Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Big Ben to Brussels - Day 1

Despite having a bad knee that took me off the footpaths and into the car for the majority of two of the four days I've traveled with the four amazing women making their way from Big Ben to Brussels on foot (and ferry), I've had a fantastic time.

Day one started out at 5am, a train ride to London, delays on the tube, an exit one stop too early, and a hunt for a toilet before I met up with the team. Upon arrival, I was gifted a bright orange jacket and hat, a pack cover with logo, and some lip salve. After a few minutes of changing clothes and adjusting the contents of my bag, I was ready to meet the team. Alison, extreme free skier, UN Climate Hero, campaigner for the salvation of snow. Jane & Laura, two warm, strong, smart ladies: friends who've known each other for 17 years, both mothers of 3. I also had the pleasure of meeting their husbands. Nora, the documentarian, and her film crew. rain and wind, standing on the bridge to Westminster in front of Big Ben. We posed for cameras, interviews were conducted. Earth balls blown up, taken in and out of mesh sacks. I kept dropping my scarf. I was super excited to be there.

We eventually set off, in the rain, first to visit the ghost forest in Trafalgar Square. They were giant trunks, some with root systems still partially in tact from trees that had been cut down in the rain forest. It was moving to see a tree in that state. After the ghost forest, it was straight down to the Thames and along side it to the East. Walking is such an amazing way to see the city. I love walking along the river, seeing all the bridges and feeling like there's a bit of open space in a city that size.

Most of the day was on pavement, we took a turn north to get to the Lea Valley path, and walked along the river Lea almost until the night's destination. It was beautiful, some parts more than others. We cut through a park at one point and went through marsh lands. The river was smooth and put up a good reflection of the trees and sky, the boats that lived on it. We passed along some locks. It's an old tow path, not dissimilar to the one in Georgetown.

We walked and walked until after sunset and then we walked the last few miles in the dark. The conversations along the way were wonderful. Every one was in good spirits and really friendly. The conversation was lively. It was casual, it was about climate change and sustainability. It was about adventures and getting to know one another. We saw Nora and the camera crew for small intervals along the way. We were all thrilled to get to the hotel--especially me. I limped the last 3 miles or so. My knee didn't want to straighten. I had a lot of pain in the back of my knee and my leg seemed to want to bend to the side rather than to the front. I thought I was done for -- destined to hop on a train and head back, defeated.

Dinner was hilarious. The menu was very limited. When asked if it was possible to do a baked potato instead of chips on a fish and chips order, the bar tender responded, looking perplexed, that there wasn't a button for that. When the fish came, it was crispy. We weren't picky though. We were happy to be off our feet and eating. That night I iced my knee, elevated it and hoped it would be pain free in the morning.

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