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 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.
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!