We made it!

We made it!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 38 – Final Leg to Marina Beach Chennai – We Made It!

Today I wake up excited about our final day. After 16 months of planning and 38 days on the road we are scheduled today to make our final walk leg from Ambattur to Chennai. We have planned a route that will have us end our walk at the Gandhi statue on Chennai’s Marina beach, what a fitting end to this incredible adventure. The walk team today consists of Popsy, Kate, Ally, Max, Indy, Maggie and myself. Bec will join us on the walk route and mum will join in and finish with us closer to the finish line. As we do our final pack up of the walk Gus seeing me getting dressed for walking grabs me and says “Are you walking today dad, I want to walk today dad, I am part of the team”. I am not sure where that came from but he is definitely a big part of our team. The 17km route today would unfortunately be a little long for the little man but he can join in later this morning. I am not sure what is going through Little Manny’s head at the moment but he has in recent days started to talk to me about when we go home “I don’t want you to go back to work daddy”. So at 3 he is already understanding the difference between me on leave and me at work. I guess yet another gentle reminder about the incredible value of this time together.

Last night there was a massive downpour so whilst the sky is bright and shining, the Chennai roads are full of puddles and mud. We make our way in the car to Ambattur and after a short drive we arrive by the side of the road ready to start our walk. The temperature today is planned to be in the low 30’s and at 9am it is already in the high 20’s. We start our walk today along the highway and stop for a quick roadside coffee, 21 rupees for 3 cups, so basically 14 cents a cup for beautiful milky coffee. Not quite sure how I will go back to drinking often bad coffee at $4 a cup after enjoying the value and taste of roadside Indian coffee.

We make good time down the highway this morning until we get to a major flyover that looks a bit like the junction between the Monash Freeway after the tunnel with major roads going everywhere and the only road going the way we want to isn’t safe to walk on. We decide to go under the main highway which unfortunately means crossing the other main roads to get there. Here we go kids, hold hands, close your eyes and follow uncle Nicko! Fortunately we all make it in one piece and make our way through to the other and rejoin the highway on the other side of the flyover. Today our walk route is more interesting than usual but also has many more turns along the route, which with no map should make life interesting. The highway takes us into urban Chennai and whilst the walking is hard going at least it is far more interesting. After about 75 minutes we arrive at our first turn off the main road and so far so good. I give Bec a call to check where she is and it turns out she is not far away. I have written down our route for Bec and she thinks she can find us. We take a couple more turns on our walk and all of a sudden I find myself on a road that is not on my map and not only does this mean we have lost our way it also means that where Bec is trying to meet us we are no longer heading that way. The kids sit down by the side of the road with a packet of chips and I backtrack our steps talking to Bec on the phone trying to rendezvous. After a few frustrating minutes trying to talk Bec in, without a map mind you, I see the big bus and we are together again.

We drive back to meet the team and Bec is joining with us on the walk now. We are by now about 8km from our finishing line and with some updated directions from Raju we are back heading in the right direction. Gus decides he is ready to be on the team too so 8km out from our destination I have little man on my shoulders and hope my back can hold up for the duration of the walk. Raju drives up ahead with mum and we continue on our walk towards Marina Beach. We see a sign which says we are within 3.5km of our destination so mum jumps out of the van and the full team is together for the dash to the line. Gus is enjoying a packet of chips and a mango juice up on my shoulders and we walk on. We have to cross a few major roads but by now we are reading the Indian traffic well and manage to cross all roads unscathed. Poppa nearly gets himself arrested taking some video on a section of road where it was prohibited. The look on the police officers face was very serious and Popsy put the camera away pretty quickly.

We are now walking down the final stretch. Indy is being particularly beautiful saying thankyou for providing such a wonderful life experience, I ofcourse know that she has been such a critical part of our team and made this an incredibly special time for me particularly. Indy sees the top of the statue as we walk down the main road to the marina. The kids are all excited, they have been fantastic today. I think knowing this was the last walk of the trip meant that they could just relax into the walk and get the job done, which they did. By now my shoulders and back are aching and I have a very sweaty t-shirt on my back but it means a lot to have our little man with us, we were all there leaving Colicut at the start and we are all there heading into the finish line. As we walk toward the Gandhi statue we see our friend Sonu Kumar, our very friendly film crew manager who has made a special personal trip to come and meet us at the beach. This wasn’t in his brief but I think by now he feels such a part of the team that he just wanted to be there at the finish and we are all very excited to see him too. One more main road to cross and we have made it, finishing the walk at the Gandhi statue makes it an especially emotional finish to our walk. He is such an amazing individual and a major inspiration for our walk so to finish in his shadow is very meaningful for us.

We all gather around the statue which is built on a bricked area between the main road and a service road and then there is the beach. Whilst we are taking a moment by the statue the kids take off towards the beach. The sand is at least 750 metres to the water so there is still a long way to go. All you can see is our 4 beautiful kids running together towards the water. Gus decides this is a great idea so he and I take off after the kids. We walk past all of the stalls on the beach and see the kids standing at the edge of the water, a little brown in colour and small waves crashing into the shore. They desperately wanted to touch the water to commemorate the end of their walk but I think they still recall Antony’s advice that the water is not clean enough to swim in and this means a lot coming from the man who once said to Poppa a bit of bacteria is good for you, so when he suggests swimming is not a good idea the kids listen, well the kids listen, not me. Gus and I take off our shoes and I am filled with the need to hit the water so at full pace I run past the kids and leap into the waves fully dressed to celebrate the end of our massive adventure. Trying my best not to swallow I just enjoy the moment of hitting that warm Chennai water and glide under the water for some time taking in the moment of the finish of our walk. I wish that feeling under the water, diving under the waves could have lasted for an hour, all of the effort that has gone into the past 16 months has been channelled into this one dive, it was an amazing feeling, clothes and all!

As you can imagine this is too much for the kids who all need no further encouragement to head into the water. They are all told to keep their heads above water, not like their father / uncle! We all link arms and jump up and down celebrating our achievement together. What an amazing feeling it is to be in the water in Chennai some 800+km from the West coast of India where our walk began. Gus comes in for a walk in the water with me and big mama is encouraged to come in. I wonder if Mum is ready to just dive in but she thinks better of it. I wonder if my ‘Jim Courier’ moment will come back to haunt me in later days. Jim Courier after winning the Australian Tennis Open jumped into the Yarra river only to get quite sick afterwards I think.

After a while in the water we all come up on the sand and Kate wants to take a shot of all of our feet in a circle around the coast to coast logo on the sand. We all huddle up and Bec takes the shot. As she does a poor young girl from the local beachside slum comes up and grabs me by the arm begging for some money. It is a sign that whilst this adventure has been incredible and is nearing an end there is far more work to be done.

We make the long walk back up the beach and back to the Gandhi statue for a few special photos and some well earned moments of reflection. Sonu comes up and thanks us for what we have done for his country, to which we thank him for what his country has done for us. Indy, Bec and I share a few special words before we have a family hug with Maggie, Gus, Indy, Bec and I. We think back to 18 months ago when this crazy idea first came up and now we are here having successfully finished our walk. There are hugs all around between all of the team members and I grab Maxy, my 10 year old nephew and remind him of what he has just done and let him know that if at 10 he can walk across India that he can do anything in his life. Something I have talked about a lot with our kids. Don’t forget this moment!

So as I reflect on the past 16 months I give particular thought to the goals we set for ourselves as a family. We set about to raise funds for kids, to raise awareness of the needs of vulnerable children, to set ourselves an enormous challenge, to experience the wonder of giving, and to travel together as a family. So we have made it. Sixteen months in the planning, 38 days of walking, over $55,000AUD raised for ChildFund India, over 60 articles in Indian papers and online raising awareness to the needs of vulnerable children, having traversed over 1000km from Cochin to Colicut to Mysore, to Bangalore to Chennai, having walked nearly 600kms as a family with 5 kids aged 13 and under, what an incredible team effort. We have done it!


  1. Congratulations to all the team. What an amazing venture with such wonderful results. You are inspirational!
    Love A Jane and U Richard

  2. Fantastic! Congratulations and thank you! 'Magi in Malaysia

  3. Just finished reading all about your adventure, congratulations to all of you on this wonderful milestone!