My feet feel like they need to be sawed off at the ankles. That's what I get for walking 25 KM with a rucksack and a loaded weapon, uphill, downhill, on hardtop, on gravel, on rocks, so on and so forth. You get the idea, it's a road march.
The Dancon Roadmarch is sponsored by the Danish Camp and takes place in the Northern Sector. Ever since I heard about it I knew that I had to do this while I was here. It seemed before that something always came up to prevent me from taking part. The first one I thought I was going to be in BNCOC, and by the time I found out that I didn't get a seat, it was to late for me to sign up. So I signed up for the next one, only I got a seat to Greece the day after. And I didn't want to go to Greece while on recovery from a roadmarch, and now I see that this was a wise idea. They had one earlier this month while I was on leave, but I had signed up for this one before I had even gone, so I was ready for it.
I'll tell you what, I had an absolute blast. Well, as much as you can have on a 25 KM walk. I actually walked with four different groups of people at different times, and for a short time I walked with nobody in particular. In fact, I felt pretty good for a good part of the march (though I got winded on the uphill portions), the only problem I had was my feet.
So anyway, they had four checkpoints, where at these checkpoints they give you orange slices, bananas, and cucumbers that you can dip in Sugar or Salt (and actually taste really good) as well as water. I walked with a couple Italian UNMIK guys for a while, (one who even recognized me from my blog and had been in correspondence with me looking at going Snowboarding in Brezavica) up until the second checkpoint, where I had to take a break and change my socks out and apply more moleskin. The UNMIK had to move on, and so I joined my fellow soldiers from Task Force Med Falcon, just relaxing before that next leg of our journey, which was the main uphill journey. At this point, we were attacked by kids, who seek out chocolate and candy from the KFOR soldiers, as well as anything else not bolted onto our bodies (including your watch, patches, food, MP3 player). One kid came up to me, pointed at my watch and said quite forcefully "Gimme!" I said No, and he then replied Nunny (which may have been Albanian or broken english meaning Money). I said No again, and he said Nunny again, and we went through this exchange for a few rounds, my voice getting more and more forceful each time when I finally had to reply "Beat Down" and make a grab for my rifle. Call me cruel, but I don't like kids begging like that, and they get pretty persistant until you make a move toward them to give them the clue that they need to move on. But once we started walking, damn! My feet were hurting already and I wasn't even halfway through. For this next leg, I hung out with a couple other female soldiers from my task force, for the next 4 K we were going uphill. So my short legs kept me from making good pace and everybody was leaving me in the dust. I made it however, and at the end was another checkpoint. We stopped briefly on the way where I learned that my feet were just at the point that if I stopped, it was harder on them then just walking on them. And since I had already plastered them in Moleskin, there wasn't a whole lot I could do to improve their condition so I just kept walking.
Everyone else had stopped at that checkpoint, but I went on by myself. Along the way I enjoyed the scenery of Metrovica and tried to ignore the blisters on my feet. Soldiers from all over KFOR were around us, including Danish, Swedes, Phillipino, Germans, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, etc etc. And the French.
As I was walking on my own, I noticed a group of French soldiers walking and starting to pass me up, so I offered them a greeting of Bonjour. They returned with a friendly hello and we started a brief conversation. One of the soldiers, Jean Paul, then asked if I would trade patches. I said sure and asked if they had a knife, I would cut the patch off my uniform. I thought they were talking about the 70th RRC patch for a bit but they wanted the Flag.
That sucker is sown on that uniform. We couldn't seem to slide the knife under the thread to cut it loose, and to the rescue came some soldiers from Med Falcon. One of them had velcro. He gave them one of his patches (he had apparently acquired a few) in exchange for a French Patch (one with the French Colors where in teh white field resides a Playboy bunny. I kid you not. Its for fun :)
So I managed to get a french patch from them while one of my buddies offered me a patch to trade. We continued walking, I walked with that group from Med Falcon, the French Soldiers were trailing us, and we walked until the next check point.
I was having the same problem as before, my feet were fine as long as I kept moving, I could tolerate the pain. So I kept on walking, watching out for the kids who at this time were getting quite aggressive in their quest for "Chokolade!" I would constantly reply to them NO, as I can't stand kids who go begging for stuff. In fact, I made it a point to go up to a kid, wait for him to ask me for candy, and when he didn't, I shook his hand and gave him a candy bar.
The French soldiers I had met earlier had at this time caught up with me, they were wearing the American flags we had given to them on their left shoulders, and we started talking some more.
I finished the roadmarch with these soldiers, who actually were really cool guys and we talked about different things, how long we had been in country, where we lived, what else we could trade, so on and so forth. Their english wasn't the best, and sometimes their accents were so thick that I would have to ask them to repeat what they were saying. But their English was certainly better then my French (which consists of Bonjour and Mercy), so we talked on and off until we got back to the Danish camp. It was kind of funny and ironic, as we were marching back, some kids were yelling "America!" and raising their fists in the air cheering us on. I don't think the kids realized that these guys were french, as they were both wearing American Patches on their shoulders and I had my flag prominantly displayed. One kid even called out "Italia!" thinking that they were Italian. They kind of laughed at this too.
Overall, we ended up trading weapons (for picture purposes), Patches (I swapped one of my rank patches for one of theirs), MREs and Emails. In fact, I got a picture of me wearing the French patch with one of them wearing an American Patch. It was all in good fun.
I would post pictures, but I'm not allowed too.
But getting back on the bus, after stopping and resting my dogs, ouch that hurt. Overall we started at 0830 and I was done around 1445. Some people ran the entire thing, I can't imagine how they did it. Well, I guess I can, they were in signifcantly better condition then I am.
After getting back to my room (limping the whole way), first thing I did was take off my shoes and assess my feet. My left foot is the worse of the two, with a massive blister along my big toe and another developing on my heal under a callous (that one is the most painful by far) along with odds and ends elsewhere.
Overall, I found that this little trip I took to endure through painful blisters was just what I needed. I just felt really good after it was all over. Now I need to email my UNMIK friend as well as my French buddies and give Jean Paul and Francise the pictures I got with them.