Canberra Walking Festival: An International Community

An Interns Diary by Breanna Minisini

This year the Canberra Walking Festival (CWF) was held on Saturday 7th April to Sunday 8th April 2018. I was given the opportunity to be an intern for this event, along with 5 other interns and many other dedicated volunteers. CWF proudly supports the Heart Foundation.

The Canberra Walking Festival has been running, or should I say walking, for 27 years and was first started by Harry and Kathleen Berg and the event is now managed by Diana Marshall. This year, Albert Hall was chosen as the new venue for the festival; the location is in a prime position, less than 3km from the civic centre and surrounded by popular Canberra tourist attractions such as Parliament House, Old Parliament House, Questacon and many more.

The Canberra Walking Festival is associated with other organisations, such as The International Marching League (IML) and the Internationaler Volkssport Verband/International Federation of Popular Sports (IVV). These organisations promote walking, being active, exploring and making friends. The IML and IVV also provide members with information about other walks that occur all around the world. It is interesting to note that Canberra is the only location in Australia that gets the opportunity to host an IML event.

Through out my time interning, I was introduced to so many kind people. Walkers who participated came from Canberra, other parts of Australia and from overseas. I chose this internship as I was interested to understand why these people took part in events such as this. During the two days I spoke to many walkers about the different walking festivals they had participated in around the world. I discovered that many did these walks annually while exploring the countries they walked in, and by doing this were also able to meet locals and make friends internationally.

Walkers enjoyed the atmosphere of the event and since it was not a competition, the walk created opportunities for them to more genuinely interact with a variety of other walkers having similar interests. Walkers said that taking part in such events provides them with a sense of accomplishment and adventure. When walking around Albert Hall on the last day, I met two people who were participating in the walk called Tony and Tina. While they had never met before, they came to realise they had both walked in Nijmegen.

This CWF brings together walkers from all over the world to take part in something that is healthy for both the body and soul. How many opportunities do you get to say you walked with a university lecturer from Germany on the weekend?

The festival’s group of volunteers helped to make both myself and fellow interns feel extremely welcomed. Some of these volunteers have been returning year after year for this event. Many of the volunteers I spoke to said that one of the highlights of the event was about the friends they had made and that it felt nice to do something good for others. During the two days, I spoke with Anne who told me it was her first year volunteering. Anne told me she joined to learn about the heritage of Canberra and how she enjoyed the atmosphere of the event and said “it’s a shared spirit of doing something with and for other people”. While the more and more volunteers I spoke to all had there own reasons for coming back, all agreed the community feeling of the event was their main reason.

In being given an opportunity to go on one of the walks, I was able to explore places and artwork in Canberra that I had never seen in my 4 years of living here. I was able to speak with many people from different parts of the world that I would otherwise never would have had the chance chance to meet without this event. My favorite part about the festival was the amazing volunteers. I felt very much a part of an international community, because that is the feeling this amazing festival gives you; it gives you the chance to explore the beauty of this capital city, to be active, to meet other people and to also do something for a good cause.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Join us next year:

 

 


The 27th Canberra Walking Festival

A report by Andjelka Stevanovic, University of Canberra Intern

The annual Canberra Walking Festival, was held this year over 2 days, on the first weekend of April. The weather was warm, the atmosphere was inviting, and the attendees and volunteers were enthusiastic as always. This year’s new location for the event was a beautiful and historic venue, the Albert Hall. Which proved to be a perfect location and space for the festival, and luckily enough will be for the next 2 years.

With over 400 registered walkers, the festival was a complete success, with once again walkers coming from all around Australia, and the world to participate. To top off the fact that walkers came from all around, they also varied in age, the event caters for all walkers, which it did. Out of Australia’s 8 states and territories, we had walkers from 6 of them attend, and we had participants from 14 other countries, some of them including: Germany, Netherlands, Norway, USA and Japan.

The walks ranged between 5km to the 42km marathon which started on Saturday morning. Many of these walkers participated both days and received a ‘Two Day Medal’ at completion of their walk on Sunday afternoon. As an intern from the University of Canberra I had the pleasure of handing out some of the medals as each walker returned from their walk. Some walkers returning from their charming and scenic strolls and others from scenic, yet long and courageous walks. Walkers had the opportunity to explore around Canberra, by seeing Lake Burley Griffin and its surroundings, the National Dinosaur Museum, and the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

Without the volunteers and the walkers this event is not possible, therefore, the dedication and commitment that comes with this event from the committee, volunteers and the walkers is incredible. Many of the volunteers have been serving for many years, with majority of them completing the walks as well. One of the volunteers has been a part of the event for 24 out of the 27 years, by both walking the tracks and volunteering afterward. Her reasoning behind coming back each year to assist is, ‘because it is a lot of fun’. They are truly dedicated to this event, and the walkers are amazing too.

Many of the walkers were new comers, however, countless amounts of them were returning guests. I had the chance to talk to a few of the walkers from Germany that were first comers to the Canberra Walking Festival, they were excited and amazed at how beautiful it is here in Australia. They have been walking for years and are devoted to achieving more. I also spoke to a woman from Sydney, who has been coming down to Canberra for many consecutive years to attend and complete the walking routes. Their reasons for walking, and continuing to return to Canberra are because it is a great, enjoyable event and many of the walkers have made lifelong friends.

To conclude the wonderful event, achievement awards were handed out and the returning walkers were commemorated, for continuing to return year after year, with one of the international walkers returning for the 11th year in a row, truly amazing! Another great achievement for the AussieWalk, was being able to honour a pair of walkers for completing their final IML event here in Canberra. Each accomplishment is remembered and plays an important role in the events success. I have had the pleasure to be a part of such an incredible and memorable event, and I am amazed at all the organisers and the walkers for all their accomplishments. What a remarkable weekend it was.


Walk, don’t run… the Canberra Walking Festival

Please enjoy this article written by one of our 2017 University of Canberra interns, Georgia Niedermeier.

Across two days, over the first weekend in April, 2017, more than 400 registered walkers took on various sections of the Canberra Centenary Trail for the annual Canberra Walking Festival. The festival is an event for all ages that undeniably lives up to that title. The youngest walker was 5 years old and the eldest, 92! Age did not hold the walkers back, with the 92-year-old returning from Saturday’s 5km walk before anyone else. The event boasted walkers from all over Australia as well as Russia, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Korea, Vietnam and Czech Republic. Walks ranging from 5km to the huge 44km marathon were available to choose from. Most walkers participated in walks on both Saturday and Sunday, managing to pry themselves out of bed for an second big day of walking through the Nation’s Capital.

The event has been running for 26 years and there are some who have participated from the get go. I had the absolute pleasure of being involved in this year’s event, as a University of Canberra intern, and took the time to talk with some walkers about why they love the festival. The most telling responses were generated by the question Why do you keep coming back? I was met with many incredulous looks, ‘Why wouldn’t I?’. The event is full of smiling faces, triumphant walkers, enthusiastic volunteers and an overall positive vibe. Why wouldn’t you come back?

Why do they return though? One couple from Sydney has made the trip to Canberra 21 times. They love the event and think Canberra is a beautiful place to walk and stay on for a post festival bike ride. Canberra is a wonderful location and this year’s use of the Centenary Trail exhibited some of Canberra’s best offerings. One local voiced her love of Canberra’s history. She believes walking through it is one of the best ways to absorb all the city has to offer. Other responses centred around challenge, incentive, and sense of achievement, but the resounding consensus was that the community is one you want to be a part of.

The walk is great exposure for Canberra as a tourist destination, with the trails taking walkers past some of Canberra’s tourism hubs. Some international walkers took the opportunity to stop in at the War Memorial during their walks while others were happy just ticking ‘see a kangaroo’ off their bucket list. Entrants up early on Sunday saw hot air balloons adorn the sky and walkers passing the Carillon around midday were treated to a recital.

For those after a little more incentive and reward, the Canberra Walking Festival is a member event of The IML Walking Association. IML encourages walking around the world, with awards on offer for completing walks in multiple countries.

This is not a competitive event, you do not have to be the fastest, strongest or fittest to feel the sense of victory that every walker exuded upon return to home base. After experiencing the event for myself I hope to see it grow and continue for years to come. It is a fantastic event full of wonderful people from all walks of life.

“After a day’s walk everything has twice its usual value.”
 — George Macauley Trevelyan


Super EarlyBird Entries Closing Soon!

You are invited to participate in the 27th Canberra Walking Festival!

Enter online at bit.ly/cwf2018.

The Canberra Walking Festival is a non-competitive event open to everyone.
We hope you will join us. Note that we have a new start location for 2018 at the Albert Hall.

Registering online and early will ensure that you receive the best possible entry price (payment by Visa, Mastercard or PayPal), and also go into the draw for early bird prizes.

Online Entry Fees:

Child Under 10: $10 (for one or two days)

Child 10-17 years: $20 (for one or two days)

Adult: $25 (one day)

Adult Super EarlyBird: $35 (for two day entries received by end of November)

Adult EarlyBird: $40 (for two day entries received by end January)

Adult: $45 (standard online two day entry rate)

Entry fees are non-refundable.

On the Day Entries (cash only):

$25 per day for all participants, regardless of age.

Available at the Control Centre, located at: Albert Hall, 100 Commonwealth Ave – next to Hyatt Hotel.
Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the starting time of your desired participation distance.

Please note that bus transport to the start of the walks on Sunday is not guaranteed for “on the day” registrations, and will be subject to space availability.

The event aims to:

  • promote walking as a worthwhile, fun activity;
  • encourage people to participate in an enjoyable, healthy, outdoor activity regardless of fitness, age, gender or background;
  • challenge those who wish to test their fitness, and/or obtain an award.

The Canberra Walking Festival is a not-for-profit event, run entirely by volunteers. A portion of all entry fees is donated to community organisations, including the Heart Foundation.

Walk Options – A variety of walk options to showcase the best of Canberra.

Pre-Festival Guided Walks

Thursday 5th April 9.30am, Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura, 15km on the Centenary Trail with Walking For Pleasure – starts and finishes at the Australian War Memorial (outside Poppy’s cafe). $5 for IVV stamp for non-WFP members – payable on the day.

Friday 6th April 11am, Capital Walk, 11km – starts and finishes at the Control Centre for the Festival, returning in time for the Welcome Walk and official opening. $5 for IVV stamp – payable on the day.

Friday 6th April 3pm, Welcome Walk, 5km – explore the Parliamentary Triangle in small groups followed by the official opening ceremony and reception. $5 per person, includes reception and IVV stamp.

Canberra Walking Festival Self-Guided Walks

Saturday 7th April – Distance options are 5km, 11km, 21km and 42.2km. Entry includes event support, IVV stamp, and marathon medal for those finishing the marathon.

Sunday 8th April – Distance options are 5km, 10km, 21km and 26km. Entry includes event support, IVV stamp, IML stamp for those completing the required distance on Sat and Sun, and Canberra Two Day Walk medal for those walking any distance on both Sat and Sun.

On Saturday and Sunday the start times vary depending on your chosen distance – full details on the Canberra Walking Festival page. Free bus is provided to the start of your chosen walk distance on Sunday, so it is important that you arrive in time to catch the bus!


Meet our committee: Diana Marshall, president

Meet-Our-Committee---DianaI first walked the Canberra Two Day Walk (CTDW) in 2003. I had recently returned from three years in the USA, where I had cheered on my husband in his first marathon. I discovered that there were plenty of people who walked marathons in the United States and I felt inspired to give one a go myself, so was looking for a suitable event in Australia. I came across a CTDW brochure for the event at the bowling alley in Tuggeranong, less than two months before the event and was immediately enthused to enter. The 30km distance requirement for my age was a little daunting but I was not deterred. How hard could it be? After all, it was much less than a marathon. Famous last words!

Working full-time with a young child, I had limited opportunity to train, and I went in to my first CTDW very under-prepared, and with relatively new shoes to boot. I don’t think I had walked much further than 20km in the lead-up to the event. At the end of the day I could hardly move, and I had monstrous blisters on both feet. I didn’t know how I would be able to complete another 30km on day two. But I knew that if I didn’t finish the walk I would have endured all the pain and have nothing to show. That finisher’s medal was a powerful incentive for me! So, with bandaged feet and a pair of comfortable old shoes, I struggled through the second day of walking, with plenty of encouragement (and concern) from the other participants. Needless to say, I was not fit for work on the Monday, and needed to take a day’s leave to recover. My second CTDW was not much better, but since then I have managed more easily, and have even completed eight of the nine marathon routes, plus 10 or so other marathons along the way.

Given my trials at the very first CTDW, I decided to immediately join the IML to get the IML Bronze Medal (in addition to the CTDW medal) — I felt that I deserved it! I have since walked three times at our sister IML event in Rotorua, New Zealand, but need to travel further afield if I want to earn subsequent IML awards. I’m hoping to do a bit more travel in the years to come. 

I’m also a very enthusiastic IVV walker, having now walked over 7,000km and completed over 400 events. This is not much when compared to some of our international walkers who have completed over 10 times my distance! I have done a number of IVV walks in the USA and have taken on their 50 states and A-Z challenges. So far I have walked in nine states and finished half of the alphabet. I just wish I had known about the IVV when I lived in the USA. Walking is a wonderful way to see a new place when travelling — and the IVV walks will often take you to some of the more interesting places that a tourist wouldn’t normally see (plus many of the main tourist spots too). I have also been fortunate to meet some wonderful IVV walkers when travelling, who have been very generous with their time. It’s much easier when you have a local guide too, rather than having to worry about following written directions! I like to reciprocate when visitors come to Canberra, and have met many interesting people during their travels here.

After a couple years of participating in the CTDW I was recruited onto the committee after making a few “helpful” suggestions about the event and the old website. Over the years I have taken on increasing responsibilities, first with the website, brochure design and newsletter editor, IVV coordinator and then starting up various social media channels and coordinating a regular walk program throughout the year.

This is now my 10th year on the committee and my fourth year as president. I started as a general committee member, became vice-president in 2011 and then president in 2012 when Lachlan Wilkinson inconveniently decided to move to Adelaide! One of my main goals as president has been to streamline some of the manually-intensive aspects of the Festival, and while this has resulted in some short-term pain, I am sure that the long-term gain will be worth the effort.

My favourite distance to walk is 20km and I prefer nice flat or gently undulating routes. Downhills are a real killer for my knees, and I am not a fan of loose, scrambly surfaces. I enjoy walking with others but am equally happy to walk by myself, and can while away the time planning all the things I intend to do after the walk (although usually I just end up having a nice rest!). Since getting a smart phone I have discovered that podcasts are also a good way to pass the time while walking, and I particularly like listening to Conversations with Richard Fidler.

I live very close to the Centenary Trail, so I am spoiled with great walking opportunities. In my ideal world I’d be doing a 10km walk every morning, but I end up spending far too much time sitting in front of a computer. The hot weather was also a big de-motivator for me, so I really need to be more committed to going out first thing before it gets too hot.

Last year I joined Walking for Pleasure, which has been a lot of fun, and have recently merged our Saturday AussieWalks into their program of walks, which now cover every day of the week except Mondays.

In recent years I have also taken up running (shock, horror!) and after completing the “couch to 5k” program I can now run 5km. I don’t get to much running training, but do try to get along to my local parkrun on Saturday mornings when I don’t have an AussieWalk scheduled. I find that parkruns are also good when travelling, because  there are lots of events held around Australia (and the world) and once you have registered you use the same barcode at every event — and it is free.

Aside from walking, I have a few obscure hobbies, including geocaching and munzees. These activities have taken a back seat over the last year or so, but they are fun when I do make time for them.

Well, that’s probably more than anyone wanted to know about me, so I’ll end here and just say that I am looking forward to catching up with all our repeat walkers as well as meeting our new walkers at the Canberra Walking Festival in April. See you then!


Meet our walkers: Dolores Grenier from the USA

Photo of a woman sheriff officer in uniform.Dolores will be walking with us for the very first time this year. “I met Kathleen and Harry Berg several times at other IML events,” she explains. “I am happy to be able to take part in the 25th anniversary of the Canberra Two Day Walk.”

As IML Vice-President, Pan Pacific region, Dolores will also be presenting the very first Cooperation Cup medals at our awards ceremony on Sunday. Walkers from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United States will receive the first Cooperation Cup awards here in Canberra.

The Cooperation Cup was jointly established by the IML Walking Association (IML) and the International Federation of Popular Sports (Internationaler Volkssportverband or IVV) earlier this year to promote non-competitive walking. Both international organisations have the aim of encouraging active and worldwide walking.

“It is unfortunate it has taken me this long to make it to your event but I am sure this will not be my last time,” Dolores says. “Australia is a big country with lots to do so my trip of two weeks will not be enough!”

She joined the IVV in 1988 while working at the U.S. Air Force Base in Zwiebrucken, Germany, and raising her son Foster and daughter Petrina. “Walking was an inexpensive activity I could do with my children,” she remembers. “We could get outdoors, see the sights, and meet the people.”

In 1997 she participated in an IML event held in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina. “This was the one and only IML event that took place in North Carolina,” Dolores recalls. “I ran into a group of British police officers there for the IML walks. I was hooked on the IML walking scene! I’ve never been the same.”

Since then she has walked in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, Spain, and Taiwan. “I enjoy the IML walking events as I like to be able to travel and meet the local people and cultures.”

She has walked 50km seven times in the Netherlands “then I smartened up” and walked 40km in her eighth event in that country. “I’m going to retire in March 2017 and plan on doing more than the two or three walks a year I’ve been doing while working full-time.” 

A member of the American Volkssport Association (AVA), Dolores also helps organise the IML Freedom Walk in Arlington, Virginia, and has walked in all 14 Freedom Walks held to date. Just like our walk, the Freedom Walk features the sights of a national capital — in this case Washington, D.C.

As a volunteer on the IML Board, she helps out with the IML newsletter and social media. “Hopefully, when I’m retired, I can step it up to assist IML President Marc Muller who is doing so much for the organisation.”

She has completed the AVA’s Centurion Achievement Challenge twice already and is working towards her third award patch. The Centurion program requires a walker to participate in 100 IVV events in a single calendar year.

“Walking is my passion,” states Dolores, “but I run an occasional half- or full-marathon. I’m not breaking any running records but my job requires a certain amount of physical fitness.” She has been employed with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office for the past 24 years. “It has been a challenging time for law enforcement in the United States over the past few years,” Dolores notes. “I am thankful for my time of service but feel it is time to let the younger law enforcement officers take on the new challenges.”

In her leisure time she likes to garden and read as well as do a little skiing. Dolores is also a grandmother of six and has encouraged her grandchildren to walk with her. “I enjoy time walking stateside AVA events with them. All but the youngest have their IVV walking books,” she says proudly.

Her oldest grandson, Devin aged 14, really likes the Volksbiking IVV-sanctioned events. “In 2014 we completed the C&O Canal route of 185 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown, Washington, DC, in five days,” she smiles. “Great memories.”


Meet our walkers: Maria and Paul from the Netherlands

A man and a woman in front of a sign for Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins.

Maria and Paul will be walking in Rotorua (19-20 March) and in Canberra for the fifth time this year. Their previous visits were in 1999, 2006, 2010, and 2013.

Paul has one sister and two brothers living in Australia so they enjoy being with family as part of their visit. “But we also like to see a different environment and meet other walkers,” says Maria. “You meet other walkers who you see again at other events and even if you do not speak their language, you can still be friends.”

Maria has some school friends who emigrated to New Zealand “so it is nice to be able to visit there as well, as the walking events are close together we can do it on the same trip.”

The couple live in the Province of North Braband, in the township of Deurne, a municipal area comprising several small towns and approximately 30,000 residents.

They had already been walking in international events throughout Europe before the IML was established in 1986. “Our scope of international walking was extended once we joined the IML,” Paul notes. “Apart from Israel, China, Indonesia, and Lithuania, we have walked everywhere there is an IML walk.” Some of those countries include Canada, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the United States.

The pair walk regularly in certain locales such as nearby Nijmegen where Maria has walked 42 times and Paul 27 times. When Paul is not walking, he sets up his caravan beside the day four route and offers drinks to the walkers. They have also walked more than 30 times in Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. In 2014 they received their IML 150 medal award [for completing 450 walks] in Fulda, Germany.

At home, they have been members of the Limburg area of the KNBLO, the national walking association of the Netherlands, since 1961. The Royal Netherlands Walking Association organises the Nijmegen Four Day Walk which will celebrate its 100th event this year on 19-22 July. Walkers may choose from 30, 40 or 50 kilometre routes each day.

They have been members of the Wiehengebirgsverband Osnabruck in Wesser, Germany, for 48 years, and the Fulda Walk Club in Germany for 19 years. The duo even led their own walking group from 1961 to 1993.

Paul and Maria are extremely keen walkers, racking up 1,000 kilometres annually. “In our walking books, we have records for more than 50,000 kilometres so far.”

Apart from normal walking events, we also do long distance walking. Our longest trek was from Deurne to Lourdes in southern France where we walked about 1,300 kilometres over 40 days with a full backpack,” Paul adds. Long distance walking usually features routes of 160 kilometres or more over a number of days. There are also events like the Kennedy Marches where walkers must complete 80 kilometers within 20 hours.

When they aren’t walking, they enjoy bicycling. “In our younger days we also did a lot of swimming,” Maria recalls. She volunteers with the Red Cross while Paul assists numerous people with completing their tax forms and answering correspondence.

Four adult walkers seated and one man standing in front of a caravan.

Four Australian walkers enjoying Paul’s hospitality during the Nijmegen walk.




Meet our walkers: Bernd Ehls from Germany

Photo of man sitting next to sign that says Chengdu 2015.Bernd was the first person to register for our 25th walking event and will be joining us for the fourth time in 2016.

But before he arrives in Canberra, he will walk in his 270th IML event — the 19-20 March IML walk in Rotorua, New Zealand — and receive award number 90. [IML awards are based on a series of three walks. For example, after completing your first three events you would receive award number one; after your second set of three events, award number two, and so on.]

How does he do it? “I am walking nearly 15 IML events each year, all over the world,” Bernd explains. He completed his 269th IML event in Barcelona, Spain, last November.

Bernd participated in his first IML walk 28 years ago in Bern, Switzerland. “In 1992, I became a Master Walker in Japan,” he continues. “My award number was 156.” A Master Walker has completed walks in the eight founding IML member countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, Japan and Switzerland.

He travelled to Chengu, China, last September, to participate in the IVV Olympiad. This celebration of Volkssports is held every second year in the country of an IVV member. Olympiad events include walking, swimming, biking, and sometimes other non-competitive sports. Additional social and cultural activities encourage mutual understanding and friendships among those who attend.

“I stayed in the Sichuan Jinjing Hotel, in the center of the city. Wonderful rooms with box spring beds,” he recalls. The breakfast was nearly like at home and so was dinner and lunch.”

This was Bernd’s third trip to China. In 2006 he walked in Dalian and in 2014 he walked in Beijing/Zhaitang. “I think I have to report that at the first time of my stay in China I did not get coffee at all. Only green tea, which was formidable to me. But this time there was everything!”

The Chengu gathering was the 14th IVV Olympiad. Although not an actual IML event, walkers who completed at least 20 kilometres per day were entitled to an IML stamp.

“Chengu is a very big city with many cars and motorcycles, but all the motorcycles had electric motors,” Bernd remembers. “The drive on the event bus through the city to the start area took one hour. On the first day there was an Opening Celebration about two hours long with speeches, dances and songs. Participants from all nations walked behind their flag in the hall to the stage.”

Walkers could choose from 6km, 11km, 22km or a 42km marathon. Biking distances were 6km, 11km, or 22km. Swimming distances were 300 metres or 1000 metres.

“Every day the route was the same through the Egret Bay Wetlands Park on concrete ways. Sometimes we walked on the normal road with many cars but there was a policeman or soldier every 50 to 100 metres to ensure the walkers stayed safe. But not so fine was that walkers and bikers used the same routes. I was told there were 20,000 walkers from all over the world!”

Bernd walked 22km four times, biked 22km twice and swam 300 metres. Amazingly, he has participated in all 14 Olympiads!


Four days in France: the Randonnee de 4 Jours in Chantonnay

A photo of a man with signposts overhead.IML walker Anthony (Tom) Buykx has participated in 18 of our C2DW events. He has also walked in 20 other IML countries including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and the USA.

A walker for over 60 years, Tom enjoys the IML walks for many reasons including his friendship with other walkers, a sense of achievement at the end of each walk, the experience of visiting other countries and his collection of IML medals and awards.

A member of the Catholic Walking Club of Victoria, a bushwalking group, he has completed more than 20 walks with his club so far this year. An earlier version of this story appeared in the August 2015 edition of the Catholic Walker, the CWCV newsletter.

R4JCV, the Randonnee de 4 Jours en Chantonnay Vendee, is a four-day IML walk around Chantonnay in the Vendee department of France. Chantonnay is a country town (about 8,600 inhabitants) in western France, about 1 and 3/4 hours by train and bus from the historical city of Nantes.

Every year, commencing on Ascension Thursday (a public holiday in France), the town is host to walkers from all over Europe, with a sprinkling of visitors from further away. I think I was the only one from down under in 2015. Earlier this year, at the IML walks in Rotorua and Canberra, I had met a French walker who rekindled my interest in the Chantonnay walks which I had done once before, in 2008.

And so I arrived in Chantonnay on Tuesday, 12 May 2015. Because I had made my travel arrangements fairly late, I had been unable to get accommodation in town. Thus I finished up in a hotel five kilometres out of town, in a wonderful setting on the shore of a lake. In this hotel I happened to meet the same Frenchman again. He kindly offered me transport to and from the start/finish.

Each day there were five routes, three of which qualified as IML walks. I opted for the 21km/day routes. The walks all began well out of town so each morning several buses lined up to take walkers to their starting points. The walkers’ guidebook showed very simple sketch maps of the routes, but they were all so well sign-posted that maps were not necessary.

Alongside the narrower paths and tracks the grass had been cut to facilitate the walking and in a few fields a path had been cut through the growing crop. There was much variety in the countryside here: grassy meadows with cream-coloured cows, ploughed brown fields with young green plants coming up, here and there a vineyard, patches of forest, a lake, a stream. The country is quite undulating, the roads and tracks are often hedged with shrubs and trees, and if not hedged they provide lovely views.

Every six or seven kilometres there was a rest area and/or checkpoint. The rest areas (“ravito” in the local lingo, an abbreviation of “ravitaillement”) were well set up with tables full of fruit, chocolate, brioches (a bakery product that is not quite bread and not quite cake, but very nice), muesli bars and drinks (but no cups!) all for free. Walkers had to provide their own cups, and to promote this the organising walking club sold quite nice souvenir cups for a few euros each. The entry fee was 24 euros.

On Ascension Thursday, 14 May, we started from somewhere south of Chantonnay. It was overcast and there was some rain from time to time. Some of the tracks were quite muddy, but everyone seemed to cope with the conditions. The route passed only one village, and then really only its outlying houses.

In the afternoon, the weather cleared up nicely. By then I had reached the finish in the local park, where walkers received a “sandwich”, a drink and an apple. The local brass band provided entertainment and the local traders had set up stalls to supply more food and drink. There was a happy atmosphere, just like we have in Canberra at the end of each day, but with many more people. I was glad to catch up with several walkers whom I had met on previous IML walks in other countries.

On Friday, 15 May, the buses took us to a point west of Chantonnay. The first part of the walk was along the forested edge of a large artificial lake. There were people fishing in the lake and camping on the shore. Fishing and hunting are popular pastimes in France — along the tracks I often noticed signs advising vigilance in the hunting season.

The second “ravito” was in the grounds of Chateau l’Auneau where the owner had three vintage cars on display. This property and several other areas we walked through were clearly marked as only open for the day of the walk.

After my return to the park I watched a local folk dance group, mostly senior citizens, go through their elegant paces. I met up again with my French friend, but now to say “au revoir” because he had to be home over the weekend. To get back to my hotel, and for transport on the Saturday and Sunday, I had already put the hard word on the driver of a busload of Belgian walkers and he readily allowed me to travel with them. Yes, walking unites us — “nos jungat ambulare” is the motto the IML.

On Saturday, 16 May, we commenced our walk somewhere northwest of Chantonnay. In anticipation of a forecast sunny day I had bought sunscreen in town, but it was overcast all day. The day’s route was through gently undulating farmland with fields of wheat, barley, oats, rye, and canola. It was very open country and I did not mind the cloud cover. There were two villages on our route, but, as the other day, we did not go through them, only their outskirts. I think it might have been nicer to walk through the village centres, to see their streetscapes, squares, churches and Saturday busy-ness.

At one point we came to and walked alongside a railway line until we had to cross. it. A marshal was stationed here to guide us. There were two ways to do it, he said, but one of them was illegal — over the embankment and rail track. The other was through a culvert under the line. There were steps to get into and out of it, but with only about 1.2 metres [four feet] from wet floor to stony ceiling it was not easy to get through. I was not the only one to knock my head painfully.

The day’s entertainment in the park was provided by a dance group from Barcelona, a city only fairly recently admitted to the IML. There was also a stall where one could sample Spanish goodies, sausages and wine, a good promotion for their walking event.

On Sunday, 17 May, we had our first perfectly sunny day which was wonderful. We were taken east of Chantonnay and started walking at Lake Rochereau. The water was very still with lovely reflections, including those of Chateau Launay. After crossing a tributary flowing into the lake we made our way up to the chateau and the first “ravito” for the day in a barn in its grounds. Once again we skirted the outer parts of a village, this one Sigournais, and eventually we walked back through the centre of Chantonnay to the finish. There were many family groups walking the shorter distances this day, obviously enjoying a good Sunday outing.

At the finished I received a medal and a certificate and had my IML passport stamped. [Note: In all IML events the participant has to walk every day of the event. Most IML walks are run over two days, but some take place over three or even four days.] On the lawns of the park there were signs in the shape of old mileposts showing the names of other IML towns and their distances from Chantonnay. Of course, Canberra and Rotorua were the most distant. This afternoon the local pipe band (bagpipes are not exclusively Caledonian) made themselves heard, albeit not quite like the Scotch do it.

The following day I travelled to the other side of France for a six-day walk in the Jura Mountains near the Swiss border. [But that’s another story ….]

A photo of Lake Rochereau in France.

Lake Rochereau



Czech walkers to visit Canberra

Six overseas walkers from the Czech Republic will be joining our walk this March. Most of the group are members of IVV and/or IML.

Their visit to Canberra will come towards the end of their 19-day tour of Australia, after seeing the sights in and around Cairns, Alice Springs, and Sydney.

Two members of the group will receive IML awards at Sunday afternoon’s ceremony. Walk group leader Jiri Nasinec will be awarded the Pan Pacific walker clip for walking in eight different Pan Pacific countries. Maria Blahova has earned the Pan Pacific clip and also the Global Walker clip for walking 10 different walks in the European region as well as participating in eight different Pan Pacific events.

Jiri is a member of the Novy Bor walking club. “Every week, from spring to autumn, there are walks for people in many places in the Czech Republic,” he says, adding, “We regularly walk in our country and also in different countries. We have done almost all IML walks.”

Tourists travel to Novy Bor to visit the many small glass factories where they can watch artisans blow, paint, cut and engrave glass. The Luzice Mountain region is also popular with hikers and skiers.