Monday, 17 March 2014

Walk 4 Water 2014

At seven o'clock, every Saturday morning at over 60 locations around Australia, as many as 10,000 runners and walkers of all ages and ability cross a start line and begin a five kilometre organised run. The route may consist of a tough hill climb through a bush trail, or a flat gentle run along a manicured pathway, or around a park, or alongside a river, or the ocean, or a combination of any of these scenarios.  
This morning I was introduced to to the world of "parkrun". Initiated in the United Kingdom about ten years ago, it has grown in strength and now takes place in eight or nine countries every week including Australia. parkrun Australia which started on the Gold Coast in 2010, has held nearly 3,000 events at 64 venues with nearly 65,000 runners taking part.  Participation costs nothing. The events are entirely run and organised by volunteers and now that I have my bar code and have taken part in my first event, I am no longer a "beginner".
My daughter and her partner, who are old hand parkrunners, have been talking to me about joining them in a run for a long time, and this morning provided a perfect opportunity for me to get involved and round out my Walk 4 Water week.

I'm taking part in WaterAid's annual Walk 4 Walk event.  I have committed to walking 10,000 steps each day for five days in order to raise awareness and funds to help transform the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves. WaterAid uses its resources to improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in the world's poorest communities.  Why 10,000 steps? Because this is the average distance walked every day just to reach water in the developing world. One in every ten of the world's population still do not have access to safe water, depriving women of time to earn a living and children of an education. WaterAid's challenge is to help create a world with access to safe water for everyone. You can help by visiting my sponsorship page and donating to the cause by clicking right here...

Kathleen and Leo were volunteering today at the Bunyaville parkrun and Kathleen's job was "tail-end Charlie", ensuring that all participants completed the course and that all marker signs were pointing in the right direction and collected after the race. This was great for me, since I was able to walk rather than run the course and do my best to finish the event in last position.
There were 122 starters at today's run. The Bunyaville parkrun has only been going for a few months, but there was a wonderful air of camaraderie among the gathering all of whom looked pretty fit to me.  After a briefing the field was away, and some of those runners really looked like they meant business. The track is a challenging course across quite rough ground and definitely falls into the "tough hill climb along a bush trail" category.  But I was OK, I had my hiking partner from yesterday's Glass House Mountains walk alongside of me, and as the tail end Charlie (and a qualified first aider) I was in good hands. After first running around the paddock in the recreation park, the trail leads off into the Bunyaville Forest Reserve and after a brief climb, follows a steep trail down to a dry creek bed which you at once know is going to be a hell of climb coming back the other way (it was). From the bottom of the creek bed, the trail leads up an equally steep climb to the edge of the forest reserve and the gate on to the main road, which runners must touch before retracing their steps back to the start. 
The trail is also used by mountain bikers but it was well marshalled and very pleasing to see how considerate folk were to each other on the course.
Since we were at the back of the field, we had the opportunity to watch the front runners coming back in the opposite direction as they sprinted (and some of them were doing just that) to the finish.  Today's winner was a young man in his teens who ran the five kilometres in under 20 minutes. He didn't look to be in any pain at all as he ran past us on the way to the finish while we were just beginning the descent to the creek bed.

I have enjoyed this year's Walk4Water as much as I did last year. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to this great cause and thanks in advance to those of you that will. To my friend Megan, who is herself taking part in the Dancing with the CEOs fund raising event, I didn't wear a skirt, but we did manage a couple of New Yorkers and a Cuban Rock along the way.  Sponsor Megan by clicking on the Dancing with the CEOs link and help support the Women's Legal Service providing support to women who are experiencing domestic violence.
But what ever you do, please don't forget to support

Thanks to everyone else who has participated in this great event - particularly my colleagues and friends on the Queensland WaterAid Committee and look out for a whole lot of WaterAid events coming up this year which will continue to support people who have been less fortunate than ourselves in their access to clean safe water and sanitation.

I can't wait for Walk 4 Water in 2015!

The really good thing about Walk 4 Water (apart from the obvious part about raising money), is that I get to visit some magnificent parts of the country and, because I then write about it, I find myself doing much more research than I would otherwise do as a casual visitor.
Today I had a delightful travelling companion who was as keen as I was for a little father-daughter bonding. So what could possibly be better than a trip to the Sunshine Coast hinterland and walk around the Glass House Mountains National Park. 

I'm pleased to say that my pedometer arrived today, which was going to be useful in helping compare the results from my GPS with my step counter. I'll show you the results later.
As we left our northern suburbs home for the 45 minute drive north along the Bruce Highway, it was not quite the sunny Queensland morning we had been experiencing earlier in the week and there was a definite drizzle as we turned of the motorway and on to Steve Irwin Way.  No, I am not making these names up - there really is a Bruce Highway, as amusing as it may be to those of you from other parts of the world who think every second Aussie is either a Bruce or a Sheila. The road is actually named after a former Australian politician called Harry Bruce, and Steve Irwin Way runs past the Australia Zoo where the Crocodile Hunter lived. It then goes past the zoo and on through the Glass House Mountains Park and lovely old towns like Beerwah and Landsborough.  As far as I am aware there is no Sheila Highway, although I have come across a Mount Sheila in Western Australia, but that is about the extent of my research on that topic.
The rain had stopped when we pulled up in the car park at the base of Mount Tibrogargan, although to be on the safe side we decided to take along a couple of shower-proof jackets which were found conveniently nestling in the pocket of my golf bag, still in the car from yesterday.  As it transpired they were surplus to requirements, as was the compression bandage and other first-aid paraphernalia which the always prepared Kathleen insisted we bring with us in the event of snake bites, spider bites etc.  What we neglected to bring with us was insect repellent, but this was no more than a mild irritant. 
So with a liberal coating of Cancer Council Factor 40 Sunscreen, and the obligatory visit to the little place on the left, we set off into the morning light. 
For as long as I can remember I have known of the Glass House Mountains. As a child growing up in North Queensland, the mountains were a sign that we were only an hour or so from our destination when going on the annual five day drive one thousand miles down that same Bruce Highway from Cairns to Brisbane.  It was a major trek in those days - something I talked about in one of my earlier tales (Queensland Intermission - 1968).  I never quite understood why they were called the Glass House Mountains.  They certainly never looked the least glassy to me.  It was only years later than I learned they were named by the explorer, Captain James Cook in 1770 as he sailed up the eastern coastline of Australia, naming and claiming everything in sight on behalf of King George III.  The peaks reminded him of the glass furnaces near his Yorkshire home. As suppose they could possibly look like chimneys from somewhere off the coast. They certainly don't look like it up close - not to me anyway.
There are about ten or eleven mountains. The local aboriginal legend says that they represent a Father and a Mother and their children. Tibrogargan, the father sees that the sea is rising and asks his eldest son, Coonowrin to protect his mother Beerwah, but Coonowrin is scared and runs away. Tibrogargan is angry and strikes Coonowrin so hard he dislocates his shoulder and gives him a crooked neck. Tibrogargan turns his back on Coonowrin and stares out to sea, while Coonowrin hangs his head and weeps in shame.
The light was beautiful as we made our way around the northern side of Tibrogargan. There has been some wild fires through the bush and as a consequence the track to the summit was closed (not that we had intended to climb anyway).  Australian bush re-generates very quickly after a fire and the view through the forest needed an Arthur Streeton or a Tom Roberts to do it justice.

Our route took us on the Tibrogargan Track which goes around the base of the mountain a distance of about 3 km. This clearly wasn't going to be sufficient, so after we had hiked about the three-quarters of the way around, we diverted on to the Trachyte track which added another 5 km on to the circuit. 

The Glass House Mountains are volcanic plugs (similar in some ways to the rock on which Edinburgh Castle stands). The Queensland Government Department of National Parks describe them as remnants of volcanic activity that occurred about 25 million years ago. Molten rocks intruded beneath the surface and solidified into hard rocks of trachyte and rhyolite.  Millions of years of erosion have removed the surrounding exteriors of the volcanic cones and left the magnificent setting we see today.

As usual as I measure my steps during these walks, I try to take time to think how much less enjoyable this would be, if it were something I had to do every day of my life in order for my family to survive. Kathleen and I had a small backpack between us which including our small water bottles, wet weather gear, the aforementioned bandages and a little food barely weighed a kilogram or two. Imagine what it must have been like for 13 year old Kinina from Mali who used to help her mother collect water every morning from a dirty, unsafe well.  They would have carried a container weighing at least 20 kg. Thanks to your donation and more like it, there is now a working hand-pump in her village and Kinina can spend more time in school.
The Trachyte track took us through some magnificent bushland with scribbly gum, many varieties of banksia and a wonderful collection of birdlife.  We didn't see any snakes, and if they were there (there were of course), they were well behaved and kept their distance. The track leads up to the Jack Ferris Lookout, named after a pioneer of the area, who died at the age of 100 about ten years ago. 

After about 90 minutes, we arrived back at the car both feeling it was over all too swiftly. We'll do it again with the rest of our family as soon as possible.
For the record, here is our route.  
10,516 steps and not a twisted ankle or a sprained knee to be had.
Tomorrow is the last day and I'm joining Kathleen and her fiancĂ©, Leo for their five km Parkrun at Bunyaville. It should be great fun.
Now PLEASE - do yourself a favour, and click here and donate.  Thanks for your support.

Were I to be asked to name the things that I do well; the ability to consistently hit a small white ball, in a straight line, down the middle of a grassed area 50 to 100 metres wide, lined on one side or the other (or both) by trees and/or water, would not appear on that list. Equally, I would be found wanting if asked about my ability to accurately hit that same small white ball, with a stick (not just any stick, but one specifically made for the purpose of hitting such small white balls), across a relatively level and smooth piece of lawn and into a hole about 100 cm in diameter.
But I do love the game!
I love the fact that it requires only that I compete with my own ability to do at least those things I described plus a good deal more.  I love the fact that I can be twenty or thirty strokes worse a player than my opponent, yet thanks to the handicap system (which none of us really completely understand, though we pretend to), on a good day I can finish up ahead of him and on an exceptional day (it happened once) ahead of everyone else in the competition.
Sadly today was not one of those days.  A couple of days ago, my daughter came home from her weekly Parkrun, excited that she had run a personal best. "I got a PB, Dad", she beamed.  Well today I had a PW.
If anyone doubts that I covered 10,000 steps today - a quick look at my track should dispel any fears.
According to the GPS, I covered about 17 km! Now I admit that some of that was walking between holes and wandering around after the game looking for a lost buggy (not mine), forgetting that the GPS was still recording my tracks - but I'm sure you will agree, that I met my 10,000 step commitment today.  Believe me, it was tough out there.
If I'm serious for a moment, it actually wasn't tough at all.  The companionship was great, there were no dangers from wild animals (not even a snake), rock falls, heat exhaustion - indeed the worst I had to put up with was some indelicate language, and the mild risk of falling into the creek as I endeavoured to retrieve one or two of the several balls which I offered up to the water gods today.
Spare a thought for a moment about Patrick. He is a Program Officer in Sierra Leone, a war-torn country where WaterAid have recently started working again. Patrick was born in a village of fifteen homes in a community that had no safe water and no sanitation. His family used to dig in the swamps during the dry season. They would fetch water for drinking, cooking and everything else necessary to survive from a small hole in the ground. The water was thick with clay and Patrick says, "As a child I thought it was milk put beneath the earth by God." 
"There were lots of children like me with rashes and ring worm, others with scabies. Most of them did not survive. Later, after our village was burned down during the war, most of my relatives and friends died from cholera and bloody stools during our stay in a camp for internally displaced people." 
Today, the most important things that continue to motivate Patrick are his dynamic WaterAid team members, and the smiles, joy and satisfaction of people in poor communities when they finally get safe water. 
So please friends - now is the time to click on the link and donate to my WaterAid site.
There will be no report tomorrow - I will be on site most of the day, and no doubt walking a few steps, but I'm not going to count them.  I'll be back on Friday and Saturday to conclude my Walk 4 Water week.
Thank you again for you kind donations. Now please click here...

When it comes to parking Brisbane is like any other metropolitan city - expensive.  So today's plan for a river walk wasn't about taking the car into town, walking around the river a bit and then coming back to the car, because Wilson Parking aren't about to make any donations to charity!
My plan was simple - park the car away from the CBD at one of the ferry terminals; take a ferry to the city and walk back. Now I ask you, "how hard can that be?"
Well friends - my plan was in trouble from the moment I allocated two hours for the event, and made a commitment to be somewhere else after that.  So here's how it went down.
As a result of no "daylight saving" in Queensland, Brisbane folk start work a lot earlier than their southern cousins, the consequence of which being that traffic congestion also starts a lot earlier (OK, I know I am talking about Brisbane traffic and not Sydney or Melbourne).  I thus arrived at my starting point at the exotically-named Teneriffe Ferry Wharf much later than I had planned - and I still had to find a parking spot.
I eventually found a spot no more than five minutes walk from the wharf and the wait for the ferry was no more than 15 minutes. It was worth the wait.  I have spent my share of time around the Yarra, the Swan and the Torrens rivers, but as beautiful as the cities which they grace are, there remains only one true river city among the Australian capitals and that is most certainly Brisbane. No visit to this city is complete without a trip up and down this aqueous boulevard. It has certainly changed an enormous amount since I last lived here in the 1980s. 
There must be a couple of dozen ferries (known as CityCats) which go up and down the river from Hamilton in the east to the University of Queensland at St Lucia west of the city with a dozen or more stops on the way.
 As we cruised along I thought to myself if this is what Walk 4 Water is about, bring it on! It has been such a beautiful sunny Queensland day today (and now all my Queensland friends are going to tell me I'm talking in tautologies and I don't need all those redundant adjectives).
How different it must be for someone like Aljira from Liquica in Timor-Leste.  WaterAid has changed her life. She used to leave home at 4 am to collect water by walking along a slippery and dangerous track.  If she wasn't able to collect water like this everyday there was no water for drinking or cooking and her family would not survive.  Here was I, leaning against the rail, taking photos as we cruised down the river, while taking an occasional nonchalant sip from a chilled water bottle, which was about the most I was going to be asked to carry today. The daily burden of collecting water prevents women from working and children from going to school. 
Worse still, diseases like diarrhoea and dysentery caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation result in the deaths of 5,000 children every day. 
Now would be a good time to click on the link below and make a donation to this great cause.

                      WALK 4 WATER

After easing our way past the millionaire's row of Dockside Marina where I once worked for Evans Deakins shipbuilders in the 1960s as an estimator (Brisbane had a great ship-building industry in those days), we were soon sliding around the corner at Kangaroo Point and on under the magnificent Story Bridge.  it was at about this point that I realised I had made an error in judgement with my timing. All this "sliding" and "easing" was not what I expected of a CityCat. I was expecting to be burbling along at a rate of knots sufficient to have towed a water skier or two.  Unfortunately, I hadn't taken into account the devastating damage caused by the 2011 floods which inundated much of the CBD and among other things took out much of the Riverwalk around the New Farm area. Construction started earlier this year and will take a few months to complete. During this time, and for obvious reasons, all shipping and this of course includes the ferries, are obliged to pass through this section of the river at little more than a walking pace.  As peaceful as this was, I was starting to get a little concerned that I was going to be pushed for time so my walk wasn't going to be a stroll in the park (well it was actually, but perhaps a brisk stroll).
We eventually arrived at the Riverside terminal in the north-eastern corner of the CBD.  I didn't waste time as I had to hotfoot about 50 metres along the Riverwalk to the Eagle Street Pier where I jumped on one of the small CityHopper ferries for the short journey across to the other side of the river and the Holman Street pier where I was planning to start my walk today.  The Holman Street pier is in a beautiful spot jutting out from the mangroves and right next to the delightful Brisbane Jazz Club building.   

There was something significant for me about starting the walk from Kangaroo Point, for it was from here in January 1955 that as an eight year old Ten Pound Pom I first experience the land that has been my home now for nearly sixty years.  Along with all the other Queensland bound settlers, we were first accommodated at the Yungaba Immigration Centre where we stayed for several weeks. Yungaba was the first port of call for many thousands of the migrants who came to Queensland. It was situated right on the tip of the Kangaroo Point peninsula at a sweeping bend in the Brisbane River and with three-sided water views, it was a wonderful location for such an establishment.  If you care for a small diversion you can read all about those early days here, my first blog!
But today I had no time for reminiscing - I was on a mission and it was at this point that I realised I had made another error in planning.  There was no way I could get up on to Story Bridge from where I was standing without a longer walk back to where the main bridge deck joins up with Ipswich Road at Thornton Street and this would add at least another kilometre to my journey.  Not a daunting prospect in itself, and one which I would have taken to with relish, were it not for my other commitments.  Quite simply, there was not going to be time to cross the bridge, complete my walk and make my afternoon appointments.  There was nothing for it, this was a task for another day and taking the term literally, I hopped back on the CityHopper and within a few minutes I was back at the Eagle Street wharf once again on the north bank of the river.  It was here at last that my Riverwalk began.
Past the old Customs House, headquarters for my late step-father, Bernie who had been a Customs Officer working on and around this river for over twenty years and along the Riverwalk on the way downriver.
I was determined to get up on that Bridge today, and thanks to the detour in place resulting from the Riverwalk construction works at the Howard Smith Wharf, I was diverted up the ridiculously steep Ivory Lane to walking path along Bowen Terrace.  Finally, after a little huffing and puffing and once again grateful for not having to heft a 20 kg water container as I strode along, I was standing on the northern entrance of the Story Bridge, the longest single cantilever bridge in Australia, designed by the same engineer responsible for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, John Bradfield.

But now I was getting more concerned about time and my gentle stroll was turning into a John Howard-like power walk (check here to see what I mean).  I wasn't going to be able to get around New Farm and back to the car in time. So it was that shortly after leaving the walking path at the Wilson reserve, I turned my steps north east and followed a rather hurried route through the apartments and weatherboard houses of Kent Street and Harcourt Street back to my car at Teneriffe.
As I climbed into the car, I check my GPS and could see that I had walked just over five kilometres - half of my 10,000 steps for today.  But before you ask for your money back, please rest assured in the knowledge that later this evening I managed a brisk evening stroll along the same route as yesterday morning, thus achieving my balance for the day.
However I will admit, I'm going to mix a little business with pleasure tomorrow morning as I complete my 10,000 steps around Brisbane Golf Course.  But I can assure you dear reader, with my golfing skills, it will be at the very least 10,000 steps - most likely much more - but I will record it.
Now before I hit Publish on this darn thing - please once more, consider donating for this wonderful cause.  And here is where you do it.

                      WALK 4 WATER

Thanks for reading - more tomorrow

This time last year I was living in the New South Wales town of Newcastle. We moved there after 28 years in the same house in suburban Sydney and now, twelve months on we find we are missing Newcastle and the Hunter region as much as we do Sydney. Not to say that we aren't delighted to be back in Queensland (my home state as it happens) - but we will always have fond memories of our times down south where our kids grew up and we had (and still have) so many lifelong friends.  The poignancy of all this was felt last week when for the first time the For Sale sign went up outside our home in Sydney. 
But I digress. This is not about our less than epic journey up the Pacific Highway - this is about Walk 4 Water.  I only mentioned Newcastle, because it was this time last year that I enjoyed taking part in Walk 4 Water 2013.  It was a wonderful way to explore the local area while taking time to think about how easily we take for granted some of our most fundamental privileges.
As I did the walk last year I kept a bit of a journal. I hope you take a moment or two to read it - I've provided a link to it here. If you helped with a donation last year, you will know what it is all about.  If not - please click on the link below and help by contributing to this wonderful cause on behalf of WaterAid.

Walk 4 Water 2014

So I am on a five day mission to take ten thousand steps each day to raise money and awareness for Walk 4 Water. Why ten thousand? Because that’s about how far the average people, mostly women or children walk every day in the developing world to access water so that they can continue to exist.  

I will try not be as verbose as I was last year when reporting my activities. If I am honest, it really is not a difficult task to take 10,000 steps a day under the conditions which prevail here in our privileged society. To begin with, it's almost impossible to walk very far, certainly in the metropolitan areas, without coming across one of these.

So I'm doing the walk and enjoying the opportunity to get a little more exercise and fresh air this week than usual.  The weather is going to be beautiful and I will not be carrying a 20 kg water jar under my arm, or on my head. The paths that I walk will be clean and flat, I will be wearing my Cancer Council sunglasses, designer sneakers, a wide brimmed hat and plenty of Factor 30 sunscreen. I will try not to spend the walk wired to my iPhone like some roller-blading dude on Venice Beach - how otherwise would I be able to hear the crisp ching of a bellbird, the chortle of a magpie or the screech of a cockatoo - not to mention the ding of the occasional cyclist reminding me that this is a shared path?
WaterAid is a wonderful organisation whose mission it is to transform lives by providing access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation. There are 768 million people on the planet who do not have access to safe water and that's over 10% of the world's population. Around 700,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation - that's about 2000 children every day. We on the other hand, take for granted the fact that we turn a tap on - and there it is - at no more than two dollars a tonne.
So today's little walk was a brisk little stroll around the northern suburbs of Brisbane not very far from my home. Brisbane and the surrounding Moreton Bay region has many miles of pathways and cycleways and today's walk was along one such pathway.  I have no odometer this year, but thanks to apps like Strava and Map My Ride, I am able to tell exactly how far each walk takes me.  This morning I turned around at almost exactly the five kilometre mark shown on my GPS and retraced my steps - home in time for breakfast!
The scenery is quite magnificent. I have been looking forward to Walk 4 Water for a few weeks now and I don't plan to be disappointed.
Tomorrow, I think I'll be off for a river walk, but I won't be lowering any container into the water or worrying about whether the water has to be boiled before we can consume it.  The time and energy required to fetch water, together with the negative health impacts of using dirty water, also has a huge impact on people’s ability to work or get an education. In the countries where the good people of 
copyright WaterAid
WaterAid are carrying out their work, poor communities often cannot access sufficient quantities of safe water locally, due to poor infrastructure and bad management of services. This can be down to a lack of skills, investment or political will to prioritise the right to water.   Nadia is 16 and lives in a small Rwandan village which is a now a ten minute walk from a water pump that WaterAid and a local partner rehabilitated. Before, the pump was broken and she had to walk to a swamp to collect dirty water, even when she was heavily pregnant. Nadia says that the children in the village were often sick because of drinking the dirty water but they had no choice. She says that many women experienced problems during childbirth as there was no safe water to maintain a hygienic environment. She now has access to safe water close to home and she is looking forward to a brighter future and being able to have time to work to support herself and her son. Sadly, stories like this are fewer than they deserve to be and many more children continue to suffer.  But we can help and you can help me reach my wretched little target of $500, because just that amount will by some of the pipes for a gravity water system. 
All I would like you to do is to click on this link to my sponsor page and make a donation.
Do you know that one in three women around the world have no access to a safe toilet, threatening their health and exposing them to shame and fear? Water and sanitation aid provided to sub-Saharan Africa each year amounts to less per person than the price of a cup of coffee and yet for every single dollar invested in water and sanitation, there is an $8 return as an economic benefit through improved health outcomes, reduced costs and increased productivity. 
As I said earlier, I feel privileged to have been born and lived in a society and a time where public health and sanitation is taken for granted.  Thanks to the good people of Unitywater and other water service providers the worst my community have to consider is an unobtrusive little pumping station like this one which works around the clock taking away and treating our wastewater at water purification and recycling facilities in our region. 
 So please help by getting involved where ever you are reading this.  If every one who reads this donates $5 and passes it on to someone else who donates another $5, we soon be on our way to changing the lives of people who have not been as fortunate as ourselves.
Thank you - more tomorrow!