After a long break, this is a very quick one, with the promise of a longer update shortly. I flew to Sydney last week to meet with the people at Dove and the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and had a wonderful time! The Dove girls were great, extremely supportive about the walk, and really understanding of where I am coming from and what I am doing. The National breast Cancer Foundation were brilliant and extremely supportive also. On the 7th of October, the NBCF is holding a walk in Sydney to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research - Dove is sponsoring the walk. I am staying in Australia until then so that I can be a part of the walk, and hopefully encourage others to join in, through some media appearances before it happens. Today I will be on the Jon Faine show on ABC radio at 11 am, along with Jamie and Ben, two English guys who have been cycling for 18 months from England. I am looking forward to it - at least I won't have the same killer nerves I did last time I was on radio!
I have been organising myself stupid over the last short while, ticking off the seemingly endless list of tasks I need to in order to make sure the next leg goes smoothly. I realised how much I have learned from the previous leg; I am absolutely dogmatic about getting everything exactly as I want, before I leave. This next stretch is going to be tough - really tough - and I need to be as prepared as possible. That includes training in different types of sandals, since the local footwear I used last time didn't support my feet well. Over six weeks that would be ok; over six months, it can spell trouble. At the moment I am trialling Birkenstocks - apart from breaking in blisters, they seem to be good for my feet. Then again, it takes about 500km before I really know if they'll work...
I am a long way behind schedule now, but there has been little option. My goal was to be walking by the end of August, so that I could do the easy part of the walk in the heat, and use the winter to walk through Mali, Niger, and into Chad. But as it stands now I will have to walk longer distances more often to cover the kind of ground I need to; even though I deliberately took it very slowly on the last leg, I still was aware that it is harder covering long distances with camels and a camp to look after than it was with the packs. Still, I am utterly determined that discipline and determination will get me through the next leg, and push me through the barriers to walk harder than I have before. Having Dove behind me has helped hugely - I guess that in some ways I feel validated in my endeavours.
When I was in Sydney, I was interviewed for the new Dove magazine - it's called the Real Beauty magazine. I have to say that I thought it was awesome. It has only just come out, and to my knowledge, it is only available in Australia at the moment - but it is just fantastic, full of interesting women with great stories, really down to earth, and not one anorexic pop tart in view. I feel very fortunate to be aligned with a brand that I respect as much as I do Dove - the more I find out, the more fascinated I am. They are running a program in schools, called "Body think" in Australia and known by other names overseas, where educators go into classrooms and talk to kids about body image and how the media affects the way we see ourselves. It is a whole workshop aimed at raising kids' self esteem and awareness about the manipulations performed on the majority of digital photographs in the media. As an ex-teacher, I find all this stuff fascinating, and believe there are few things more relevent in an age of media bombardment of women with unrealistic body shapes.
So all in all, I am becoming very excited about the next part of my walk, and the possibilities I see coming from it. Habib will be coming down to Mauritania with me to buy the camels and help set me up with my new guide, and then I will be off, on the contraband route to Timbuctou! I fly back to the UK on the 10th of October, and out to the desert on the 15th. I just can't wait. I will write more at a later date - let you know all the ins and outs of the organisation process! (Fascinating stuff, Paula, truly...)