Day Two (27 December)

Slapping away at pesky mosquitoes, I packed up my gear as carefully as my blurry eyes and mind could. By the end of the walk, I was adept at setting and breaking camp, able to do it in the dark, in a storm, or both.

For those who want it, here’s a compilation of all the streams and photos from the day, with some extra comments and insights.

At the start it was careful and laborious, and even with all my sober care, I still lost stuff every now and then, including a precious bracelet that my wife made for me before we married. (More on that later).

I did have to ‘MacGyver Up’ that second morning, because after my gear was all packed up, I found that I couldn’t put my belt on – without it, I was slightly screwed, my utility belt held everything together (and my pants up).

It was a hard treated material that was meant to loop through a hook and pull back – but it had become frayed over all my practice walks, and couldn’t fit through the slot – kind of like when a shoelace becomes too frayed to fit through it’s hole.

I did find an inventive solution – although I never lit a fire in the entire BIG WALK, I did carry matches in case of an emergency – so as you can see in the photo, I was able to cut the frayed end back, and then melt & harden the material, so it slid through good as new. Score one for Captain Australia !

The scope and reality of what I was doing hadn’t sunk in yet, I was still .. I don’t know how to describe it .. partly play-acting, I guess ? Later, I became Captain Australia, but at this point, I was Simon in a costume, and talking to people felt shy & awkward.

After about another hour on the road, I stopped at a park near the Beenleigh tavern. I’d met a few people on the road, had some awkward explanations of who I was. Since these early days, I’ve gotten much better at talking, and I feel that .. a process of letting go .. leaving aside all my unnecessary junk, my grief and garbage, helped me to do that. In a way, it was finding my centre, I guess. I think learning to love myself, and to trust that if I just tell the truth it’ll probably work out .. I think these things got me through my innate shyness. But in the first days of the walk, I was a bit of a shy, mumbling train wreck.

This bloke’s name is Darryl, and what a wonderful, larger than life, full of energy character he was. He had gorgeous dogs in the back of his ute, and was super-enthusiastic to be talking. Everything I told him about who I was and what I was doing was received with excited enthusiasm.

I also have people like him to thank for helping me through my shyness. 🙂

But sadly, there were a bunch of people I spoke to, including a grandpa playing with kids in the park, who I can’t share because I was too hesitant to ask for a photo.

I guess I’ve always felt weird about getting in people’s faces. If someone wants to talk to me, it’s OK, but going up and bothering someone .. it just feels wrong somehow.

But I certainly did get better about talking to people, giving and receiving light, trust, connection.

Day 2 was a long day. I camped maybe 35-40km out of Brisbane, and I wanted to make the Gold Coast by nightfall, which meant covering about another 50-60 kilometres. My pack was really weighing me down and it was beginning to sink in that I had brought too many things along.

I had four versions of the Captain Australia uniform (classic, ninja, wet, desert), that’s bad enough. But somehow the most embarrassing choice is a big heavy wrench. It weighed maybe a kilo or more, and my sole line of thinking was that I might need it if I had to tamper with a tap to get access to water after hours in a small shut-down town.

So I thought I’d carry that extra kilo (or more) for a couple of thousand kilometres in an already heavy pack .. when, honestly if the situation were that desperate, I could just knock on a door and ask for help. It shows a lack of trust in people, I suppose. (And a special brand of stupidity). I laughed out loud when I told the story much later to a lovely family in Port Macquarie, and the father went into the garage and came out a moment later with a little thing called a ‘universal taphead’ weighing a hundred grams or so.

So I make it to Beenleigh, and stop at a service station near Yatala where this lovely family buys me a sausage and egg mcmuffin. The father was an off-duty policeman, the kids were wonderful, inquisitive, adventurous – they were off for a few days on the beach, fishing and camping.

I still felt like Simon dressed up as Captain Australia, that ‘switch’ hadn’t yet happened in my mind. When I met people, or smiled and waved at people, one of the first things I’d find myself saying is “Don’t worry, I’m not mental” (although I realise now “I’m only half mental” might have been fairer).

When your mindset is good, walking can be elevating – it clears your head and gives you time and space and fresh air, allowing room for reflection and productive thinking.

But when you’re missing your family, overburdened and struggling, it’s an ordeal. I didn’t realise this until later, but the ordeal of this .. the ‘trial by fire’ nature of it was necessary, crucial even. I was learning that even in the face of struggle, even when I look forward and don’t see the end of the tunnel – I can keep moving forward. I can find ways to be strong.

Even so, I knew I had to offload some gear, or I’d never make it to Melbourne, so I rang my friend Graham who lives in the Gold Coast. I never littered during my BIG WALK, not once – and it was a little heartbreaking when I’d see all the detritus and refuse people leave in gorgeous forest, just dumping it on the side of the road. So I didn’t have the heart to just dump off my treasures, I didn’t feel it was ‘cheating’ to call for a bit of a lifeline.

It took him an hour or so to get out to me, so I pitched my hammock and took a rest. I did a live stream, and although I was getting better and more confident with our conversation, I sucked at answering comments (I hadn’t even realised you could scroll up and review the history). Plus I just plain talk for too long. Haha. “Old Man Rambles”.

The great thing is, you really helped me. As I walked, or stopped to livestream, I was aware of you, someone curiously watching. I was no longer talking only to my sons sometime in the future, it was no longer just a ‘morbid diary’ in case I died.

So it became more and more necessary to ‘talk true’, and be very clear in explaining what I was doing and why. I wanted you to understand, I wanted you to benefit. I wanted to show you that with faith and hope: a broken life can be fixed.

Eventually, my mate Graham arrived, and it was a real boost. I was able to offload about 6kg in surplus gear (including my silly wrench and two uniforms), but it was also great just to see a friend, have a hug, hear them say “you’re doing great!”. So let me celebrate Graham with a big picture:

Lightened in both weight and spirit, I continued onward with more vigour. It was about 12km to Dreamworld, and at the pace I had been doing, that would have taken me maybe 5 hours, but I did it in just under three, arriving after nightfall.

On the way there, I saw this roadside shrine, where a loving family had been lost. People sometimes criticised me for sharing these little shrines when I came across them, but I felt it was a way of respecting the people who had died.

(And honestly, and said with love – we are too ready to criticise and attack these days. Anybody who tries to tell you who to be or what to say should get a friendly smiling “fuck you very much”, I reckon)

(sorry for swearing)

(seriously, sorry, it’s uncalled for)

When I arrived at Dreamworld, I was feeling a lot better and more optimistic about my progress. I’d been obsessing over time and pace. How long would it take me to get to Melbourne going THIS SLOW ?! Three months ???? I can’t be away from my family for three months ?! I felt their absence like a constant pain scratching at my heart. It had been less than 2 days and I already ached to see and hold them again.

I’d faced a bit of weather, but nothing like the storms that were to come. I was wearing my ‘water repellent’ uniform, treated specially to resist water.

It actually was pretty good – but absolutely nothing compares to my Magic Mallacoota Coat (more on THAT later).

After Dreamworld, I intended to push on until maybe 1 am and get to the beach, maybe even push further into & beyond the Gold Coast.

I wasn’t really thinking about crowds of people and the chance to promote the charity. In fact, I never really did during the walk. When I thought about people it was about the individuals who had written to me and wanted to meet. About sharing with them, thanking them for their support.

I know if i were smarter I could have done better for The Kids’ Cancer Project. Been more cynical. Manipulated people, the media. But I don’t regret my choices. I wanted to EARN people’s regard, to unashamedly try and do something righteous. And unconsciously show them that it’s OK to be yourself, even if a large section of society thinks you’re bonkers.

When I got to the turnoff for Paradise Point, it started to rain. Not too heavy, but there were flickers of lightning and I could tell a heavy storm was coming. So I pitched camp (I think it was about 11pm) in a wall of scrub behind a factory complex.

I made a wise choice that night, because I selected the location as it was near shelter – a secondary place to retreat to if my tarp failed (and boy did it fail).

You see, I’d chosen the ‘tarp’ not because of it’s durability but it’s colour (it matched my ‘superhero ears’, the kangaroos sewed onto the side of my hood). Yep. Clever boy.

It was actually a plastic tablecloth, the kind you’d use for an outdoor kids birthday party.


So after about 15 minutes of heavy rain, I was SOAKED. The plastic had all these little micro-tears from where I’d brushed past branches or whatnot, and water was trickling all over me.

Thankfully, I’d chosen wisely and had a place to retreat to that was only maybe ten metres away. It was much more open and vulnerable, but at least I’d be DRY.

So I hastily gathered my gear (amazingly not losing anything), and lugged it to this shelter, a little ‘smoko shed’ where people working in these factories and wholesale outlets would go on their break to smoke cigarettes.

It was a tremendous relief to be dry again, and I did a live stream (this was at 11:49pm). This led to one of the most poignant moments of the BIG WALK, as some special people were watching. But I’ll tell you about that in DAY 3. (speaking of which, this big green button will take you there).