Steps for South Sudan - quick recap
If you missed our launch, we have teamed up with an experienced long-distance walker, Juliet Hill, to launch our new virtual Steps for South Sudan fundraising campaign. Juliet's latest plan, to walk from Mexico to Canada, has been postponed due to the pandemic, so Juliet has been working with us to map out the walk from Coventry in the UK (the Headquarters of Friends of Ibba Girls’ School) to Ibba in South Sudan (around 8,494 kilometres). The walk is, of course, completely virtual!
How does it work? We are asking our supporters to donate ‘trek kilometres’. So however many kilometres you walk per day, week or month, we are asking you to donate them to our trek. You can carry these out in your leisure time or part of your working day, you can get your family and friends to sponsor you, or you can simply make a donation for every kilometre you do. We suggest £1 per km (but don’t let me stop you if you are feeling more generous!). We need both your kilometres and your donations to get us to Ibba.
Donations up to a value of £20 are easy to make: just text 70470* with the word STEPS and the amount you want to donate (e.g. STEPS 5 will donate £5), or if you'd like to donate more than £20 (or would rather give online), you can make a donation here. You can either include details of how far you have travelled in the comments section on Virgin Giving or email us. That way, we can track your distance.
Update: Saturday 1 August
Distance travelled: 2347 km
Heading further into Algeria, we are still having fun in the Atlas mountains. Every day we find ourselves having to climb the terrain for a bit (it's hot and tiring but we get the most magnificent views) and then head all the way back down again. We decided to change things up a bit yesterday by going for a sunrise hike. We did half the day's walking before the sun had even risen. It was incredible to see the sky transform from a star-studded sea of inky blackness as a golden orb burst through the horizon. It was like nothing else I've ever seen! Naturally, the early start meant we could then justify a well-deserved afternoon nap! The remainder of the kilometres were spent trudging along a hot and dusty track. Hey, I never said hiking was easy...
Update: Tuesday 28 July
Distance travelled: 2335km
Having left the buzz of Algiers behind us, we headed south to make our way through the whole of Algeria. Walking through Chrea National Park was amazing! It is one of the largest national parks in Algeria which sits in the Blidean Atlas Mountains. Because it sits in the mountains it means it is one of the few places you can going skiing in Africa with natural snow (I mean there isn’t enough snow up there right now but how much fun would that be?).
We walked through the park, slowly increasing our altitude, (and gave ourselves a quick pat on the back for how much easier it was to climb than when we were in France) and noticed the trees all around us. We learnt that it was actually an ancient Atlas cedar forest but also included holm oak, cork oak and pine trees (that’s one for all you tree lovers out there). The forest was lovely and dense but perhaps the MOST exciting part was that it is one of the few habitats in Algeria that supports the Barbary Macaque (yes you read that right, monkeys!) You don’t get that in the UK or France now do you. Sadly these beautiful friends are endangered but we think we might have seen one. We definitely heard them anyway.
After an awe-inspiring day we were ready for some food so found a wonderful café serving all the traditional dishes – some ended up being quite familiar – couscous, tagine (but 1000 times better than you’ve ever had it!) and some new – bourek (fried spring rolls), mhajeb (flat bread with onions and tomato sauce) and slata mshwiya (roasted pepper with tomato sauce and olive oil). They say you can tell so much about a culture through their dishes and the spices and flavours in these warmed my body as much as the friendship from the locals warmed my heart and soul.
Update: Tuesday 21 July
Distance travelled: 2324 km
Algiers! WHAT a city! Getting off the boat we were greeted by a colourful hubbub of smells, sounds and smiles against a background of white. The buildings tumble down the hill to the shore, with the glaring sunshine heightening the contrast of white and blue. We have had such a great time exploring and treating ourselves. Algiers has an amazing heritage, and we began in the Kasbah, a UNESCO world heritage site which is a maze of corridors and alleys, with street vendors selling all sorts of wares including many I'd never seen before. Next up were the Ketchaoua Mosque and the Notre Dame d'Afrique Basilica (so so beautiful!).
We had lunch in the el-Hamma botanical garden (and if you know me you know I LOVE a botanical garden and this one was so good), before an afternoon of education about the French rule in Algeria from 1830 until 1962. The Maqaam esh-Shaheed (Martyr's Memorial) stands high above the city, honouring those Algerians who fought for their independence, and as we stood under its soaring palm-leaf-shaped arches, some of us were reminded again of our own white privilege. As we set off across Africa, we will resolved again to strive to be anti-racist in everything we do and to amplify the voices of those who have been - and continue to be - ignored and abused in the past. Our distant destination in South Sudan is one small but meaningful way of putting this resolve into practice.
Thank you to our supporters
Hi, Juliet here. We have had lots of fantastic walkers take part in this challenge so I thought I’d introduce you to a few of them and let them tell you about the actual walk they went on. First up meet our friends from Evenlode Vale Churches.
‘Our youth group, 7 of us and Biggles the dog, walked 13 kilometres starting in the beautiful town of Stow-on-the-Wold. We walked through Lower Swell, down an old Roman road towards Condicote, then on through Donnington before finishing back in Stow. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had the excitement of seeing a grass snake too!’
Thank you for your walk and for donating your 'steps' to our campaign, I hope you had a wonderful time!
Update: Wednesday 15 July
Distance travelled: 2170 km
We left sunny Marseille and are now on the ferry crossing the Mediterranean Sea, waving goodbye to southern France and watching the land slowly fade away. The rhythm of gliding through the waves with the sea breeze in our hair is making us feel at peace, especially watching the sunset (it is one of the most glorious sights watching a sunset with absolutely nothing on the horizon – one moment it’s there and the next it’s gone leaving a sky of pink and gold in its wake). It is around 10.30pm now and going to be a long night so we had better get some rest in our bunks.
We are so excited to dock tomorrow and put our feet down on Algerian soil for the very first time. Salam’alikum Algiers! We can't wait to see what this wonderful country has to offer. Algiers, the capital of Algeria, is known as ‘The White City’ and is said to be absolutely stunning. We are definitely going to have to explore!
Update: Tuesday 14 July
Distance travelled: 2073km
We’ve made it to our two thousand kilometre mark! What an achievement! Having enjoyed a mix of hot and steep walks in the countryside between Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, that hot fragrant smell of pine forests in the summer is so emotive for me. If I smell that randomly on a walk I’m instantly transported to any hike I’ve been on – I can feel the dappled sunlight on my closed eyelids, the sound of birds chattering around me, the warmth and the magnitude of pine trees towering above me creating a canopy and the soft earth covered with pine cones and needles crackling underneath me as I take step after step.
The Sainte-Victoire mountains looked incredible as we saw them from multiple different hilltop villages on our route – each a jumble of red-rooved houses peppered along the mountainside. The influence of the famous painter Cézanne is obvious (he’s the one who painted loads of still life and big landscapes from around here) the colours and scenes he painted stand as beautifully in real life (and you can totally see why he spent so much of his time here!).
We stay outside of Rognac tonight and we can definitely smell the sea from here. 31 km left and we’ll be sitting at the port ready to sail away!
Update: Tuesday 7 July
Distance travelled: 1966 km
Hello everyone! Sorry that we haven't sent you an update for a few days, we just got into the rhythm of walking so peacefully through France and haven't had a chance to update you all on our progress. Today, we arrived at the Pont du Gard, an amazing Roman bridge. It was built in the first century and is 275 metres long, 30 metres longer than London's iconic Tower Bridge. Its architecture is just incredible. It is almost like bridges on top of bridges. I have included a photo below.
We are also now only 142 km from boarding our ferry to Algiers – we had glimpses of the sea from the mountains and now we can’t wait to actually get there! But for now, we will carry on past Nimes and heading for Aix-en-Provence to hopefully enjoy some wonderful food markets and sunshine.
General campaign update
Hello to everybody already supporting this mammoth journey of ours! We just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who has already donated, we literally couldn’t have done it without you. As we near the end of our European leg we are realising more and more how much further we still have to go and how many steps that is going to take.
So we are putting a call out for more walkers, and for this, we need your help! Do you have groups of friends who don’t know about this? Or family who would like to get involved? What about work colleagues or members of your community (especially those who do lots of walking without realising – dog walkers, I’m looking at you!) Please help us spread the word about this and help us inch nearer to the end goal of Ibba, South Sudan.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and we hope you have a wonderful day.
Update: Monday 29 June
Distance travelled: 1894 km
Hello lovely supporters! We're now within 100km of the Mediterannean coast and within striking distance of the border with what is still known culturally as 'le Midi' - the South of France to you and me - and we've decided that the lure of the Mediterranean is so strong we're going to branch out and get across to Africa as quickly as possible. So... we are striking out to Marseille now - only 218 km away! - and taking the ferry across to Algeria! Hopefully we'll be able to cross the famous Roman aqueduct the Pont du Gard tomorrow (89 km away), and then we can stride into Provence and inhale the calming fragrance of lavender fields on the way to the bustling port city of Marseille.
Some of us have never been to Africa before, so travelling through 7 of its 55 countries - of which South Sudan is the newest - will be the adventure of a lifetime! Why not join us as we head towards the 'White City' of Algiers and step out onto African soil?
Anyway, for now we are in a lovely forest near Les Vans (no vans to be seen though?) and have had a wonderful day walking and looking at maps to see what we can get excited about on the way south!
Update: Saturday 27 June
Distance travelled: 1839 km
We had a great walk today on some higher ground – and even (almost) along a ridgeline between Suc de la Lauzière, Suc de Séponet and Mont du Vivarais. The views were absolutely stunning and as it was a clear day you could see for miles and miles. We saw some tiny dots at the summit of Mont du Vivarais and realised they must have been people. We also met some day hikers on this last section of the GR7 – they were wonderfully friendly. Tonight, we are staying a couple of kilometres outside Sagnes-et-Goudoulet, past the river crossing of the river ‘La Padelle’. The camp spot we picked out sits at the highest elevation we have camped at so far, and as it was so hot today, we really hope it isn’t too chilly tonight!
Update: Friday 26 June
Distance travelled: 1800km
Wow, it was a hot day for walking!
The only way we are managing to hike through this heat is to jump into any and every river/pool of water we pass (our favourite has been the river Lignon du Velay)! We have quite a hilly section ahead of us, so we are praying for a big thunderstorm to clear this weather. I absolutely love thunderstorms for some reason (call me unusual I know) – there is something so exciting about the flashes and bangs that seem to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
We are camping tonight near a village called Les Vastres (which every year holds a cabbage festival, such a shame we are a month too early). It sits below Mont Mezenc and near lots of other mountains, giving us splendid views to enjoy as we walk (and watch the sunset behind too). So magical!
Update: Tuesday 23 June
Distance travelled: 1765 km
Phew, it is HOT today! We had a brilliant, if not tiring day, up and down some slightly more mountainous paths. There are still lots of farms and pastures around but we are definitely seeing more ascent and descent changes in our day. Despite the heat, we had some lovely trees to shelter under and a gentle breeze when we got higher up. Passing through lots of little villages, we saw lots of pottery shops and other little artists' galleries. We wished we could have bought a lovely mug or bowl but we didn’t really have room in our bags (and it would have probably got smashed anyway). We will have to come back another time when we aren’t carrying everything we need on our backs.
We are camping today in a village called Saint Bonnet le Froid. There are spectacular views – we really hope it’s a good sunset because this view would be wonderful if there is!
Update: Sunday 21 June
Distance travelled: 1721 km
… and breathe! We’ve had a wonderful few days staying in a guesthouse, relaxing, organising and cleaning. Lots of us needed to get new equipment like new shoes or walking poles so we decided the best thing to do would be to have some ‘zero’ days (walkers' lingo for sitting about all day eating and drinking to give your body a break). This also meant we could do some serious cleaning (top tip: if you walk past someone on trail and wonder what that strange smell is, and its deodorant, you probably smell pretty bad).
Today we ended up just outside a village called Le Planil. It lies in the Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat – amazing hillsides covered in green pastures, beech and fir tree forests and orchards. It’s so pretty and is the start of our journey through numerous Parc naturels for the next few hundred kilometres.
It’s going to be so much fun, why don’t you invite someone to join us!
Update: Tuesday 16 June
Distance travelled: 1683 km
Not much to report today, we had a lovely peaceful walk north of Saint Ètienne (which is apparently the snowiest city in France so good job we’re not hiking in the winter!) with lovely views of the Alps to the side (especially Mont Blanc). We’re only about 100km away from Switzerland here (anyone fancy a little detour?): many of us are dreaming of skiing right now – especially in this heat.
We camp tonight just outside Saint-Christo-en-Jarez, a town that has existed since at least the 9th century and faces Mont Pilat. We will have a lovely dinner looking at the spectacular scenery around us and sleep at the feet of mountains (or snoozing giants depending how you view them)- amazing!
We’ve had some great donations from teams of two people recently – one person doing the walking and one person doing the donation – so if you would love to get involved but are unable to walk for any reason or aren’t in a position to be able to donate, then why not team up with another person and become the dreamiest of dream teams?!
Update: Monday 15 June
Distance travelled: 1641km
Just a short walk today as we are having the afternoon off to … HAVE A BIRTHDAY PARTY (wahay)! It’s Ibba Girls’ School’s 6th birthday today so we are spending the afternoon celebrating – games, music and food (we managed to find a tiny little patisserie, so naturally we bought treats for us to enjoy). We have enjoyed some Lyon delicacies such as praline tart, bugnes (tiny little donuts sometimes called ‘angel wings’), coussin de Lyon (marzipan and curaçao chocolate bites) and cervelle de canut (fromage frais with herbs). Yum.
Luckily it was a beautifully clear morning today so we were treated to glimpses of the Alps as we walked. It’s starting to get more mountainous as we enter the Rhône-Alpes region; time to get the quads really burning (the views totally make up for it though)! We were near the foot of Mont Boussuivre today, it was wonderful to look up and see its peak so high above us.
We camp at Violay tonight before we set off for another great day tomorrow.
It is fantastic that we are here after six years; why not send us a donation as a birthday present so we can continue for another six (and more!)? Find out how you can help Ibba Girls' School celebrate.
Update: Sunday 14 June
Distance travelled: 1618km
Hi everyone, it’s me Juliet again (surprise surprise)! We have covered such a long way in the last few days so I wanted to thank everybody who has donated to get us this far (thank your toes for me too)! Tonight we are stopping between Ronno and Saint-Appolinaire in the middle of a lovely forest. The terrain has stayed pretty similar for the last section – a mixture of lush forests, fields and scrub – but there has been a constant supply of new faces. Lots of hikers out for the day (or two) and even more cyclists enjoying the excellent cycle paths (isn’t it nice to see so many people outside having fun).
Unfortunately, lots of our walking shoes have begun to break slightly or lost their ankle support so we will definitely be taking a little off-trail trip to an outdoor shop once we get nearer to Lyon (in about 50km or so) to pick up some more shoes, gas and whatever else breaks before then…
Update: Saturday 13 June
Distance travelled: 1416km
Another bumper day today! We flew past Dijon, stopping only briefly to see the Museum of Fine Arts inside a spectacular 14th-century palace (incroyable, génial and chouette all apply!) and the Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy (again stunning), and to sample some of the famous export (the mustard, of course!). Talking of famous exports, Gustave Eiffel (of tower fame) was actually born here.
We are well into the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France and enjoying the green rolling hills and medieval villages we pass (we could even be back in Surrey). The sun has peeked out from behind the clouds, which definitely helps our moods.
Tonight we are camping just outside Arcenant in a field with lots of space so we can all gather in a circle. We have got into the routine of doing some stretchy yoga each night (to try to prevent any injuries, but it’s also a nice way to wind down as a group) and share our favourite moment of the day and something we feel grateful for. It’s a great way to recognise and remember the privileges we carry and help us clear our minds for the next day - why not try it yourself?
Update: Friday 12 June
Distance travelled: 1285 km
Another great day here in 'walking land'. The most momentous occasion today was swapping trails. We left the Via Francigena at Langres and swapped over onto the Grande Randonée (GR 7). This will take us all the way to Tarifa in Spain (our most southern point in Europe and where we will travel to Africa from!)
Our final kilometres on the Via Francigena were quite something. Langres is a spectacular walled city, made up of 3.5 km of ramparts and 12 big towers. We spent a moment exploring the town (and were mightily impressed) before we headed on with our eyes and feet set for the south.
We have already seen some beautiful chateaus hidden away in forests and near fields along the GR 7. We are outside Pierrefontaines tonight, camping in the forest wondering what wild animals we may see.
Hope you all have a great weekend!
Update: Wednesday 10 June
Distance travelled: 1224 km
Wow, what a day. We walked through the deep forests of the Haute-Marne region, passing more remnants of Roman roads and even an archaeological tomb too. Walking through the forest is so atmospheric – the oak trees tower above you quietly watching everything, the leaves flutter in the breeze and the sun streaming through the foliage covers the forest floor in shadow and light.
We even had time to stop off at Bar-sur-Aube (unfortunately not that kind of bar) which used to be an important place for trade between the North and the South. Traders came from Flanders and Italy to exchange oriental spices, silk, textiles and raw products from northern Europe.
Tonight we are camping outside a tiny village called Mormant. We have loved walking along the Via Francigena but realised today we only have 36 km on it until we change trail (time flies eh?) I wonder how quickly we can get there?
Update: Monday 8 June
Distance travelled: 1137 km
We had another good day of walking today although we are getting slightly tired of the same old porridge every single morning. But it’s easy to carry, high in energy, doesn’t spoil, and keeps us going for ages. To try to spice things up a bit we’ve set up a challenge to see who can come up with the weirdest (but tastiest) toppings! Let’s just say it got interesting…
In this section, we stopped off in Lesmont to walk on the remains of the actual Roman road that links Reims to Langres – and what the original pilgrim Sigeric would have walked on (how cool is that?!). We also visited Brienne Castle where the young Napoleon Bonaparte studied in military school - so much interesting history. Today’s walk was especially beautiful (I love lakes) as we were walking near a regional natural park, the Parc naturel régional de la Forêt d’Orient, where three large reservoirs regulate the flow of the Seine and the Aube.
Anyway, we are stopping today a little before Amance for some well needed R&R!
Update: Saturday 6 June
Distance travelled: 1084 km
We are once again in Champagne plain. We met a really passionate winemaker today who told us all about the right types of grape to use and the process of making the perfect champagne.
We also visited (during a sneaky off-trail trip) the Lac du Der. It’s the largest artificial lake in Europe (so cool right!) and was built to regulate the flow of the river Marne to prevent it from flooding Paris. Now we are about 6km outside of Outine, in a village called Bailly-le-Franc. It was very rainy today and the ground quite soggy but thankfully we have been invited to sleep in the church this evening (thank you, kind church people). We had quite a surprise when we arrived – it was the most beautiful half-timbered church (apparently they are very common around this area) with so many fun decorations.
We hope the weather cheers up a bit tomorrow as waking in the rain isn’t much fun. Do head over to Twitter for an additional, fantastic and thought-provoking commentary by Friends of Ibba Girls' School trustee, Martina Yanga, on the walk with us.
Update: Friday 5 June
Distance travelled: 1029 km
Hello everyone, we hope you are well! We are now crossing what is known as ‘ Land of Chalk’. It was once used as a building material but nowadays is sent to the pharmaceutical industry (to be used in all that clever science stuff). We also set off following a new river today – the river Fion. There are lots and lots of mills around and fields and fields of wheat and barley waving in the wind (fun fact: to tell the difference between wheat and barley, barley have the little tufts of green coming out the top whereas wheat doesn’t). We are stopping just outside Saint Amand sur Fion today which is said to be one of the most beautiful villages in France (lucky us).
Today we met some girls on their way to school and we had a chat (in our very basic French). They thought what we were doing was so cool, but it also made us think about all the girls in Ibba we were doing this for. We weren’t just walking for a fun holiday (well it was fun and did feel like a holiday) but there was a really important reason behind what we were doing. We definitely walked quicker this afternoon, motivated by the thought of classrooms full of girls realising their potential in the world!
Update: Wednesday 3 June
Distance travelled: 1013 km
Today was a well-deserved rest day. We found ourselves relaxing on the banks of the Coole (it was pretty cool!) and lost track of time wandering through the Domaine de Coolus – a natural area rich in heritage value fauna and flora. We camp in St-Germain-la-Ville tonight and are hoping for clear skies for some more stargazing. It was quite drizzly today. We are hoping the sun will come out to dry our hiking boots or tomorrow morning is going to be a bit wet and cold...
Update: Tuesday 2 June
Distance travelled: 1000km
Oh my goodness we have done it! The first 1000 kilometres are in the bag. We are so incredibly proud of ourselves (mainly our feet) to have lasted this long (and to have raised over £1320 along the way.) We left the woodland and started walking alongside the canal that hugs the River Marne. Passing pond after pond after pond (and at each one searching for our beloved frog princes) we found out that these are old gravel pits in order to make sure buildings can be built with local materials!
After such a momentous day we are going to relax in one of the many parks here in Châlons-en-Champagne (more champagne anyone?) and explore the Notre-Dame-en-Vaux church and cloister – another stop on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed pilgrimage route we are walking.
Sitting in a beautiful park, with the sun streaming through the trees we can’t help reflect on the recent weeks; we’ve lost count of how many baguettes we’ve eaten our way through, how many moments have made us remember the pure joy of life, or how many starlit skies we’ve camped under and even the memories of walking down the Oxford Canal have become slightly hazy. But all of these are the signs of a great hike, and we are definitely ready for the next 1,000 kilometres!
We are going to continue into the Marne and Haute-Marne regions of France, so why not contact your friends and invite them to join in the fun!
Update: Monday 1 June
What a long day
Distance travelled: 964km
We are nearly at the 1,000km mark (whaaat?!) and can't wait to celebrate. Thankfully we're in the right place to do so as we're in champagne country. The grapes may not be ripe yet, but the champagne bars have been allowed to reopen.
It felt quite eerie passing the national necropolis in Berry-au-Bac, where nearly 4,000 people are entombed, and we've seen some amazing churches. The huge Gothic Laon Cathedral was visible for miles, St Martin's in Martigny-Coupierre was entirely rebuilt after the first world war and boasts amazing art deco stained glass, and of course Reims Cathedral's famous rose window is part of what gives it its well-deserved UNESCO world heritage status. All this stained glass looks brilliant in the bright sunshine!
We have set up camp near Villers-Marmery, near an amazing stand of twisted beech trees called 'the Faux', and are heading off for a glass of fizz!
Update: Saturday 30 May
Some days I forget a few of us haven't showered in a week
Distance travelled: 787 km
Hi friends, me again!
Today we reached Trefcon after some lovely kilometres through mostly farmland. This meant we got to see lots of wonderful old farmhouses and different coloured and sized fields (just like one big patchwork quilt). We even saw a horse-drawn carriage as well as lots of horses gallivanting about.
There have been many little lakes and ponds appearing around us and have become the perfect place to have a sneaky afternoon dip. We are definitely very much into the rhythm of walking and have reached the point where our minds seem very quiet and aren’t constantly busy with the worries of everyday life (although we did have a very long conversation about our favourite biscuits and which were most appropriate for dunking – serious stuff you know)!
We are camping tonight (lucky us) – I really hope no one camps on a cowpat...
Update: Thursday 28 May
The further we walk, the bigger our smiles get
Distance travelled: 759 km
We’ll be staying near the small village of Bouchavesnes-Bergen tonight. We passed so many small villages today, all in the same typical French style but all with their own unique touches – so pretty. Despite all the beauty, we have been finding out lots of historical facts during our walk in this area. Most prominent are the stories of The Battle of the Somme in WW1. We’ve walked past many military cemeteries, French, British and German. It seems strange to remember all that happened here as the sun shines and the birds chirp happily.
We also walked through Arras and went to marvel at the belfry, it’s classified by UNESCO to be a World Heritage site and was absolutely stunning.
We’ve had lots of new walkers to the team so I just wanted to take the chance to welcome you all!
Update: Wednesday 27 May
‘Cows spend a lot of time on their feet. I bet they have great calves.’
Distance travelled: 641km
Today we (almost) made it to Amettes and will be camping. The stars are supposed to be especially good tonight so we will be doing some stargazing (that’s if we don’t fall asleep first).
We have been spotting lots of wells along the way today – they are super famous here – and we have to say the water does taste better. The heat has been quite trialling recently (but we’d rather that than rain!) so we have been very grateful for any spots of woodland to shelter in or even any rivers to take a sneaky dip in. That’s the great thing about swimming on trail when it’s hot, you can put your soaking clothes back on and they are dry almost immediately (plus it definitely counts as a shower right?)
Unfortunately, both a rucksack and a shoe broke today within about 20 minutes of each other. It’s nothing gaffa tape can’t fix but we might have to get some extra ones sent to us if they carry on being troublesome.
Update: Tuesday 26 May
Ahh, what a fine country France is! It seems so long ago that we were making our way through the UK. We woke up this morning to stunning views of the White Cliffs of Dover, glistening blue sea and sky with a perfect white haze sandwiched inbetween.
We continued on the Via Francigena today. The Via Francigena follows the footsteps of pilgrims who walked from the ‘British Islands’ (UK) to the ‘Eternal City’ (Rome) in a time before the year 1000 (that is definitely before any of us were born!) We have been following waymarkers (the symbol for this trail is a tiny pilgrim) and have decided to give each a name as we pass them.
Leaving the coast (and the smell of the sea) behind we headed into the Boulonnais hills (only to be surprised with even better panoramic views of the sea). Zsófia spotted a magnificent windmill on the horizon and another, and another, and before we knew it we had fully committed to a ‘who can spot the windmill the quickest’ competition. A special highlight was eating lunch around the ruins of St. Louis’ chapel in Guémy!
We stopped a little outside Tournehem-Sur-La-Hem today ready for long night's sleep and are looking forward to what France will bring us tomorrow.
Update: Monday 25 May
‘Bonjour et bienvenue en France!’
Distance travelled: 515km
We did it! We are well and truly on French ground and officially in country number 2. We left sleepy England early this morning as we knew we had a mammoth day ahead and wanted to be extra sure we would make our Dover-Calais ferry crossing. As we walked through the Kent Downs, we got to wander through numerous beautiful tiny villages, each with their pretty (and frankly not so tiny) churches and yet more beautiful green.
Arriving in Dover (luckily with time to spare) we had our tickets ready and were eager to get on board. Many chugs later (is that the technical term?) and after a group photo or two (some of the group did look distinctly green by this point), they announced we had arrived in France. Ruth practically squealed with glee but we all had to admit we were bonkers excited…
Now that we are in France, we will be following the ‘Via Francigena’. It is first and foremost a pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome, but more about that later.
Excuse us now whilst we inhale as much baguette, cheese and local seafood as possible (and maybe even some frogs' legs, although one of the group advised us that they are mainly eaten in the Dombes region, the bit near the Jura mountains) and bed-down in a slightly shabby (we’ll call it shabby chic) motel just outside Calais. We want to get some sleep so we can properly enjoy the view back to the Kent coast tomorrow as we walk along like the cliffs of Les Deux Caps tomorrow in this spectacular weather.
Update: Sunday 24 May
Just put one foot in front of the other and you’ll be amazed where you can find yourself
We walked another wonderful 53 km today. The wind was a welcome (and cooler) change to the heat, that was until we had hats flying off heads. Properly in Kent now, we found ourselves walking slightly north to cross the River Medway – Anna, coming from a small village said it was the biggest expanse of water she’d ever crossed (wait till we cross the channel!)
One thing that struck me today was how wonderful it’s been watching everyone share their skills so far in this trip. We’ve had lessons on map reading, tree identification, bird calls, stargazing, blister avoidance techniques and we have even informed on the best way to eat a Jaffa cake (chocolate first, cake next, then let the jelly sit on your tongue until you feel this air of happiness engulf you).
We are staying in a farmer friend’s field tonight in Hollingbourne and have been promised fresh eggs in the morning (that’s if we can manage to collect them ourselves).
We all hope you’ve had a great week, we certainly have.
Update: Friday 22 May
‘We’re walking on sunshine woah’
We’re in Otford, Kent (no, I didn’t just say Oxford with my mouth full of potato salad…)
Today we had a bit of a rest day; we continued walking along the North Downs Way for a short while, then we gave ourselves the afternoon off. After pitching our tents in a small woodland (which had lots of cool wild mushrooms growing out of crevices in the trees), some of us went for a wander around this picturesque village. We happened upon a lovely lady out selling fresh strawberries and cream (yummy!) so bought some and naturally devoured them within seconds.
Unfortunately, we had some nasty cases of sunburn on a couple of people today (always remember the sun cream, kids) so we will have to keep an eye on that and hope it heals quickly.
That’s all from me for now, hope you’ve had a good week, and let's hope we cross the channel this weekend!
Update: Thursday 21 May
If in doubt, have the extra spoonful of peanut butter…
We are now a few hundred kilometres in and our bodies are beginning to get used to all this walking. Walking such long distances each day can take a toll on your body but as long as you fuel it well (I have eaten so much peanut butter I wouldn’t be surprised if I looked down and my hands had turned into peanuts) and take things at a sensible pace we know we will be alright. Plus is there anything that can’t be remedied by singing the ‘Sound of Music’ at the top of your lungs?!
We arrived in Caterham this afternoon after an action-packed day on the North Downs Way National Trail. We passed Windsor Castle hoping to be invited in for a spot of tea with the Queen, sadly to no avail, she must have been out walking the corgis or something. The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty was well, outstanding, and the green rolling hills and the bluest of all skies made us start to think about all the different types of environments we will walk through.
With our bodies and minds strong and excitement at an all-time high, we are ready to face whatever the trail may throw at us!
Update: Wednesday 20 May
‘The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step’ – Lao Tzu
53 kilometres later and another day is in the bag. Starting the day in Oxford we happily trundled down the Thames Path with the Thames River by our side. The countryside seemed to be alive today, with little lambs hopping about and swallows flying low over wildflower meadows filled with colour. Now, as you read this we are a few km outside Reading in a lovely village called Pangbourne. It was thought to be the inspiration for the book ‘Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame so we have been especially eagle-eyed and tried to spot our very own Frog and Toad.
We also met a lovely farmer, Bill, who invited us to camp in his field for the night. Feeling like this deserved a proper 'camp-out'; we enjoyed baked potatoes, beans and hot chocolate around a campfire. The marshmallows were toasted (and fingers burnt by those a little impatient for them to cool) and we might even throw in some ghost stories for good measure before we snuggle into our sleeping bags and do it all again tomorrow.
We can’t wait!
Update: Tuesday 19 May
One step, two step, three step, four step
What busy walkers we have been! Today we completed the Oxford Canal Path (wowzers!) and continued our journey south on the Wey Navigation Path for a short while. In our virtual world, pubs are still open, so we can take a slight breather at the Trout at Wolvercote, a favourite of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse, before we bed down for the night in a nearby Youth Hostel.
Our wonderful day was spent winding in and out of beautiful North Oxfordshire fields and woodlands on the approach to Oxford, enjoying the view of spires as we crossed Port Meadow.
We mustn’t forget the new friends we met on the way, including Ig and Nic on their canal boat in trendy Jericho, and many dog walkers. They couldn’t believe we were walking all the way to South Sudan and wished us the best of luck!
Update: Monday 18 May
Let’s start at the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start...
Hello, Juliet here. And we’re off! Our walk to Ibba has started! We have managed to walk 30km so far, putting us near Rugby. We left FIGS HQ in the SE of the city and after walking into the city centre continued along the Coventry Canal path and then on to the Oxford Canal Walk; our first official trail (how exciting!).
The last few days have been lovely; the sun has been shining, the birds are singing, and the smell of spring is in the air.
Thank you to everybody who has walked and donated so far! Please spread the campaign between your friends, family, work colleagues and local communities – anybody who you think you would be up for going on a walk/run (even a stroll around the block helps us) and donating some money! You can give as much or as little as you like, one-off, regularly, or whenever you go for a walk. We really need your support in order to support the students of Ibba Girls’ School!
* Texts cost the exact amount you donate plus one standard rate message and you’ll be opting in to hear more about our work and fundraising via telephone and SMS. If you’d like to give but do not wish to receive marketing communications, text STEPSINFO [and the amount you'd like to give here, eg. 3] to 70470. Please note, the maximum donation per text is £20 with a daily limit of £30.
Omar-Malo, photograph of Algiers on Flickr