To all the brave, courageous Women of the World – we’re all walking on the wild side

Thank you to all the brave, courageous women who have gone before us

Strong women
Strong women – with my daughters

Rewind: 2010

Back in 2010, I was asked to give a talk to a group of women at work, a men’s Minimum Security Correctional Centre, for International Women’s Day. Despite knowing these women, I was still nervous. I was given the brief of talking about my walking activities and travels.

Fast Forward to 8 March 2019

I attended a lunch for International Women’s Day 2019 in my small town and listened to four inspiring women tell their stories. I was reminded of the talk I’d given all those years ago and after finding my notes, I’m sharing a snippet of my talk with you today.

It seems like a different world, a lifetime ago even! At the time I was working in a professional role as the Education Manager in a minimum security men’s correctional centre (prison). Now I’m retired and living a completely different life. (I will add here that I didn’t retire by choice, it was a forced redundancy and was a very difficult time, I was only 56).

I like to do things properly, to get in the mood so to speak, so I wore my beautiful bright Nepalese outfit, as I had done all those years ago. I suppose I wanted to show I was a woman of the world, but to be honest there’s not much call to wear a colourful Salwar Kameez and dupatta in downtown Tumbarumba, so I’ll take any opportunity 🙂

International Women's Day outfit 2019
International Women’s Day outfit 2019

I thought I’d share a snippet of my talk with you here….

I feel I qualify as an an international woman on several fronts –

  1. I am a woman
  2. I love anything international, especially travel
  3. I’m often asked where I am from – most people think it’s France, the Mediterranean or Greece – nowhere as international as that I’m afraid – I’m a genuine Australian, made up of various other bits!

Walking on the wild side

I’m going to give a short talk on my walks on the Wild Side – the Kokoda Track & Nepal’s Himalaya Mountains. 

I’d like to inspire you to step out of your comfort zone, as I did at the age of 47, and to see the many benefits of walking.  I’ll also talk briefly about the women of PNG and Nepal.

Some background

I was only 19 when I married the Mathematician and I can still remember my parents, my father in particular, asking me if I was sure I was doing the right thing –  didn’t I want to travel, study, experience more of life before settling down? 

I said, quite naively in hindsight, that yes I did want to do all these things and I would get to do them at some stage later in my life with Grant and our (as yet unborn) children.  And I have!  My father is thrilled to tell me that he is proud of me for actually doing what I said I would do all those years ago.  (Sadly I lost my father in January 2018 so this is a great comfort to me).

I have always been active, into team sports, running, cycling, girl guides and scouting movements doing new and exciting outdoor activities and later in life, into walking.  I didn’t have any weight issues until I hit my 30s. I’m scared of heights, steep drops, edges, windy roads & crossing chasms on rickety bridges – the reason I’m telling you this becomes clearer later!

My first international travel experience was at 17 on a school excursion and it was a disaster on a monumental scale and earned me a bravery award from the Queen.  I didn’t travel overseas again until I was 31, when we relocated our young family to England to live for 12 months.  Yes I think we were mad!  But it was this move that started us on a whole new path.  Now all these years later I can tell you that our family motto is ‘to travel is to live’.

So, onto my first walk on the wild side in 2008

The what, why, how and when

What did I do??

I walked the northern end of the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, starting & finishing in the village of Kokoda.

Who did I do it with??

A mixed group of 7 women and 4 men with 10 native carriers.  Our group ranged in age from 22-65. Three of us were from my workplace.

When did I do it??

From April 18 to April 28 2008, we walked for 7 days through the jungle of Papua New Guinea, following parts of the famous Kokoda Track.

How did it all start??

Grant & I have always been active.  Grant played touch football at a high level for years and represented Australia in 2004 in Europe & South Africa.  After an injury forced him into retirement from touch in 2006, he was approached by two Rotarians who were considering taking a group of high school students to walk the Kokoda Track. They wanted him to be involved as the accompanying teacher.  Grant went on to do the walk in 2007. I was involved in the training walks for the 6 months leading up to this trip but I never anticipated going myself as it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  I really enjoyed the walks, the camaraderie and helping get the kids ready mentally and physically.

After the success of the trip in 2007, some of the parents and community members expressed an interest in doing the Kokoda Track themselves.  This was the catalyst for the tour in April 2008.  There were 2 groups, The Ultimate group walked for 12 days and our group, The Taste, walked for 7 days.  We met up along the track and finished walking as one big group after commemorating ANZAC Day at the Isurava memorial.  This was a highlight of the trip and extremely moving.


We began training in September 2007 with regular group walks, early morning starts and spent hours slogging up & down the steep hills around Tumbarumba with packs on our backs. We walked as a group a few times a week and on our own most days of the week.  We had to walk together so that we could learn about each other strengths and weaknesses, get to know each other and learn to trust each other.  Our fitness levels had to be high in order to be able to undertake the gruelling walk and this dedicated training schedule paid off on many occasions while on the track.  The Kokoda Track is known as one of the toughest walks in the world.

An example of this was when I came to a fallen tree which blocked the track. I had to get over this tree in order to continue but it was on the edge of a steep cliff drop and it was very very scary.  I faltered and said that I couldn’t throw my leg over the tree to get over it as I thought I’d fall to my death.  Two of my group had to literally talk me through it and I managed to get over this hump.  I was sweating buckets I was so scared.  I still have nightmares about this tree.  I learnt later that someone had died at this point on a previous walk!  I trusted my fellow trekkers enough through having trained with them regularly.


While on the track we had to live at close quarters with everyone else and with very little privacy.  We shared open huts each night and showered whenever possible under cold water taps/showers set up in villages.  We washed our clothes out at the same time as having a shower and none of us were ever entirely clean. 

We wore the same walking clothes each day, including socks & underwear.  When we got into a village in the afternoons we would clean up as best we could and put on our clean ‘night’ clothes for the evening.  This way we always had a dry, relatively clean outfit.  I took a spare pair of socks and it was a lovely treat to put them on after a few days of walking.  Our socks and boots were of good quality but still became wet and had to be dried out each night around the fire.  Walking in the rain was particularly uncomfortable.

I had a porter who carried my big pack (and his own gear) and he was a wiry young man who looked at me as if wondering what on earth I was doing.  He soon learnt that I didn’t like bridge crossings and he would appear beside me, taking my hand and helping me whenever things got tricky. He was my fuzzy wuzzy angel.

So why did I do Kokoda at the ripe old age of 47?? 

  • My daughters said I wouldn’t be able to cope with being dirty and smelly and without a hair dryer and luxury items like shampoo, soap etc – this was one reason why I did it – to show them, and myself if I’m honest, that I could cope.
  • To gain an understanding of Grant’s experiences in 2007 and try to see why he fell in love with all things Kokoda & PNG
  • To gain an insight into the war along the track
  • To challenge myself both physically & mentally
  • To move outside my comfort zones and to do something wild before I got too old


I did it, I coped well without all my creature comforts.  I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did – being sore, sweaty, smelly, dirty & physically exhausted was more fun that I’d ever imagined.  It was really quite a liberating experience – it was me and only me without the trappings of clothing, authority and all the other things we sometimes hide behind. 

It was one of he hardest things I have ever done.

I found that walking became a priority in my day, the benefits were numerous – weight control, sleep, emotional well being (I can think so clearly when I’m out walking), my posture improves, my fitness improves and I feel alive.

After I returned from Kokoda I earned the title of Forest Gump as I just couldn’t stop walking.  I had started walking at lunchtime with my pack on before I went to Kokoda and I continued afterwards, I just found it hard to sit still.

Bring on the next challenge….

Many of the group who walked Kokoda in 2008 continued meeting up for walks and participated in the training sessions for the Kokoda high school trekkers in April 2009.  Someone came up with the idea of walking in Nepal in October that year and so we just continued our training with barely a drop in levels of commitment over winter of 2009.


Our Nepal contingent consisted of 17 walkers – 12 from Tumbarumba, all with a Kokoda connection & 5 from Sydney.  It was to be a big change from the jungles of Kokoda to the mountains of the Himalayas.  But in other ways it was quite similar.

The Nepal trip was from 3-21 October 2009, with 10 days of actual walking.  We prepared ourselves well with regular walks, team meetings, discussions on supplies, what clothing would be required, weather conditions and altitude sickness symptoms.

I was excited but also nervous, as although I was fit & healthy, the unknowns were just that – unknown.

We found Kathmandu a very confronting and hectic city, a real eye opener!  We started walking after a few nights in a beautiful lakeside town of Pokhara.  It rained and rained on the first day of walking and was absolutely miserable.  It was a steep climb with torrential rain, leeches and no mountains to be seen!  My first view of the Fishtail – Machapacharie was amazing!  We had local carriers who were our guides and carriers, they were all young boys and very shy.

Each day we’d dress in yesterday’s walking clothes, have breakfast of eggs, potatoes and tea, pack up and be walking by 8.30am.  We’d stop at a village mid morning and then again for lunch.  We carried our own snacks and lunches and would arrive in a village, find accommodation in a tea house by mid afternoon, settle into our accommodation, clean up, change into our evening clothes and explore before dinner. 

The tea houses were very basic guest houses with twin beds (very hard)  in small rooms (like cells) but sometimes we’d come across a solar hot water shower and all rinse our clothes out to dry overnight.  Dinner was usually a vegetarian meal served with rice or vegetables.  We ate lots of eggs!!  We were all in bed by 7.30 /8pm each night and up again by 6am to start all over the next day. 

We were physically tired each day as the walking was hard – it was up and down hills at high altitudes which were also taking their toll.  The track was made up of steps of rocks & pavers, and apparently made by the women.  We walked to Annapurna Base camp at 4110 metres for sunrise and were rewarded with 360 degree views around the Himalayas.  This was a real highlight and gave me such a feeling of accomplishment.

The people

The people of Nepal were lovely, friendly, welcoming and hard working.  They seemed to have a hard life with little, by our standards, but they were happy.  We were struck by the similarities between the women of PNG & Nepal.  They were very hardworking, stoic, happy, welcoming, religious, hardy, well organised, shy and always beautifully dressed.  Bright clothing was abundant and although they didn’t have access to electric washing machines, their clothes always looked clean. Many of the tea houses we stayed at along the track were run by women. 

My outfit is an example of what the Nepalese women wear on a daily basis.  It is similar to Indian clothing.  It is called a Salwar Kameez with a dupatta.  The pants are called Salwar, the tunic is a kameez and the scarf is a dupatta.  It is very comfortable to wear.  I had this made to measure (in 2009), it took less than a day to make and cost $40.

I have attempted to inspire you into doing something outside your comfort zone and emphasised the importance of trying to walk regularly. I realise not everyone wants to walk in the jungle or in the Himalayas but try to do something that scares you – it’s more fun than you think!

What have I done since then…

I have since visited India as part of a Rotary tour, undertaken a barge/cycle tour from Paris to Bruges, joined a sailing/cycle group in the Southern Dalmatian Islands in Croatia, travelled solo for 4 weeks across UK and Scandinavia, cycled the Otago Rail Trail in New Zealand, walked to the top of Australia, Mt Kosciuszko with a walking group, travelled for three months around England, Iceland, The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, Switzerland, plus many more adventures around our own beautiful country.

International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

So that’s my story for IWD – what’s yours?

Right now is a great and important time in history to do everything possible to help forge a more gender-balanced world. Women have come a long way, yet there’s still more to be achieved.

International Women’s Day has a different campaign theme each year, as a call-to-action.

How will you help make a difference?

It’s also my sister’s birthday today (and every IWD) so I’m taking this opportunity to wish her a very happy birthday!

Deb x

International Women's day 2019, how to move outside your comfort zone
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Debbie in rock chick mode

Everyone has a story to tell! Deb is a young-at-heart & active 60+ blogger/retiree, after being made redundant from her 22-year career managing education programs in a men’s correctional centre (jail). She now spends her time reading, blogging, riding her ebike and travelling. Deb was awarded a Bravery Award from the Queen when she was 17 after a tragic accident – a definite life changing moment! She is married with 3 grown-up daughters & has 4 grandchildren. She never imagined being Granny Debs would bring so much joy to her life! You can read more of Deb’s story here

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62 Replies to “To all the brave, courageous Women of the World – we’re all walking on the wild side”

  1. Wow Deb! You continue to surprise and inspire me with your energy for living life. You certainly are a great example of living life and trying new adventures. Happy International Women’s Day and you look beautiful in your outfit. Orange of course! thank you for sharing your adventures and being the beautiful person you are. I’m proud to have you as a friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sue! Coming from you as an active, encouraging and inspiring woman yourself, I’ll take that as a compliment 🙂 It’s a lovely outfit and so much fun to wear, although I wish more women had got dressed up – I was the only one! I’m so pleased to have you as my friend too, happy IWD to you too xx


  2. Happy International Women’s Day to you, Deb! I love the photo of you in your Salwar Kameez. You look stunning! Your post also resonated strongly with me as Richard and I have just booked our tickets for our fourth Camino Hike….this time from Lucca to Rome (400 km). The requirements for that walk are said to be 1) very strong knees (Richard is currently awaiting knee surgery which won’t happen until after our hike. 2) No fear of heights (I don’t have fear of heights looking down from the top of a high building or tower….but if I’m hiking uphill that’s a completely different story). 3) Have at least some basic Italian language skills (Richard and I have none…but we are working on it right now). What’s life without a challenge?! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh Donna, that’s fantastic to hear you’re going back to the Camino, you’re an inspiration! I definitely couldn’t tick any of those boxes except maybe the knees, they’re pretty good. It’s a great challenge to have in front of you.

      Thanks for your comment on my outfit, I must admit I felt pretty spiffy and ‘international’ wearing it on the day, although no-one else dressed up!


  3. A great post. You’ve completed some amazing challenges – the Kakadu track too, well done you! Have you inspired me to do the same – definitely not….. I read about your school excursion too. What an awful time that must have been.
    My sister-in-law-law is cycling the Otago track ATM.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for joining in the conversation with your thoughts Chris! It’s not for everyone, and I’m lucky to have travelled at all after the accident trip if I’m honest. I loved the Otago cycling trip, and New Zealand is somewhere I want to get back to one day soon.


  4. I am inspired! Your tree-clambering story reminded me of sliding down loose gravel on a 14,000 foot mountain peak in Colorado. I was so scared! A 7 yr old in her tiny hiking boots confidently striding up the path inspired me. But frankly I wasn’t at all sure I could get down!

    It’s completely amazing that you’ve stretched yourself physically and emotionally in these ways in order to have such incredible adventures. You are awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Angela, I’m blushing now! I’m just someone who found you can do things if you really work at it and put yourself forward 🙂 I can imagine being scared on that mountain peak, aren’t young ones fearless? Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Janis, I was so pleased to wear it again after all this time and was also happy it still fit me 🙂 I do like having adventures too and I’m happy you enjoyed reading it. I don’t think I’m that inspirational but I will give most things a go!


  5. Amazing! You are quite the world traveler. Thanks for sharing your experiences and lovely pictures. The outfit is beautiful too-you should wear it every chance you get. I would!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Rhonda, it’s great to hear from you. I have been known to travel a bit over the past 20 or so years and am fortunate I can do so. I love blogging too! I must say I felt very special in my outfit, not least of all because it still fit after 9 years or so since I had it made, but the whole style is so easy and comfortable. I deliberately chose the colours as they’re my favourites. Happy days to you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You dazzle in your outfit, Deb, and I love reading about your adventures. Thanks for sharing them. My sister and I are going to Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia later this month. A new adventure awaits 🙂 #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment Natalie! I do enjoy a dress up 🙂

      We enjoyed Croatia and are planning on returning next year for more cycling adventures. I wish you happy travels and look forward top reading all about it.


  7. I definitely think you qualify as an international woman! You have had marvelous international adventures. I haven’t done anything quite so adventurous. I’ve been to Ecuador a few times and Ireland and Germany, but those were pretty tame compared to your trips. I would HATE those bridges. We crossed a few sketchy bridges on a bus in Ecuador, I had to close my eyes!
    Your outfit is lovely. You should wear it every time you get a chance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your visit and comment Michele, I always appreciate hearing from you. I love wearing that outfit and always feel special. Ecuador sounds amazing! Yes those bridges were so scary and the stuff of nightmares sometimes.


    1. Lydia, it has been fun most of the time but hard work too. I’m glad I’ve had these experiences as they help shape me and I get to meet lots of interesting people along the way.


  8. Wow Deb you’ve done some amazing stuff and by the way – you look so beautiful in that outfit!! Not sure what it is – the style, the colours, or both! I did the Kokoda once – LOL – just kidding – I did a version of it – it was a 30km Brisbane Kokoda Challenge held in the D’Auguilar National Park. It nearly killed me! I couldn’t move the next day and had to take the day off work. I thought 30kms would be easy – and I would have been fine if it were mostly relatively flat but alas – it was hill after hill after hill and they were big, steep, gravally hills and I was not prepared. I finished it though but won’t be signing up for it again any day soon! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good on you Min, I’ve heard of that challenge and others as well. I think the training is important and we were well equipped by the time we got to PNG. Thanks for your comment about my outfit, I really loved wearing it again.


  9. Well there’s another side to you I didn’t know about – all that trekking!! I’m afraid my admiration stops with cheering you on – I’m not in the slightest bit interested in being hot, dirty, or smelly – but good on you for giving it a go and finding out how much you enjoyed it. Also good on you for keeping it up afterwards – so many just go back to their previous sedentary lives and it all seems fairly pointless. Great post and lovely outfit 🙂
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Leanne, we are all made up of lots of stories and I was reminded of this one when I found notes of my talk. I didn’t enjoy all of it but I made the most of it at the time. I enjoyed telling this story with you all and thanks for sharing.


  10. You sure are doing those hard things…I talk about #dothehardthings…in a much more physical way than I ever have or had. Amazing feats by you and I suspect there will be more to come. If there is one person who is making lemonade most days out of any lemons she has been handed, it is YOU Deb!

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. A great IWD one if ever there was!

    Denyse #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your thoughts Denyse, I love getting your comments 🙂 I am proud of my efforts and pushing myself out of my comfort zone., although it’s not always been fun! I try to make the most of things I suppose and that counts for something. I love sharing stories and the interaction we have as bloggers and now friends. All the best to you, I see you as an inspiration to us all. 🙂


      1. Ah Deb, here I am again..a year later, still thinking of you as a dynamo of a woman but it is also the courage, fortitude and sheer determination that also got your moving . An amazing example to many. Thank you for linking up for Life This Week. Next week’s optional prompt is: 11/51 My Neighbourhood 16.3.2020. Hope to see you there too. Denyse.


  11. What an amazing trip over the Kokoda Track. I can not imagine doing a walk like that. Good for you for doing it, I am afraid of heights also so am not sure I would have made it over the tree.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was pretty tough going at times Victoria! I’m glad I did it but I definitely don’t need to do it again any time soon. My husband is about to do it for the 8th time with a group school kids they’ve been training for months. I’ll wait at home 🙂


    1. Thanks for your visit and comment Alicia, it was pretty intense there for a while!! I’m glad I lived to tell the tale 🙂 . I’m sure you’re doing amazing stuff all the time but don’t even realise it!


  12. Hi Deb, you are such an inspiration. The only Walk I’ve done was a 4 day walk through the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney. I do travel though mostly overseas and I am a woman so perhaps I can qualify to be an International Woman? Happy International Women’s Day and most of all thanks for your friendship. xx #lifethisweek

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Deb
    What inspiring travels! I am a creature of comfort and predictability when I travel right now but I think I am due for a shake up soon.

    Thanks for paving the way through your accounts of the trips to PNG and Nepal.

    How brilliant also to be able to share these trips with some of the the same buddies.

    SSG xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow! Your life certainly has been full of adventures. Good for you! I wish I could have heard your talk. I didn’t realize it was International Women’s Day. Now I want to write something in tribute to all the fabulous women I know.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Loved reading about all your adventures – I take my hat off to you! You are a braver and fitter woman than I! What’s next?

    Liked by 1 person

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