Whose idea was it to do the Oxfam Challenge – to walk 100km in 36 hours? It did really sound like a good idea at the time – but now I’m questioning our sanity!
We started training about 6 weeks ago, and it started off okay, with a 2 hour amble through Woodhill Forest. But things are getting really serious now, and last Sunday our amble got up to a 6 hour hike. That’s 30km. And to think we have walk almost four times that distance to complete the challenge!
Our group consists of coach Derek, and 7 of us ‘girls’ and Molly the dog. I’m sure Derek is the envy of every male in New Zealand. He gets to go walking with 7 females every single weekend, for hours at a time, listening in to our conversations that get smuttier and smuttier every week. He tells us he’s going to wear earplugs the next walk, but he never does, so I am of the opinion that he enjoys being corrupted!
Being out in the forest for so long brings challenges to all of us. There are no toilets, spas, masseuse’s, manicurists, in fact, the forest is devoid of anything civilized. Derek encourages us on our walks by telling us he has organized 9 hot firemen to massage our legs at the end of the walk. We are always severely disappointed to find them ‘called away to a fire’!
Up until our six hour walk last Sunday, I was always able to ‘hold on’ to my drinking water until we got back to civilization, which was a relief as because of my lack of balance (no balance nerves intact), I cannot squat without falling over. I don’t relish the thought of going head first, or bottoms up in the middle of my ablutions, for obvious reasons!
However, I have to drink while out walking, as becoming dehydrated is not an option, and 6 hours is a rather long time to hold on, and in the end, I had to give in! I strayed from the path, went deep into the woods, and found a tree stump. Perfect. Feeling very relieved, I rearranged my clothes and popped back onto the path again and started walking. Now everyone that knows me, knows I have an aversion to needles of any kind, (especially ones that come near my ears)! Within minutes, walking became very uncomfortable. I even looked around to see if my ENT doc was following me!! But no, it seems that several tonnes of pine-needles had removed themselves from the tree-stump, and were now embedded in my nether regions.
I’m wondering if I should be carrying around some stickers/signs to slap on to the tree-stumps deep deep in the woods ‘This stump has been used as a ladies room, please do not use as a picnic table’!
The walk got harder. Derek decided to make us walk along the beach for a while. Having no balance makes walking on sand extremely difficult for me. The tide was in too, which meant there was no ‘hard’ sand – just sand that you sank into up to your ankles, which was really hard on your muscles. After half an hour we were finally allowed to head back into the forest. Up a really steep steep dune, then down an even steeper one meant I fell over about 3 or 4 times. Now, not only did I have moss and pine-needles in my nether regions, but I was also covered in black sand, stuck to me like glue. No amount of ‘dusting off’ removed any sand.
Oh well – we had a break, drank some more water, ate a bit of food. I had my second protein bar – big mistake. Saluma brought out Christmas Crackers and marshmellow Santas. I love Saluma! The Christmas cracker contained the usual paper hat, toy, and joke. As I had no sunhat, I popped the green paper hat on my head, and wore it all the way back to the carpark.
It started raining. I moved the paper hat over my cochlear implant microphone to stop it getting wet. Brilliantly perfect for the job :) But - the dye of the hat ran. When I got home, I found I was a little green around the gills!
The protein bars are excellent. Even though they look like something the dog ate… twice (The chocolate ones especially)! They keep me from feeling hungry, and give me loads of energy. Energy in, energy out unfortunately. The now peaceful forest walk, is peppered with small thermonuclear explosions. I thought I was doing well, Molly the dog is a great sport, taking the blame well. Until Derek came up and said to me… ‘Was that you?’
“Are you sure? I wondered if it were Molly, but she’s on the other side of the road!”
“Welllllllll maybe one!!! But mine don’t smell so how do you know?”
“You need to get your sinuses checked!!”
It couldn’t have been that bad – as everybody survived, and we all finished. Exhausted, hot, thirsty, and wondering how on earth are we going to walk four times that distance!!
Lastly – for those who want to see where we walk – the beautiful pristine forest, that smells of Christmas, with pine needles covering sandy trails, deer that cross our paths, and cheeky fantails that come down and chatter at us, then take a good look at the following image…