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.