A very happy & holy Easter to you from Tauchendorf in southern Austria! I can see it snowing through the window right now so I'm happy to be at the computer, though it'll be short lived as I'll be back on the road again in a few hours time. The week began in hot sunshine, quickly turned to rain followed by long, overcast cool days & now it's snowing. I haven't seen anything other than mountains & valleys this week as the road I walked wound it's way up, down, arond & some times even under. It was actually tiring having to conistantly try & find a path to walk along. The roads here have no shoulder & are often guarded by barrier-rails. I've had no choice but to 'run the gauntlet' along these roads a few times but I've also walked along bike tracks, farm lanes, rivers & rail-tracks. On a number of occaisions I've been walking past ski-lifts taking skiiers up to the mountain top & I've longed to drop my bag & have a quick ski but with the broken church on my mind I've pushed on. Austria is the first country where I haven't learnt the language because so many people here speak english, so I just haven't had to push myself. Dave Batten, from Australia, did send me an email at the start of Austria with some helpful phrases, though "I ride a kangaroo to work everday" and "I am a little fat pig" haven't come in handy as yet. Thanks for your input though Dave. I've been able to eat very well here in Austria & consequently my metabolism has shot through the roof & I'm starting to put a little weight back on. Walking 30 to 50km a day & putting weight on is no mean feet! I regularly wake at 3am with my stomach rumbling & a small meal waiting for me beside my bed. I began the walk at 93kg, fell to as low as 81kg & I'm now edging towards 87kg. I had planned 2days of rest for Easter with a family my good friend Dave had become acquaninted with on a trip last year. I was looking foward to meeting them & resting at their house. As I walked into the town the thought crossed my mind that it was possible that Dave might have actually flown over for Easter - he'd do something like that & not tell me. And then 10mins later there he was standing in front of me with a stupid grin on his face, "Hello Samuel." It was a great Easter suprise & so my last 2days have been filled with a lot of catching up & a lot of laughing. We've been named cheeky 1 & cheeky 2 by the family here, which brings back memories of our time together on mission in 2002 when we were labelled as shifty 1 & shifty 2. Some things don't change. The Stromberger family have been excellent hosts here on their farm & Dave & I have been treated to a true Autrian experience. From painted easter eggs, to a Saturday night candle lit vigil mass, to a full orchestra & operatic choir Sunday morning mass, to a selection of Austrian foods, it has been a beautiful couple of days. The two daughters living back at home, Eva & Carol, have very strong ties with the Franciscan order & so there have been many hours of conversation about faith, areas of struggling unity & places of need for mission work. It really has been an uplifting Easter. Dave brought over with him a brand new pair of Scarpa boots for me. I'd been trying to find a new pair since Canada but size 16 (Euro-50) just weren't available anywhere in the world. Dave eventually had found a pair of 2006 boots that had been in storage somewhere in Autralia & so they are now ready to replace the boots that Damian & Tatiana Burger bought for me while travelling through Costa Rica. The boots themselves didn't arrive until I was in central Nicaragua & so they've taken me north from there, all the way to Canada, across the ice of Vladivostok Bay & down from Moscow to southern Austria. That's around 8,500km in one pair of boots. Phenomonal. Mind you, they don't look like they would have lasted much longer. I been wearing the new boots everwhere for the last two days to try & wear them in & I walked 12km of today's walk last night to give them a little more time to loosen up. I wore my last boots without being able to wear them in & ended with horrible blisters on the balls of my feet & tendonitis. I'm hoping to avoid that this time around. Speaking of blisters, I haven't had one now since the USA - see how the new boots treat me. The change in seasons has seen a change in activity amongst the locals. I've struck up a few conversations with people out in their garden or field, preparig the soil for planting. Apart from the light snow falling outside right now it is getting a lot greener. I'll have to wait a few more days though before I see the real change as I'm about to cross the Italian Alps & will end this week down around Venice & Padua. I received the sad news that my great-auntie Erica had passed away last week so it was sad to hear of her passing (we had a good relationship based on our mutual love of football & cricket!) but despite this I'm really pumped & ready to go. The short 12km walk yesterday on Easter Sunday evening was different to the times in prayer lately. It was a real Easter "He is risen" time & the resurection was menaing more to me than I think it ever has & so I'm a little excited now to be pushing on, praying on & extending the invitation to prayer. In new boots. God bless & peace be with you, Sam.
"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him." Mark 16:6
ps: Thanks for the presents, Naomi & Bek! All the chocolate has been eaten :-)