78 Year Old Dawn Completes 1000KM Walk In Spain

Thursday, 7 November 2013
At 78 most people are content to take gentle walks around town but Portland’s Dawn Baudinette has had her sights on bigger challenges.

Mrs Baudinette recently fulfilled a life-long ambition when she completed a 1000km walk across Spain in 35 days.

With help to prepare from the team at Active Health Portland, Mrs Baudinette successfully completed the El Camino pilgrimage plus an additional walk to Finnisterre across the rocky hills of Spain.

Averaging nearly 20km-30km a day in hot temperatures on difficult terrain would be tough for anyone, but Mrs Baudinette took it in her stride.

The day I set off there were 300 starting the walk at the same place at St Jean Pide de Port in France and I was the oldest. I didn't think it was that unusual at my age but other people did. I am very goal oriented and felt that I couldn't fail,she said.

After having polio when she was young that kept her in hospital for six years and forced her to walk on splints, Mrs Baudinette decided it was time to thank God for her recovery to good health.

I was doing something I had wanted to do all my life. Age wasn’t a problem for me. I wasn't trying to prove anything; just go on a pilgrimage to say thank you God.

The former Warrnambool Primary School principal, district inspector of schools, Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education and Portland District Health board member, and lavender farm owner has had her share of health problems in recent years.

These included an aortic aneurysm, two strokes, dislocated shoulders and loss of eyesight in one eye.

After being told by her doctor that her joints were wearing out, she decided it was time to take the challenge. I thought, I am 78 I'd better go and do the Camino.

While she did a lot of mountain climbing when younger and remained fit with lengthy walks around the district, Mrs Baudinette decided a few months before taking the pilgrimage that she needed specialised help.

I was referred by my doctor to Active Health Portland which was the best thing I could have done,she said.

They made a commitment to me and I made a commitment to them. They say I was inspiring but they inspired me.

Exercise physiologist Shae Johnson devised a program to help Mrs Baudinette improve her balance, breathing and muscle tone, not only in her legs but in her upper body for carrying her pack.

Massage therapist Alicia Roden helped to relax her leg muscles and relieve pressure over her body with deep tissue and muscular massage which Mrs Baudinette said was “the catalyst for change”, and podiatrist Rebecca Rundell helped with advice on footwear and general foot care.

We were working on a common goal and I know I finished feeling fitter than when I started, Mrs Baudinette said.

After getting soaked on her first day, Mrs Baudinette decided to drop most of her 14.5kg backpack but she wasn't going to be deterred.

It is one of the best known pilgrim walks where you live off the land and the kindness of the people, she said.

Every day I would get up and plod along to the next goal. The best part was the people; I was amazed at the respect and compassion that people showed. I will never forget the scenery and the fellowship and it was great to get back to the bare essentials of life with a bit of humility.

Mrs Baudinette was joined by a friend for part of the journey and was also inspired to learn at one stage that a 91-year-old walker had started the course. Sadly he was unable to complete the journey, which left Mrs Baudinette as the oldest person on the walk at the time, even though I never mentioned my age once,she added.

Mrs Baudinette stayed in youth hostels and took `pilgrim meals' along the way. I told people I was walking on bread, water and wine,she joked.

The temperature hovered around 30 degrees most days. It was hot as hell but it was a dry heat so it wasn't too bad.

She was most surprised by the rocky nature of the walk. “There was a lot of ascending and descending but what really hit me was how hard and rocky it was.

It was different to my expectations. I have done a lot of walking but not that sort of distance.

Despite ending up with plantar fasciitis on her feet due to the rocky surface, Mrs Baudinette has no regrets and is already thinking about future challenges.

My feet are still a bit sore but I have no regrets. I loved the total pilgrimage to Santiago.

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