Day Fifty Eight (21 February)

This is for my boys. I love you. So much. I love that we tell each other that (many times) every single day. A large part of everything I do, is for you.

There’s no bullshit in that, guys.

I know that some people will say stuff like “I won this olympic medal for YOU, Mum” or “Every day I was away making millions, in my heart it was for my children !”

That’s self-serving bullshit, and I won’t make you accomplices to my narcissism or selfishness. I think I’ve reached a new level of self awareness, and I won’t, I absolutely refuse, to give that away. That centre, that orientation toward truth, or at least the seeking of truth.

When I got sick, you were foremost in my mind. When I needed to walk to try and fix myself – it was also with you in the front of my heart & mind. I wanted to be a better role model, a better father. Stronger, more present. Yes, I did it because it was necessary, and I loved the Quest and Adventure of it – but underneath it all, you don’t have to dig very far to find you & your mother as the reason for .. anything. Even if I’m able to go ahead and do the BIG LAP, it’ll be because I want to show you a better world, to try somehow and make the world better for you. (I know that sounds crazy, but motivations often are, I guess).

(Sorry, everybody else, I’m mindful that I’m doing a piss-poor job with this journal, and I sometimes remember that I may be communicating directly with my sons from beyond the grave).

OOooOOOoohhhhhh. Spooky ! 😉

So, on Day 58, I woke well-rested thanks to the kindness of the Bega Downs Motor Inn. I had to get up quite early, because I was going to be on the radio morning show !

Brad and the lovely team at 2EC / PowerFM had invited me in, and I did interviews for the morning show, the news and the afternoon show.

(Tell me the bloke in the black t-shirt doesn’t look quite a bit like Pedro Pascal – The Mandalorian)

Honestly, it was a giggle-a-minute, if the pictures look like we’re having a bucket of fun, that’s because it absolutely was.

Maybe even two buckets !

Lovely people. Great team. Interested, involved, supportive of the cause.

(I believe I have Scout Coralie to thank for that, I think she wrote ahead of me to bulletin boards in Bega and Eden and onward)

I actually wasn’t really all that nervous, despite my innate shyness. Maybe it was too early in the morning. Maybe these wonderful, friendly people completely disarmed me.

Or maybe I was just getting a bit better at it all ?

I knew how important any media attention was for the charity (The Kids’ Cancer Project), which sometimes had me nervous and over-thinky.

But since my revelations at Mumbulla, I think I’d reached a new level of acceptance.

The walk had taught me to accept my cancer, my past suffering, process my sorrow and move forward.

But I think now, I was in LEVEL UP territory, I was learning to accept my place in the world, accept love, let go and enjoy the ride a bit.

(If you knew me throughout my life, you’d be shocked and amazed by this)

After the radio interviews, I met up with Lorraine, a very nice lady who lives out at Wolumla. She had written asking to walk with me for a while.

(We ended up walking 22km together from Bega to Wolumla, and I really enjoyed some reflective and thoughtful conversation with her – although I sometimes struggled to keep up … I’d use my heavy pack as an excuse, but the simple fact is, Lorraine is an absolute dynamo – she’s like one of those relentless wind-up toys that march forward at breakneck speed as soon as you pop them down on the floor)

On the outskirts of Bega, a local newspaper reporter buzzed me, and we lingered to meet with her for another interview.

It turned into a little bit of a spectacle, because since I’d been on the radio that morning, people were out on the road looking for us, the interview kept getting interrupted by people wanting to come in for a hello, handshake or a hug.

(It really was lovely)

But eventually, we were on the road (some bits sketchy, with not much of a shoulder)

It was a lovely, overcast day – perfect for walking. A cloudy blanket to keep the sun minding it’s own business, but no actual rain to deal with.

For the most part, the next 4 hours were spent walking and chatting. We had to keep the pace up, because Lorraine needed to get to Wolumla in time to pick up her kids.

As you can see from the photos, the old fella is a bit bemused as he struggles to keep up with Lorraine.

(Who turns out was a full-on athlete, really intense regimen of daily distance walking)

Really lovely rural countryside south of Bega, long, hilly paddocks, stretches of forest, lots of gorgeous little creeks that almost scream to you “come follow me, see where I lead !!”

But yeah, it was mid-afternoon by the time we finally made it to Wolumla.

Lorraine had offered a place to stay, but I still had about 4 hours of daylight left, so with a smile and a thank you, we parted ways.

(Thanks for sharing the road with me, Lorraine)

Wolumla was a slight detour, but it’s a lovely little town, so I looped out and took a break for a bite of lunch.

Stopping in at the general store, I bought myself a bottle of icy cold coke, some tinned sardines, and sat down at a picnic table and enjoyed my humle repast.

While I was resting, Nigel from Merimbula wrote to me, asking if I could make it there today.

I did the math – it was only another 12km or so, so I said I surely could.

Nigel is a flat-strap lovely human. His family had suffered the insurmountable grief of a lost child (paediatric cancer) decades ago, and I could tell that he saw the BIG WALK as a righteous and good thing .. kind of as a way of hitting back against cancer.

(He’s a relentless fundraiser himself, and hugely active in his community – sits on the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce)

So I legged it for Merimbula, where the Chamber of Commerce was kindly going to put me up for the night at a place called the Lakeview Hotel.

Three nights in a row ! Cleanliness. Safety. Comfort !

Even though the walking was daily toil, I was beginning to feel like a pampered toddler. I’d expected to be rough sleeping in the bush every night, but the kindness and hospitality was amazing.

It all started with Jo, back in Balina. I have to thank her for that .. her lovely kindness helping me to re-shape that ethic .. that simple insight that if ‘kindness is the antidote to sorrow’, then we really should NEVER discourage kindness. Not ever.

It may not just be sweet and beneficial to us, the recipient, but it’s also a chance for that other person to exercise kindness, to feel good about themselves, to connect, to shine.

As long as it’s authentic and true, we should never discourage kindness. Jo taught me that.

It took me a few hours (old fella slowing down a bit) but I made it to Merimbulla before dark.

Absolutely gorgeous town, set between the ocean and lakes, strips of natural forest, it’s really a phenomenal place.

I met up with Nigel, and we planned to meet at the Lakeside Hotel for dinner.

It was a strange thing, I felt centred and completely relaxed, and I think it made me a bit hyper aware. (Maybe I was just going a bit feral from all the time outdoors)

I could hear EVERYTHING.

The background music. Nigel telling me about local history (when pokies weren’t legal in Victoria, Merimbula was a bit of a gambling hub for Melbournites). I could distinguish between individual voices in the background babble of conversation.

It’s a weird thing – and it’s faded now, but I think extensive time outdoors gives you that – a wider sensory awareness, even for things like the weather.

Washed, clean, almost presentable, I enjoyed a great meal and an even better chat with Nigel.

Under normal conditions a nice evening walk would have been great after that, but my natural bedtime was turning into something like 9 o’clock, zonking out as soon as it was full dark.

(Winning back my ability to sleep for more than a few hours at a time was one of the victories of the BIG WALK)

I gave my thanks, retired to the room, and slept like a log.