Wed Cluster Walks: Ultreya

Introduction

A fortnight ago, we reluctantly communicated the decision that we would be stopping the weekly ‘Wed Walks’ (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-in-smaller-groups/). We took the decision with a heavy heart because Wed Walks had started to gain momentum attracting between 50 to 100 walkers each week. As a result of various calls to re-consider, and with the assistance of various persons that stepped up to the plate to lead smaller groups, XirCammini has put in place a calendar and itinerary of walks that rotate per cluster group.

 

Cluster Groups: How will it work?

Last week we re-communicated through our website and on social media (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/wed-walks-with-your-help-we-can-carry-on/) that Wed Walks will continue, albeit in a different format, i.e. in groups of 10 on a rotating itinerary of walks. This means that several walks in various parts of Malta will take place each Wednesday evening with group sizes bring curtailed at 10 per group. Persons participating in these groups are persons who answered our poll and/or concurrently interacted with us at the time. Groups and itineraries are now fixed until the end of September when the scheme will be re-evaluated in the light of Covid-19 developments. By now, all persons who interacted with us in this respect would have been allotted an FB Chat group informing them of the leader and fellow group members and of the first walk. We ask for your understanding not to request changes because (a.) putting the whole plan into place was a significant endeavour and (b.) volunteers (who otherwise also have full-time jobs and personal responsibilities) undertake all the work on a voluntary basis by sacrificing personal time.

Thank you.

 

Risk Management Considerations

Some have asked, “Why all the work (and fuss) when outside events have a 300-person limit?”

If we had to provide one succinct answer to the above question, it would be, “To reduce the probability of spread and to lessen potential consequences in the event of Covid contagion.”

What does this mean?

  1. If you are in a group of 10 persons that does not change from one week to the next, the probability of coming into contact with an infected and/or asymptomatic person is much less than if you are walking with a group of 50 or more people that change each week.
  2. Similarly, if you an asymptomatic carrier the possibility of transmission is to a smaller group of people instead of the whole group. This also significantly reduces the burden on contract tracing and swabbing for the health authorities.

Why have we continued with the walks?

The short reply would be because of an overwhelming response to do so notwithstanding the circumstances.

The underlying response is that – even under normal circumstances – several people are benefitting whether physically, psychologically, emotionally or spiritually when participating in these Wed Walks.

Covid-19 has heightened some of the fears, concerns, anxiety, stress and loneliness and in some cases increased real or perceived isolation. Within this context, these walks have become even more relevant for our well-being.

This being stated, they had to be ‘re-engineered’ to respect the realities we are living in and the directives from health and government authorities in this respect.

Health Directives: Our 10 Commandments.

By participating in these walks, walkers bind themselves to the following directives. Help us to continue providing you with walks:

  1. DO NOT join a walk if you are sick, running a temperature, have a cough, or experiencing trouble to breathe;
  2. DO NOT join a walk if you or persons close to you have recently (i.e. during the last fortnight) returned from overseas from a country with whom there isn’t an established ‘safe-corridor’;
  3. When we meet AVOID ANY FORM of physical contact with others (i.e. shaking hands, hugging, kissing etc.) and try to maintain a 2-metre physical distance;
  4. AVOID touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Carry and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, tissues, and other hygiene products constantly on a trek. Please also dispose of these responsibly;
  5. USE soap and water if hands are visibly dirty;
  6. COVER your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing;
  7. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES invite others to join your cluster for the weekly Wed Walk. Cluster leaders have instructions to turn away anyone who is not pre-registered in the respective cluster.
  8. GIVE your leader a telephone number on which you can be contacted in case these are required (a.) for further announcements by your leader and/or (b.) for us to share with Health Authorities if asked e.g. for contact tracing.
  9. By participating in your cluster you are CONSENTING to providing your telephone contact number and to us sharing it with health authorities if required.
  10. You also agree that you are participating freely in such walks and freely assume any risks arising from such walks. You hold XirCammini harmless and free from any liability for any accident, illness, injury, loss or direct or indirect consequences of such accident, illness, injury or loss.

Conclusion: A Word of Thanks.

I want to thank the Committee members who participated in the discussions and assisted in bringing this plan to fruition and also to the persons who kindly offered to lead cluster groups. These walks would not have been possible without their assistance. In choosing leaders, XirCammini:

  1. Decided the overall direction, encouraging a change in thinking;
  2. Empowered people and will continue to support them to achieve;
  3. Provided an overall framework for effective implementation and leader guidance, aligning clusters and facilitating ‘cluster’ decisions;
  4. Created a system that is flexible to respond to changes and improvements.

In other words, this was and will continue to be an exercise of leadership in action.

A lot of thought, planning and execution went into the process. The success of these walks now hinges on response and cooperation of walkers in each group, the ultimate beneficiaries.

Wed Walks: With your help we can carry on!

Introduction

In our post of yesterday (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-in-smaller-groups/) we postponed the XirCammini Wed Walks until the end of September because of the prevailing, uncertain Covid-19 situation. However, we have had overwhelming feedback to find a feasible solution that does not involve complete postponement of walks that we were compelled to re-consider.

We understand that the Wed Walk is proving to be beneficial whether physically, psychologically, emotionally and /or socially to several people. At the same time there are significant ‘burdens’ (and understandably so) placed on organisers under the present circumstances.

A compromise to carry on

Coming up with a compromise that (a.) provides an opportunity for individuals to continue to meet and walk in small groups and (b.) respecting our social responsibilities to combat Covid-19 is not easy. But, as XirCammini, we do have a proposal as follows:

  • We roll out Wed Walk Clusters from Wednesday, 112th August but with a big difference.
  • A poll will be published on our social media group platform asking walkers to inform us whether they wish to join the Wed Walks or not. This is a ‘once only’ poll and people who opt out would opt out from now until the end of September (when the situation will be reviewed). THERE WILL BE NO ADDITIONS / CHANGES ONCE THE GROUPS ARE FORMED EVEN IF PEOPLE DROP OUT OR DO NOT TURN UP;
  • The ‘cut off date‘ of the poll is Friday, 7th August 2020. Persons answering after this date will not be included;
  • Those who opt in will be divided into groups of 10 (9 + 1 leader) and they remain in that group until the end of September;
  • Events will be ‘group-specific’ (i.e. for each 10-member group). Persons CANNOT under any circumstance:
    • Change groups; or
    • Invite others to join them

If you do, you and your invited friends will be asked to leave;

  • Anyone joining will have to respect health directives. Group leaders will also be asked to collect phone numbers of each member in their 10-member cluster in case these are required for contact tracing by health authorities;
  • Continuation of walks will always be subject to health authority directives. It is important that we respect directives by the Superintendence of Health at all times;
  • People participate at their own risk. No liability can be accepted by the organisers for any injury, illness, infection or loss occurring during the walks;
  • People are reminded that this is not a leisurely walk. Whoever commits to join commits to maintain a brisk pace and keep up with the group.

Conclusion: Be respectful

For those who intend to join we kindly ask you to be respectful towards your Cluster Leader and Cluster Members as well as to any health directives that are issued from time to time.

For those who opt out for the time being we understand. But, we also ask you to be respectful of those who decide to continue with the XirCammini Wed Walks. There may be a story that we are not privy to behind every face and a reason that we cannot decipher moving every pace.

We may all be on the same journey yet each person’s motive or destination is different.

Covid-19: Keep Calm | Carry on (in smaller groups)

Regrettably we will be stopping the Wed Walks until further notice to respect the spirit of the law in the ensuing Covid-19 situation.

This is clearly articulated by the Superintendence of Health in bold, red script their latest regulations.

We shall re-assess the situation towards the end of September with a view to re-initiating the Wed Walks from Wed October 7th, 2020.

It is a decision reached with a heavy heart especially since, from the June re-opening, each Wed Walk attracted between 50 – 100 walkers. Recognizing the physical, psychological and social benefits of exercising outdoors, we strongly urge people to continue to walk solo or in very small groups (the current regulatory definition of a cluster is 10) and to observe health regulations in doing so. If we can be of assistance with hiking ideas please reach out to us via our FB platform.

In conclusion, the ones most in need of such walks are the ones who are most likely to retreat quietly until publicly available again.

Can I please ask all others to ‘step up to the plate’, take the initiative, call and continue to interact with people to whom these walks offered sanity or a well-being opportunity. We’re all pilgrims on the same journey in life even when calamity prevents us from walking.

latest Directives by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Health

A message from San Juan Bautista, Granon

We received a message from Ms. Marina Saiz,  the person responsible for the running of the much-loved San Juan Bautista albergue in Grañon, in La Rioja, in Spain.

The following is a paraphrase of it:

“Due to the pandemic of Covid-19, we are not going to open the albergue
this summer. Since we are first and foremost a parish, and our priority is to protect the health and well-being of our elderly parishioners in Grañón. 

Therefore, we feel obliged to ask you if you could please warn pilgrims of the risk they inadvertently pose to our elderly parishioners who stand to suffer from a fresh outbreak of Covid-19. Therefore if you were still planning to undertake a Camino this year we please ask you to reconsider.”

Self Care on Common Colds | Flu | Covid-19

The Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector has kindly shared with us, as registered Voluntary Association, the following message / document which you might find of interest.

“The Malta College of Family Doctors has published a Self-Care Guide on Common Colds, Flu and COVID-19 (English and Maltese versions) intended for the use and share of the general public.  

It is intended to be a tool to educate the general public in this time of transition from the COVID-19 pandemic of the last months and in the coming autumn/winter months when the traditional colds and flu might possibly be joined by a second wave of SARS-CoV-2 cases.”  

It is available on https://mcfd.org.mt/generalpublic/selfcare

I hope you find this useful.

Be Kind and Respectful: Always | With Everyone | Everywhere

As the first wave of the pandemic that swept swiftly across the globe starts to subside at home, directives start to lift.

That does not mean that we do not need to remain cautious. Every hiker, runner, climber and cyclist knows that a descent can be more treacherous than an incline. Therefore, also as we ‘exit’ the 1st Covid-19 phase we have to do so with care.

In this piece, we will continue to update you on travel, trekking and XirCammini developments as we re-emerge from Covid-19.

Victoria Lines

Local Trekking

We have resumed the Wed Walks (our weekly evening walk appointment) and the turnout was encouraging.

People who join us are being asked to follow 6 simple rules relating to health, hygiene and social distancing in line with Health Authority Directives (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-8/ “Local Trekking | Health Directives”)

On Wed 10th June, we walked a South loop (from Xarolla through Ħal Millieri to Providenza, linking back to Zurrieq through Maqluba and tal-Ħniena Sanctuary). The camaraderie and the general atmosphere were incredibly positive.

On Wed 10th June, we walked a South loop (from Xarolla through Ħal Millieri to Providenza, linking back to Zurrieq through Maqluba and tal-Ħniena Sanctuary). The camaraderie and the general atmosphere were incredibly positive.

On Fri 12th June, we walked a West loop (from Bidnija through Zebbiegh to the Bingemma church, linking back to Bidnija through Dwejra and the valley). Again, there was such a positive spirit.

This Wednesday, 17th June we will walk the “Matrici tal-Majjitral” an Mdina – Girgenti loop through the ancient western parishes (Mdina, Zebbug and Siggiewi) listed in the Rollo de Mello 1436.

Beyond Siggiewi (were the parishes of the South: Zurrieq, Bir Miftuh, now Gudja and Casale Sta. Katerina, now Zejtun). The remaining Rollo De Mello parishes were the Mellieha sanctuary to the Northwest, Qormi, Naxxar, Birkirkara, San Lorenzo del Mare (Birgu) and Hal Tartani. Hal Tartani and Mellieha subsequently lost their parish status to be then reinstated some centuries later. Our walk will only pass through the 3 western matriarchal parishes. All of these old parishes (and some others that followed) are referred to as ‘Matrici’ because from them other parishes emerged.

Wed Walk 10th June

Overseas Trekking | Flight Status

All our overseas trekking experiences until the end of September have been cancelled. All deposits collected towards accommodation etc for all overseas treks until the end of 2020 were promptly refunded. We thank overseas trekking associations, NGOs and micro-0rganisations that we collaborate with overseas for their assistance.

Malta has announced a ‘safe corridor’ with various countries and travel will shortly resume. However this does not mean that we can start planning overseas trips. Why? Because some of these countries still have quarantine regulations and or other prohibitive measures in place which do not make it feasible for us to plan trips for the foreseeable future.

It is likely that by mid-August such restrictions to these countries (and more) would have been lifted. However, it is better to plan trips when one has more certainty on flights, destinations, quarantine procedures, accommodation and local transport arrangements etc. A time will come when we can again travel and trek together overseas. Until then we’ll continue with the local activities and continue monitoring the overseas situation in the various countries where we trek.

At the time of writing this piece it is still being recommended by authorities in Spain not to rush and wait until all sectors of the Camino are again open before considering a Camino in Spain. The same applies to other countries. We are constantly monitoring this and will keep members informed.

Cancelled overseas treks, 2020

Famous last Words:

Be Kind and Respectful: Always | With Everyone | Everywhere

Situations (not least Covid-19) can bring out the best or the worst in people.

It is not a secret that – petty as it may sound – unhealthy, albeit petty, rivalry unfortunately also exists among local trekking groups. But, I am concluding this piece with this point because it was raised with me during one of our recent walks.

At XirCammini we welcome anyone who shares our passion for hiking. No questions asked.  Our non-exclusive nature is enshrined on our statute. whether one

  1. walks with us and also walks with other groups,
  2. walks with us and does not walk with other groups or
  3. does not walk with us but walks with other groups

makes no difference.

Everyone is welcomed and / or respected as long as one is always respectful towards others.

We walk together because of the physical, psychological, social and intellectual benefits of this collective pastime. We walk together because so many barriers dissolve and impasses dissipate when we share the road together. A word, a joke, a gesture and even shared silence serve to uplift us.

Let us be kind and respectful always, with everyone everywhere as we share the road and our experiences with fellow-hikers without expecting anything in return. Be grateful, always and everywhere, in the blessing of a shared journey.

Life’s a Journey | Keep Walking | Keep Smiling | Keep Safe.

Life is Fragile; the Camino Eternal.

The Camino has been with us for centuries and will be with us when Covid-19 is over. Our life is more fragile. We can wait out this episode in our life and walk the Camino again when it is safer and more feasible to do so.

The Jacobean Council recommends not doing the Camino de Santiago until all its sections are in the so-called new normality.

Mobility is one of the most complex aspects of de-escalation due to its direct relationship with the probability of contagion.

https://mailchi.mp/8a3b8e3be429/boletn-sobre-el-camino-de-santiago-ante-la-situacin-de-emergencia-sanitaria-7985884?e=4c9d2279c8

COVID 19: Keep Calm | Carry on (#8)

Introduction

This is the 8th update in our Covid 19 announcements to XirCammini Members.

There is finally light at the end of the tunnel and we have now reached a phase where – with caution and discipline – we can again walk together again.

Our underlying advice remains, “act sensibly | exercise discipline | carry on while respective directives.”

Local Trekking | Health Directives

I am pleased to announce that, following today’s briefing by the Superintendence of Health, we will resume Wed Walks from Wednesday 10th June 2020. An event will be posted shortly on the XirCammini FB Page and shared with the XirCammini Group on FB.

We will advocate the following rules for those who wish to join us please:

  1. Do not hike if you are sick, running a temperature, have a cough, or experiencing trouble to breathe;
  2. Do not hike if you or persons close to you have recently (i.e. during the last fortnight) returned from overseas. You should be in quarantine;
  3. If you meet any one avoid any form of physical contact with others (i.e. shaking hands, hugging, kissing etc.) and try to maintain the 2.5-metre physical distance advocated by the government directives;
  4. Avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Carry and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, tissues, and other hygiene products constantly on a trek;
  5. Use soap and water if hands are visibly dirty;
  6. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

Overseas / Major Trekking Events: Jan – Jun 2020

As informed earlier, all our overseas trekking event up to and including June 2020 have been cancelled. All members should by now have been reimbursed any deposits paid. If not please let us know.

No member should have been left out of pocket.

Regarding the Aug to Dec trips we are still waiting to see how circumstances continue to unfold. We are currently in a situation where (a.) flights will resume from Malta to pre-determined ‘safe corridor’ countries (b.) not all of these ‘safe corridor’ countries have by now lifted restrictions and/or removed quarantine (c.) some accommodation providers have decided not to re-open as yet and are waiting for the phased road-map in their country to unfold.

So, in short, we’ll continue to monitor the situation and will revert. Notwithstanding this, if you had paid a deposit for any of the XirCammini overseas trips for later on in the year and – for whatever reason – you wish to withdraw we will return your deposit. We can travel and walk together again in the future when it suits you and you feel safe to do so.

Conclusion: Thank You | Be Respectful

I will end with the ‘thank you’ note  and a word of caution that I generally started our Covid-19 briefings with:

Thanks: We want to thank all the healthcare professionals, paramedics, disciplined forces, volunteers and all those engaged in the effort to halt and or heal. Thank you. Thank you also to every one rose the occasion and identified ways and means to be of help to others in this hour of need.

Caution: For those of us accustomed to trekking we know that a descent is generally trickier than an ascent. If the transmission phase was a hilly ascent of directives and new behaviour, exiting the Covid-19 emergency phase is our descent. If we do it recklessly or without due caution we risk breaking a leg (or worse still our neck). A word of caution to everyone: directives and guidelines are there to protect us. Please continue to cooperate.

In all that we do and from all walks of life let us be respectful to each other at all times.

Some circumstances in life tend to bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. it is worth remembering that:

  1. If / when you are visible your words and actions influence others. Be judicious in both.
  2. Prejudice brings out the worst in people. Hindsight generally teaches us that we are generally always in the same boat or journeying the same road albeit at different junctions, brigdes or thresholds at any point in time. Be patient and understanding with others.
  3. Unfortunately social media has replaced the soap-box and created multiple mutations of preachers who with evangelical zeal spout or advocate hell’s fire and brimstone at /for anyone who dares disagree with their point of view even on mundane matters. Bad as Covid-19 may be there are worse viruses infecting some of us such viruses as prejudice, gossip, bigotry, conceited self-righteousness and so on. Be kind in silence. After all it is our actions (not our words) that speak most volumes.

Life is a journey | keep walking | keep smiling | keep safe | keep calm | act sensibly | exercise self-discipline and carry on.

How to properly wash hands will forever remain a priority

Even more so with the easing of restrictions, one of the ‘New Normals’ we certainly have to embrace is continuing to wash our hands frequently and properly. Not that we should not have always been doing this .. but if we didn’t, Covid-19 taught us that there was no better time to start.

It is important that we now maintain this practice.

I want to thank Jennifer Loughty from CNA for sharing this page with us. For the handwashing regime click on underlined ‘How to Properly Wash Your Hands’ link: