Day Eighty (15 March)

I woke on Day 80 pretty much instantly ready to go. In those final weeks, I was always a little foot-sore (I still have some pain), I think around Merimbula I had ‘collapsed arches’ or something like that.

No biggie – I’m just an old fella.

My lovely hosts at Bunyip, Daveena Sharee and the rest were eager to meet up and show me a bit of town in the morning, so before moving on, I spent a couple of hours wandering town with them, saying hello to locals, including a lovely spot of breakfast at the local coffee shop.

That evil fuckwit (sorry) scumbag Vladimir Putin (and his administration and oligarchs and various other drivers) invading the Ukraine had sucked away interest from the major media outlets, from crossing into Victoria, I’d struggled with getting any attention from national media (and being naturally a bit reserved hadn’t done much to stimulate it, so was feeling a bit bad about letting down the charity).

But the local support was phenomenal, these wonderful towns I was passing through really got on-board, and it was a tremendous boost, well making up for lack of interest in capital cities or at the national level.

We got a bunch of photos done, and visited some of the local shopkeepers who were just opening up, and I also got a chance to mail to my little mate Archer another postcard.

He was still in Westmead Hospital and having a really bad run of it after a bone marrow transplant (the same treatment and cancer type that ultimately killed “Doctor Canada”, may he rest in peace, I only heard of his loss a few days ago.

Archer had become kind of emblematic for me, a real human being to exemplify reason I had chosen to serve The Kids’ Cancer Project.

After some photos in front of the great Bunyip mural, and in the company of the lovely Sharee, I set off to finish these final days into the Melbourne CBD.

First port of call was the next town down the road, “Garfield” no doubt named for the lasagne-loving cat.

It was only about 4km away, so just had a lovely morning stroll and a chat with Sharee, a long-time resident of Bunyip. We were there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

On arrival, I had a bit of a surprise – a local fitness group had come out and were lining the sidewalk, playing their music and dancing.

Even though I may be a bit shy and reserved, I’m never one to let friends dance alone – so as you’ll see from the video below, I just swaggered right in and started to boogie along with them.

(All that practice from the Daily Donor Dare of Doom in Trafalgar might have put me in good stead).

Like in Orbost, I learned again the power of passing the bucket, and the goodness of these country folk. Living in a capital city, my mind was very much oriented toward making it easy (jump online, QR Code, that stuff) and not wanting to get in people’s faces (only donate if you see the merit, not out of awkward guilt or anything like that).

Because in the capital cities, you get predated upon ALL THE TIME by these paid charity workers – it feels cynical and purposefully trying to leverage the guilt that comes with prosperity. I didn’t want to be party to that, I just wanted to do something right, for a righteous cause. Was VERY leery about not getting in people’s faces.

But these country towns, embraced it. They knew all about coming together, had faced fire and flood, and as soon as they saw me, started passing the bucket around.

It really was humbling and quite beautiful.

And as you can see from the photo, thankfully the old fella didn’t have to carry around all those coins. Because the charity had an online portal, we were able to count it out and then slap it on a credit card, otherwise the extra three kilos or so of silver may very well have crippled me 🙂

After a happy farewell to Daveena and the rest of the folks from Bunyip and Garfield, the old fella gathered himself together, slung his big old pack over his shoulders and hit the road.

It was a pleasant day, slightly overcast, with a sense that a storm could visit later. (And it did).

The goal was to get to Pakenham (a humble 23km).

On the way out of town, I met Karen, who was isolating due to COVID, but had a gift for me, a book she’d written called “The Tyrants of Tynong

It was very kind, and although my own children were a bit old for it, I knew a little girl named Aura who I’d met back in Mumbula who I thought would like it. (I mailed it to her from the Tynong Post Office later, and learned the following week that she loves it).

Tynong and Nar Nar Goon were the next two towns for me to pass through. Technically I was in the Greater Melbourne Metropolitan Area now, but it was still lovely country road, thankfully.

Got to have some lovely GDAYS on the road, families pulling over for a chat, including this little dude who gave me a little blue teddy plushy (which I carried in my utility belt until I got to Melbourne and still have today).

I think that we, our society I mean, are prone to psychological epidemics – the way we react to covid, gender politics, black lives matter, all these causes people jump on – at the time we are capable of raging up, abusing, even assaulting family – all passionate, riding the drama of it, firing up.

I saw quite a bit of that on the road, even stopped a couple of arguments – I think somehow Captain Australia was the great defuser.

I stopped at the post office in Tynong, where I was able to send the book I’d been gifted to my lovely little friend Aura who lives back near Bega.

While I was waiting (alone, in an open area), a bloke in a ute pulled up about a hundred feet down the street and started to berate another bloke (who was walking his dog). I didn’t think to record it at the time – plus that sort of thing always felt voyeuristic and opportunistic to me – but I realised they were related somehow, and the elder man was abusing the younger for being out without his mask. (Concern perhaps stimulated by the unmasked vagrant nearby – although I had a mask on me)

I spoke to the elder man later – he had REALLY fired up, but we ended up having quite a friendly chat – he was a bit intrigued about who I was and what I was doing.

I just remember the encounter quite clearly, and now – when it feels like we .. collectively, are leaning the other way and pretending covid isn’t really a thing .. I wonder how their relationship is, if they ever apologised, if they just pretend none of it ever happened.

I think about stuff like that.

Our failure to look at our personal mistakes, to reflect and turn them into lessons. Maybe neither man was wrong in the wear-a-mask-dont-personal-freedom conflict they had .. how they were wrong was in not framing it inside mutual respect and avoiding this all pervasive insistence that I’m right & your wrong. (I’ve been seeing so much of that since I got home).

Not far from Tynong was Nar Nar Goon, where I got a yelled invitation into the local pub and stopped to chat over a few beers. The folks were just lovely – and one of them was currently going through treatment for the exact type of cancer I had. (And getting drunk was his iffy approach to managing the symptoms – early stages of treatment so it wasn’t really ganging up on him yet .. the burns and pain cascade as the weeks go by).

I could have stayed there for hours, but I had some people waiting to meet me at Pakenham, so had to get moving. Feeling a little drunk, I practiced my battle-rap for a Daily Donor Dare of DooooOOoM, as you’ll see in the video below.

The photos don’t really show it, but the last 5-10km into Pakenham were through a very intense storm. It was quite full on. But I was used to the weather, so just shrugged into my Magic Mallacoota Coat and pressed on.

I had yet another encounter with Victoria Police as I was trudging in to town (I think they were just concerned that I was marching through the bad weather and they were very friendly – but it struck me again that policing in Victoria felt more … in-your-face, like they had a wider mandate to detain and ask questions of people not actually breaking any law).

I only mention it because it was so markedly different to the other states .. my only encounter in all of NSW was when a South Coast cop blasted over the patrol-car bullhorn “YEAH! CAPTAIN AUSTRALIA LOVE YOUR WORK!” (or something like that – I was chuffed)

By the time I got to Pakenham, it was early evening, and I was pretty bloody tired. I really regret that in those final days of the walk, I let the impending finish line get under my skin a little bit – lost some of the joy of it.

I’d been corresponding with the lovely T-Kaz and her adoring partner Rod – they really are a delightful couple. T-Kaz had given me a few horrible (wonderful) dares during my long walk, and I really owed her a good sit down and chat.

We met up on the outskirts of town, and agreed to get together after I offloaded my gear. (I’d been offered a room courtesy of the Valley Motel, which was wonderful)

That’s T-Kaz and Rod to the right .. see how they’ve even picked up “The Kids’ Cancer Project” t-shirts ?

Absolute salt-of-the-earth people.

As I remember back to that afternoon and evening, I regret being a bit low energy. I was delighted & grateful to meet them, and we spent a couple of hours chatting at a venue .. a kind of restaurant/bar the name of which I just can’t remember

We had a nice time, and a long, amiable, friendly chat – I just kinda wish I’d given them a little more of myself, and the fatigue/worry a little less.

It wasn’t just worry about the impending finish line, or that in my deficiencies I hadn’t done enough to promote the charity, raised enough money, saved the world …

.. I was also just … coming toward an ending, and I suppose my mind was turning inward. I was doing a constant stocktake.

Was I better ?

Had I healed ?

The answer to both, being YES, I was stronger in every way that strength matters – but at the same time, in these dwindling days of the walk, I felt like I’d missed so many opportunities.

The thing that I’ve come to love and respect about myself is that I didn’t weight an “opportunity” around personal gain or even helping the charity – what I was thinking was in terms of people that I might have been able to help or inspire.

Slept deep, and in comfort. The following day was the third last day of Captain Australia’s BIG WALK.