Walking for exercise

We recently bought a treadmill. It’s for me, really, because Edwin uses the treadmill at the gym at which he is a regular and dedicated member.

When I announced this purchase at work, one of my colleagues laughed and told me it would end up being a giant clothes hanger and why didn’t I just walk outside. Why indeed? I’ve never even remotely considered buying a treadmill before as I’ve always gone for walks in the great outdoors on walking trails or isolated river tracks near my childhood home, so what is different now?

Well, you see Bogota isn’t exactly a city made for people who like to walk for exercise. There are lots of parks, playgrounds and green spaces (depending to a degree on where you live) but there are not many easily accessible trails you can walk or jog around on an everyday basis. Driving to a trail is out of the question given the hideous traffic and lack of parking that Bogota is notorious for, and walking around in the streets is a surefire way to either get frustrated at not being able to cross streets or wind up getting hit by a car. I guess many people have a gym membership, however I felt that getting a gym membership just to walk on the treadmill was, for me, a guaranteed way to never use it.

Today, Good Friday, dawns and unlike spending my Holy Thursday holiday in my pyjamas reading books and organising my wardrobe, I write a to do list, topped with “Get on treadmill”. Probably a good idea given that it has sat, unused and collecting dust, at the foot of my bed for the good part of a week.

However it is too nice a day to stay inside our apartment praying that the narrow windows will let in some soft breeze along with the sunshine and views of blue sky. So I look to Google Maps to help me find somewhere green I can walk to and around. I’m open minded to try anything really, as there is hardly any traffic after the mass exodus of Bogotanos to celebrate Easter outside of the city. Then I see the Rio Molinos with strips of green along the sides. It’s not far from our apartment, so I decide that I can do a loop of it between Carrera 11 and the Autopista.

It’s the best idea I’ve had in a long time.

You would hardly call Rio Molinos a river. It is a typical Bogota river, a cemented aqueduct that is stagnant and stinky like a sewer. But after the smell stops bothering you, the beauty of the trail begins to emerge and gives you a perk in your step. The river is lined with many trees, some flowering, some providing shade, playgrounds and grassy nooks, there are even bottlebrushes with their red flowers coming out and reminding me of home. It’s quiet. Being in the middle of a peaceful residential area there is very little traffic around, although crossing the Carreras 15 and 19 are still a bit challenging even on a quiet traffic day without a convenient pedestrian crossing nearby.

Fifteen minutes into my walk and I’m planning when I can get here next. I fall in love with Bogota all over again. I feel an energy and lightness enter me. The barnacles of the everyday frustrations of this city release their hold on me and I’m smiling. I have an extra bounce in my step, the air sucks deeper into my lungs and the vitamin D leaches into my skin.

Even though the Rio Molinos is ugly and in no way compares with the magnificent Murray River I grew up alongside, today Bogota has given me an extraordinary gift, and has proven me wrong in thinking I needed a treadmill to get exercise by walking here in this city.

Shanks’ pony in LA

Today I used Shanks’ pony for transportation in LA.

I haven’t really gotten out much in LA on my own yet. except for a couple of kilometres radius of our place. It really is a city built for driving. Suburbs are far more massive than they appear on the map and the grid layout can be quite deceptive.

I had hitched a ride with Gin, J and friend to the Trails cafe at the bottom of Griffith Park for lunch and then decided to leave them to continue on to the Griffith Observatory while I made my way towards where I had a test drive of a car. The Google Maps app on my phone made it look really close. I should have done the directions thingy to get a proper idea.

I ended up walking for about 45 minutes to where my friends who were helping me with the test drive were having lunch. I walked through Los Feliz and then the little enclaves Thai Town and Little Armenia that are peppered along Hollywood Boulevard. The diversity in between each block was quite remarkable. One block you would have fancy shops and neat footpaths, the next it would be more derelict and dirty and so on.

I didn’t meet many other pedestrians. I wasn’t the only one using Shanks’ pony (walking on my own two legs and yes, it a very grandfatherly kind of thing to say) but there certainly weren’t crowds waiting at the lights, except out front of the metro station.

So it is doable, but just don’t underestimate the distances and time it will take you.

Strutting Silver Lake style

My walking outfit

The Silver Lake strut is alternate speak for a stroll/power walk/jog around the Silver Lake reservoir.

The 2.3 mile walk (3.7km) is a pedestrian and canine freeway filled with fit runners, struggling joggers, power walkers, dog walkers and casual strollers. Most have iPods inserted in their ears and wear sunglasses. I also noted a resurgence in the old wicker tennis shade brim on a few women who were surprisingly under the 45yo median age for that kind of fashion statement.

I garnered quite a few looks from the mostly female passersby. I am fairly sure it was my outfit, but it could have been that I don’t look American. I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed, but there is something different about how Americans look. I can’t quite pinpoint it enough to describe it, but there is something in the way they hold their faces that gives them away before they can even open their mouth.

As for my attire, I brought with me my red RMIT Alumni cap because I know Americans love their colleges, and I wanted to fit in in that respect. I also brought along my freebie Virgin Blue t-shirt that I got after organising the official welcome to them when they started flying to Mildura. So they could have been trying to figure out my mish-mash of locations or maybe just ponder the big juicy orange on my shirt. But maybe, if I keep this as my exercise outfit, one day someone will stop me and say “Wow I’ve been there!” And one can only hope that it will be a cute boy who says it.