An Trek Fada

Day 3 – Freedom


When I set out on this journey, and decided on the dates – I never took into consideration the dates, and as it happened I crossed the border today from Northern Ireland to the Republic on another Iconic South African Election Day. My first time legally crossing the border and not having to worry that I “Was not allowed there”

I was in bits – I had a battle to get going, as both my spirit and body was battling to get started, and the weather forecast in advance did not help. Rest assured, I don’t mind a bit of rain, but add harsh winds to that, and it’s another picture altogether.

But as I approached the border from the North, miserable, I started to reflect on what a wonderful life I have had, and what astounding bits of history I have already been part of.

I remembered what and who shaped me, and I could not help but think of my late Nanny, Annie Grootboom, and the wonderful gentleman that was Arrie Jooste that were my caretaker parents – so much more to me than history will bestow on them.

I recalled how Annie, who could not read or write, but could always draw a cross to make her “mark” went to vote in 1994. She was quite old, and as a pen did not rest naturally in her hand, I recall how I helped her practice to make her cross within the box, and how important it was that she did not spoil it. I did not care who she voted for – simply that she could, and that I could serve my small part in it.

I remember the emotions that washed over me when I finally felt so very connected with my country of birth, and how I would NEVER take the right of equality as anything but with the highest responsibility.

To respect the freedoms that are bestowed on us takes courage and involvement. A responsibility to vote and make your voice heard. It’s a right that so many had to wait for such a long time.

So today when I felt sorry for myself, miserable and wanted to give up, I thought of all those days my Annie would walk miles to come and look after me, no matter what the weather. In the Karoo that could be -10 in crisp early mornings of winter, or 40 degrees in the scorching summer February sun.

The times that she would leave her own family behind and come to serve us and treated me as if I was the most special person in the world. Oh, and she spoilt me rotten – something like an Irish Mammy if I think about it now.

I remember all those who also got caught by the wrongs, the rights and the indifferences of our past, and celebrate the possibilities of the future, no matter how dark it might seem at times.

Tonight I am proudly Saffa-Irish. I am blessed by the lessons of my past, the possibilities of my future, but most importantly the Freedom of my present.

Below are two links of two songs that inspired me for the day. Say no more.

An Trek Fada

Day 2 – Ja well, but why?

My favourite pose in Shankill Road, with my South African Beanie one... In reconciliation with one self all is possible
My favourite pose in Shankill Road, with my South African Beanie one… In reconciliation with one self all is possible

The flesh was willing, but the get up and go did not want to play with at the start.

The body was surprisingly fit after yesterday, but what started off as a sunny day – yes I even have a bit of sunburn – ended up being a day with gusts and showers.

So I am inspired by a comment by Gisela to write the reason tonight why I am doing this walk, and particularly in this outfit.

I am truly astounded every day how conscious young kids are already about their dietary habits, or lack of – and what they look like.

I respect and appreciate the Jamie Oliver’s of this world and all attempts to make kids eat more healthy, but even the healthiest eating child can have self image issues – and hence lead to eating disorders.

What you never hear about is that genetics also dictates what you will look like and how you will be built – and that we can do absolutely nothing about. So where are they explaining THAT to kids?

Where do they teach them coping mechanisms to deal with not being little Brad Pitts and Claudia Schiffers? Do they teach them other skills, or park it with a “ah you’ll be grand”

So I learnt when I was not going to be the next Ms South Africa to develop a keen sense of humour, or something akin to what is referred to as a personality.

I also learnt that when you are not “normal”, best to learn to laugh at yourself, before others do! Simple really!

So this walk is to raise funds for BodyWhys first and foremost, to help them help those who are not blessed with the confidence to deal with whatever causes their attitude with food.

But it is also for me. To remind myself that just before I take myself too seriously, and become too corporate – that at the core of who and what I am is having a bit of a laugh… even at my own expense.

When I read up on BodyWhys’s function in today’s society I realised that is exactly what they deal with. And I wonder how much time and hurt in my own life could have been avoided had I that type of support in my early teens, when it could have made such a difference.

An Trek Fada

Day 1 – Belfast #1

Terrence & Myrtle holding my hand for the first leg send off!
Terrence & Myrtle holding my hand for the first leg send off!

There has been curiosity as to why I actually started in Belfast, when Dublin would have equally gotten the message across.

Well, it’s a very personal reason (and I apologise to other Irish cities in advance) – Belfast is my favourite city in Ireland (ouch – stop that stoning please!!)

The other reason is that now that I am officially Irish, I can cross the border “legally”.

What I have loved about Belfast since the very first visit is the tangible history embedded in every nook and cranny. This is not an old history, and the undercurrents of the political strifes are still very evident, but at least it is real.

The Titanic Centre is amazing, the walk up Shankill, and then through the storm gates down to Falls Road is like walking in time with history, rather than reading it in a book.

The Europa Hotel, the Crowne Bar, the Linen Library, and the list goes on. Most importantly the Taxi Tours are a must – but you have to do both a Protestant and Catholic one to get full perspective. The respect within the taxi tourism community is something I think many can learn from. Civility, some safety words but most importantly a mutual respect for each other’s turf.

Not an agreement, just a respect and understanding that everyone is different, but deserve their space.

So when we parked in front of the Titanic Centre today – may I add ON THE TAXI RANK as a man kept on reminding us (where is their sense of charity…. sinking! whahahahaha) – we had a car park behind us and in a thick Natal accent ask us if “This is parking”

What a co-incidence! Terrence and Myrtle are on holidays in Ireland in their winter woolies and fleeces! There they randomly park at the titanic centre – lo and behold only to meet more Saffas! And one that proceeded to strip for them! They of course now think I have been touched by Irish madness, but it was such a great send off. Unexpected but somehow as it should have been!

So with the Belfast Marathon just at an end, people’s initial reaction was not of surprise, as there were many lycra wearing folks around, albeit that they might have looked a little more sporty, if not less drenched. But yes, I did get a couple of lads commenting on “Look what this guy is wearing!” Really – lad – my job for BodyWhys is FAR from done!

I had a young boy on in Lisburn Road ask me if I was cold and needed an umbrella (Bless), and I made a few oldies giggle outside a home where they were watching the passing parade (under a canopy).

When I hit the A1 however, many tooted encouragingly, and although the last 4 kilometres were really hard going (a lot to be said for long slow rising slopes), a day done and dusted.

Now to wait and see what the joints think tomorrow (and not the ones I can smoke and fly with either )

Anyhow – one down and 12 to go… who’s scared?

An Trek Fada

– 14hours – The Casey Cup

Stuart Ryan with the winning trophy just before he heads off to Canada…. Cutie ūüėČ

Today I spent a few hours at the Wexford Wanderer’s Rugby Club for the 11th annual Casey Cup. For those not in the know, the Casey Cup is an annual May Bank Holiday event in conjunction with Greystones RFC to commemorate the untimely passing of a very young Casey Ryan.

The Casey Cup will have it’s own memories for me, but what struck me, as did the earlier post of the message in a bottle of George O’Hanlon, was indeed how many young people we loose before their time.

So I have been overwhelmed with word like “bravery”, “inspiration” and the list goes on for this challenge I have taken on …. of course including “mad” and “certifiable”. But before I set off on this journey, I am reminded that a couple of day’s trek does not make up for the unconditional and repetitive giving¬†of others.

To loose a child like Pat & Helen Ryan did, a brother, friend, grandson, would debilitate many for life. But people like the Ryan’s continue to give selflessly in spite of their grief and longing.

It’s through the community of people coming together even after all these years in support that you realise what an incredible place Wexford, and indeed Mankind¬†is, and with what care people respect and support each other. In those places in the world where this is not a given, we should be reminded how very grateful we are for all we have – the freedoms, the choices, the friends and a sense of community.

Before I embark on my trip to Belfast to start the walk back home (and I mean home in it’s truest form), I am again humbled by the support, but most importantly¬†– I ask that we remember those quiet and unsung heroes like the Ryans that simply keep on giving¬†in their own generous of spirit and quiet way.

So on that note – best I get a bit of rest now – An Trek Fada is still only a couple of words needing to be turned into action – LIKE DONATIONS!

Please donate at the top for BodyWhys Ireland.

An Trek Fada

-2 Days – Wet! Wet! Wet!


It’s official on 4 apps…. 70-80% chance of rain on Monday! Well, as a wise man once said, there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.

Enter the full on Transparent Mac. Belt, pockets… The works. It is now taken out and aired in advance.

I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed, as dry weather would obviously make the first day that little easier, but hey! It’s all for a good cause.

That said, keep those donations coming in… It’s now a case of wet and lost dignity for a great unsung charity that is BodyWhys Ireland, but that affects almost everyone at some level!

See the DONATE HERE! At the top of the page and Just do It!

You know I will!


An Trek Fada

-3 Days – Fear


It’s extraordinary how debilitating fear and self doubt can be.

Those who know me knows that I am not half as opinionated, obnoxious and confident as many would believe. In fact, when I tell folks that I am painstakingly shy they find it hard to fathom…. Verging on ridiculous.

But that in itself is one of my greatest fears I face, that someone might see through me and read me as a pushover.

This new fear is the one of disappointment. The outpouring towards my chosen charity has been overwhelming, their support phenomenal and hence the fear that I might fail them has become gut churning.

I am exhausted…. Not from work or walking, but from a pitted knot in my stomach that I might fail. And not only fail them, but fail myself.

The hardest thing in the world is sometimes to forgive ourselves in advance. So tonight, I am saying to me:

“What’s the worst that can happen?”
You could break a leg. Cramp. Blister. The list goes on.

But I sure is going to give it my best, and in the end that is all we can do. Our very and most determined best.

An Trek Fada

-4 Days – Message in a Bottle

Meant to be
Letter from Cumbria

Whenever I receive post at the hotel addressed to previous owners or staff that are long gone – I simply put it in the bin, as by this stage I assume it is junk mail.

Return to sender...
Return to sender…

This morning – for whatever reason – was different. I was about to put this hand written envelope from the UK, addressed to a Mr G O’Hanlon, in the bin when something told me open it. And so I did….

In there, was this letter from Margaret Battrick from Lancashire in UK, explaining how she was walking on the beach on 17th April 2014 whilst visiting her mother-in-law in Braystones, Cumbria – and amongst the rubbish she found this bottle with a message in it. The message had a reward of ¬£5 – no less – for the person who returned the message to Mr G O’Hanlon at the Brandon House, New Ross, County Wexford.

Very quickly we put the story together, and I decided to contact Mr O’Hanlon’s mother to tell her about this most extraordinary happening.

George O’Hanlon was her son, and was born on 7/7/77. She can’t quite recall when George sent the message in a bottle, but she can recall that he did as a young child. She was filled with joy and love, and told me what a creative, wonderful and imaginative child he was. How much she missed him and how wonderful it would be for her to get this, and to share it with his friends.

George O’Hanlon left us on 1 December 1998 – but through this extraordinary circumstance, I ask that just for a brief moment we pause to think of a creative young man – a dreamer – who sent a message in a bottle.

That message found it’s way to me today, so I am now adding George’s memory, and all those who left us too early – to An Trek Fada.