I slept really well at Julz & Jye’s place. It was a caravan, but semi-permanent, mounted, with connected building they slept in.
It felt just plain MARVELOUS that I was winning back my sleep after five years of not being able to sleep more than 3 hours consecutively (at best). I think I zonked out about midnight and slept through until 7am or so. And bloody Jye, legend of a fella, cooked me some bacon and eggs to fuel me up for the road.
Jye and Julz were wonderful hosts, effusive and kind, and had a wealth of local knowledge and some great tips about the road after Coffs Harbour.
As I sat munching breakfast, they talked me through the beaches east of Gladstone, and also gave some advice about connecting with local celebrity youtubers who might spruik the cause.
(Although I was always pretty crap at that stuff)
I sometimes think back on that with regret – but not much.
Sure, if I were more cynical, more manipulative, better equipped, I could have created and shared the story in such a way to get maximum impact. But there’s too much of that in our world already.
For me it was more important to keep RIGHTEOUSNESS always close to my heart.
Lucky for me, it was no longer exactly Captain Australia’s BIG WALK, it was becoming OUR thing, a shared experience.
I loved that, and I was (and am) also extremely grateful for it – because without people like Jye and Julz and others who came later like Scout Coralie, Peter and Julie in Orbost and .. so many others … I never could have got the exposure we achieved. Despite my strange life choices, I’m not oriented toward self promotion, I just had my Quest and a mindset to ‘get it done’
But I adored that people saw merit in it, and even better, that it was HELPING some people.
Leaving Woolgoolga, I took a couple of shortcuts, toddled down a garden path or two – and I had one exceedingly weird encounter. No photos or video of it, but let me try and tell it.
I walked past a house where an older man (60ish) and a young woman (18ish) were getting out of a car. They waved, I waved back, and the young woman was outright staring. Like .. not in a polite-trying-to-hide-it way, but outright staring.
She asked me (I kid you not), “are you the devil ?”
The older gent hushed her, we smiled and exchanged pleasantries, and I explained myself a bit, that I was on a Quest, both for personal healing, and to help an important cancer charity. They wished me well and I walked on.
But then, as I’m walking through Woolgoolga, headed for the main road that would carry me back to the freeway and onward to Coffs Harbour … I noticed that the young woman was following me.
Tentative. Timid. I slowed down, waved, smiled and said hello.
It was such a strange encounter, and honestly, it felt like it had a kind of gravity to it. I don’t remember what was said word-for-word, but she said that at first she thought my strange outfit made me look like Lucifer.
But then when I spoke, she realised I was ‘kind and pure’. (I honestly had the impression she was trying to figure out if I was some kind of Neo-Christ ?!?!)
I still worry about that girl, and hope she’s OK.
Because of my son’s autism, and my wider family’s history (substance and domestic abuse), I’m well attuned to trying to frame my encounters in a kind of open-minded compassion. (Or at least I hope so)
At one point I asked her “is there some way I can help you ?”
She genuinely paused, seeming to consider, and then said “no, I don’t think so”. I asked if she’d like to tell her story, and again, a considering pause, then a “no, thank you, I don’t feel comfortable at this time”
I wonder what her story was. If she’s OK. What I could have done better. What I might do better in future.
I sometimes get the impression that I have equipment, unique to me, that might be useful in helping people.
Because of the way I grew up, I’m very much an independant thinker, very much open-minded. I’m in no way judgey (except where people choose to break, take or hurt – then I get EXTREMELY judgey and unforgiving). But for people with struggles, maybe I have tools that can help me to reach them.
Maybe I failed that girl, maybe I could have helped her somehow.
Or maybe dressing up as Captain Australia was giving me a hero complex ? I don’t think so, I think I was just re-stacking the priorities of my life, and one thing that has become exceedingly precious to me is the idea of helping, and doing it pure and righteous.
Anyway, I’ve also learned about letting go, doing your best in the moment and then moving forward.
I haven’t mastered these lessons, as I sit here now trying to re-tell it all. I still feel like a bit of a ‘hot mess’, but I have progressed, I have moved forward in many meaningful ways.
So hoping for the best, I moved forward, making my way through pretty Woolgoolga.
It was rainy and overcast, but no storms.
It had happened once before, back between Maclean and Grafton, but people were starting to feed me. By the time I got to the south coast, I didn’t have to buy protein bars any more, I started to feel like an old wombat toddling down the road, and people pull over and offer food to get him to approach so they can have a look 🙂
The food ? Well, chemoradiation wrecked my thyroid, so I could probably have done without the lollies.
But the kindness of it ? So nourishing.
I think kindness lifts us all up, and one of my earliest lessons in the walk was: never discourage kindness.
Just find ways to pay it forward. It’s how we make our world BETTER.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it “kindness is the antidote to sorrow”.
It’s funny how human impulses are often the opposite of what is best for us – individually and as a species.
Problems ? Stress ? Turtle up. Reject people. Turn to alcohol. Become more self oriented.
Anxiety ? Fear ? Pain ? Fight or flight, but our focus is selfish and geared toward bettering our own situation.
And yet in these conditions, reaching out and finding ways to help others, to be of service, in my experience it fosters conditions ideal for personal healing and nourishment.
Sometimes it genuinely feels to me as though life is a test (one I’m continually failing), where we are constantly confounded by our own impulses and the barriers we create individually and as a society – and the expectation is that we are meant to find ways to rise above them. To lift ourselves and each other up.
Oops, sorry. “You’re doing it AGAIN, Simon”
I spent the next five or six hours walking down the highway to Coffs Harbour.
I was leaning toward pushing through town and camping on the southern outskirts, when I came across two important messages that changed my outlook completely.
First: this lovely bloke, David Duff, had noticed I was using an actual stick, after losing/breaking two selfie sticks, and he’d organised one for pickup from JB Hi Fi. There was no way I’d get there before close, so I needed to stay in or around Coffs overnight to collect it in the morning.
And then, the lovely Jo, my good good mate from Ballina – had called ahead trying to drum up support and a place to stay, and she’d written to the fantastic team at Chelsea Motor Inn (Adam, Jordan, Scottie & Crew).
They’d said something along the lines of “this bloody legend can bloody well come and stay here!”
Got into Coffs Harbour late afternoon, and as you can see from the left, did a live stream from out front of the iconic BIG BANANA.
(You’ll note that my bop-bop-a-diddley theme music was starting to become a thing, but I hadn’t gone full-throttle mental just yet)
Was getting there, though.
It was a sunday, I was tired and shops were closing (why JB HiFi was a no-go), so plodding to the Chelsea Motor Inn, I stopped at a service station and bought some lemonade and a cup-a-noodle thingo (Suimin).
I haven’t really gone into it much, but my right foot was in substantial discomfort – not the blisters and whatnot, but it was slow healing from a twist I’d done north of Byron in my “walk backward for an hour” Daily Donor Dare of DOooOOooooM.
So I was pretty eager to get to a bed and collapse.
When I got there, I met Adam and his son Jordan who greeted me with tremendous kindness, and one of the first things Adam said was “mate, you are very welcome here, but hey, would you like to stay on an extra day ?”
What a lovely bloke. I needed to give the ankle a rest, I’d been on the road for a fortnight – I gratefully accepted.
He took me up to a newly renovated room, and got me settled in, and I spent the next few hours catching up on messages.
(after a completely euphoric shower, that is)
On the way up, I met Scottie, this bloke to the left, who became my drinking buddy the following day.
Lovely bloke, formerly an EMT, now working at the motel, and he was the first indigenous person to bless and invite me on behalf of his people. (Until I met my friend Uncle Phil much later in Narooma).
It was starting to sink in – I was fixing my broken life, and I guess it was becoming an unconscious demonstration that it could be done. People were seeing merit in that simple notion that if we lift each other up, a broken life can be fixed.
I loved that. I carry it forward with me today.