Christina Walks The Walk

By Matt D’Arcy

Christina Vandermeulen can certainly Walk the Walk!***

This Vale da Telha resident and Amovate member has already walked from Brussels to Paris—and from Paris to Brussels, taking just four days each time!

Christina has also completed Belgian’s famous Dodentocht (‘Walk of the Dead’), a 100km trek which has to be done in 24 hours and for which some competitors set off from the start line carrying coffins!

The gruelling walk derives its name from the length of the march and the rough and forested terrain the walkers pass through.

And, in England, she also walked the 100-mile length of the Leeds-Liverpool canal (along the banks of course!), being just one of three people from dozens of starters to finish the demanding trek—the other two were men.
Now, at the age of 61, Christina plans another marathon fundraising trek here in Portugal.
Next month she sets off to walk from Cabo de São Vicente (Cape St Vincent) to Fatima, a distance of 397km (240 miles) as the crow flies, or anything up to 450km (270 miles) depending on any variations or detours along the route she has mapped out.

She sets out on April 18 and calculates it will take her 15 or so days to complete the walk.

This is a double mission for Christina, who, it won’t surprise you to learn, is an enthusiastic member of the Vale da Telha walking groups.

Firstly, she is aiming to raise funds for the poor children of Aljezur, specifying that she wanted to help a deserving LOCAL cause.

The charity for which the funds are destined is Conferência de Nossa Senhora D’Alva, Aljezur, a purely local division of the international St Vincent de Paul Society, set up to help local people in urgent need of support.
Her second reason is more personal and all the more poignant for that.

Forty-two years ago, in 1973 when Christina was just 19, her first child, a son named Lieven, died at the age of only 16 months. He would have been 43 this month.

With the heartbreaking memory of that tragedy still fresh in her mind when she became pregnant in 1977 with her daughter Veronique, Christina—a Catholic—made a vow to the Virgin Mary that if her baby was born healthy and survived she would one day make a pilgrimage of thanks for the life of her child.

“I am a walker, always have been, and I promised Mary in my prayers that one day I would make a pilgrimage to Fatima or to Santiago de Compostela in Spain where there has been a pilgrimage since the 9th century,” she explained.

“I had been researching the Compostela walk while we were living in Belgium and it was very daunting, a distance of 2,500km from our home town, although, like many people I could have started from a prescribed point in Spain.
“For instance, the most popular route, which I understand gets very crowded in mid-summer, is the Camino Francés which stretches 780km (nearly 500 miles) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago.

“But then Leo, my husband, bought a house in Aljezur and it seemed like a sign to me—that I should instead go to Fatima. It was a commitment I had made and one which I knew I had to undertake to keep my promise.

“It seemed fitting to start the journey at Cabo de São Vicente, the most south-westerly point of mainland Europe as Sagres is connected to Portugal’s Age of Discovery and Henry the Navigator—and this will be my own personal age of discovery as we navigate the journey!”

Christina will be supported by husband Leo along the entire journey, Leo driving ahead each day to prepare the lunch and overnight stops for her arrival, and maintain contact by mobile phone, being close at hand to deal with any problems that may arise.

The journey will be charted by a sophisticated GPS system carried by Christina, pinpointing not just her location but giving her accurate readings of the distance covered, daily and in total.

And each evening she will update a digital diary and upload it to a dedicated Facebook page—Fatima Charitywalk—so her supporters and donors will be able to follow the journey with her.

Christina, who served 28 years with the Belgian Navy, added: “It has taken a lot of planning and a lot of people have helped.

“I really want to thank the Mayor of Aljezur and the Bombeiros who have backed me with a lot of enthusiasm and who have arranged six places to stay overnight during my walk through Aljezur Municipality and into the Alentejo.”

Christina’s daily route, along with distances covered, is shown below, and she is inviting anyone who wishes to join her on the walk from Cape St Vincent through Aljezur, until she leaves the Algarve at Odeceixe to come along and pledge their support.

For the first three days of her walk she will lunch within the boundaries of the Aljezur Municipality—in Carrapateira, Chabouco and at the Museu da Bata Doce in Rogil.

After that she will stop for lunch at roughly the same time each day, wherever she happens to be at the time.
Christina has opened an account in the name of the Charity at the BPI bank in Aljezur and you can make your donations to the following Account Number:
0010 0000 39482281502 33

She also aims to locate collection boxes at various businesses in and around Vale Da Telha.

She added: “My birthday falls on May 5th, just when I get back from Fatima, and I hope that on that day we can set up a meeting place—such as, for instance, the Restaurante Vale da Telha on the Pines Roundabout—where I can rest my feet and people can come along and make the final donations.

“Any amount will help, large or small,” she said. “It will all add up to bringing a little happiness to the area’s very poor children.”

* * * *
Christina’s contact details for those wishing to make donations:
Christina Vandermeulen: Tel: 96 665 0079
* * * *
*** ‘Walk the walk’ is almost always said in combination with ‘talk the talk’, eg; “if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk”. This is a 20th century alternative to various old sayings which epitomise the notion that ‘talk is cheap’; for example ‘actions speak louder than words’ and ‘practice what you preach’. The context for the use of any of these expressions is that people who “walk the walk” always set out to achieve what they say. And Christina certainly does that!
* * * *
Christina Vandermeulen—Walking From Cabo de São Vicente to Fatima.
(9am start each day)

Day Lunch Overnight Distance (km)
1: Cabo de São Vicente Vila Do Bispo Carrapateira 24.7
2: Carrapateira Chabouco Vale Da Telha 18.8
3: Vale Da Telha Rogil Odeceixe 21.6
4: Odeceixe Sao Teotonio Odemira 25.1
5: Odemeira V-Nova Da Milfontes 29.6
6: V-N Milfontes Santiago do Cacém 37.4
7: Santiago do Cacém Melides 22.6
8: Melides Troia 39.0
(Ferry boat to Setubal)
9: Setubal Cacilhas 35.5
(Ferry boat to Caiso do Sodré, Lisbon)
10: Caiso do Sodré (via Parque das Nações) Alverca Do Ribatejo 31.6
11: Alverca Do Ribatejo Azambuja 26.1
12: Azambuja Santarém 26.5
13: Santarém Pernes 21.5
14: Pernes Minde 24.1
15: Minde Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima 13.5
TOTAL Km: 397.6

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