Is 7pm really too early to go to bed?

That was the question uppermost in Team BB2B’s minds when we traipsed into Antwerp today after a long day’s walk. Unfortunately early bed was not an option. After walking about 28km (plenty long enough on Day 12, with packs on backs) we found our hotel in Antwerp, just off the gloriously beautiful central square. Hungry and thirsty, we headed into the square to find refreshment, and were met by a local journalist and a camera crew from the local TV station.

Alison producing the goods for the camera - how does she find the energy?!
Alison producing the goods for the camera - how does she find the energy?!

Alison is very good at pulling some energy out of the hat when a camera is pointed at her. And I struggle on through too. Media attention is a powerful motivator – after all, it is one of the key objectives of this walk to raise awareness and inspire action, and if that requires obliging local media when body and spirit has other ideas, then so be it.

But it’s not always easy. Team BB2B is still soldiering on, but legs and feet are suffering.

So, let’s talk about walking. It’s how human beings got around for many millennia. Many, many human beings worldwide still do. Without technical walking boots or Nike trainers. Often carrying large loads. Over rough and often hostile terrain. So how come we namby-pamby 21st century Western walkers are finding the going so tough?

A number of theories:

a) We’re just not used to it. Although Jane habitually walks 10 miles a day with her dogs, Alison is an extremely fit extreme skier, and I’ve been known to do a bit of rowing, we’re just not used to walking these distances day after day, carrying loads.

b) Since we arrived in continental Europe we have been walking mostly on paved cycle paths and pavements. This has been noticeably tougher on the joints than walking on the footpaths and trails of Essex.

c) And, errr, I don’t know what else. Maybe we’re just not used to having to tolerate pain. In this era of doctors, dentists, and painkillers, there are so many ways to avoid or medicate pain. We’re not used to just putting up with it. When something hurts, we want it fixed. And fast. Even a hundred years ago this was not possible for most people – even for those who could afford the best medical treatment, aches, pains and illness were a fact of life.

But to be philosophical about it, it is actually part of our mission that this walk should not be easy. Our message to the Copenhagen delegates says that nothing great is ever easy. There ARE obstacles along the way, but when you have a goal that matters to you, you just buckle down and get on with it. Some things are just worth fighting for, no matter what the pain.

And so we plow on. Today I was thinking about Oliver Hicks, whose film Tenacity on the Tasman I went to see the night before I left London (which seems SO long ago now!). During his row across the northern Atlantic in 2005, and again during his attempt on the Southern Ocean this year, he had the letters KBO in front of his rowing position. Attributed to Winston Churchill, it stands for Keep Buggering On. And that is what we will do. No matter what, through thick and thin, wet and dry, urban and rural. Only 3 more days to go. We have come so far already. KBO.

Alison, Jane and Laura checking the map - and note Dutch sign in the background. Both photos thanks to Nora McDevitt.
Alison, Jane and Laura checking the map - and note Dutch sign in the background. Both photos thanks to Nora McDevitt.

Other Stuff:

Today we walked across the border into Belgium in pleasant winter sunshine – a welcome change from the rain and cloudy skies that we encountered almost throughout our time in Holland. Several hours were spent walking through pretty woodland and small towns before we entered the outskirts of Antwerp. The industrial outer areas were a bit grim, but the center of the city is absolutely gorgeous – old squares, towering church spires, cosy cafes and characterful bars. I would happily return here to explore further. Recommended!

Would love to write more, but it’s now 9.30pm, and way past my bedtime. I can hear the cathedral bells chiming me to bed. The twin room I’m sharing with Alison is on the 3rd floor, so with my decrepit limbs it may take me some time to get up there. Time I hit the hay!


  • Indeed. A point that’s stuck in my mind for the several years since I read his biography is that the youthful Anthony Trollope used to walk 14 miles with his brother Tom from Harrow to Vauxhall, put on his pumps and dance the night away, then walk back home.
    As the Post Office’s man in different regions, he also established how long it ought to take for each postman to do his round by walking every one – including every possible short cut across streams, through hedges and up to every front door. And probably danced a hornpipe when he got back home.
    Similarly, Wordsworth regularly used to walk 16 miles to Keswick to visit Southey and Coleridge (who, being opium adicts, probably weren’t too keen to meet him halfway), before walking home again the same evening.
    Respect. For myself, I thank the Lord for the man who invented the bicycle.

  • David’s entry reminded me of another story to give perspective to
    Roz’s reflections today. I am referring to Louis Tewanima, a Hopi who won a Silver medal in the 10000 meter race at the 1912 Olympics. While on Second Mesa in Northern Arizona, visiting their museum, I read a story where Louis, when a boy, wanted to see the trains go by south of the res. So he ran 120 miles in one day to the tracks near Gallup and fulfilled his wish. He returned home the next day. And I suspect he didn’t have a pair of Nikes for the trip!

    Keep on trekkin’ and join your spirits to those like Louis who continue to inspire.

  • You are doing a great job on behalf of so many people. So glad you are not leaving it to me to make the point by walking.
    To nitpick – I am sorry your blogs tend to use American spellings rather than the good old English you were brought up with. (eg Plow) While your moves are watched by many Americans your website makes the point that you are a British ocean rower and I think it is up to American readers to make allowance for your dodgy spelling rather than those in your Homeland. (I reluctantly made allowance for the spellings in your book as you had an American publisher!)

  • Hi Roz,

    You may not know this but on your blog there is a link to “past posts on this day.” Today’s was Day 1 from the solo row across the Atlantic. Look how far you have come – in so many ways.

    With respect and admiration,
    Laurey in Asheville

  • Dear Lady Roz, You may not have realized it as you all traipsed across bleak countrysides, but Sir Winston, your favorite quote-maker, has been with you all the way from Big Ben, just as he was across the (much) warmer Pacific waters. But as you near the crucially important melee that will be Copenhagen, with the leaders & representatives of 192 nations, all concerned with their own affairs of state as well as the world’s, Sir Winston would like to respectfully remind you of his words in the House of Commons, July 14, 1940: “A love of tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril; but the new view must come, the world must roll forward.” Bless you all. KBO!! Warmly, Doug Stewart

  • Just a few quotes:

    “It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.”
    (Andrew Jackson, 1767-1845)

    “A kiss can be a comma, a question mark, or an exclamation point. That’s the basic spelling that every woman ought to know.”
    (Mistinguette, 1875-1956)

    “I have a spelling checker
    It came with my PC
    It plainly marks for my revue
    Mistakes I cannot sea
    I’ve run this poem threw it
    I’m sure your please to no,
    It’s letter perfect in it’s weigh
    My checker tolled me sew.”

  • Great one Richard! But point noted. My philosophy was that Brits were more likely to realize I was spelling in American, whereas Americans were more likely to think I just can’t spell. But debatable how many people would notice a spelling mistake anyway. And let’s not even talk about apostrophes…! I do pride myself on my grammar and spelling, though, so will now revert to English English…

    Thanks for the comments about epic walkers. Very humbling indeed. Shared the info with the girls today. Not sure it was appreciated! 🙂

  • Thanks Roz. Your grammar is always impeccable and your spelling, whether American or English, is likewise which greatly enhances the pleasure of reading your daily reports. I can’t agree with Andrew Jackson that spelling doesn’t matter but I do agree with Richard that it takes much more effort to get it right than just running a spell checker over it.

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