Thursday, May 25, 2006

I did it!

It's 2am, and I'm back home already.

I did it! I managed to walk +25km and also managed to come 6th! : ) Really a big improvement from last time when I was with a friend (you know who you are!). This time I did it in just under four and a half hours. I guess when you're walking alone there's not much to distract you, so you just keep on walking. Left, right, left, right, left, right, in meditative harmony... music in my ears, the cool evening breeze, smell of fresh manure, the touch of your own footsteps on the asphalt, and the quack and waddling sounds of new-born ducklings.

Started from Leiden Hogeschool, through Leiden Zuid (actually past my friend's place where I spent the night last Friday), towards De Vink, Voorschoten, along the Vliet (river), onto Wassenaar (THE bourgeois neighbourhood of the Netherlands), through the Haagse Bos, then to Centrum in Den Haag, where the journey ended. It was a pleasant route, through polders, along canals and rivers, green farmland, past luxurious mansions, through various woods and forests. The only thing that was really frightening was walking through Haagse Bos (Hague Forest). That piece of wooded area is notorious for 'unusual activities in the night (use your imagination). A friend of mine cycled through it once and was 'exposed' to some 'indecent sight', and made him vow never to go through the forest again. So imagine me (and others) walking through the pitch dark forest, in the middle of the night, completely alone. Worrying.

And then came the rain. For half the time it was raining, and freezing. I'm sipping hot tea as I'm writing this just to keep warm. I think the temperature dropped to around 10C tonight, and with the wind and cold rain it felt so much colder. And I had to cycle home because I left my bike at the station....even more exposure to the wind and rain. When I came home I realised just how wet I was. When I say wet to the bone, I mean it. I had to take everything off-- jacket, sweater, trousers, socks, undergarments: all-- because everything was just soaked!

But there were things to be learnt too. Every five km or so there were 'pitstops'--information stands about activities of NGOs, and the main theme of the event: the 8 Millennium Development Goals that the UN set out to achieve in 2000. There were flyers to be taken away, and freebies to be grabbed. All in the name of raising awareness and becoming involved in something idealistic and visionary. For the sake of the poor, the undernourished, the ones suffering great injustice, the ones denied proper medical care, the ones barred from simple necessities that can sustain their right to life, the ones living under terror and oppression. Why walk at night? Because a lot of people around the world flee from place to place at night, so the walk was supposed to give that effect. For a few hours we were 'refugees'. Despite the cold, the wetness, the tiredness, we at the end of the trip can count on a home to go back to, can indulge in clean water and snacks when we feel like it. Those are privileges not many share.

Dry again now, and happy. I'm suprised I'm not tired at all. And feeling actually strangely energetic. I didn't take a break at all, just kept on walking from start to finish (except for the short toilet breaks in the woods). And my feet don't really hurt that bad either...or perhaps when I wake up tomorrow-- no, today morning I'll know the real strain to my body.

A little personal achievement in a not-so-eventful period of my life is really something.

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