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.”