Big Beauty At Our House 

 The little blankie – inspired by the wild flowers and wild weather of our Via de la Plata walk – has turned into a bigger blankie as I use up leftovers from the first Camino Blanket I made. Very Satisfying.

 Gobstopper matches the blanket – both in size and colour. Smallest Child thanks Eldest Sister  and Brother-in-law for such an A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Birthday Present! Very Satisfying!


A Little Farther From Home

The next suburb over from ours where we can do most everything we need to that we can’t do in Glen Eden  (in no particular order – cheap supermarket, police station, mall,  The Warehouse,  hospital, movies) is blessed with art too……

 It’s such a pity the media has to focus on gang activity and murders and burglaries and truancy which give West Auckland a bad image – that is only part of the picture. The rest of it really is quite pretty. 



Even just a few weeks away from your natural habitat is enough to bring you back with newly-opened eyes. Every time I return to Auckland I am struck by the artwork that enhances our community. 


 (Couldn’t resist!! Yarn bombing a naked winter tree outside the library….some of my favourite things!)

 I’ve heard people speak very disparagingly of our local shops, but if you ask me, it looks OK!

The Beauty Felt Blurred.

Winter Road Trip IMG_9296

Quintessential Rural New ZealandIMG_9290

Where else would you get street names like that?IMG_9248

Marae after marae after marae and a pa thrown in too.IMG_9246

Destination Raglan WharfIMG_9249

And the surf beach. “Can we just sit in the car at this point?” one of my little female companions wondered aloud. Um, that would be a loud NO! The boys are at their Dangerous Boys’ Weekend – the least we can do is get out of the car and take a walk!IMG_9273

About that walking. It’s obvious, but it’s so different to driving. Today we saw all sorts of beautiful little scenes as we drove……rolling hills, babbling brooks (we presume they were babbling – you don’t hear them when you race past at 100km/hr), corrugated iron sculptures, a pheasant,  Maori artwork, a eucalyptus grove and stand of wind turbines that reminded us of Spain, dilapidated old wooden farmhouses, mossy green roads, letterboxes begging to be photographed…..but when you’re in a car you get a glimpse that doesn’t even feel long enough to make an impression and then it’s gone.
Reminded me of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “From A Railway Carriage”. I have always loved the rhythm of this poem, especially when read aloud, but today I appreciate it for the snatches of life that Stevenson saw and recorded, for the fact that he could add a little detail about some bits, but barely captured others. You may not go as far when you walk, but today I had the feeling you see more. In the car I felt hurried. We actually turned around and drove back to get some of the pictures above, but I didn’t feel like I had *looked* the same as when you approach something from a distance and somehow “get to know it” before taking a snap. These are glimpses that would be gone if they weren’t recorded, and might be forgotten anyway. They are images that I didn’t process I had seen until we were past them!

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

Lasting slightly longer, was the institution that is known as The Pokeno Icecream. It is a rare trip that takes us past Pokeno without the car stopping. Today was not one of those days!

IMG_9304 Distance: 346km (10-14 days walking!)

PS To those of you who like to read at breakfast-time, I’m sorry – tuck this away until tomorrow. It’s easier to write at night!

PPS No photo was taken from a moving vehicle. I pulled over and stopped before snapping!

Life Lesson

“If he’s going to hop out of his car and pee on the side of the road, you’d think he wouldn’t leave his indicators blinking to draw attention to himself!” So I thought – somewhat uncharitably, rather hypocritically for the author of a blog that is titled “CHARITY walking”. (What’s more, I was driving!) As we approached, the man turned and I realised my initial observation was inaccurate. As we passed, he leaned against the side of his car. I glanced up in the rear view mirror.

“What are you doing Mum?” one of the kids asked.

“I’m turning the car round, we’re going back to see if that man’s OK. He doesn’t look too good.”

I completed the circle, pulled up behind him and jumped out. He was still bent over, supporting himself against the car. Mucous was dripping from his mouth and nose into a great puddle at his feet. How do you show respect to someone who may feel humiliated that you’ve seen him in such a state?

“Are you OK? Do you need some help? Can I do something for you?” My questions seemed trivial, obvious, brainless. This older gentleman was clearly NOT OK.

“I’m fine,” he sputtered, an extra-long drool dripping from his chin. I can’t have looked convinced, because he went on, “I’m on medication for cancer. It makes me sick sometimes. This was one of those times. I’m better now.”

He turned away, unfolded a large white handkerchief and cleaned himself up. I waited.

“I’m sorry.” It sounded so hollow. “Are you sure you’re all right? You wouldn’t like me to ring someone?”

“No, really, it’s over now,” he insisted. Then he turned to face me and looked me straight in the eye. “Thanks for stopping. I really appreciate it.”

As we drove away I thought about how the slow pace of the last two months’ walking life was impacting our busy almost-running-late morning. One of the lessons of the Camino is to slow down. Now we had the opportunity  to put into practice our learning.

“Always take time to help people,” I urged the kids. “Never be too busy to stop and help. You never know, but even the Good Samaritan might have been busy.”


 We’ve been home a week. 

 We no longer need to go to bed at 7pm.
We are reading every day.

We still go walking.

 It is just as cold as many of the days we started out in Spain. Which is to say it is freezing. There will not, however, be heatwaves in the high thirties!But there are blue skies and water underfoot.

We are still climbing hills.

 We are still fascinated by shadows (and loving being with friends).

 We are loving having Daddy around. 

 We are still seeing sunrises (but at 7:30 instead of 5:30!!)

 We are eating Santiago tart….

 (….and olives and cheeses and pimientos and membrillo and thick hot chocolate with family and friends)

And we are grateful.

Oxfam Trailwalker 2015

Poverty, Pleasure n Pain – that was our team name and it encapsulated our walk. We walked for poverty, grateful for the many people who had sponsored our steps.

We enjoyed many moments of pleasure…..

Ah yes, especially that 50km mark – we were feeling so strong mentally and physically, in fact we skipped into the next checkpoint full of enthusiasm. Then we headed off into the darkness……and eventually into the pain. Collectively we suffered from breathlessness that looked like a heart attack, but wasn’t, sore muscles, blisters and buttock chafing. Personally, I have an old knee injury which decided to flare up about the 70km mark and I got progressively slower.  In the end the team decided to have me pulled off the course so that they could continue at a good pace. And good pace we had been doing. It was intentionally slow but steady, planned to ensure we would finish, hopefully in 30 hours. At the first checkpoint we came in almost last (out of 236 teams). By the sixth checkpoint we had climbed to 159th – just by continuing our steady plod.; and we were three hours ahead of our schedule. But I threatened to blow that, so reluctantly accepted a lift 4km to the checkpoint before the final leg. Despite the pain and fatigue and blackness still enveloping us, I desperately wanted to finish and begged the officials to let me walk the last leg and return to do the missed 4km when we had finished. They gave permission for the former, but not the latter – I was grateful for their grace because having got that far I was uber-keen to finish.

A quick visit to the medical post saw me strapped up and ready to trudge the final 13km, which turned out to be walked almost entirely in the rain. I didn’t mind because I was thankful to be walking and thankful that the serious rain had held off for so long. The pain could have been much worse!

And so we got to the end……faster than we had expected (in spite of the drama), but hardly euphoric. We were wet, cold and miserable, and in my case, feeling like an imposter. It was all anti-climactic!

But we had given our all and I would like to thank all of you who made it worthwhile through your sponsorship. If you would like to give now that you know we made it (or give 96% of what you would have given if I’d walked 100km!!), it is not too late to do so.  We have a page on the Oxfam website where you can donate – click here!

To everyone who has been a support along the way – from the motorhome lender to cook to candle-lighter (yes, one of our support crew created beautiful ambience in the darkness!) to massager to water-pourers to clean sock providers to those who wrote encouraging messages and prayed and gave, I thank you. At the end of the day this was a team event and I learnt a lot about teamwork – thanks for joining with us and being part of the team to fight poverty in the Pacific.

(By the way, overall we came in as the 160th team – and that included those who started at 6am. We started at 7, so it just goes to show Aesop was quite right about the tortoise getting there in the end)

68 days to go

2015/01/img_3348.jpgI hope Saturday’s walk turns out to be one of our harder training walks! I went with one of the other team members who had done a couple of kilometres before I joined him. He set a cracking pace and didn’t slow down for hills! Realising I would never make the distance if I killed myself on the hills I waved him good-bye with a call that I’d meet him at the top when we got to the second incline.
Until now our team strategy has been to stay together, but we hadn’t done any serious hills. Tackling these ones – with a total elevation gain of 1,345m (that’s more than our older kids did when they summited Ngauruhoe!!) – showed us the need to allow for individual differences within the context of working as a team.
We also learnt about fueling our bodies better. A sandwich and banana are fine if you are doing 30km street walking, but when you hit uneven trails with hills and want to cover a good distance we discovered we need to eat more and sooner. We were also rationing out our water, thinking it needed to last all day, but a guy we stopped to chat to told us of a potable supply further along our route so we increased our intake and felt better for it.
We covered quite a range of terrain – roads, stony trails, dirt tracks with protruding tree roots, grassy fields, sand dunes, stream crossings, gravel.
And the weather ranged from very pleasant at 6:30am to increasingly warm to positively hot to scorching when the sun broke through the cloud cover to intermittent drops of welcome drizzle to constant unrelenting drizzle.
It’s amazing to think you can be quite the intrepid traveller even in our own backyard – with a little poetic license we were fording streams and crossing deserts and trudging through tropical rainforest. We passed groups picnicking by the lake, a Dad towing his kids in a boat up a river and cars full of young people and topped with surfboards. We sure have a great place to train.
I found the walk to be physically demanding, but was most encouraged that nothing *hurt* – the legs weren’t sore at all, but just needed coaxing up hills when they lacked energy. True triumph was the following morning when I felt fine……even a month ago I found myself hobbling after a long walk. It’s encouraging to experience the improvement.

2015/01/img_3347.jpg (the one spot of mud – not at all indicative of the general state of the trail when we took the photo!! However, after three hours of constant drizzle, the paths were slippery underfoot)
Last week’s training
Friday 6.2km
Saturday 39km – HARD!!

180 Days To Go

IMG_3009.PNG The theory is that this is enough time to train. We’ll see. I haven’t got off to a very good start – the shoes above have turned out to be very uncomfortable for my feet and I ended up finishing last Friday’s walk barefoot! (If you’re in the market for a pair of shoes that other people rave about, let me know! Size EU40.5, US10, UK7.5 RRP$269.99 – they can be yours for $120! They’ve had a Very Thorough wash – good as new now! And I can confirm they really are waterproof – my socks were dry as a bone in the desert)
It’s a pity the shoes I’ve done 2,000km in fell apart and are no longer being produced! Time to find something else.


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