Interesting Articles on the Aussie Peace Walk Website

AussieWalk members and friends contribute many stories for the Aussie Peace Walk website. Here is a list of some of these stories:

How It All Began and Harry & Kathleen’s IML Adventure – dating back to 1990. Sadly Harry passed away in 2021 but his legacy lives on.

Meet a Master Walker – Elisabeth’s achievement in walking every one of the currently active IML walks (subsequent to this article she has now also completed the newest IML walk in Croatia).

Meet IML Walkers Yvonne & Jamie – what would have been a one-off event in Canberra that has turned in to a love of the IML through the friends they have made along the way.

Walking For Pleasure – combining a social outlet with physical activity for those who live in the Canberra and surrounding regions.

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: Lachlan Wilkinson from Adelaide

A man sitting on a wall in Cinque Terre, Italy.

Lachlan enjoying the Cinque Terre, Italy.

Past C2DW President Lachlan Wilkinson relates his involvement with our event.

It was a sign behind the driver on a bus back in 1996 that started me on this journey. The sign was advertising something called the ‘Canberra Medal Walk’. As a keen walker newly-arrived in Canberra, I needed to find out more. I did, and entered the 30-kilometre walk in 1997.

By this time, I had also joined the ACT Race Walking Club (now ACT Walkers) and learnt how to race walk. I thought I was in pretty good shape and this distance wouldn’t be problem, particularly as I was going to stroll over the event, rather than use the race walking technique. I struck up a conversation with a couple of walkers at the front of the group and we finished together, but those last 10 kilometres were hard! That night, in an experience familiar to many of our walkers, I lay in bed with aching muscles wondering how I could possibly do it again the next day. I made it, but did more distance training before the 1998 walk!

I encouraged a few other race walkers to give it a go and a number became regular participants. To stay in the spirit of the event, none actually used the race walking technique but walkers such as Robin Whyte were still always among the first to finish. Around this time, Robin became a Centurion by walking 100 miles in 24 hours, inspiring several others in the ACT Walkers to also have a go at ultra-distance events.

Shortly after, I walked part of the Two Day Walk with someone called Carol. I commented that she seemed to have an efficient style and good endurance and she should come along to some of the ACT Walkers events. I got a taste of what an understatement that was in August 1999, just after my 40th birthday, when Carol passed me in the last kilometre of our first 50-kilometre race walking event. (For the record, I finished in 5 hours 57 minutes — only two hours off an Olympic qualifying time.) Of course, Carol Baird then went on to complete the Centurion distance 10 or more times and set a number of Australian records! She marked the Two Day Walk course for many years.

I was also giving ultra-distance walking a go, not quite with the success of Carol, but I did manage to walk 100 kilometres in just over 14 hours and complete several 12-hour events. In the last couple of years that the Gosford Coastal 12-hour Classic was held, we had a team of around 10 ACT walkers making the trek, several of whom — Robin, Carol, Val Chesterton, Doug Fitzgerald, Geoff Barker, Val Moran (apologies to anyone I missed) — were also Two Day walkers. We received the strangest looks when we all shuffled in slow motion into a club the night after the event for a meal. Lucky that wasn’t a two-day event!

Harry Berg indicated that he intended to stand down after the 15th Two Day Walk. I was initially reluctant to put my hand up as I was already the secretary of ACT Walkers. However, by this time, I was convinced this fabulous event needed to keep going. I caved in only about an hour before the AGM when it was clear no one else was going to nominate!

While there were plenty of challenges over the six years I served as President, I didn’t regret my decision to stand. I had a great committee, with the Bergs still actively involved. We introduced the marathon and streamlined the event by moving to a three-year cycle.

In a master stroke, I encouraged Diana Marshall to join the committee, conveniently providing me with a successor! There were frustrations — foremost of those was the inability to grow our walker numbers. I have always thought that our event should be far more popular than it is. I look with some envy at events like the Seven Bridges in Sydney that attract many thousands of walkers. It is difficult with small volunteer-run events and walkers who take part in the now Canberra Walking Festival should appreciate the effort put in by committee members.

In 2012, my wife and I decided we would move on from Canberra after 16 years and I stood down as President. In the end, we left just after the 2013 walk, moving to Adelaide where I commenced a job with an environmental consultancy firm, JBS&G Australia (we work on environmental assessments and approvals and Diana can provide my contact details if you need our services!)

My Canberra Two Day Walk Association obligations weren’t quite over as I spent several months mapping out an IVV walk to show some highlights of the city of Adelaide. I’m pretty happy with the route so come and give it a go if you haven’t already. Give me a call and I might be able to walk it with you.

Anyway, I’ll be back this year for the 25th anniversary (and the 19th time I’ve taken part). An advantage of no longer being on the committee is that I can walk with everyone else. It’s been a few years since I last walked an ultra event, so I need to get in a bit of training over the next few weeks to be able to manage the marathon (Saturday) and 30km (Sunday) without excruciating pain. I still think it’s a fabulous event given the ability to see parts of Canberra others never experience and enjoy the company of walkers from around the world. I hope many more Canberrans soon realise what a great event they have on their doorstep.

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.

Meet our walkers: Gary and Marietta Pritchard from Alabama

Man and woman standing in front of sign for Port of Mount Dora.

Marietta and Gary Pritchard in Mount Dora, Florida.

Although this will be their second visit to Canberra, Americans Gary and Marietta Pritchard will be participating in our walk for the first time. “Canberra was the first national capital city in the world where we walked,” said Marietta.

While planning their 2013 trip, the pair reviewed the IVV website for information about IVV events in Australia. They contacted Walking Festival organisers Harry and Kathleen Berg for more specifics. “Kathleen was VERY helpful with information that first-timer walkers in Australia need,” Gary noted.

The couple enjoyed a cruise from Auckland to Sydney and then around Australia. During their first visit to Sydney they completed the two year-round IVV walks: the 12 km historical Sydney city walk around Darling Harbour, the Rocks, and the Botanic Gardens, and the 14 km Manly Scenic Walkway. Both these walks were established by the Canberra Two Day Walk Association and are sanctioned by the IVV as being eligible for credit towards IVV Achievement Awards.

When the ship returned to Sydney at the end of the voyage, Gary and Marietta travelled to Canberra to meet the Bergs. “Kathleen and Harry picked us up from our Canberra hotel to walk around Lake Tuggeranong and Lake Ginninderra,” Gary related. They completed the 30 km around Lake Burley Griffin in one day and also joined one of our marshalls’ walks around the eastern basin and the Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

The couple also journeyed to Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the Red Centre. On the return domestic flight, Gary tasted his first ever Australian meat pie. “I liked it SO MUCH that from then on all I wanted was meat pies.”

After that, they returned to New Zealand to walk their first IML event in Rotorua. “Our original plan was to walk both New Zealand and Australia to get only IVV credit,” recalled Gary. “We didn’t plan on doing the Two Day Walk because we could get our Australian IVV credit by doing the year-round events. But after meeting Kathleen, Harry, Diana Marshall and a lot of other walkers we promised we would return.”

At home in Alabama, the couple are members of the Capital City Wanderers, a walking club affiliated with the American Volkssport Association (AVA). During the year, the club hosts year-round events in the cities of Athens, Birmingham, Huntsville, and Montebello, as well as two year-round events in Montgomery, the state capital.

Each autumn the club organises a multi-walk event with walks in four to six of the state’s counties [a political administrative division]. “The goal for walkers is to eventually complete a walk in all of Alabama’s 64 counties,” Gary explained.

Over a six-week period this year, the two have completed 68 of the 70 year-round IVV events in Florida, and will finish this series of walks by mid-February. “We are currently walking two 10 km walks a day which is 140 km a week,” Gary stated, adding, “When we’re home we probably walk 30 km a week.”

The Pritchards are now on their way back to Alabama for yet more walking. Each February the Wanderers join the Georgia Walkers to co-host a multi-event weekend of walking, swimming and bicycle-riding events. On the same President’s Day weekend [13-16 February], the Pensacola Volksmarch Club offers seven additional walks. That’s a total of 21 separate events, according to Gary, which makes for “a REAL walkapalooza weekend!!!”

Marietta and Gary are also members of the IML and have completed events in Italy, New Zealand the the USA.

The retired couple enjoy walking and planning trips to do more walking. Gary also has the unusual hobby of collecting US National Park cancellation stamps.

“I’m going to enjoy the 20% discount on everything in Australia this year. At least I hope the exchange rate is still as good as it is right now. The last time we visited it took more than a US dollar to get an Australian dollar,” Gary recollected. “I just keep thinking about those cheaper PIES.”

Meet our walkers: Yvonne Morris and Jamie Stewart

Man and woman standing near a blue banner in the Czech Republic.

Yvonne and Jamie at the Czech Republic IML walk held in Brno last September.

At this year’s Canberra Walking Festival awards ceremony Yvonne Morris and Jamie Stewart will receive the gold IML medal for completing 21 IML walk events, including seven Two Day Walks in the national capital.

In addition to Australia, the couple has walked in China, the Czech Republic, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Spain, Taiwan, and the United States.

They learned about the IML Walking Association during their first Canberra Two Day Walk in 2009. “When we saw the list of countries holding IML events we realized we could combine our love of walking and our desire for travelling,” Jamie explained. “Wonderful!”

About this time, Yvonne reconnected with a school friend who now lived in Arlington, Virginia, USA. The following year they visited the friend and participated in the US Freedom Walk Festival. “After each day’s walking we showed her the photos and maps of where we had walked,” remembers Yvonne. “It was a magical holiday.”

Their next walk was in Rotorua, New Zealand, where they met a new friend from the Arlington walk. The first page of their IML passports was complete.

After deciding to walk for the IML Pan Pacific Award, the couple made many new friends in Korea, Japan and Taiwan. “Walking overseas is more than being ‘just another tourist.’ It is about making new friends, catching up with old friends, being outside in the countryside and sometimes rain,” explains Jamie. “Everyone is friendly and helpful, even if we don’t speak each other’s language.”

Their walking adventures began 10 years ago when the pair trained for three 100-kilometre Oxfam events. “During the training we discovered the joy of walking,” Yvonne remembers. “We found that walking was bringing us closer together as we left the mundane chores of day-to-day life at home.”

They decided to search the web for other long-distance walking events and found our Aussiewalk website.

The Melbourne residents enjoy visiting Canberra in the autumn. “It’s good to leave everything behind for a couple of days,” says Yvonne. “We love walking around the lake.” They walk the 30 km Loop the Lake route on Saturday and the 20 km route on Sunday.

Because Yvonne is a medical scientist shift worker with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, the pair rarely walk together during the week. “We know that we can walk the distances,” notes Jamie, an account supervisor with RGIS, an inventory service provider.

The Canberra Two Day walk is an accredited event of the IML Walking Association, an international organisation that promotes walking as a worthwhile and healthy recreation by accrediting specific walking events in its member countries. The IML motto is “May walking bring us together.”