so comfortable on my back that I forget it’s there.

I’m walking another section of the Saxon Shore Way on Monday from Rainham to Rochester; approximately 16-20 kms, so that will be another good test.

Tomorrow I’m taking my grandson out for the day, and on Sunday it’s my daughter’s birthday so we’ll be going out for an early supper.

Onwards…the seagull says I did good 😁😁

And now I’m off to bed. Already missing the peace and quiet of the countryside…

3 weeks to go

So my lovelies, the time is almost nigh!! At 10:07 on 1st September; 3 weeks from today (whoop whoop), I’ll be on the train heading North. Destination Berwick Upon Tweed.

I start walking the Northumberland coast path that same night, albeit staying in Berwick for 3 nights…I’ll explain later.

Then in exactly 1 month from today, I start my official walk along Hadrian’s Wall. 4 years to the day from when I started my Portuguese Camino 😊😊

So bloody excited. I can’t tell you 💃💃💃 = my happy dance.

So wow, suddenly it’s only 3 weeks to go and I’m on my way.

The dates have been identified, there and back travel tickets booked, all accommodation is booked, Airbnb hosts contacted and confirmed, the routes identified, daily kilometres from here to there measured (repeatedly 🤪🤪), what to see noted, where to go planned, what to do listed, ferry trip booked, where to get my passports stamped noted.

Pepe is packed, Gemini and I have been practicing like mad – getting fit, which shoes to wear decided on, budgets calculated and as much planning as I can possibly do, done!!!

And just because, after weeks of planning and noting the route each day on the Northumberland Coast Path with the relevant distances, yesterday I only decided to rejig days 4-7 and fiddled about with the distances. But now it is a lot smoother, with one day shorter and another longer.

I confirmed yesterday that I can use my senior bus pass on all the bus routes that I need to use between end of day’s destination and return the next day. I’m going to be doing quite a bit of bouncing back and forth due to accommodation on the NCP.

I’m copying everything into an old-fashioned method of keeping records – a notebook 😁😁

Northumberland Coast Path here’s looking at you, and finally 🤞🤞 after a whole year of waiting Hadrian’s Wall…I see you!!

Now it’s a waiting game; 21 days and counting.

As for you Covid-19 with all your variants…..you know what you can do…😂😂😂

When I bought the Kruger National Park challenge in March I had it in mind to honour the memory of my brother Arnold, who should have been 66 years old today; 08/08/21. He died in his mid-20s nearly 40 years ago under very sad circumstances.

Kruger National Park virtual challenge
Kruger National Park virtual challenge – starter bib

So I figured I would hold it till 1 August before starting the challenge and try to walk 66 kms by his birthday. As well as which, I was born in South Africa and one of my most enduring childhood memories was a visit to the Kruger National Park when we were teenagers…probably about 13 or 14 at the time. My Dad, his 2nd wife, me (the eldest) my brother (6 months younger than me – adopted by my Dad when he remarried), my sister 3.5 years younger than me and my much younger brother who was a baby at the time.

As we drove along the very long narrow dusty road heading towards the gates of the camp, after a long day of driving, my little brother threw up all over my older brother…I was wearing a very fancy patterned two piece pant-suit; a mini-skirt length top and bell-bottoms at the time, blue with coloured squares (I think I wrote about this some time back under a different context)…anyway, my brother had on a bright orange shirt and khaki trousers, which now had vomit all over them. A quick stop at the side of the road and we progressed with everyone affected cleaned up and my brother wearing the pants of my suit and looking both sheepish and colourful.

I can’t recall the name of the camp, but I do remember that we had a fantastic view of a massive waterhole from the dining room. We had a fantastic time and managed to see a lot of game on our drives, as well as in the compound when the animals from outside the fence decided to join the animals inside the fence!!! But of all the exciting things we saw, that episode with the clothes and the eggs we had for breakfast are my best memories.

And so I kicked off on 1 August and got my first postcard

Once again, the amount of information they provide with each postcard is amazing, and so fascinating. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have

On the southeast coast of South Africa and bordered by Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique is the province of Kwazulu-Natal.  Known for its beaches, mountainous region and large savannahs with big game, this province is also home to the Zulu nation.  Kwazulu-Natal is made up of two separate provinces, KwaZulu and Natal, that merged in 1994.  KwaZulu was a semi-independent area intended as a homeland for the Zulu people whose ancestors were part of the Zulu Kingdom.

The Zulu Kingdom was a monarchy from 1816-1897 which grew to prominence under the leadership of Shaka Zulu, the illegitimate son of Senzangakhona, the Chief of the Zulu clan.  Senzangakhona had 14 sons, 4 of them ruled as kings.  Although Shaka was the oldest, due to his illegitimacy he did not have any claim as successor to his father.  When Senzangakhona died in 1816, his legitimate heir Sigujana took over but his rule was short-lived as Shaka had him assassinated and became king.  He in turn was killed 12 years later by another brother, Dingane who 12 years later was overthrown by his brother Mpande, who ruled for the next 32 years.  Mpande’s son, Cetshwayo, succeeded him in 1873 for the next five years.  

Cetshwayo was the leader during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.  Fought over several bloody battles between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom, the war lasted less than six months.  The first significant battle was at Isandlwana in January 1879 where 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked the British forces of less than 2,000 soldiers.  Defeating the British, a contingent of Zulu warriors broke off from the main force and proceeded towards Rorke’s Drift, which would become the second main battle on the same day.  Having been pre-warned of the Zulu advances, the British were prepared for the assault.  Vastly outnumbered with guns blazing, the British held their position.  After 12 hours of fighting, the Zulu warriors retreated.  Several more battles were fought over the coming months until the British moved into the royal village where they inflicted the final defeat.  By August, Cetshwayo was captured, deposed and exiled.  He was the last king of an independent Zulu nation.  Today Cetshwayo’s descendant Goodwill Zwelithini is the 8th reigning monarch of the Zulu nation.

My journey begins in the town of Hluhluwe.  Located in the north of Kwazulu-Natal between iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, this small town is known for its big game, national parks and production of 95% of South Africa’s pineapples.  It has a population of less than 4,000 residents, yet it is considered a travel hub for Kwazulu-Natal. 

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is a major attraction for the big 5 game: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.  Located southwest of Hluhluwe, the park is the oldest nature reserve in Africa consisting of 96,000 hectares.  Established in 1895 as a park, the area was originally a royal hunting ground for the Zulu Kingdom.  The reserve was setup to protect the endangered white rhinoceroses and now has the largest population in the world (approx. 1000).  The park is also the only one in Kwazulu-Natal where all five big game animals can be found.

Located northeast to Hluhluwe is the 1,270sq mi (3,280km2) iSimangaliso Wetland Park.  The park is rich in fauna and flora due to the “different ecosystems within the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannahs, and wetlands”.  A wonderful array of animals co-habitate here both on land and in the ocean such as: elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo, hippos, whales, dolphins, leatherback and loggerhead turtles and crocodiles. The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

The park also contains the 140sq mi (350km2) estuarine Lake St Lucia.  It was named in 1575 on the day of the feast of Saint Lucy.  Nearly 2,200 plant species have been identified in the lake’s system such as the Sausage-tree, bearing sausage-like fruits 1-2ft long (30-60cm) and purplish-green flowers. It is also an ideal environment for mangrove trees, six different species have been recorded.  Other delightful flora are the Prickly Tree Hibiscus with its yellow flowers, Maputaland Cycad with its red flowers, Impala-lily with its delicate pink flowers and the Cape honeysuckle.

And so, over a period of 7 days I managed to achieve my goal of walking 66kms; 1 for each year that he would have been…had he lived.

I miss my brother, and although we were not blood relatives I adored him and he me. We got up to a lot of mischief as children and one of the few photos I have of him is when there were just the 5 of us; my cousin Yvonne, me, my cousin Brian, my brother Arnold and my sister Susanne. My family expanded a lot after this photo was taken, what with remarriages and another 4 sisters and 1 brother.

family and relationships
me, my brother, my sister, and cousins

The rest of the challenge will be completed during my jaunt along the Northumberland Coast Path and Hadrian’s Wall, both of which are long enough to ‘possibly’ allow me to complete this challenge before I return home. Although I have to say that the temptation to buy a 2nd Hadrian’s Wall challenge and complete the virtual walk whilst walking the actual wall is VERY strong!! LOL… I’ll decide by the 09th of September before I start my actual walk…it will all depend on how many km’s I manage to complete before then since the Kruger challenge has to be finished by 30/09/21 because the organisers changed the medal and made the route shorter. But I want the original medal, so…onwards into the breech dear friends, onwards!

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me, I’m kicking up dust in the Kruger National Park… 🙂

Here are some of the scenes from my 7 walks

walking the kruger national park
Day 1 Sunday 01.08.2021
walking the kruger national park
Day 2 Monday 02.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 3 Wednesday 04.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 4 Thursday 05.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 5 Friday 06.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 6 Saturday 07.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 7 Sunday 08.08.21

Day 3 I ended up hip deep in a ditch sky-high with brambles…still not sure how I got out, there’s a long story behind the cows on day 4 and there’s one particular scene that I just love and photograph it every day when I walk that route. The houses in this area are stunning…and I get house envy when I see some of them, and I love that quote from Day 1.

The above scenes are round and about the farmlands of Faversham. They recently harvested one of the fields nearby, hence the tractor and the harvester.

You start dying slowly
when you kill your self-esteem,
when you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
if you become a slave of your habits,
walking every day on the same paths,
if you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
if you avoid feeling passion
and its turbulent emotions,
those which make your eyes glisten
and your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
if you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain
if you do not go after a dream
if you do not allow yourself
at least once in your lifetime
to run away from sensible advice.

Don’t let yourself die slowly . . . ~ Pablo Neruda

Sculpture by Lene Kilda

I saw this poem on a friend’s timeline recently. It really spoke to me and I find it quite beautiful and so profound. It’s been mulling around in my mind as I grapple with the implications and the meaning…

It reminds me of many of my clients, the majority of whom are in the twilight years of their lives…basically ‘waiting for God’ as the saying goes (also the title of a TV comedy series).

Most of my clients have lived well past their 3 score and ten as suggested by the Bible, and their final years are reduced to what can be mind-numbing routine, but is often like a security blanket. They know exactly where they are, especially when they are afflicted by dementia…routine is paramount for security.

However, their self-esteem is often ‘killed’ by having a stranger (the carer) enter their home and having to resign themselves to the indignity of personal care, which often involves really ‘personal’ care, and if we’re not careful, their lives are reduced to discussions or discourse on how regular their bowels are, the colour of their urine, how much fluid they drink during the day, the number of creams that have to be massaged in on private areas, being cleaned and washed by a stranger, and their daily medications – most often a smorgasbord of different tablets keeping them alive; one to do this, one to do that, another to offset the effects of the first, another to reduce the impact of the 2nd…and ultimately becoming what I normally call a ‘mind fudge’…excuse the ‘french’. They have to psyche themselves up to swallow what sometimes amounts to 20 tablets a day (seriously) for years on end, most of which are invariably unnecessary as has been proved in the past…

For the carer, the constant sameness of every day, sometimes for weeks on end, can be like a slow dying…every day is so exactly the same that in order to preserve your sanity, you try to mix it up a little…like hoovering on a Saturday instead of Thursday LOL – yes, even something as small as that can be a help. A change of routine.

A large part of looking after my own mental health has in fact come in the form of my walking excursions, and yes those daft challenges 😉 – you know the ones I mean LOL When I’m at a booking I try to walk as many different routes as I possibly can, taking dozens of photos as I go…I love to investigate the history of the area – like finding out if it’s a Domesday town/village, or the provenance of the name…many of which are descended from Viking and Saxon times, some from the original inhabitants of these fair isles; the Celts, names that are corrupted over the years to be spelled and sound completely different to how they started.

Often the names relate to a particular industry, or husbandry, or simply the name of the patch of grass at a road junction. For example Throwley Forstal: The name is recorded in the Doomsday Book as Trevelai, which corresponds with a Brittonic origin, where “Trev” means a settlement or farm house and “Elai” typically relates to a fast moving river or stream. And the term forstal means the land in front of a farm and farmyard. Which in this instance is very accurate since the whole area is farmland with a number of divine farmhouses that make me envious.

Or perhaps Sheldwich Lees, which we visited yesterday: In ancient charters it was called ‘Schyldwic’. In 784, it was given this name by Ealhmund of Kent, to Abbot Wetrede and his convent of ‘Raculf Cestre’, or Reculver. During King Edward I’s reign (1239–1307), it passed to the family of Atte-Lese, which included the Manor of Sheldwich. This then became the Manor of Leescourt due to the name of the Atte-lese family mansion. A bit complicated if you ask me!!

So back to the poem; I try to not become a ‘slave’ of my habits, and I certainly talk to many I don’t know – give me half a chance and I’ll tell you my life story!! LOL Although the area I’m currently working in is enormous in terms of the farmlands, the hamlet consists of about 30 or so houses, so there are not many people about when I set off on my excursions, but every now and then I pass someone who also walks regularly and we exchange “hellos” and “nice day isn’t it” – usually a safe subject LOL Occasionally I meet dog walkers and I comment on how cute or lovely they (the dogs) are, but mostly I don’t see a soul except for the drivers who whizz past while I hug the hedgerows LOL

But my client always asks which route I took, and so I describe to him where I went, what I saw, how many people I may or may not have passed and he then tells me the history of certain places. It’s a win win for both of us…his dull routine is disrupted by tales of my jaunts and I get to relate what I find interesting – a break in routine. Actually on the subject of my current client (92) – he’s super intelligent and so we have some amazing conversations about religion and politics, about travel and places we’ve been. In his youth and up until about 10 years ago he and his wife were keen walkers/hikers and have been to some amazing places. So I encourage him to tell me the tales of his youth.

And in conclusion; I certainly have no chance of dying slowly because
if you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain (I do that regularly)
if you do not go after a dream (at every chance – planning walking trips here and there)
if you do not allow yourself
at least once in your lifetime
to run away from sensible advice
. (a frequent pastime!!)

Don’t let yourself die slowly….wise words indeed.

How could I resist? And before you go rolling your eyes at me and shaking your head 😁😁😁…. to be fair I resisted the allure of the Cote d’Azur and left Athens to the Olympians, but this one I had to have…it’s stunning, and only 66kms, I could do that in 3 days…but probably won’t, more likely 5 days or so…

However, I am going to do it asap….because I want that medal!!!

Flower Route Virtual Challenge

The sails actually move and there’s a dial at the back which changes the scene…one if their best imo.

Tulips, hyacinths, narcissi, or daffodils — from Haarlem all the way to the Naaldwijk; 66km (41 miles) through scenic landscapes, blooming flower fields along rivers, villages, and iconic windmills of the Netherlands. How could I resist??

Now all I have to do is decide which area I want to walk in in order to complete the challenge….I’d like it to be something related to spring, with lots of tulips! Why not “tulips in Amsterdam?” 🌷🌷🌷 I hear you asking, and truly…I’d love to hop on a plane or train (probably train) and go to the Netherlands and walk amongst the tulips for a few days while doing the challenge…but you know….covid and brexit. ugh.

Of course we have wonderful gardens in the UK with tulips galore…I saw these in London in April while walking Stage 2 of the Thames Path

🌷🌷🌷🌷 the Flower Route; Conqueror Virtual Challenge

I shall have to see how things are in spring…if EU is out of the question, then perhaps I shall have to do some research and see where I can enjoy some flowery scenes while walking in the UK. These are some options I have found meanwhile, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for their open days in 2022 and try squeeze in one or two….awesome!!!! https://ngs.org.uk/plan-a-visit/tulip-gardens/

Not that it would be cheaper to travel to these places in the UK than flying to the Netherlands…but hey, I can’t be bothered with having to get visas etc. Although of course, I may well change my mind closer to the time. Seeing the tulip fields in the Netherlands has long been a dream of mine. My daughter and I did in fact travel over one year last decade to see the tulip fields, but went about 2 weeks too early….so we missed them and I’ve just never managed to get back…

Maybe, just maybe….

So wish me luck!! Both for travelling to the EU and walking the challenge. I have a few options in mind…

Four years ago I read in the news about this young lad, Alex Ellis-Roswell from Canterbury What an extraordinary venture; a 9,500 mile, 3-year walk around the UK coast, including N.Ireland, from Minnis Bay to Minnis Bay, raising funds for and visiting more than 200 RNLI stations along the way, and raising more than £65,000 for the life-saving charity. Astounding. I had not heard of anyone walking the entire UK coast, and didn’t realise it was even a thing.

At the time I was not long back from walking the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago, 174 miles, and my efforts felt quite piddling in comparison. I was totally awed at his efforts.

I’ve always loved walking, and walked a lot in my early 20s when I lived in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, but from when I had my baby and acquired a car and a husband in 1980, I didn’t do much by way of walking at all. Life went by, I had a car, and although we travelled a lot around South Africa walking was just part of a day or an outing and not the focus of the outing.

In 2001 I had the absolute joy and good fortune to spend 6 months in the Rep. of Ireland with my younger sister and her hubby. While there, my love of walking was rekindled and played a part in my decision to return to the UK full time…which I duly did in April 2002, albeit to Ireland first for 4 months till September. During my time in Ireland; 2001 and 2002, we walked everywhere, weekend jaunts across country, along the east coast in mid-winter (mostly because there wasn’t anything else to do LOL) and wonderful walks in historic Glendalough National Park in County Wicklow, and my midnight returns to home after an evening in Dublin.

When I relocated to the UK in September 2002, before starting work, I did a 6 week housesit; a penthouse in Hampstead Village with a rooftop view of London, lots of walking opportunities with Hampstead Heath nearby and the historic village of Hampstead.

When we, my daughter and I, eventually settled in Richmond in 2010 I started walking the Thames Path in various directions as well as many many walks in the City of London (eventually covering 95% of all the roads, lanes and alleyways) and City of Westminster, with occasional sojourns to other areas. I even started up a business (now defunct): 3 Days in London which involved guided tours (only a few because I really did not enjoy guiding people around the city LOL).

In 2011 I had the bright idea of following Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral and in 2014 we moved to Broadstairs, where my coastal path jaunts began. Along the many ‘ways’ during the years from when I first arrived in the UK, the Camino de Santiago seeped into my consciousness from varying angles; my Dad and a couple of siblings cycled the French route (at different times), I met a lady who had walked the French route and loved it (she gave me my 1st scallop shell), I saw the film with Martin Sheen and books on the Camino started to make themselves known. And so my ‘dream’ of walking the Camino germinated. Initially I thought I’d walk it in 2016, having decided on the Portuguese coastal route as my preferred ‘way’, and to that end I started practising by taking lengthy walks along the coast to Margate or Ramsgate and further afield to Sandwich. Finally in 2017 I felt ready and walked the Portuguese Coastal Route to Santiago in September of that year.

Since then I’ve completed a number of long distance walks and my reading matter has turned to books about people who have done amazing walks. Shortly after reading ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn, I was inspired to set myself the challenge of walking the entire English Coast Path; coincidentally whilst I was walking between Sandwich and Walmer one day last year. And so the idea was born, and now that I have a specific target, I’ve started walking sections with purpose (I will write up about those stages in due course).

During the preceding years I’ve been inspired by epic adventures embarked upon by people like Steven Fabes who cycled 6 continents and covered 80,000 km on his bike. And Ben Fogle’s many adventures with ‘New Lives in the Wild’ TV shows, Steve Backsall’s many epic adventures (not that I envy any of his adventures thank you!!), Michael Palin’s many wonderful travels around the world, Michael Portillo’s ‘Great British Railway Journeys’, and Julia Bradbury’s many amazing walking adventures in the UK.

Way back in my South African past, a boyfriend at the time gave me the book ‘Full Tilt: From Dublin to Delhi’ by Dervla Murphy, which I devoured at the time, never imagining that I would one day actually live in Dublin! I loved her story and I think it probably ignited a small flame that was later nourished to become a passion; travel.

During lockdown in 2020, for 7 weeks between March and April, I was lucky enough to be working and living in a tiny village in Somerset; Nether Stowey, where I was able to indulge my walking escapades despite lockdown because there was hardly anyone around and I seldom encountered a soul during my 2 hourly breaks from working.

My daughter introduced me to the ‘addictive’ Conqueror Challenges in April of 2020 and working towards those goals has kept me motivated.

that’s me! The Conqueror – conquering the world, walk by walk LOL

I also started looking to find more people who were walking the UK coast and somewhere along the line, via Facebook I found and started following Chris Walks the UK. At the time he was safely ensconced on a remote and unoccupied Scottish island where he stayed for much of lockdown. Following his journey both then and now, I’m totally inspired by his fortitude and strength. Having started the journey in the midst of depression 5 years ago (apparently Sunday was his 5th anniversary, so I’ve added the link to reflect that), a former Veteran of the Armed Forces, he was then and still is raising funds for SSAFA and has met the 2 loves of his life along the way; 1st Jet, a beautiful greyhound, and then Kate a beautiful young woman who popped over one day to say hello and never left. I love their daily posts and am in so much admiration for how they cope with obstacles.

Slowly, during my travels, I stumbled across other walks; the Two Saints Way, St Cuthbert’s Way and St Oswald’s Way, Great Glen Way, The West Highland Way, Hadrian’s Wall, and as I came to learn about more and more walks, I started buying the Cicerone Guide Books. Now, with a whole long list of walks I now want to do, I joined the UK Long Distance Hiking page on facebook, to get ideas and advice, occasionally discover new routes to walk (oh my lord! Like I need any more!), and while scrolling through the posts a couple of days ago I stumbled across Tracey Elizabeth Hannam, an amazing woman with an interesting story who is currently walking the UK coast. I saw one of her posts; a poem that she wrote and it resonated so strongly that I asked her if I could share it here…..and she has agreed.

Here is the link to her facebook page and the poem that caught at my soul

.. Thoughts..a poem

What am I thinking is my life shrinking I need to get out,
Where am I going am I happy knowing as I start to shout,
I’m feeling quite trapped being part of the rat race as they call it..
I’m trying to fit in but I can’t begin as I simply deplore it,
As I try to escape, suffocated in this place I know I must go,
To the sand and the sea I feel it beckoning me and now that I know,
I must be out in the wild like a inquisitive child seeing new things each day,,
Sleep on the earth in a tent, many happy days spent loving the way,
How my new life has changed simply been rearranged by thoughts in my head,
Of times I couldn’t breathe, there was a hidden need to be out here instead,
My eyes now open to see this new happy me away from the grind,
Of a regimented past life, sometimes trouble and strife but now cleared from my mind,
Medicine not in a pill but walking up a hill is healing my soul,
Prescribed by Dr. me as I began to see I needed a new goal,
And I’ll never look back to that old beaten track that stopped me from growing,
I’ll look right ahead never to dread this new me I’m knowing,
Leading the way not afraid to say to others too,
Don’t settle for less cause you are the best ..refresh and renew…💜

Copyright: Tracey Hannam .. 31/7/21

Tracey Hannam – Long Distance Hiker, so inspiring

During my research into other long distance UK coastal walkers I came across this fantastic website https://www.britishwalks.org/walks/Named/CoastWalk/Links.php an amazing resource listing the many people who have already walked the coast or are currently walking.

There is something quite extraordinary about a person who decides, for such a variety of reasons, to up sticks and walk for thousands of kms/miles, sometimes for years on end. Carrying the bare minimum, yet loaded with a lot of stuff to carry, they put one foot in front of the other, enduring pain and discomfort, all the weather types you can imagine, blisters, scrapes and falls, a lack of home comforts, facing some of the hardest days anyone could imagine – and yet, they just keep on going, loving that life despite the hardships, and rejoicing in the beauty of new places.

I find it so inspiring and totally awesome.

For me it’s the sheer freedom of the path, of the unknown, of starting at one place and ending at another that leads me on….

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