It started months ago with a flippant comment. Of course, I’d love to join you on a 40km walk. The weeks wore on, and I hoped that it would be forgotten.
But, no. The week before last, as everyone left our BBQ, Cousin Liena reminded me of my agreement. I had the perfect excuse, we had no licences! I couldn’t get there…… No problems, Liena reminded me, it was but a wee 2 hour train ride!
I thought of all the excuses, but then the taunts started. Finally, I cracked. I was going to do this damn walk, and I was going to annoy Cousin Liena the whole way.
Dave shouted me some new hiking boots (a secret desire that I’ve had for a while, some daydream about doing some hiking on the weekends). I was nervous. I was sooooo nervous. My 80 year old uncle walks 50km for a laugh, quite a few times a week!
|I think the flesh coloured socks are particularly becoming!|
Thankfully, my other cousin from Canada – Megan, had also been suckered in.
After a fabulous dinner in Amsterdam, I caught the train (collecting Megan along the way) to Renswoude, the birthplace of my mother. Liena collected us and like any good cousin would do, took us straight to the local pub (which also happens to be owned by my cousin and her husband). A few beers and a wine later, we meandered home for a respectable bed time of 1130.
|My last supper, Wan Tan Noodle Soup from Nam Kee|
Originally, I was going to start 10km in but Liena ‘suggested’ in her own ‘encouraging’ way that I start now and if I have to, I could bail out at 30km.
Everyone arrived at our place around 830. After a coffee and some introductions, off we went.
It was mostly family with a few keen walkers thrown in.
At this stage, you may ask.. ‘What’s the point?’, ‘Was it for charity?’ or a race? No, it is my wacky family’s idea of a good time…… It’s an annual thing.
First 10km – walk in the park, loving it. Laughing, making jokes, having a wonderful chat.
First stop. Tante Janny’s. My mothers sister. Coffee, cake and an embarrassing misunderstanding (will blog about that) and more walkers joined.
10km – 20km, still having fun. Ome Marius picks the pace up and we’re okay with that, I’m ready for this to finish.
|All smiles around the 15km mark|
20km we have lunch. This is so well organised, friends of Liena rocked up with fruit and chairs and drinks. So nice. Tante Lien made delicious snacks. It was such a well organised day. We are joined here by my little cousin Sandor. He’s got wee little legs but he kept up and at times overtook us. He finished the entire walk (23kms or so)
|Lunch stop, I’m hiding behind Ome Marius – he’s a legend|
My confidence started to wain when the group stopped and debated which track to take. Seriously, if we go the wrong way (and there were tales of years past where they took 5km detours) I will sit down and not move.
It was also a little concerning that we had to walk through the military training zone. A few years ago, they were advised to avoid certain areas as the army were training with live ammunition. My family REALLY love their walking.
|The massive boom gate may have given it away|
We take a little time to look at Radio Kootwijk – an area where back in the day, the Dutch could get a radio signal with the rest of the world. There was a photo exhibition and a toilet.
Megan and I take advantage of the loo. Come out, and lo and behold, the group had left. We spot Cousin Hans’ orange shirt at least half a kilometre away. Seriously?! One pee and you’re dropped?
They prove to be a cut throat bunch, about 4km from Radio Kootwijk we receive a call that we’ve left Ome Jan there. Everyone keeps walking, no one offers to stop or go back or get a car to collect him (I later find out that he had already started walking and was only 15 minutes behind us).
20km – 34km, feeling fine. Can feel the pain and am looking forward to a shower.
STOP. We had some fries and some cola. Decision time, do I bail out here or continue. I am feeling confident, let’s go.
|My wee little trooper of a cousin in the background|
34km – 38km, sitting at the lead with the veterans (keen for this nightmare to finish).
38km, tears forming in my eyes
38.1km, we hit the only hills in Holland
38.5km, dragging my right leg
38.6km, each step makes me wince
Megan and I make a deal not to complain.
We had Cousin Gonda joined us at 34km. She skips up to me, looking like she just stepped out of the shower, hair clean and flowing in the wind, big smiles and asks me how I’m going. I tell her. Her lack of sympathy makes me want to punch her in the head, I have no energy to do that, lucky her. (I love her to bits, and I love the beer and snacks she put on after the walk)
38.7km – 43.25km, Cousin Hans (by MARRIAGE!) thinks it’s hilarious to tell me that there’s only 1km left (for the last 5).
38.7km – lost my sense of humour.
FINALLY, we arrive. My legs give out, I cannot see straight and I am still wondering why?!
Ome Marius throws me a wink and I realise that he’s proud of me. I see Liena peel off her socks to reveal blisters and she throws me a knowing look. Uh-oh, I’m part of the crew now.
Everyone keeps saying “the first time is the hardest, it’ll be better next year”. WHO ARE THEY KIDDING!???? NEXT YEAR?!! Ha ha ha ha ha. I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. I have tried it, conquered it and realised that walking 40km is not my thing.
A beer later and I still have a 2 hour train journey home.
Footnote: It was a great time to chat with family, practice my Dutch with old ones, practice English for the younger ones. I met some new family and connected with ones I haven’t seen in ages.
In all seriousness though, I WILL NEVER EVER EVER DO THIS AGAIN!
Special mention to Liena, Hans, Rob, Gonda and Ome Marius for their super ‘special’ encouragement. Not to be confused with harrassment.