Sunday, 9 August 2009

Summary and Thanks

It has been a day of recovery, and reflection. I walked to the local shop to buy a phone card (so I could send through the balance of yesterday’s photos to Juris). A couple of kilometres of slow and careful walking was all I could manage, though if I had needed to walk on the blister, no doubt I would have. I kept thinking of last year and how I had to keep walking on a developing blister. Over the last 3 days, I have had a similar blister. I was reminded of the irritating background pain that is there with every step, and often a stabbing pain referred into the base of the heel.

It is not difficult to ignore a blister for only a couple of days, but last year I walked with the blister for 3 weeks. I have also been very lucky with the weather this year. A couple of light showers, the longest for half an hour or so as I approached Jēkabpils on day 4. Wet clothes, particularly wet boots, makes walking immeasurably more unpleasant and difficult.

From the Lithuanian border at Latvia’s southern-most point to the Estonian border at the northern-most point was a total of 385kms and took 11 days. I averaged 35kms each day and 7.5 hours of walking at 4.6kms per hour. Last year I walked 750kms over 24 days and averaged 31kms each day and 7.5 hours of walking at 4.29kms per hour. I very much appreciated Janis’ company on day 8 for 50kms and Selga’s on the morning of day 9 for 16kms.

My accommodation was at the following places:
Walk eve - ‘Hotel Latgole’ at Daugavpils (hotel)
1st night – ‘Pakrasti’ at Sventes ezers (Lake Svente)- Juris (holiday cottage)
2nd night – ‘Liepziedi’ at Munči, near Dviete – Asterija (room in a house)
3rd night – ‘Bērzzemnieki’ at Zasa – Inese (room in a house)
4th night – ‘Citrus’ at Krustpils (relaxation centre and 4 room hotel)
5th night – ‘Mežezers’ at Mežezers – Imants (hotel)
6th night – ‘Palīgs’ at Ērgļi – Daina (hotel)
7th night – near Zaube – Gunta’s house
8th night - Cēsis – Juris’ and Selga’s house
9th night – ‘Mujāni’ near Kocēni – Rasma (room in a house)
10th night – ‘Miks’ at Mazsalaca – (hotel)
After the walk – Mežaparks (home).

To plan the walk, I used the 1:200,000 maps in Latvijas autoceļu atlants (a very comprehensive book of road maps). On the walk, I used the maps ripped out of that book, including the larger scale maps for the towns. I also used 1:50,000 topographical maps for virtually all the walk (about 15 in all). A companion book to the road maps, Latvijas Celvedis, provided information about accommodation options. The books and maps were purchased from Jāņa Sēta in Rīga. I brought most of the equipment I used from Australia, some of which I left here after last year’s walk. I bought 4 ‘easy cook’ meals at the outdoor shop at 17 Miera iela and a great top at an outdoor shop at the Alpha Centre (but unfortunately I left it at Mežezers). One of the best discoveries this year was an anti-groin-heat-rash ointment, Naturalene’s ‘The Invisible Glove’, made from ‘100% natural plant extracts’ – it is pure gold.

Thank you for my training partners in Melbourne – Mark and Jacqui who guided me to the first aid centre when in October last year I finished the half marathon at the Melbourne Marathon in 2 hours 50 seconds (Mark and Jacqui were much faster), Kārlis and Aija who walked with me at the 3x3 camp at Mittagong in early January (though we started at 5:30am because Kārlis needed to start work at breakfast time), the 3 wonder women – Tanya, Louise and Jane – who completed the 100kms of the Oxfam Trailwalk in April with me in 23 hours 47 minutes, and Mark, Christina, Sue and Julien who competed in rogaines with me this year.

The blog was again an integral part of the walk. I had the mobile office from last year – barely used over the last 12 months as I usually do without a mobile phone. Ian Edwards originally advised on its purchase and fortunately it turned out to be very similar to Juris’ mobile, Juris Benkis again agreed to enter the blogs after I sent him the raw text and photos. He did an amazing job and I would not have had the energy otherwise to keep writing and taking photos. At times Juris operated from his home computer in Riga, at other times when he was in the country at Cēsis. Sometimes, my blogs were sent through late at night and Juris never failed to put it on the net within a short time and to update the blog as more photos, or the TV coverage, became available. Juris provided great encouragement over the whole period of the trip and I am very grateful to him.

I also received a good deal of encouragement both before I left and through the comments on the blog. This was a life-line. Sometimes I heard about it in phonecalls with Anita, and at other times I was able to read the comments directly. So thanks to the commentators: Jāna Anderson (12 times), Anita (6 times), Mark Bormanis, Juris Benķis, Caroline Dawes, Jānis Balodis, Arnis and Māra Siksna, John Brauns, Atis Lūkins, Susan Dārziņš, Eva Bindera, Rūta Šķoba, Daniel Fine, Valda Jefimova, Dīvs Reiznieks, Selga Benķe, Viktorija and Andrejs Mačēns, Cat from Australia with the Latvian boyfriend, Con Salpic, Jānis Apsītis, Imants Freibergs, Sandra Lūkins, Linda Ozers and Jānis Čečiņš and Matiss Lūkins. Also to those who sent supporting emails: Ian Edwards, Des Cowley, Maree Kennedy, Sue Wilson, Andis and Rudīte Bērziņš, Anna Žigure & Jukka Rislakki, Michelle James, Tim Kendall-Carpenter, Veid Muižnieks, Joe Tsalanidis, Julien Lowy, Fran Hogan, Daina McDonald, Aija Rozentāla Matiss Biezatis, Clare Ashby, Christina Finch, Ilze and Gunārs Nagels, and Paul Santamaria.

The Latvian media took again took an interest in the project this year:
At Dauagavpils, I was interviewed for the local newspaper Latgales Laiks by Inese Baranovska.
At Jēkabpils, Lāsma Skļarska interviewed me for the local television station Vidus Daugava. Vidusdaugavas’ TV web site address is, and the interview is on at -
Also at Jēkabpils I was interviewed for local newspapers by Ilze Kalniņa from Brīvā Daugava and Māra Grīnberga from Jaunais Vēstnesis.
At Cēsis, I was interviewed by Agita for the local newspaper, Druva.
At the Estonian border I was met by Gunārs and Ilze Nagels from Laikraksts Latvietis. Photos are at

Gunta and Ziedonis have provided great support throughout. Gunta arranged all of the accommodation and checked with them again the day before I was due to arrive. Last night, both Gunta and Zedonis drove long distances to ensure that I got home to Rīga after finishing the walk. Gunta, Selga and Juris offered me the hospitality of the homes which allowed me to recover and recharge both physically and mentally. Last year, Janis told me that if I ever got into trouble to give him a ring and he would be there within 2 or 3 hours. I didn’t need to take him up on the offer either last year or this year, but it was a comforting thought. I very much enjoyed his company and conversation on the longest day’s walking, and Selga’s the following morning.

Lija, Jānite and Anita have all provided great encouragement and support. Jana’s blog comments were always a highlight. I was very pleased I could see Lija’s final concert at Mazsalaca and come home with her. Anita visited at Cēsis and Mazsalaca and we were in daily phone contact. The walk was always a ‘traka’ idea and Anita supported me all the way. I would not have bothered otherwise.

And finally my thanks to all the people I met on my journey. Jana, Olafs and their sons, Andris and Imants, who shared the cottage at Sventes Ezers, Andris (the birdwatcher) who was riding his bike through the forest on the way to Zasa, Astra and Uldis, Gunta’s neighbours at Zaube, Laura from Calgary Canada who was staying with Uncle George (Juris) at Cēsis, Zane (the rogainer) who I chatted with at Mujāni and who, with John Brauns, gave an impromptu performance of Martiņš Brauns, Saule, Perkons, Daugava and Atis and Baiba from Mazsalaca whom I hope have a kāzas and a very happy life together. Thank you too to Atis, Matiss and Kristine Lūkins who came to Mazsalaca to see Anita and me and to John Brauns who drove over to Mujāni. I have had an amazing opportunity to see a lot of Latvia and to meet many different people. I very much appreciate the experiences I have had and all those who made it possible.

Lastly, a commercial – if you live in Melbourne, you too can share some of my experiences at the Breakfast at the Hilton, Wellington Road, East Melbourne on Sunday 23 August at 10:30am. I will present a slide show (which I promise will be entirely new, with only the best bits from last year’s walk). Buffet breakfast, champagne and the entertainment included in the price of $45. The proceeds will go to help bring performers from Latvia to the 53rd Latvian Arts Festival in Melbourne in December 2010 (organised by Anita and her committee). For tickets, contact Aina Kučere on 9435 6152 or Anda Vēliņa on 9850 6569.


  1. Hi Graham,

    We have enjoyed the day-by-day accounts of your heroic walks immensely.
    So rest yourself and particularly your blister - we recommend drinking red wine to help it heal more quickly!
    Would like to know how you liked Steven Carroll's 'The time we have taken'.

    Arnis & Māra

  2. Dear Graeme, a very sincere thank you from my father for taking the photo of his childhood home. He was both thrilled and touched. We are very impressed with your accomplishment and look forward to seeing you at breakfast!

  3. Dear Graham

    You are truly amazing! Pity I am not in Melbourne to come along to your champagne brekkie at the Hilton. It will be Ramadan here so no eating or drinking for 1 month in public during daylight hours (groan). Best wishes and well done! Best regards Michelle xx

  4. Hey, you should try geocaching too, it would be great with walking

  5. Graham,

    What a tremendous effort. From the Lithuanian border to the Estonian border; almost 400kms in 11 days!

    Sorry I did not send you words of encouragement along the way but I was thinking of you. I have been away with my family and mobile phones and emails were banned. My wife Sue did not want any distractions.

    I would have liked to have come to the slide presentation last Sunday. Con Salpic sends his regards. He is still overseas in Spain until the week after next.

    Maybe we can catch up for lunch in a few weeks time with Con and hear about your incredible adventure first hand. I omitted to say that I enjoyed reading your detailed commentary and the stats (ie daily distance, time taken, average speed and distance covered and, of course, the weather).

    Well done and best regards,

    Joe Tsalanidis