We did not consider for very long the idea of carrying large rucsacks and tents and cooking equipment together with food supplies. My back has several flaws – I usually manage to avoid any problems but when I get it wrong things can be really bad. The rucsacks, et cetera, would be getting it really wrong, so we would be seeking accommodation each night and eating out much of the time.
There were clearly many other points needing much thought.
Was it a good idea to walk every day for 70 days?
What would be the ideal route?
Accommodation along the way could be difficult to find, bearing in mind that
we would be passing through France in their peak holiday season.
Food and sustenance, knowing that we would be vegetarians in a land of much splendid food, hardly any of which is suitable for freaks such as us.
Would we need, or be able to arrange, back-up and support?
Using the UK-France option (starting in July), there would be a problem with heat, especially in France.
Using the same option, there would be peak traffic on the roads which we may have to walk along.
Because I was in New Zealand when I had the revelation, the first people to hear of it were some of our friends there. I tried the idea out on them partly to clarify the ideas in my own mind and to talk through some of the snags.
The response was most encouraging, although this is where I was first asked whether I was going to walk across the English Channel or to swim it. I have now perfected the groan that question produces.
Slight clanger above. I said the first people to hear of the proposed walk were our friends in New Zealand. Of course the first person I told was Gay, probably while we were in the middle of one of the 25 km walks. She supported the idea, although she did point out that 70 days on my own did not sound like something I would enjoy. That is true. I would of course like Gay to accompany me on the walk but she was silent on that score. A few days later she said she would come with me.
On 27th April, her birthday, Gay mentioned the project to Hans Kurer in an e-mail. This is his reply.
“You are a wonderful and brave couple. Do allow an emergency way out; though my first wife, Irene did a charity walk with a group of much younger folk accross the Siniai peninsula and was first up and first down most of the peaks on the way. So you are not alone. P.S. she was 78!!”
By the time we arrived back in Europe I was referring to the walk as VBW70/70 Vic’s Big Walk, 70 years, 70 days.
Comments from other friends were:
Bob Greaves. “Amazed at your stamina and ambitions!! Are you doing it solo? I refer of course your 'trek' and not something deeply personal! Good luck with it, Mr H. Is it for charity, do you want help with PR? Is it secret? So many questions, apart from the blindingly obvious....do you think you can do it??? I'm sure I should know the answer to that!”
Basil Strickland. “I had to read your Email a couple of times until I worked out the significance of 70 x 70 - it sounds a great project and GOOD FOR YOU! Please let me know how the planning goes. Who knows, if I'm retired by then I might even walk a couple of sections with you if short term visitors are allowed ?”
Derek Horner. “Glad to see you are well and thanks for the update of all your news. The 70/70 VBW seems a great idea but I'm afraid I don't have a spare RV sitting on my drive at the moment. I have got a tandem I could let you borrow if thats any help”
Marjorie Massey. “Its a most original way of spending a 70th birthday but then you were always a bit off the planet - in a nice way of course”
Tony White (after I had mentioned the difficulties Gay and I, as vegetarians, would face eating in France. “Don’t be such a wimp Wickers ! The veggie Yogis of India have walked barefoot from Kerala to Rishikesh or the Kumbh Mela [and back] for centuries, negotiating the odd Tiger along the way. Honey, sunflower seeds, nuts, dates, figs, milk, water, juice and chocolate … Do they still have Wolves in France ?”
Tony White (later) “Walking across France is no mean feat, even for a Marine
Just wondering what dangers might present themselves to the traveller on foot, camping ? Adders, Wolves etc”