onze kilometres à pied

Today my legs are almost as stiff and sore as when I climbed Mount Hallasan in Jeju Island, so I can’t imagine how much pain is currently afflicting all the teams who walked the full 100km of the Oxfam Trailwalker. We did 11.something km from checkpoint 4 (Olinda) to checkpoint 5 (Ferntree Gully). These turned out to mostly be trails familiar to me from training in the Dandenongs late in 2013, but it was still nice to revisit them under such altruistic conditions.

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James and I arrived early as my sweet Natalie dropped us off (and then later picked us up) saving us the hassle of organising transport between the two checkpoints. James was keen to walk down to Olinda once we had checked in, but I was not making the mistake of adding ANY extra kilometres (“It’s only 1km there!” he tried to fool me, I am not falling for that trick). So I lay in the sunshine and James kindly kept the sun out of my eyes.

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We watched other volunteers on the clinic side pack up and head home. It’s quite tough that the slowest teams who have the hardest time of it (and arguably require the most TLC) miss out on all the fun at the checkpoints but also on all the support. Then the rest of our sweep team arrived, and we waited for the very last hiking team to check in so we could begin sweeping up behind them. The last team of hikers was obviously in quite bad shape when they hit the checkpoint with only minutes to spare before disqualification, but they kept up a good pace for most of the time we were on the trail.

There were 5 sweeps, and only one grabby stick (labelled a “nipper”, but I like grabby stick better), however I found nobody else challenged my ongoing possession of it and therefore I got to carry it for all 11.42km.

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James (well-camouflaged) was the official carrier of the markers.

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I don’t know how much he enjoyed being lumbered with markers, however I *loved* my grabby stick. I grabby-sticked every wrapper, every morsel of paper and every wad of chewing-gum I could spy — even when it would have been quicker to bend down and pick it up by hand like the others. This is obviously my dream hobby. I fell behind several times due to my passionate, borderline obsessive grabby-sticking. I’m sure everyone else appreciated it.

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On our walk we saw not one, but two kookaburras, which felt quite special. One of the kookaburras was watching us as we sat down for lunch, not remotely perturbed by our presence, and then eventually swooped and grabbed a mouse-lunch for himself, which he also consumed in front of us.

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I also saw some form of parrot — whenever I see a brightly coloured bird here in Australia, and dare to suggest it is a lorikeet, parakeet, rosella or whatever, an Australian will immediately contradict me and say it is something else. It was bright red (well its belly was bright red, as they were directly above me):

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Towards the end we caught up with the long-suffering last team. At first we lurked politely just out of sight, as it’s important they don’t feel we are pushing them. At one point we stopped just downwind from a patch of controlled burn, and the late afternoon sunlight falling through the trees was terribly poetic.

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Eventually we closed in on the hikers and sat down with them for a chat and to try and cheer them up. I felt so sorry for one of them in particular as she was obviously in agony long before checkpoint 4, and by this stage was hobbling on what must have felt like raw stumps! I remembered very clearly the pain I had gone through when I was walking home from Spain, and when she asked us if we had taken precautions for our feet, I remembered how all you can think about is your feet, it’s as if nothing else exists. La tête dans les pieds. Anyway the three of them eventually dragged themselves off and we pushed on again, only a few kilometres from the end.

I found the sight of the checkpoint quite pleasant as I knew Nat and Tim had roast beef and potatoes waiting for me, but I felt so heartbroken hearing the team (who I had begun to think of as my team) was disqualified from going any further. The poor girls were all crying and I got a bit tearful too… to have got so far (70km, in around 30 hours with one hour of sleep) only to be disqualified seemed so unfair.

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I didn’t let that put me off my dinner though. Nom.



It’s not always easy to get myself to yoga. I didn’t want to go yesterday morning — it was 5:45am, James was in bed after waiting so many months to be together again, and I had slept really badly and did NOT want to get up. I also was grumpy because I knew I had to buy a 1-month pass even though I’d be banned from exercise for a week (more on this below) and then we’re going to Taiwan. But it’s so expensive to do Bikram it’s rarely not worth getting a pass.

Anyway, I went, precisely because it was my very last chance before my one-week ban commenced, and I felt meh-to-neutral all the way through. But on the last shavasana, I felt incredible. I think it’s a bit like a Rubik’s Cube or a videogame cheat code — you have to configure your body in 26 different postures, twice each, feeling crap, and then ta-dah! You feel good.

And if there was a fairly simple cheat code you could use whenever you want, to feel happy and well… you would be a fool not to use it at least a couple times a week!

Anyway — exercise ban. This morning I had an appointment to get my right knee’s common peroneal nerve injected with cortisone to try and improve my shin pain/nerve damage. It was pretty horrid, and then my leg went rather numb, but it’s wearing off now. I am reassured that my shin is aching which suggests they hit the right nerve. However despite me cajoling the specialist, the doctor and the nurse separately, they are adamant that I cannot exercise for a week and no, not even yoga.

My volunteer stint for Oxfam Trailwalker is in 10 days so I am trusting I’ll be ok to hike 11km by then. I certainly am cringing at the idea of not going to yoga for a week! But at least James and I can relax and enjoy a lazy Easter weekend.

On the 13th of March, my replacement at work will be starting! So I am very close to an end and there is bright light at the end of the tunnel. I’m a little nervous about how quickly work wants me to move on (my boss mentioned me potentially not bothering to come back from my holiday, but if he thinks I can do a complete handover in 8 business days he is quite deluded). But I’ll certainly be out of there by the end of May.

I have been debating blowing some of my savings to go back to Europe in June. I’d like to go visit my grandmother in the UK, and I would also like to walk a couple hundred more km on the Camino. It’s probably not a very wise idea but… it’s at the back of my mind. First and foremost I need to call Immigration and work out if it will affect my Australian citizenship eligibility though.


Sorry about Monday. That was a bit embarrassing! so many emotions…

Today after work I had volunteer training for the Oxfam Trailwalker event in 2 weeks — James and I have signed up to do a shift as Trail Sweeps, on Section 5 (Olinda to Ferntree Gully). Kerry is the one who told me about volunteering for this 100km walk, as she is doing a whole bunch of shifts herself, at what I learned today is Oxfam Australia’s biggest fundraising event of the year.

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I’ll be honest I was mostly excited about getting to hike 11km whilst picking up rubbish. I love hiking, but just like David Sedaris (who aside from being a brilliant author, has had a rubbish truck named after him for his efforts), I hate seeing rubbish on trails. It broke my heart in Nepal that you can stand on a Himalayan mountain, looking out to Mount Everest, and see plastic wrappers everywhere around you. Bhutan was relatively pristine in comparison, Taiwan was not quite as bad as Nepal but not great either. Of course an event organised by Oxfam in Australia is going to make sure they leave no trace behind!

It turns out that the Sweeps mostly just collect the trail markers, but there’s bound to be rubbish too, since there will be 3200 people (800 teams of 4!) walking the trail ahead of us. I saw advice somewhere to bring a trowel for burying “human waste” but I really hope I don’t actually have to bury other people’s poop. I’m a bit sad to find out I won’t have a spike on a stick… I guess there’s still time to coax James into making me one!

I’ve spent the evening booking guesthouses and AirBnB rooms for our Taiwan trip. I have been building it all in a nice gaudy spreadsheet. Here’s a teaser!

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And final note: this morning I did the 6am Bikram class. This allowed me to wake up at 5:45, grab my water bottle, roll straight into class, and discover I had purple wine-stained lips from dinner last night with Graham. I love living next door to the studio so much.