charity: water update

Look at this! And this!

The Maryam Weybar Community and Gereger Community in Ethiopia both have drilled wells now. Not only that, they have  health workers who will share positive hygiene and household sanitation information with the rest of the community.

Each family using the new water source contributed toward their project’s construction — a small fee, but one that helps instill a sense of personal ownership for the project. Each family will continue to pay a small amount to use the water. The community will save this money for any necessary maintenance and repairs.

Fees weren’t the only contribution the community gave towards these water projects. Community members also helped build roads so that drilling rigs could reach their community. And they helped build structures to protect each water source after they were built.

The people here, especially women and girls, used to walk up to two hours to collect water for their families. The water wasn’t safe to drink and often made people sick.

Not any more! We walked for these people and you gave.
Forever grateful.

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3 July: Santiago

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Four children wearing new tourist t-shirts. A welcome change after wearing the same two sets of clothes for over two months – one for walking, one for after.
But we didn’t engage in tourist behaviour. No museums, no art galleries, no guided tours, no guidebooks, no photos even (we staged the above one on the way to the playground so that there would be something for the blog.) We *did* go into souvenir shops, but the kids didn’t really want anything much on offer. Then we spied something for the peeps at home…..something that, when it is used, will remind us all of how on this trip we all discovered how much we appreciate each other’s company.
“What is it?” you ask.
A surprise!!
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Also some tshirts – coz kids who buy their own clothes from their own money appreciate being given things they won’t have to buy! And a special little something that we know the Daddy likes.

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We weren’t tourists, but we weren’t pilgrims either. We didn’t follow any arrows – especially not this one I spied on the road a few days ago. (OK, so it just looks like a piece of orange peel to you, but you follow arrows for two months and see what it does to you!!) We did, however, discuss favourite memories and significant moments from the walk over dinner:
* powerlines disappearing into the mist
* our voices echoing across the valley up in the mountains
* enormous hailstones
* aniseed balls
* standing in the thick mist at the top of the hill, seeing nothing, and then suddenly hearing the church bell toll right next to us
* spiders’ webs covered in bobbles of dew
* Robbie’s huge grin of delight as the train pulled into Pamplona station
* pompom flowers on lollipop sticks
* snakes
* the night we all sat round talking and laughing and crying after dinner and it was just so special
* seeing that some people can walk over 50km in a day
* snow on the mountains
* watching rain fall in horizontal sheets
* saying good-bye to Daddy
* churros and chocolate…..chocolate croissants…..endless cheeses……excellent bread (even if we did get a bit sick of it)
* shadows
* making 1,000km – and then some
* the absolutely stunning views, especially in the mountains
* the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of satisfaction when you don’t want to walk any more, but you do keep going on
* cuckoos calling
* icecreams when we walked over 25km in a day (in other words, almost every day!!!!)
* the people
* water to drink – especially each time we ran out

With that, this 1,000km-walk-for-water is over. Adios amigos!

2 July: Negreira to Santiago

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20140702-215117-78677468.jpg We made it to Santiago, having walked 400km more than we had anticipated.
Last night the kids were really excited to be almost finished. We have had lots of endings on this walk – the end of the Voie de la Nive, the end of the Camino Baztan, the end of Daddy walking with us, the end of the Meseta, the end of the San Salvador, the end of the Primitivo, the end of the world….but this was to be the real end. The End.
“Could we get up at 5, Mum? Could we sleep in our walking clothes seeing as we’ve just washed them and they’re dry, then we wouldn’t have to spend time changing and we can have our packs all ready to go.”
I set the alarm and spent all night waking to check that I hadn’t slept through the chiming.

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20140702-220332-79412100.jpgWe walked for one last time.
My mind wandered to the journal entry I made last night:

I will miss the crunching stones undefoot, the steady rhythm of a gentle uphill climb, the exhilaration of achievement. I will miss the identity and the simplicity.
I wonder how long it will be before I no longer feel fit, strong and healthy. How can I maintain this state of being?
I have heard people talking about how this walk has changed their lives, how they go home different people. I don’t feel this way. The walk was a part of who I already am. It is (almost) completed and that is enough.
I guess if there’s anything I’d like to preserve, it’s this: for the past few weeks Ella-Rose has been my Morning Shadow, walking alongside me, usually in slience, but willingly, her own choice. How do I encourage that kind of companionship at home?

I told the children about the life-changing nature of the Camino for some people and they stared back blankly and kept walking. Then Micki piped up, “Well, it hasn’t changed our lives, but it sure will change the lives of people who get water.”
“And even their children’s and maybe children’s children’s lives,` Levi added.

Our walk was over.

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Destination: Santiago de Compostela
Distance: 21km
Cumulative Distance: 1,400km/1,101km
Now we head home (after a few days in Santiago and just over a week in Madrid)

1 July: thank you

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To everyone who has given, written, encouraged, prayed, messaged and urged us on….a big thank you.
Even this photo was a joint effort – the kids were collecting shells and arranging them in the sand when a little tot of about three or four joined them and helped make the “o”. From beginning to end we have worked together with others. Thanks for the part you played.
Together we raised USS$8,001, which means changed lives for about 400 people.
It has been suggested to us that we should tell our story when we get home. I’m not sure how or where or to whom – but if anything comes of the idea, we’ll set up another campaign and be delighted to help some more people.
Muchas gracias a todos!

1 July: Ponte Olveira to Negreira

20140701-183919-67159023.jpg Wet shoes smell like vomit! But we had to put them on anyway. We were so grateful that this penultimate day of walking was the first one that began with wet feet. And you will be too when you see the pictures of a few hours later 😉 But first, the day….

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20140701-184723-67643392.jpgYes, another rainy day…..well, we were walking for water, weren’t we?

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20140701-185537-68137719.jpgLook who came striding towards us! A couple from the Netherlands who were like surrogate grandparents whenever we stayed together. We slept together first in the same room in Oviedo, where the beds were so close together you had to turn sideways to get between them. You get close quickly under those circumstances! Then they were our heroes when we turned up at Borres and there were not enough beds for us. And they covered Tessa, who was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, with a blanket and made sure the front door was locked so that she would be safe. Such a gentleman, he even tipped his hat back “for the lady” when I asked to take their photo. Special people.

20140701-191025-69025030.jpg Maybe the last puddle reflection??.

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20140701-191328-69208588.jpg Cold, wet and hungry….and with the prospect of still having another 20+km to go! After that plate, she was no longer hungry, had dried out and warmed up. She would go on to walk a trouble-free day.

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20140701-192434-69874816.jpgThere is a reason this part of the countryside is so green! You don’t get green without rain. And when you walk all day in wet shoes and forget to take them off at lunchtime to dry out your feet, even your feet turn green! No, they actually turn white….as we discovered when we stopped during a break in the drizzle to air them out.

20140701-193005-70205942.jpgDestination: Negreira
Distance: 32.6km
Cumulative Distance: 1,380/1,080km
20km to go to Santiago!
Weather: wet
Dinner: watermelon starter, then a plate of curry and rice from another pilgrim, HUGE pasta salad, icecream, flan or rice pudding (yes, we were hungry despite the lunch)

20140701-193027-70227901.jpg my best ever sock line – good enough to be proud of (for someone who doesn’t tan)

30 June: Fisterra to Ponte Olveira

20140630-180354-65034138.jpg You’d never think that a day that started so perfectly would sink to such misery.
We always knew it would be a challenging day. Anything over 35km has the potential to feel a long way. And when children have mucked about the previous evening instead of going to sleep as instructed, odds are high that tiredness will factor at some point during the day. They also get smart tongues when tired, which never assists in the promotion of peace. Add to all that the fact that I had forgetten to purchase breakfast supplies on Saturday (thinking shops in a tourist town would be open on Sunday – wrong!)….and bars were closed when we set out, so we did the first 13km on a muesli bar. Having to wait quarter of an hour until police came and rounded up some runaway horses from the lane we were walking up gave time for tummies to start rumbling and imaginations to fire up. The decision was made that when we got to Cee, we would go to a particular bar we had seen and order bacon and eggs. But it seemed we’d never get to Cee. The walk which had taken only a couple of hours the day before took over three today, and not because of the hill we had been dreading – we actually flew up it with no trouble at all – in fact, it was easier to go up than down! The problem was that we kept seeing people coming the other way and they wanted to talk. Some were people we knew, and an embarrassing number were others who had heard about us and were happy to finally meet us. The chit-chatting was delightful and gave the return journey its own flavour, distinct from any of our other caminos, but it also made us hungry!!
However, we eventually got to Cee….only to discover the bar was closed. My determination to fill tummies with protein was dispensed with and we chomped our way through 28 sugar-coated churros and downed hot chocolates.
Supermarket stop next – bread and cheese and apricots to consume before taking off. Lunch and snacks to pack away for later.

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Lots more meeting people – including a sweet chat with a stall holder on the path, who knew that these must be the kids who could cook – word had got back to him that there were kids cooking in the albergue a couple of nights ago (which, for the record, seems to be totally unheard of here – whenever the kids have tried to help with communal dinner cooking they have been shooed out of the kitchen, and people hover over them presumably to prevent the inevitable disaster that is just about to happen whenever they are preparing food!)
Unfortunately during most of the pleasantries there were un-aniseed-able attitudes that turned to tears after a battle of wills – I’ll leave the details to your imagination; just make sure you include an unbelievable dose of contrariness!
And then the rain started. And got heavier and heavier and heavier. For about three hours.
A child interrupted me for the gazillionth time and I retorted that I wouldn’t bother saying anything else. “OK,” he cheerfully replied. I thought of all sorts of equally immature responses, but just ended up deciding I was having the most miserable wedding anniversary ever – even as I thought it, I knew this was not true! We were wet, cold, hungry, homesick, tired, anxious – but we were blessed.
Just when we thought we couldn’t get any wetter we were forced by oncoming traffic to dive into an ankle-deep puddle in a ditch. Unusually for Spain, the truck driver made no effort to move over and our shower increased in intensity! Good thing, because we wouldn’t get one that night;-)
In fact, judging by the number of pilgrims still continuing on towards Fisterra and not stopping, we wondered if we would even get a bed. We started checking albergues before the one we were hoping for – but all were completo. When we pulled in to the one we had been hoping to stay at, it was already 5pm and our hopes were not too high; donativo albergues tend to fill up early any day and anything fills up quickly in bad weather.
There were four beds left – and a couch!
But not only that, the couple running the place turned on a heater and rigged up some broom-handle lines between tables and chairs so we could get our sopping clothes dry. Not wanting to stand outside in the still-pouring rain to wash our clothes, we simply wrung out as much mud as we could and figured we could wash them another day. Shower water was cold, so we figured we’d already had a long one! We can wash ourselves another day!

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Chicken wings, croquettes, fries, five bacon and egg rolls…..they appeared on the table and the host looked a little dubious. When we finished he commented, “You were hungry. I didn’t think you could eat it all!” We then had icecreams;-) (and won three free ones!)
As we were eating, a lone drenched pilgrim came in. Someone helpfully told him the place was completo – but this is the same place that let us top-n-tail for our Spanish friends two nights ago, and we knew how overjoyed we were to find free beds tonight, so we jumped up and explained there was one spare bed – we would share beds again!

And THAT is the actual story of today – the post that went up earlier was written two days ago in anticipation of it being our wedding anniversary. The photos were staged yesterday! Today we didn’t take many photos, but decided to tell the real story anyway.

Destination: Ponte Olveira
Distance: 36.1km
Cumulative Distance: 1,348/1,048km
54km to Santiago
Weather: cloudy to abysmal
Dinner: a lot!

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30 June: HAPPY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!

We’re coming home.
We all made it to 1,000km and beyond.

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We’ve made it to the end of our charity: water campaign too. It’s the very last day for giving. Isn’t it appropriate that we should be here before a large mass of water?
Now we turn around and head for home.

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Even though we have holes in our socks and I wore through the sole of one shoe yesterday!

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It’s been a long time and we are ready to be together again. I am grateful, not only for the opportunity to have walked for charity: water and to have spent two months hiking, but also for how close we have grown in our separation. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it also opens your eyes to what you have and helps you treasure it more.
It is a wonderful feeling to have your 16-year-old son begging for a conversation, or to read a touching letter from your daughter that shows a maturing you have prayed for but could never have orchestrated (although packing her off to India might be seen to be trying to provide some opportunities for growth not necessarily found in kiwi suburbia).
Cuddling a camera and bumbag full of passports and phone and keyboard and other important bits and bobs inside a sleeping bag is just not the same as waking up with a real live man beside you in bed.
I am especially grateful that my man, who took me as his bride 24 years ago today, loves me so much he embraces my wild ideas, even when they mean sacrifice to himself. He has cooked and cleaned and smashed up concrete and pruned a forest and cared for chickens and experimented with the new paella pan and travelled abroad for work and delivered girls to Spain and ironed shirts and arranged logistics for a funeral while we took a (big) walk in the park wilderness. He loves us, supports us, believes in us, knows us, encourages us, makes us laugh, makes us think, helps us to care and is the inspiration for aniseedy-daddy-days (sorry to embarrass you!)

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Thank you for choosing me, for making our life together, intentionally and with purpose. Thanks for being faithful and steadfast and gentle and patient, a man of integrity, a servant leader, an engaged father and a devoted hubby. Thanks for cherishing us.

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Yes, we are looking forward to coming home.
First stop…..Santiago. And we’re going on foot!!

29 June: Cee to Fisterra

20140629-192639-69999890.jpgComing down the hill into Cee yesterday (and to give you some idea of what I’m talking about, see if you can find it on the strava elevation….

20140628-224257-81777347.jpg…spot it?), I seriously contemplated taking a bus back – if not all the way to Santiago, at least past that hill! I was even composing the blog post in my head: “we’re coming home……on foot, by bus, by train, by metro, by three planes – yes, we’re coming home and we’ll start with the bus.”
But that was really getting ahead of myself, and I didn’t need to be worrying about that hill yesterday, because we don’t need to climb it until tomorrow. Each day has enough cares of its own.
And today had celebrations too!
Not only did the girls reach 1,000km, but they reached it at the exact moment the wide sweeping ocean vista came into view. A man we have been walking with for a couple of days has commented that while the Camino TO Santiago is full of spiritual energy, this Camino Fisterra is lacking. But for me, at that moment I thought I could feel God smiling! I even wondered if He had eagerly anticipated the joy we would feel at the perfect timing.

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But we didn’t stop there; we kept on walking right out to the very end of the world.

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20140629-193640-70600045.jpg And Micki nearly fell off! (nah, not really, but it’s a cool pic, eh!)

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Out at the end there is a zero marker – no more walking. That is to say, you can’t go any further westwards. In the tradition of pilgrims of old, we will turn around and start walking home…..but first there were photos to take.

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And there were people celebrations too. The most surprising was seeing Samuel from France, our San Salvador pal.

20140629-215820-79100457.jpg Then there was Ginny, who left us a message in the sand….and the Russians and Poles from the Primitivo….and one of the many Australian ladies….and the two boys who have been new brothers for the walk out to the end came and found us when they arrived.

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Destination: Fisterra
Distance: 12.8km + 7km to the lighthouse and back
Cumulative Distance: 1,312/1,012km
Distance to go: under 100km back to Santiago
Weather: the rain we walked in cleared away to be a beautifully sunny day
Dinner:

20140629-220309-79389296.jpg I know, I know – it really should have been a seafood feast….but, well…there simply is no excuse!

FINAL 24 HOURS FOR DONATING TO charity: water CAMPAIGN IS FAST APPROACHING (or is here – I’m not sure about time differences!)

28 June: Ponte Olveira to Cee

20140628-150950-54590467.jpg water water water
Walking in the water, around the water, through the water, towards the water FOR water.

20140628-151243-54763273.jpg Very early on in our walk we met a guy, who wanted to make a short video about what we were doing. Through careful questioning, he gave the kids an outline for a script and they filled in the gaps. While nothing came of the video, the scripted comments have been used over and over!

20140628-152408-55448393.jpg The Script:
ER: Hi, I’m Ella-Rose and I just turned 8 on the camino.
T: Hi, I’m Tessa.
M: My name is Micaiah.
L: And I’m Levi.
All: We’re from New Zealand and we’re walking for water.
ER: Every day women and children spend 200 million hours collecting water for their families.
T: Time spent walking keeps them from school, work and taking care of their families.
L: I’m walking, because every twenty seconds a mother loses her baby to water related diseases.
M: I’m walking, because I cannot imagine having to choose between dirty dangerous water and no water at all. We want to identify with those families in a practical way and raise money to fund a clean water source for some of them.
Me: charity: water is a non-profit organisation on a mission to bring clean and safe drinking water to every person on the planet.
In the eight years they have been working, almost 12,000 water projects have been funded, which will serve over 4 million people in 22 countries. 800 million more people are waiting.
We chose charity: water because all donations go directly to a particular project – nothing is siphoned off for administration costs. Also, they work with strong local partners to build and maintain the projects. And each project is recorded on googlemaps with photos as proof when they have finished it.

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That all sounds so idealistic, doesn’t it? For a touch of realism, here’s another of today’s water stories.
It’s a conversation.
Son: There’s the sea over there.
Me: Sorry to dampen (haha – bad pun in the rain) your enthusiasm, but it cannot be the sea in that direction
S: Well what is it then?
M: There are hills and more land.
S: No, not the hills, the bit that looks like sea.
M: That would be land.
S: I’ve never seen land look like that. It really looks like the sea.
M: Hmm well it’s not.
We walk another twenty metres or so.
S: It looks like sea to me.
M: I’m not talking about it any more. I’ve seen the map. There is no sea out that way.
We walk another half kilometre or so. Second son (SS) catches up.
SS: I think it’s the sea too. Land doesn’t look like that.
Mother picks up her pace and leaves them in the dust.
About 15km later, when the sea does actually come into view one son has the audacity to say, “See I knew it was the sea”, despite it being in quite the opposite direction! In this instance, mother is mature enough to say not a word.
But we did get to the sea!!

Destination: Cee
Distance: 23.4km
Cumulative Distance: 1,292/992km
8km to go girlies!!!! Tomorrow is the day!
Weather: rain, mist, drizzle, sunshine, showers
Dinner:

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AND pizza AND dessert – flan or cheesecake
all from the supermarket and cooked at the albergue!

Postscript: We have seen messages left for pilgrims along the way, and today it was our turn to receive one! Scratched in the sandy path…..

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27 June: Negreira to Ponte Olveira

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I had put it down to the fact that the children had stayed outside playing cards until after 10pm last night (this can happen when you start late and so arrive late and eat late and the sun hasn’t gone anyway). All morning I had walked…..and waited for kids to catch up. Walked and waited. Walked and waited. I figured they were tired, sleepy tired. I suspected they might also be tired of walking.

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“Have you had enough? Do you want to stop when the girls reach 1,000? Or do you still want to finish the Frances?”
General consensus was that they were happy to go on if someone wanted to, but equally happy to stop. So right there on the road we changed our minds. Again. We change our mind more often than we change our socks at the moment! We had been planning on going to Muxia, the westernmost point of Spain, and then zipping down to Fisterra, the end of the world. This required a week of more-than-30km days, which felt completely doable yesterday and impossible today!
As we wandered through cow country full of its distinctive odour, a German lady, who will have walked 1,600km when she gets to Fisterra, explained that today her legs are feeling tired. She has happily walked over 30km every day for over two months and today she was crawling along. Her verdict was that now that her heart knows the end is near the legs are giving up. It is time to say, “I’m done.”
So maybe that is what was happening for the children too!
We pulled into a bar and pulled out our maps. We could go directly to the end of the world and take three days to do it instead of two, and the girls would still make 1,000km before our charity:water campaign finishes. Muxia didn’t matter any more. Finishing the Camino Frances didn’t matter either.
Having a couple of short days now and no more walking after returning to Santiago seems very attractive.
As we had arrived at the bar Ginny-from-England, who we met yesterday was leaving. She sympathised with the struggle – her legs were telling her they should not even be walking at all. She was supposed to be home, but an airline strike was preventing her flying and so she was walking for a few more days. She walked on. Expecting us to go no further than the bar we were at in the morning, she would be very surprised to see us a few hours later eating cheese and baguettes at the base of a monument.

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She waited while we ate, then fell into step alongside us and we enjoyed each other’s company for the remainder of the 33.2km. She played murder mystery and told jokes and whistled with a blade of grass – she had won the kids’ hearts even before she bought everyone an iceblock!

20140627-183419-66859832.jpg There was so much joviality walking with her that I’m sure she found it difficult to believe these same children had walked in complete silence for over an hour this morning. But they had. There was no sound other than the crunching of shoes on pebbles. Crunch, crunch, crunch. A brook gurgled beside us. Birds tweeted high in the tree tops. An aeroplane sounded even further off. But from us, there was not a sound.

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Then there was animated discussion about how we could spend our remaining time. When Ginny suggested we take a bus back to Santiago instead of walking there were cries of disagreement from all the children. While they have had enough, they want to finish properly!
What we will do after we have finished remains unknown, but right now we are focussed on finishing the charity: water project. There are three days to go.

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Destination: meant to be Olvieroa, but a kilometre or so from the village we saw a little donativo albergue that had enough beds for us, so we stopped – good thing too, because apparently everything in the village and beyond was booked out! Five hours after we arrived, about an hour after the rain started, the family we met yesterday hobbled in – it was only their second day of walking and looked like it might be their last – they were drenched, cold, sore to the point of hardly being able to walk – and they were told there were no beds available. Even if they could have walked on, we knew there was nothing for them and so we convinced the boss that we would be happy to top-and-tail so that they could have some of our beds. This kind of thing creates bonds that perhaps wouldn’t occur so quickly when all is sunshine and roses!
Distance: 33.2km
Cumulative Distance: 1,269/969km
31km for the girls to get to 1,000
Weather: sunny day and evening showers
Dinner:

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