We made it!

We made it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 35 –Walk to Ambattur

Early start today with the film crew arriving at 7.30am at the hotel. As I awake I check my environment for signs of life and Indy has recovered well after complaining of stomach cramps before bed last night, Bec is unfortunately not so good although she at least had a good night’s sleep. Maggie slept in with her cousins last night so no need to go through the routine with Mags and Gus is ordering up his cup tea so all is fine with the little master. The film crew arrive on the dot of 7.30am very un Indian but a welcome arrival. Nanna and Poppa were first up to be interviewed in the gardens. Gus who is sitting outside on the swing gets his pancakes with maple syrup served up to him in his swing, it seems the best way to get him to sit for long enough to eat something.

After Nanna and Poppa it is Bec’s turn. As Kate and I watch from a distance we notice that Bec has exactly the same hand action as Gus when he gives his speech, not sure though who learnt it from who. Bec was determined to just show up and speak from the heart rather than try and script anything and also to tell the story with high integrity, she does a great job. After Bec it was Indy’s turn and she is such a cool cucumber with her interactions. She is such an incredible role model for other young girls and at only 13 years of age I cannot believe the way she does what she does. It is my turn next and like Bec I want to make sure to convey the essence of what this adventure has been all about. My issue though is that whenever I talk about my family it is always very emotional especially Bec and the kids and today was no different. After me it was Kate’s turn and then Poppa had another go on his own. Meanwhile the day is getting hotter and the hours are flying by and ofcourse the kids by now are ready for lunch. We order up some fries for the kids and it is 11.30am before we finally get on the road.

Today we walk from our finish spot yesterday which was 30km out of Chennai and we plan to walk within 15km of Chennai near to a small urban town called Ambattur. The plan from there is to have a symbolic finish to our walk with ChildFund tomorrow and then come back and finish the walk, about 20km all the way to the Chennai coastline at the Marina Beach on the 12th. Today’s walk team is everybody but Bec, Mum and Gus. We toyed with the idea of Bec and Gus doing a short walk today but the route it along a very busy highway, it is very hot and dusty and could be quite dangerous. The dusty verge is quite narrow in places and with large trucks and buses driving along at great speed it is not a good combination with Gus. So with Bec also not feeling great we decide for Bec and mum to go ahead and secure the accommodation while the rest of us finish the walk. We have set ourselves 3 hours to complete the 15km which should be fine albeit a solid walk with the four kids.

All four of the kids are in the zone today. They take it upon themselves to chat together and have plenty to talk through to pass the time on the walk. The camera crew follow us on our walk again today and the poor guys find it challenge to keep up. They are lovely guys and have shared with us that this is an unusual assignment for them, they usually have some still shots or an interview at a location. They have never had to follow their target over 15 kms before. We stopf for soft drinks and chips to recharge the kids through what is a very hot and very dusty walk. The kids though are doing an awesome job, with no complaining at all today. Our walk today is anything but picturesque. We walk predominantly alongside a dirty dusty highway with buses and trucks whizzing by our ears only a few feet away, horns once again blaring right beside our ears. You either walk on the bitumen verge closer to the highway or on the dirt track near the verge which is heavily undulating and certainly gives your calves a work out. As always there are all manner of sites to see, cows sitting in the middle of the highway, vehicles going the wrong way up main highways, oxen pulling carts, BMW X5 cruises by, you just never know what you are going to see. It is easy after all of this time walking here to be complacent about the wonderous views that surround us so every now and again we just stop and say wow! When we stop walking along the highway we end up walking along a service road next to the highway only two lanes wide with one lane taken up by parked trucks the other covered with shoe deep sand and dirt with large trucks driving up from behind us whirling the dust up into our faces.

At one point the journalist suggest we sing a song to celebrate our arrival into a town called poonammallee. We suggest Advance Australia Fair or Waltzing matilda but the kids aren’t keen. So we end up with an impromptu ‘Give me a P, P Give me an O, O’ I think you get the drift, then we finish with where are we? To which the group repeated in unison ‘I don’t know’. Not bad for something we made up on the spot. Well the song fires up the kids and the next 45 minutes the kids are in full voice doing a complete rendition of all of our family songs. The kids are walking together alongside a dusty highway in India with our four kids singing at the top of their voices, smiles beaming across their faces all four of them in full song, singing songs like “Glenelg spelt backwards is Glenelg” and “Tinatanara Kicks Forward” and Grubby Little Wombat” and “I want to be like Poppa” amongst other family favourites. Kate and I suggest to Poppa that it would be good if he could compose some more culturally appropriate and venue appropriate tunes for the kids on the next trip. Popsy makes up a walking to Chennai song on the spot that the kids sing in full voice. We get through the 3 hours very comfortably in the end and the kids finish going strong. I spot Raju ahead and let the crew know we have made it. Ally finished strongly although when she saw Raju she once again leapt to a sprint for the van almost topping the land speed record for a 12 year old. Absolutely great job by Ally and all the kids today. In the van Ally commented that today was the first day she felt she could keep going today, great job Ally! The best walker award today is definitely shared by all four kids. Very hot and very difficult conditions but not one complaint and a very determined team effort, wonderful effort kids.

We jump into the van after 3 hours of straight walking in the hot Chennai afternoon. We have finally made it from the highway to the city sprawl and despite the crowded conditions are happy to be off that dusty dangerous highway. Sitting in the van we head into the Chennai peak hour and all realise that it would have been quicker to walk than it was in the vehicle. It takes an hour to go the 10km to our hotel which is on the road we were walking down. The hotel is in the heart of Chennai and I get the immediate feeling this is not going to be a good stay. We are back into a normal hotel room with no room for Gus to run or play. Its going to be a long 3 days here! Fortunately we will not be spending a great deal of time here as we have a very busy few days coming up finishing our time with ChildFund and our walk.

As I type up today’s blog Gus is having his third little meltdown of the past 45 minutes as he copes with the walls being a little closer than he is used to. This hotel is not conducive to Gus speeding around on his scooter and there is no play area here. Well wish us luck, we may very well need it. Oh Bec shares with me that Gus and Raju have a new game they play together now, called funny faces. Whenever Gus gets into the van they each pull a new funny face. Gus ofcourse won’t let anyone else but Raju put his seatbelt on. I am not sure how Gus will cope saying goodbye to his new special Indian friend.

The kids have ordered up their dinner, Maggie was excited about the option of a pizza on the menu but it has arrived and looks like an explosion of grilled cheese on a pizza base, also not quite sure how to describe the taste, best to stick to the naan Maggie! Bec and I share a lovely chicken dish and some Aloo Jeera fried potatoes and we head to bed as Bec is still far from 100% and we hope she has a good night’s sleep. We have two double beds here so Gus, Bec and I in one and the girls in the other. Indy is very happy to be off the floor and into a bed at last.

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