29 April: Madrid

Destination: Madrid
Daily Distance: nearly 20,000km from home
Cumulative Distance: 0km – none of it counts
Distance To Go: 1,000km
Walking time:
Weather: 20*C, deliciously warm….light dusting of snow on distant hills
Dinner: empanada and salad, choc mousse

Looking somewhat less perky at Madrid Airport than in the photo at Auckland Airport 36 hours earlier!

All the way from Sydney to Dubai we remained engulfed in darkness. Via the onboard realtime route tracker, we watched dawn come to New Zealand, and thought of everyone getting up and going off to work (and driver’s license test). We watched as we flew over Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and the Cameron Highlands. We watched our approach to India, at first looking like we would be going straight over Kyle and Kaleisha as they slept, but eventually taking a more northern route flying over Mumbai instead. As we ate breakfast, still in the dark, we thought of the NZ crew tucking into lunch. The route from Dubai to Madrid was certainly not as the crow would fly, but we don’t object to detours that avoid warring Middle Eastern and African countries.

The last 1,000km went very fast; much faster than we are about to walk the same distance! In fact, as we saw the country sprawl beneath us, the enormity of the task sank in.
“Can you imagine walking all the way to the horizon?” I asked the boys. Their looks of disbelief turned to understanding as they realised that is in fact effectively what we are going to do.


Thus, we found ourselves in Spain.
The overly optimistic plan to visit the Museo del Prado from 6-8 was revised to let’s-go-and-find-some-food, and was accompanied by a spontaneous dropping in to a church we happened upon, both to marvel at the wonders inside and to thank God for bringing us this far and to dedicate the rest of the walk to Him.


Ciabatta, tomato, ham, cheese, choc croissants, yoghurt, spring strawbs, an empanada and a choc pud for old times’ sake, all for under 10 euros.


28 April


Destination: ultimately Madrid
Daily Distance: negligible
Cumulative Distance: 0km
Distance To Go: 1,000km
Walking time: a few minutes round airports and up and down plane aisles
Weather: showery

“The last few minutes of going away from home are never easy, even if you know right where you’re going and when you’re coming back.”
– Ralph Moody, Shaking the Nickle Bush

But actually it wasn’t too bad.
And by the time we got to Sydney we were supremely impressed to hear that two loads of washing had been put on at home as well as kefir and a poolish for bread….serious domestication.

They’re off

At a quarter past midnight a MAS plane took off from Auckland, bound for Kuala Lumpur and on to Bangalore. In far too recent history a MAS plane disappeared without trace. Just last week one on the KL to Bangalore leg had to turn back due to a blown out tyre, though at the time no-one knew why they had just veered dramatically off course. And at the same time, other friends were travelling back from Nepal and their luggage disappeared just like the first plane.
Two kiwi kids on last night’s flight are hoping for a more successful outcome.
Those two kids have not travelled alone before. They have travelled fairly extensively, but as they pointed out to us (their parents), they have only ever had to follow. We, the parents, always knew which gate to turn up at, which train platform to look for, how much money to carry, how to find cheap food, what to write on the various forms that are part and parcel of travelling, what to do when something went wrong. Sure, they were sent down to the bakery to buy bread in Bulgaria and Poland on their own, but that’s not quite the same!

Family Photo_50We’re confident they’ll be fine. They’re probably less confident than before we gave them the How To Keep Yourself Safe talk. Before that they didn’t even realise there were so many ways to be unsafe!
They didn’t realise they might have to feel rude refusing a little old lady who begs them to carry a teddy bear for her at the airport (“Yes, Kaleisha, you might feel rude, but you have to absolutely insist that you cannot take it for her, no matter how sad her story or how delightful she tells you that you are. You must refuse. You can take her to the information desk, but you must not take the teddy bear, or parcel or bag or whatever she might want to give you.”)
Kyle didn’t realise he will be standing guard outside public toilets and that he will go in to the ladies if his sister has not emerged after an agreed-upon time and she doesn’t reply to his calls. Yes, he will make a scene if he needs to.
He didn’t realise he would have to wake up in the middle of the night and accompany his sis to the loo if she wants to go and they don’t have a private ensuite.
They didn’t realise that while they were sleeping comfortably on the many overnight trains we have taken, that their mother was hugging a bumbag full of ten passports and tickets and a camera to boot. Now it will be their turn.
All these things that you *just know* as an adult and carry round at the back of your head sound ominous when you spell them out to your kids. But better safe than sorry. And hopefully they’re just fearful enough to take seriously the warnings we have given and to look out for each other, to be alert, to remember to be aware.

More than all that, though, we hope they go with open eyes and open hearts. That they be willing to be touched by the people they meet, to be challenged by what they see, to align their future lives differently than they might have if they had just stayed in comfortable suburbia with the assurance of friends for three months. Seven years ago we were planning a trip that we hoped would open their eyes and hearts…



It seems it did! Neither Kyle nor Kaleisha actually wanted to leave our kiwi shores when we first made the suggestion. In fact, there may have even been some foot stomping. Real, actual foot stomping. Accompanied by spoken words which they informed us were said in capital letters and followed by exclamation marks. We didn’t make them go, we just asked them to consider the possibility. And they opened their hearts.
Now there is tension for me as their mother. I want them to be safe. But I want them to be willing to risk everything, too.
May this be the beginning of two lives abandoned…..actually, make that another step towards eight lives lived for others….

lent to us for a season,  go out and make an impact

lent to us for a season,
go out and make an impact




Spain Sept 22 Palas de Rei (41)

according to Wikipedia….

The Way of St. James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, together with Rome and Jerusalem, and a pilgrimage route on which a plenary indulgence could be earned.

Legend holds that St. James‘s remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where he was buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.

The Way can take one of any number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Traditionally, as with most pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James began at one’s home and ended at the pilgrimage site. However a few of the routes are considered main ones. During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled. However, the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation and political unrest in 16th-century Europe led to its decline. By the 1980s, only a few pilgrims per year arrived in Santiago. Later, the route attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from around the globe. The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987; it was also named one of UNESCO‘s World Heritage Sites.

A few pilgrims per year arriving in Santiago. That was thirty years ago.
During August 2013 46,728 pilgrims arrived in Santiago.

CaminoHistory is an ongoing story.


Traditionally pilgrims used to get a scallop shell and attach it to their bundle of worldly possessions as they headed home from Santiago. A burgeoning tourist trade means you can purchase shells all the way along the Camino now, and it has become common for pilgrims to dangle a shell off their pack as they walk TO Santiago (and let’s face it, precious few pilgrims walk home again these days – in fact, having walked over 800km, most don’t even walk the 10km to the airport, but take the bus instead!)
I embroidered a shell for our first Camino.

And when we were out on our most memorable training walk Levi found a pile of scallop shells in the bushes. He requisitioned enough for us all.



We’ve been told we’re crazy, that walking 1,000km is crazy. Now I can’t say I think the walk is crazy, although I am guilty as charged on the other count, the personal one. And it would seem the kids are equally crazy; here they are having what will probably turn out to be the last swim of the season (just before they turned blue).
5pm, just before sunset, after Easter (and a late one at that), a record, nothing less than crazy!

what if?

2012-09-11 Joe Spain 019

What if?

What if it rains every day for a month or there is still snow when we arrive?
What if I try too many pin numbers or use the wrong account and the ATM swallows my card?
What if we get lost?
What if someone gets hurt?
What if something happens to one of the kids in India while we are in Spain?
What if I can’t work out how to use the phone apps in a different country, the ones I tried out at home and it seemed doable sitting on my comfy bed?
What if we hit a path like the one in the picture above and it’s not a bright fine day? – when we walked those rocks, we were thankful that they were not wet and slippery.
What if our packs are still not light enough, even after ditching everything we don’t consider necessary?
What if we don’t make the 1,000km? What if it was too ambitious for the 8-year-old?

More than one person has told me I’m so brave.
I’m not brave really. Brave would go off into Alaska in the middle of winter. That’s not me.
Brave would swim with crocodiles or jump out of aeroplanes. I’m not that kind of brave.
We’re going for a walk, a long walk, but nonetheless, at the end of the day (or many days) it’s just a walk. We don’t have to organise drop boxes filled with supplies, we don’t have to carry a tent, we won’t have to fend off wild animals (I hope), there’ll be a bed each evening and meals in bars and washing facilities and very little risk.
But I do have some teeny apprehensions. I’m not as confident as you tell me I appear. The main one is the distance. If this were just a holiday and everyone got bored with walking or someone broke a leg, we could simply hire a car and zip round Spain seeing the sights until our flight back to NZ. But this is a commitment. We have said we’ll go at least 1,000km. It’s not a burden, but I do carry it as a responsibility. I just hope it doesn’t make my pack too heavy. I know I will feel lighter the day we make it to 1,000. The outcome is largely out of our control, and so in that sense we walk in faith. I imagine it will be a journey that challenges us, stretches us, binds us. I look forward to that, and I put aside my what ifs, put my trust in God, put on a brave face even.

Spain Sept 10 060

microcosmic walk


In a week, I’ll be heading off towards ten days of hiking with the two youngest boys. Two weeks later Daddy will turn up to join us with the two little girls. The Romantic Me says us-original-three will be strengthened after our jaunt through the mountains, ready to take on the world. The Realistic Me whispers we may well be sore and tired, while the newly-arrived-three will be fresh and full of energy.
It might be like last Saturday. I set off with the little kids, Daddy had to fix a computer for a friend. After some time he drove towards where he expected us to be, parked the car and came striding up behind us. Then promptly left us in the dust. Let’s change that to “left me and one child in the dust”. The other three desperately wanted to keep up with him. Walk three steps, run four, walk three, run four. While they were doing admirably, I was aware that they needed to complete more than a half-marathon, and as our training has been limited to walking and not running, I wondered aloud about choosing that longest walk to take up running.
The child who was walking with me at our not-unrespectable-more-than-5km-per-hour pace and I made our guesses as to who would be the first to fall behind. It didn’t take long. One has a propensity to “get the stitch” and this time was to be no exception.
“I know you want to walk with Daddy, but his legs are just so long, look how far they take him,” I explained as we caught up with her. Daddy was ambling, he almost looked sluggish. Our legs were going twice as fast as his, but even still we could not keep up. I was the only one who didn’t try. When we walk sans Daddy we amble along somewhat together, stretched out along a trail, rarely as a tight group. He, however, is like a magnet, invisibly drawing all the kids to his side, keeping them close. I figured I was dropping behind because I was the only one carrying a pack (and thereby carrying everyone’s raingear and sunhats and the bulk of the water), but let’s face it; even without a pack, my legs wouldn’t have gone fast enough. Not as fast as his, that’s for sure. You see, he’s got amazing calves.

In fact, there’s a story, a true story, that sounds more like a myth, but you can take my word for it, it’s all true……
Daddy cycles to and from work most days. Sometimes he gets hassled by motorists. Sometimes it happens on a hill, and that’s where this story took place, on the last big hill before home.
He was pedaling up when a car slowed down. Glancing sideways he noted the windows rolled down and a guy starting to lean out. Bracing himself for abuse, Daddy determined not to bite, simply hoped to stay safe.
“Legend calves, mate,” the guy roared, and the car took off.

Those legend calves are going to have to slow down when they get to Spain.  On longer walks towards the end, sometimes one or other of the kids asks for us to slow a bit. We send that person out to the front, and funnily enough they usually keep walking at exactly the same pace, but psychologically they must be strengthened.
We’ll need more than psychological strengthening if those calves don’t slow down; emptying out our packs and filling his to capacity just might work.


The climax of training walks


“Levi, when we get to the restaurant you can ask for a table for six in Spanish, OK?”
“I can’t remember how to say it!”
“Una mesa para seis personas por favor. And you’ve got another two hours of walking to practice it, so you’ll be fine!”
“I’ll say hola! Que tal?,” Tessa declared, hopeful of getting off so lightly.
Micaiah agreed to ask for more water at some stage and Ella-Rose promised to say gracias whenever she could.
As it turned out, we were served by the one kiwi waitress and didn’t get to speak a word of Spanish other than chorizo and empanada!
But speaking Spanish was secondary anyway. The main purpose of lunch at El Sizzling Chorizo was to celebrate the accomplishment of being able to walk the distance required to get to the restaurant and back home again afterwards – 27km. Not exactly a marathon, but still a decent distance for a seven-year-old.
And they did it. In fact, going up the last hill of the day, they didn’t plod or trudge or even just walk. Like tightly wound springs, they bounced, two feet off the ground tucked up under them, seeing who could jump the highest.
Bounce, bounce, bounce.