I recently returned back from Holland or to be more exact a town called Nijmegen in the Gelderland region of that lovely country. By now all the huge tents and other paraphernalia put up for the Nijmegen's ''4 Daagse'' will have been dismantled and put away now until next year and the site will return to its normal role as a car park for another 12 months.
I will certainly be entering again in 2010, this time accompanied by my son I want him to experience first hand the wonderful and unique atmosphere amongst all the many walkers who take part. I did not see or hear a single cross word the whole time I was there. The dutch people were wonderful and friendly hosts and made all the different nationality's warmly welcome. The residents of the many local towns and villagers turned the event into a special occasion by lining the roads and cheering the thousands of walkers on, welcoming us with fruit segments, boiled sweets, biscuits, drinks etc these handed to us by the local children, nearly every town and village seemed to have a brass band to help things along even the occupants of single houses would come out to play music and clap us on our way. Quite often a hose or sprinkler would be laid on by a farmer or house owner to soak sweating walkers heads and top up water bottles these in addition to official water stops.
There were also many Aid Stations run by the dutch Red Cross to administer first aid or blister dressings as and when needed. I took advantage of this service to have two blisters padded and dressed to allow me to carry on walking these First Aid post are all manned by volunteers and IMHO are a credit to the Red Cross organisation. The whole event was just as well run all again by mostly volunteers, considering the huge numbers of walkers involved it all ran very smoothly again a credit to the Nijmegen committee. To give some idea how many people took part the official start each morning was 04.00am (03.00 UK time) but on one morning it took 25 minutes for my section of the people taking part to actually start walking although it was normally around 15 minutes from the first walkers starting to reaching my section. Bearing in mind the early hour the number of dutch people who even at that early hour lined the streets was amazing.
I will be making a few changes to my kit next year and will not be carrying a Bergen keeping kit to a minimum. I will also change my Goretex jacket, Goretex trousers and gaiters for a much lighter and better ventilated rain cape like the seasoned walkers in this event wear. I will also tape my feet from the outset with zinc oxide tape. I made the mistake this year of relying on the latest materials in walking stocks like the new coolmax material. I had used Bridgedale liners with 1000 mile blister free socks as the outer layer. This combination had worked well in training tabs out to 20 odd miles in Wales before hand with not a single blister. But with temperatures up into the 90's during the walk I think taping potential hot spots would've been better. Here the old ways certainly are the best.
The heat certainly was a big problem for me personally, as fast as I was drinking the water I was sweating it out. During the typical 10/11 hrs it took to complete the distance specified (31 miles) I typically filled my 3ltr Camel Back twice plus easily 8/10 bottles of water on top of this. A first for me as well was keep the essential salts and minerals going in also, normally a few Bananas suffice. Sir Clifford had advised me before hand to take a powdered supplement, Diaorrlite that I remember giving the kids as babies when they had the wildies to replace those lost minerals and salts. Advice I did not take, big mistake, my body temp rose to critical levels at one point simply due to the fact that I had become dehydrated due to a lack of these essential minerals and salts. I luckily got to an aid point and they piled loads of these powdered supplements via water down my neck, but it took me a few days to recover from this fully. Maybe an old age thing now because water, Banana's and Isotonic drinks had always done the trick before.
For anyone contemplating taking part in this huge event which has 45000 people from every corner of the globe walking its 4 different routes I would certainly recommend it. I found it's hard (but I'm an old sod) and the heat to me at least was oppressive thats one thing you can't train for, but the Dutch people make it very special indeed.
As a plus AND WITH THE HELP OF MANY FELLOW AIRGUN ENTHUSIASTS I have also managed to raise a substantial amount of money for a worthy charity HELP FOR HEROES SURELY A PLUS FOR OUR WHOLE HOBBY.
I came out of minus (well soon to be) two toe nails, two others turned black, one toe was badly bruised plus one of the blisters became infected, but I honestly thought the whole thing was awesome.