Harry and Kathleen’s IML adventure
Both walked over 15,000km
100 and 98 IML walks, respectively
Completed over 700 IVV walks
Harry and Kathleen Berg’s IML adventure started in 1990. Since then, Harry has completed 100 IML events and Kathleen has completed 98 IML walking events. Also, they have both recorded walking over 15,000 km, including completing over 700 IVV events, plus many more kilometres on non-IVV walks, including the Camino in France and Spain.
Walking has taken them all around the world, but given their age and the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, their international travel days are drawing to an end. However, they hope to still catch up with walking friends who come to Canberra—and missed them in 2020.
Looking back to 1990, their son David was on student exchange in Germany, so they met up with him in Europe at the end of his exchange. Harry’s first IML event was in Denmark, completing 2×45 km with David in unseasonably cold conditions, and then the three of them did the big one – the Vierdaagse in Nijmegan, Netherlands (4×40 km) in July.
“At the end of Vierdaagse there were feelings of relief and joy.”
The Vierdaagse walks had been on their wish list for a while, having first read about it in a Dutch newsletter, but they had no idea about the IML until introduced to it by Harry’s uncle and aunt.
At the end of the Vierdaagse there were both feelings of relief and joy. Kathleen had been recovering from an overuse injury in her right calf and could not exercise in the 6 weeks leading up to the event.
Also, David was severely anorexic at the time and they had concerns he may not make the distance. They all completed the 160 km over 4 days and were thrilled to achieve a lifetime bucket list item.
IML Walking Memories
“The special thrill of the Vierdaagse was being met with flowers on the last day. Four lots of Harry’s uncles and aunts and a couple of cousins were waiting beside the route to give us flowers. We really felt a part of the event.”
Harry and Kathleen have subsequently completed the Vierdaagse 7 times!
What prompted you to join the IML?
“We liked the idea of the challenge and the rewards in the form of the bling. The IML motto of “Let walking bring us together” really appeals, especially for Harry who spent his early childhood in a Japanese prison camp. The Dutch and Japanese proponents of IML thought that walking together in different countries and with different people would help with international understanding.”
Why do you keep walking?
“It is always great meeting up with people whom you have met and walked with before, sometimes years ago. You might not have a common language, but a smile goes a long way.”
Harry and Kathleen are happy to travel independently to walking events but at times have joined various walking tour groups, including a Dutch group touring in Norway, an English-German group to the Czech Republic and also a Japanese group for a five-day walk around Mt Fuji.
These were trips that would have been harder to do independently. They really enjoyed all the organised walking tours and as a bonus, Kathleen’s Dutch improved dramatically during the week of the Dutch tour!
Harry on left and Kathleen on right under a Canberra sign at Nijmegen in 2008.
Meeting Friends Around The World
Outside of Canberra, the IML walk they have done the most times is Higashimatsuyama, Japan. Harry has walked this 10 times but Kathleen missed one year when she was on crutches, recovering from repair to a ruptured Achilles tendon. They always feel so welcome at this event and have made quite a few Japanese friends.
Another special event is the walk in Jogjakarta because Harry was born and lived in Indonesia until he came to Australia for his secondary schooling. Harry feels especially at home at this walk.
Harry and Kathleen want to keep walking as long as they are able.
“I love the feeling on a long walk when the conscious effort of walking disappears and you feel you can walk on forever. One author describes it as the supercharger being turned on, another as being in the zone.”
Kathleen’s tips for those starting an IML adventure:
- Look after your feet.
- Keep up your fluids.
- Accept that things will not be the same as at home and relish the differences.
- Relax and take things as they come – not everything will go to plan.
- Be mindful that most, if not all, of the officials you deal with, are volunteers, and that for most of them, English will not be their first (or perhaps even their second) language.
- Learn a few words of greeting in the local language.
- Lastly, wear your walking shoes when travelling just in case your luggage goes astray.
Further to the last tip, one year in Japan, the luggage of several European walkers went missing for a few days and those Europeans with large feet could not find replacement walking shoes. There were a few sore and sorry walkers.
Of course, the Canberra event is Harry and Kathleen’s favourite – as it really is their baby. (Pictured above cutting a cake after the launch ceremony for the Rotary Aussie Peace Walk in 2020)
Canberra is a great place to walk with a good network of paths and footpaths, passing national buildings and through nature parks, where you can often see kangaroos and many colourful birds.
Sometimes you will hear kookaburras laughing at you, and it is always enjoyable to hear the magpies calling. And then have a good coffee at the end to cap off the walk. Harry and Kathleen also enjoying welcoming overseas friends and repaying some of the hospitality they have enjoyed over the years.
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