An Trek Fada

Day 14 – Ground Hog Day

Like a mirage in the dessert - that was what that Pint of Guinness became in the end...
Like a mirage in the dessert – that was what that Pint of Guinness became in the end…

So Day 13 turned out to be pretty lucky for me after all. Simple really – I made it.

Now for some stats. In 13 days I…..

– Walked approx 420 000 steps

-Burnt approx 45 500 calories

-Put on 0.5kg (or one pound for the non metrics)

-Saw 40 shades of Green – and yes –  50 Shades of Grey

-fell in love with Ireland all over again

-Got a fabulous Tan (albeit  in bits 😉

Many people ask me still how do I come up with these things, and the answer is simple. I simply don’t know. I warned everybody that I needed to do something mad, so as to get a bit of my own madness out of my system, and most importantly remind myself to stretch my boundaries. You see – I am not your typical sporty physical type, but would much rather sit on my now slightly smaller derriere and ponder current affairs, or research some bit of trivia that would never require any further thought, but at the time is ever so important.

The past 13 days has been my Ground Hog Day – I did not awake every morning with “I got you babe”, but in the beginning it was amusing. By day three, the weather and elements battered at me with a fierce determination to make sure I considered quitting. The first couple of days you get up and you think optimistically that today will be different, but then another shower dampens your spirits.

When spirits are dampened, the temptation is always there to give up, but alas, when like groundhog day you know what is in store, you can also use that knowledge to change a mindset. So I chose to walk on.

Yesterday was my coupe de grace though, as I ended up walking 37km to get myself home to Wexford Quays. I had that pint of Guinness at Simon’s Place, a hamburger and then I went home to reflect. Along the way I was joined by friends from diverse backgrounds and organisations, and I could not help but think how unlikely a smorgasbord of beautiful people I have in my life. How truly blessed am I.

I had spent 13 days pondering the perfect ending to this journey, and what I would write, but it is just such an overwhelming gambit of contradictory emotions, that combined with my ADHD I can’t seem to get the words out right now.

I’m delighted that The Journal had an article about the journey and highlighted the plight of so many, I am equally flattered that everyone did not want to let me know the negative commentary that was there. Nice for them to be protective, but again, in the words of Jacinta from BodyWhys, we started a conversation about body image and what causes eating disorders, and we managed to highlight  a charity (BodyWhys) that serves a very determined purpose if needed, and which I suspect as the pressure heats up on self esteem issues in the new world, will have a tougher job than ever. To those who said I was fat and the list goes on – before I set off on this journey, I got a full medical, and in the words of my doctor, I have never been healthier. Along the way some commented that they assumed I’m in my 30’s (must be doing something right), and all in all I have been overwhelmed by how I gave a voice to many, rather than the negativity of a few.

So as I now bring this chapter to and end, I wish to thank so many, and will do it in person, but most importantly I want to thank my bosses – Tricia and Pat Quinn, and in his memory – Paddy Quinn – and colleagues You see – many moons ago these people took a chance on me, knowing that it was a risk. And when a couple of months ago I put in my holidays and told them what I was going to do – they simply got behind me , sponsored my outfits even, and wished me well.

Candles were lit, prayers were said, and my fellow workmates just rallied behind me and dare I say some are even proud of me. For all of that I am truly humbled.

For all the kindness, well wishes and support I am grateful.

Sometimes you need to face your Groundhog Day, and do it differently.

All it takes is a first step.

An Trek Fada

Day 11 – Mind over Matter

Time to say goodnight...
Time to say goodnight…

Tonight I simply cannot write too much, as I have to rest my most important muscle… my brain.

To say that at this stage I am physically in bits would be a slight euphemism, but a few more tapes, needles and prods from the very selfless Siobhan Guiry should keep me strapped in for the final two days.

What I have not spoken about is the toll this walk has taken on my mind. It truly is the most extraordinary gift we have, and the ability it provides us to do…. or in some cases not do,

is overwhelming.

I have chosen to set my mind to what I can do in life, rather than what I can’t do, and in order to fulfil that over the next two days, I simply need to turn off the switch, and lull myself into 8 hours of dreamless and restful sleep. If I manage that, like so many other things, I know I can do anything I want to.

So for your continued belief and support, I thank you each and everyone – but tonight I need to rest.


An Trek Fada

Day 9 – What shin?


Part of the wonders of this journey is that I am a most unlikely poster child for anything physical! Built like a brick shithouse, I’m more the type of person you want in a drunken arm wrestling contest than a marathon walk, but in that lies the humour in itself – so let me continue.

I had NO idea I had shins. I have heard of them – but in my anatomy class there are two legs, two arms, a body, a head and various bits that fit together and work in oblivious harmony to keep me alive.

When I was till a smoker I sure did know where my lungs were, and due to my genetics, I, nor anybody else for that matter had any problem finding my arse, but as for the finer details that makes up this “temple” that is me – shins? Never!

In the spirit of body consciousness, I was rather disappointed at the age of around 13 when I looked in the mirror and realised that I was not deemed to be the next Ms South Africa. I was soon told “You are a handsome young woman who turns a neat ankle” (Transcribed means you are not exactly an oil painting, but some one will have you, and put a bit of a heel on those long flat feet of yours, and you have slim ankles for a big girl)

This is all still grand – but no-one ever said to you – “God, what a fine shin you have!”

Well let me tell you – I have a left shin alright, and as someone who has experienced childbirth, I can now quite vociferously describe what a shin splint is . (I apologise for those not having gone through childbirth without pain killers – but hopefully my description will give you much to look forward to).

Imagine will you a small 5 cent size hole about 2 inches above your foot, along that bone at the bottom of your leg, in the front that is barely covered with skin. This hole is unknown to you, as it is bone – but you do not realise that hundreds of little nerves, vessels, muscles and ligaments make that leg go forward and backwards, and can even cause you to walk long distances. Now imagine a tennis ball has mysteriously found it’s way behind that hole, and has decided during said long walk that it does NOT want to be part of your body at certain times, and no matter how much tape you put on it, it WILL try to get out.

No warning, no explanation…. false sense of quiet and rest before it makes it’s next assault. Sound familiar? And then the longer the walking, the more frequent it becomes.

The beauty of all this? Just like childbirth, by the end of the day you’re sense of achievement outweighs the pain, and by the next day it is a long and distant memory, and you do it all again thanks to a bit of TLC and a good doctor.

Four more days to keep putting my best shin forward!

An Trek Fada

Day 8 – Motorways


Speeding along life’s continuously speedy route, we are excused if we miss a beat, or a trick, because really…. really, I was just SO busy.

And we have it all planned out. Being a grown-up is SO much easier than being a child or god forbid, a misunderstood teenager. But then as we walk along our well thought out life route, we realise as time goes along that the direction originally planned was maybe not the better option.

Why then are we so determined and stubborn to keep on bashing a path ahead on that same beaten road, when a slight detour or new path can be so much more beneficial and kind?

When this journey started I had 364km carefully mapped on Google Maps and had everything planned to the last millimetre. As fate and weather would have it, not to mention a couple of shins, it was not a route easily taken.

The stubborn side of me said you HAVE to follow the path, it is what everyone expects you to do and the route intended. But some wise people said, why walk that route when in my experience there is an easier way – and you said you would walk from Belfast to Wexford – no one expects you to do anything more than take the best route.

And in those simple words (I paraphrased) I veered off the chosen route before Dublin already, gave Skerries a miss, and again today did not realise there was a motorway in the way.

So instead of bashing a stubborn path along my planned route, we nonchalantly swayed in another direction – off the motorway, and rediscovered the beauty of Wicklow. Not WAY off the beaten path – just enough to keep the day exciting, and the route interesting.

Like life – if there is one thing that I would like to tell my younger self, is don’t stare at the path chosen for too long, because you might miss the exciting turnoff along the way…. and who knows where they might lead?

Like Ashford, which once was a very busy, congested and worn out little town on the old N11 due to the traffic on the ONLY route to Dublin. On revisiting today I found a quiet hamlet, a retreat for a weary body with people relaxed and at peace.

Sometimes bypassing a beaten path can be a good thing, and with time allow for time to heal.

An Trek Fada

Day 6 – To be continued…..


Houston, we seem to have a speed wobble, and will have to concentrate on recouping. Sleep…..

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

-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.