Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is Omega 3 A Bad Thing?

75 days to go until the start of VBW. We walked 106 kms in the week finishing yesterday. Quite a good total for 7 days which included 2 travelling.

We have all been bombarded with advice over the past few years to eat foods containing Omega 3 because it has so many health benefits. When my eye problem was diagnosed last year I was advised that the only thing which might possibly slow down the rate of attrition is Omega 3. So I have been absolutely ramming the stuff into me.

But what do I read now? Omega 3 is one of the causes of gout (which is something no walker would want). Not only that, but another cause of gout is fresh fruit! Where do we go from here?

Saturday, February 27, 2010


We awoke this morning to reports of the massive earthquake in Chile, and tsunami warnings for New Zealand.

Normally on a Sunday we have to wait until 6 pm for any news programme on the television, but today there are news alerts every half hour.

Fortunately we are on the West Coast, and well away from all the beach walking we were doing only a couple of weeks ago in the Catlins and other places.

There will be some effect on the West Coast, but not so much as the East Coast, the whole of which is affected. This is good, because here our accommodation is virtually at sea level, with just some sand and one row of houses between us and the sea.

The Things You See While Walking!

Passed this in Hokitika the other day.

For those not old enough to remember - this is what BMW's looked like when I was a lad. In those "olden days" this was called a bubble car. It's a two-seater.

How things change!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Kindness Of Strangers

When we arrived at Hokitika the other day, a small package was waiting for us. The contents are pictured above. Two small New Zealand badges and a message from Denise of Alexandra “ To Vic and Gay. A couple of NZ badges for you both to wear on your walk. So you know that your NZ friends are walking with you. Denise”.

How kind is that? Denise owns and runs the Alexandra Court Motel in the town of that name. It is ludicrous to call her a stranger now, but she was just that only a few years ago. Over the years we have stayed at the motel she has become a good friend. She is immensely kind, always plying us with goodies from her extensive vegetable garden. When we left her a few weeks ago she sent us off with a huge box of plums which kept us and our next hosts going for some time.

We are always knocked out here by the kindness of people we have known for only a few years, and we marvel at how many of them have become such good friends. Lyn and Selwyn Cardno in the Catlins not only packed us off with a box of muffins, they had already taken us out for two full days and fed us more than once; next year we are going to Stewart Island with them for a week. Denise and Robin of Oxford have become much more friends than service suppliers. Tracy and Shayne in Oamaru were away when we arrived so they left us a voucher for a free meal at Filadelfio’s. Adele and Brian here in Hokitika welcome us with open arms. Jan and Ian, their children Sophie and Felix, and Jan’s parents Robyn and John, are far more to us than the family of ayoung woman who once trained at the same running club in UK (and who gave us an extensive briefing before our first trip to NZ, 15 years ago).

There are others. Most of our friends in New Zealand have supported Vic’s Big Walk by donating to Pancreatic Cancer research through my blog.

And none of them are strangers now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Driving On

Exactly 5 months today, on 23rd July, my 70th birthday, and after walking 30 kms a day for 70 days, I should be finishing Vic's Big Walk outside the house where I was born 70 years earlier.

After one night in Christchurch, we crossed the Southern Alps today to Hokitika. We were reading only a few days ago that, because of known tension in the Alpine Fault, New Zealand (which has earthquakes every day) will suffer a huge ‘quake of at least 8 on the Richter scale sometime in the next 50 years (could be today or any time from then on, but it will happen). If the energy release is northwards, Hokitika will be among the town completely flattened. So we have our fingers crossed.

I realised soon after posting the last item about my failing eyes, that I had better explain why I am still, at the moment, able to drive, before somebody sees me at the wheel and declares me a fraud. I was not quick enough. When Adele and Brian, our hosts for the next 6 days, were greeting us, Adele asked me the question.

It is my central vision which is affected, quite severely already. But at the moment – and I am sure this will change – my peripheral vision can “see past” the problem and I have no difficulty – or not too much of a problem – in seeing things which are further away. So I can drive a car, although I would falter if you asked me to read a number plate. As soon as I believe the eye thing is making me unsafe, I will hand over the reins.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Going Blind

So the body is doing fine, on the whole. But what, I am asked, about the recent news that I am going blind (yes, I have come to terms with it and have started using that phrase, because that is what is happening to my eyes)? Yes, I may have to have a white stick, to wear protective goggles and to learn Braille.

I will completely lose my central vision and will be unable to read. There are further eye hospital appointments when we get back to France, to measure the rate of attrition. I know the rate is significant because there are things I could do only a few months ago, which I am not able to do now. For instance, I recently snapped the high E string (the thinnest) on my travelling guitar. Try as I might, I could not thread the string through the hole in the tuning peg. And yet only in November or December, I snapped the same string on a guitar at home and managed to replace it myself. This time I had to take the guitar to a music shop and get them to replace the strings. Bad news because of what it signifies about my eyes.

How is it affecting my walking? I have already mentioned that I can not see the walking tracks on any of the maps (total cost 700-800 Euros) which I have bought for the trip. Also, I am having a lot of trouble passing over rough ground or up and down steps, because my foot-eye coordination has gone to pot. In addition to that, I have to wear dark glasses to protect my eye condition from the sun. When passing in and out of light and shade, especially in wooded areas, I am having a great deal of difficulty.

As to whether the deterioration will be rapid enough to have even more effect on the walking and on VBW itself, only time will tell.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Body

I get asked how my (almost) 70-year old body is standing up to all this walking.

The answer is mainly pretty good. I get a bit tired sometimes, towards the end of a 30 kms walk, but sometimes I sail through it. Sometimes I wonder whether I should go at like a bull at a gate, as I do, or whether I should take it in stages, having a rest perhaps after each 10 kms. But my natural inclination is to keep going until I have finished the day’s walk. I start pretty early and like to get it all over by lunchtime.

By the next morning my body has usually recovered and is raring to go. Strangely, if I have a day off, usually because of weather or other commitments, it is on the mornings after such a rest that I feel stiff and a bit battered. This normally is forgotten after a couple of kilometres.

I have had one or two scares with the same knee which stopped me running, but have managed to exercise my way through it each time. X-rays show no damage to the bones – in fact they are in remarkably good nick considering what I have subjected them to as a distance runner for most of my life. It must be a ligament, tendon, muscle problem.

So I am hoping that, barring accident, injury or illness, the body will manage to get me through 70 days of 30 kms average until I arrive at the target. In a few days over 5 months it will all be over. And I will be wondering what to do next.

And I am still baffled as to why I have put on 6 kilos while all this has been going on. My eating habits have not changed. My input has not increased. My output is definitely more, so I would have expected to be thinner, not fatter (and it is fat, mainly on my belly). One of life’s mysteries.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Today we are rained off. It seems that it will continue all day so we have decided that comfort rules, OK. As I have frequently said, when VBW starts – in 86 days time – I will have no choice – I will have to walk every day, rain or shine – but at the moment I do have the luxury of staying dry..

On Saturday we drive back down to Dunedin to meet friends Rod and Caroline King for the day. They are on a cruise ship which is in port from 0830 until 1630. They will catch a taxi to the magnificent Dunedin railway station, which is definitely worth a look, then if the weather is fine we shall whisk them out to the albatross colony before dropping them back to their ship.

Albatrosses are amazing creatures. Not only are they huge, but their lifespan is similar to that of humans, they can fly at 80 mph whilst barely moving their wings. Their maiden flight is not a training run – they depart from here to Chile and around the world. They stay away for years, then return to find a mate, marry for life, raise a chick, then separate for two years of roaming. At the end of this period, they return to the nesting ground separately but on the same day!

They are wonderful fliers, but sometimes they get it wrong. One wonders what happened to this poor creature we found on the beach in the Catlins last week.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Only 89 Days To Go

Sorry for the lack of communication but we have just emerged from a week at Kaka Point in the Catlins area of New Zealand. Without driving some distance into a town we had no Internet connection and no cellphone signal, hence no posting on this blog.

As previously mentioned, we were staying at the splendid accommodation provided by Lyn and Selwyn Cardno (ably assisted by their schnauzer dog Otto). This is excellent accommodation and we can not recommend it highly enough. Over the years we have become very good friends with Lyn and Selwyn and frequently have days out together – two days this year, one touring much of the Catlins and the other in Dunedin. The picture shows Lyn and Big Walker comparing notes at the amazing Gypsy Caravan, full of all sorts of Heath Robinson and Emmet- type crazy gadgets.

Gay and I got in plenty of good walking between Kaka Point and the Nugget Point Lighthouse, a round trip of 20 kms. I haven’t totted it up yet, but we managed well over 100 kms in the week.

Today we drove through Dunedin and back to Oamaru, which we left two weeks ago today.

In exactly 3 months I shall be taking the first steps of Vic’s Big Walk and will then be committed to an average of 30 kms per day for 10 weeks until I reach the house of my birth and the finishing line.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

There's A Little Yellow Eyed Penguin ...

On Monday we drove from Alexandra to Kaka Point in the Catlins. Here we stay with Lyn, Selwyn and Otto Cardno.

Our normal walk here is from Kaka Point to the lighthouse at Nugget Point, walking mainly on the beach - a round trip of 20 kms. We frequently see seals or sealions, as we did both yesterday and today.

An unexpected bonus today was seeing a yellow-eyed penguin less than a kilometre before we got back to base. The only snag is that they are not normally seen on this bit of beach, where people with dogs are allowed access. And it is unusual for a penguin to be on the beach in the middle of the day, when they are normally out at sea gorging themselves.

Lyn rang DOC - the Department of Conservation, who sent a lady out to scoop the penguin into a small cage and remove it to a safer place before a dog created havoc with it. But by this time the penguin had gone, hopefully into the safety of the sea.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The End Of A Very Hot Week In Alexandra

... in more ways than one. For the first time this week, the temperature here was under 30 degrees. In fact I don't think it went above 25. The afternoon was cooler than the morning. That's what happens in New Zealand, especially South Island, when the Antarctic scowls in this direction.

Also it is the end of our week here. Tomorrow we move away to the coast where it should be much cooler. I have walked over 180 kms here in 7 days - actually in 6 days because on Monday we were mainly on the road here. I have to admit that it was very hard work and the thought of doing that every day for 10 weeks is daunting but surely I will not be doing it in such a heatwave?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Couple Of Corrections

A few days ago in "New Zealand Giants" I went on about how difficult it must have been for Bob Fitzimmons to travel back and forth between New Zealand and the United States, where most of his boxing matches took place.

By coincidence, today's morning paper "The Otago Daily Times" carries one of those "100 years ago today" reprints of an article from 1910, about Fitzimmons, who "was once a New Zealander", being lauded while paying a visit back to the country where he achieved manhood (he was born in Cornwall, England) and started boxing.

Further research reveals that he clearly went to live in USA when he became a professional boxer.

Also a few days ago, I mentioned that I had discovered from the instructions for my new pedometer, how the old pedometer, or any pedometer, should be clipped onto the waistband or belt, above a knee, to function properly. One little point I didn't mention - it needs to be the right way up. If you accidentally turn the waistband so the device is upside down, it won't register any miles or kms at all, however far you walk! Guess who ...?

Treed Us A Possum

The forecast for today is 35 degrees. So far this week, the temperatures - 32, 34, have exceeded the forecast, so we await today's actuality with trepidation.

Fortunately, today's long walk is already done. For an NZ change, I did it on my own as Gay has blisters on her feet. This means she unfortunately missed something I saw for the first time ever - a live possum.

Possums are not natural to New Zealand, but the estimates of their numbers vary from 70 million to 100 million. They are a pst and New Zealanders hate them. They eat 20,000 tons of berries, fruit and foliage each night. They return night after night to the same trees and eat all the foliage, destroying the tree.

It is rare to drive for any distance without seeing dead possums on the road but, as nocturnal animals, it is unusual to see one. Today, as I walked the river path from Alexandra to Clyde, I caught up with two women who had stopped because their dogs had found something in the bushes. The "something" turned out to be two possums and I saw one of them climbing a tree to get away from the dogs, then sitting in a fork of the tree in broad daylight. I didn't have a camera with me, but the picture above is probably of a relative.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Walking Man

Is this an omen? Is this the year of the Walking Man? Today's big news in the art world is that the new record price for a work of art at auction is the $104.3 Million paid for the Giacometti sculpture "l'homme qui marche" - "The Walking Man".

There are people in the Puivert area who know me by that soubriquet - not to mention thousands of followers of this blog.

Interesting to see that there is also a Rodin sculpture of the same name, not to mention a James Taylor album.

Let's hope that the success of the Giacometti walking man carries over into Vic's Big Walk and its associated fund-raising for Pancreatic Cancer research.

How High's The Temperature, Momma?

Phew! The temperature has whacked up to 34 degrees (93 degrees F to Americans). That was yesterday, and it could be more today.

What a time to pick for suddenly leaping into walking 30 kms per day. We have done that for 3 consecutive days now and I am fair jiggered. And I am fully aware that starting from May 15th I shall have to walk that distance every day for 70 days.

I am hoping that two facts will make a big difference. One is that by then I shall not, as now, be coming off virtually a month of tiddler walks, travelling, and other, weather-induced idleness. The other is that it is very unlikely, in May, that the temperature will be at these levels.

We have known temperatures of 36 degrees at home in May (on at least one occasion following a day of 11 degrees) but it is unlikely to be so consistently hot by then. It is possible, of course, but at least it will not come straight out of the winter, as now.

The photo is not of a pumpkin, a melon, an apple or an eyeball. It is a small relative of the famous Moeraki Boulders, pictures of which I displayed on the blog this time last year.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vital Advice For Pedometer Users.

Yesterday we moved inland to Alexandra, frequently the hottest place in New Zealand during the summer. True to form, the weather has biled (as Huckleberry Finn would have said) up to 31 degrees Centigrade just as we ramped up the walking to 30 kms per day.

I owe an apology to my maligned pedometer. As memtioned before, it has been giving me a lot of inaccurate readings so I purchased a new one (pictured), the Accusplit Eagle.

The Accusplit is much smaller and neater, has a very large display - necessary because of the dire and deteriorating condition of my eyes. It claims a battery life of 18 months, compared with the experienced life of 6 months in the other one. It has an excellent attachment system, with a clip-on and also a backup lanyard to another clip. I have learned how necessary that is because I have dislodged and dropped the other one many times.

I was very disappointed at first by the tiny scrap of paper which is all the instructions you get. However, as long as you have a magnifying glass, everything you neet to know is there. Especially this vital piece of information - that the only place to clip the device is on your belt or waistband, directly above one knee. IN NO OTHER POSITION WILL IT WORK ACCURATELY. If Omron had told me that (in fact I am pretty sure they suggest dangling it from a lanyard around your neck, their device would still be my one and only. I have been using it clipped to the chest-strap of my backpack, in which position it seems to lose some kilometres, especially, for some reason, when walking up steep hills.

Following that advice from Accusplit and clipping the Omron directly above my left knee while the Accusplit plugs away above my right knee, I get identical readings, which, unlike the Omron in its former position, match up with my known walking speed. Nevertheless, the Omron, being bigger and clumsier, is now relegated to Deputy Dawg.