All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking…
This story is dedicated to my sister. She’s a seasoned walker. She walks very large distances with my brother, and she was planning on walking with me. Unfortunately at the moment I started this challenge she got meningitis. Every day it’s getting a little better but she has a long way ahead of her. I miss you sis!
I don’t know if it is a great thought, but it has been in my head for quite some time. It was even there before me and my love went to Scotland to walk the West Highland Way.
Next year ( october 2019) I will be living in Flevoland for 50 years. How do you celebrate living for such a long time in the same region, in the same place? Do you even celebrate this or do I have to feel sorry for myself that I didn’t have the courage to leave this region and go on living somewhere else?
There was a time I thought I was going abroad. Just after graduating as a teacher, I applied for a job abroad but I was never hired; at the same time I was offered a job here in the Netherlands. Once I started to work I met my love and things happen the way they do. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret the things I’ve done and how my life ended up. The only thing I regret is that I never did a minor or a part of my study abroad, but that’s a different story.
As I said this truly great thought has been on my mind for quite some time and now suddenly things are starting to snowball. First I had to know if my idea was possible. I downloaded a map to see if it could be done, and as far as I could see, it could be done! And so the first step of my last challenge for this year was born: walking the dykes of Flevoland. I have lived my entire life in this region that lies 13 feet below sea level and is fully surrounded by dykes. There are 155 miles of dykes in Flevoland and if you count only the dykes that surround us, we are talking about approximately 100 miles.
Why walk the dykes of Flevoland? Honestly? I’m not quite sure. I have lived within the surroundings of these dykes all my life. Maybe it’s a metaphor. If I walk the borders of my region I feel like I embrace my past, my present and my future. Flevoland lies in the centre of the Netherlands and, if you look at it on the map, it’s the heart of my country. There’s even a dyke that cuts Flevoland in two halves, two rooms, just like a heart.
The dykes are supposed to keep the water out so that we can live safely on the inside. Water can be dangerous. It has a lot of power and strength, but is also needed to let new things grow.
This symbolizes another reason why I want to do this. At the end of last year I challenged myself to walk all twelve regions of my country. I showed a dynamic start in January but as the weeks past by I realized perhaps I was setting the bar a little too high. I hate unfinished business and maybe this walking the dykes is meant to be some sort of compensation. And of course there is the challenge. The challenge of doing something that hasn’t been done before. Like the water that surrounds us, this challenge will certainly help me grow.
Second, I had to share my idea with my Dutch Peaker sisters. You see the whole idea was that those who like walking just as much as I do, would accompany me on my legs. I don’t know what I expected, but certainly not the enthousiasm with which they embraced the idea. I thought nobody would be interested in this idea, so my first walk came too soon to have another Peaker walking with me. From the second leg, however, there were enough Peakers who wanted to join me. The only condition to walk with me was a small donation to Bloodwise; and so a challenge was born.
I am starting my challenge halfway through October, and it should be autumn by now. It is autumn but the weather is not autumn-like. It’s a sunny day and pretty soon I take off my coat and walk in a t-shirt specially designed for walking the dykes of Flevoland. Awesome!
I like walking all by myself. I don’t have to take into account other people. I don’t have to have pleasant conversations and if I stop, I stop. It gives me time to clear my head. Inviting other Peakers to walk with me is also a challenge! Today I have only the company of Wendy, the retired seeing-eye dog who is of my neighbours. As I said the weather is extraordinary for this time of the year. It could have easily been very windy and chilly. Nature is confused this year, because we also had a long and warm, even hot summer.If you’re living in a polder and surrounded by dykes, the only way in and out of it is by bridge. Seven bridges to be precisely. As a child I had to cycle to another village outside the region to go to school, and we always used the draw bridge as an excuse for being late again. Sorry, we had to wait for the bridge to come down…. And look here, even today, due to the beautiful weather, the two bridges I pass are up to let the ships pass. This time I don’t have to cross them.
On the first two legs of my hike, I pass enough restaurants along the beaches to use the toilet, drink a nice cup of coffee and have a lunch. I don’t know what I will find after the first two legs, so I enjoy it while I can. It’s nice sitting out on the terrace, looking over the water. There are still a lot of ships sailing by.
I read somewhere that if you really wanted to feel the autumn you have to go outside and take a walk. The autumn air is different from other seasons (well I don’t know but this autumn looks more like summer…). It’s the season in which the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. It’s important to catch as much daylight as possible to prevent you from getting depressed. You need UV radiation to make vitamin D, which is necesary to rebuild your natural defenses and make your bones and muscles strong. And although it’s such a beautiful weather you can see autumn is on it’s way. Nature is changing. Leaves get their nice warm colours, and on the path I’m walking I can feel the nuts from the trees crack under my shoes. Yes it’s that time of the season!
And so the first hike of my final challenge of this year is a completed. I conceived it while walking. I know that the other seven legs will be as nice as the first one. There are a lot of Dutch Peakers who will guide me in the next walks. I’m looking forward to it.