Day Fifty Three (16 February)

I had to wake quite early on Day 53, I think it was about 5:15am. More publicity.

The people at BEGA POWER FM had been in touch (I think thanks to Scout Coralie writing ahead, and my chats with Stolzy), and a phone interview.

I still always felt pretty awkward, but I think I was getting better at the publicity.

After it was done, I had the option of falling back into bed, but decided that although Simon might do that kind of thing, Captain Australia certainly wouldn’t. And since I was slowly morphing myself into that better version of me, I set about gathering my belongings and getting ready to hit the road.

I was very glad that I did, because the sunrise at Moruya was almost as glorious as the sunsets (almost).

(Although as you’ll see in the second video as I was creeping around enjoying the misty serenity, I broke the silence with quiet a loud and reverberating fart.

Good onya, Captain Australia.

Here are some morning photos of that lovely walk out of town.

(Thank you Moruya Waterfront Hotel Motel !!)

This group to the left here is a kindy, it was mostly adults and staff waving and cheering, but when I went over for a g’day a couple of little children came out (about 4 years old)

Dropping to one knee, I had a chat with the little tykes and this one little boy asked me how many superpowers I had.

“None, mate, unless my ability to make friends with people like you is a super power, and I suppose it must be because it makes me feel very happy and strong!”

Exiting Moruya, my loose plan was to head for Narooma and camp on the outskirts of town, figuring I could push on in the morning, take breakfast there, have some hellos and g’days, and then push on for Bega.

Honestly, I never planned more than a day in advance, and had no special knowledge about the roads or towns in front of me, so unless I had some special request or invitation, it really was just a case of pushing forward and seeing what the day had in store for me.

Next time, I’ll be a bit more methodical and plan visits in advance, because I know I disappointed people with my blink-and-you-missed-him approach of just keep moving.

I was finding such joy and nourishment in the people I’d meet, but I was too random, too unpredictable, trying to meet up with me was sometimes like trying to spot a Bunyip.

I think it was seeing that number beside Melbourne keep getting smaller and smaller that was pushing me forward so relentlessly.

At this point though, I was really just about two thirds through the walk. It’s weird, the way the distance and time plays tricks on your mind. I felt as though I’d come so far (and I had) but really I’d barely been on the road for two months. How many times in your life have two months just slipped by with barely anything to say for them ? For me … too many.

On the road, I heard from this lovely community at Tuross Head. These lovely people (Mandy & Ben) had invited me there.

It was 6km one-way off the highway, so 12km there and back (almost 3 hours walking) but under the ‘new rules; we’d voted on, I’d be able to ride out there in a car as long as I returned to the same spot on the highway to continue walking.

(Later I was able to use this lovely loophole to get out to Mallacoota, another high point).

So I was onto my mate Einstein – but he was incommunicado (I later learned that he was driving home to care for his “pussy”, which was how he constantly referred to his cat – triggering all kinds of “Are You Being Served” jokes from me)

Einstein is a delightful fella.

With no certainty of a ride, I just kept on walking, fingers crossed it would work out.

A long hot morning, pleasant walking, lots of g’days, and eventually I make it to the Tuross Head turnoff, and in another moment of serendipity, this ovely bloke (Jeff/Geoff?) pulls up in his ute.

We had a great old chat, and I learned he was a local man, living at Tuross and was happy to meet me at the turnoff (just a bit further ahead) and drive me into town, so I could return to the junction after.

Saved me at least 6km, thanks Geoff !

It was Mandy and Ben who invited me out to Tuross Head, but the whole community was warm and embracing.

I had no idea, but they’d actually done a round of fundraising for The Kids’ Cancer Project, Mandy in particular had taken inspiration from the walk, and rallied local businesses and whatnot, basically ‘passing around the bucket’

Going from memory, it was about $550 that they had raised, which was an absolutely phenomenal effort.

I’m so glad I was able to get out there for the visit – not just because I got to meet those beautiful people and see the beautiful place (two lakes and the ocean), but also to respect their tremendous kindness and effort in supporting the charity.

The hubbie (Ben) ran the local watering hole, and they invited me in for lunch and a beer, and a lovely chat. I learned that I wasn’t the first indigent wanderer they’d taken under their wing, these salt-of-the-earth people are always ready to help others.

I was also able to pick up another postcard for Archer, my mind was on him a lot – pain, blood clots, doing it hard. I just wanted to distract him and lift his spirits, in many ways he’d become the face of The Kids’ Cancer Project for me.

It was Ben who drove me back to the highway junction, so I could continue my hike. My goal was to make it as close as I could to Narooma, and I was planning to put in another solid march, like when I knuckled down back at East Lynne and Batemans Bay.

(Incidentally, I met Mandy & Ben again much later, on the road. They already live in a gorgeous spot, and were off for a long weekend at some other gorgeous spot, haha – and I got to meet their daughter, who later did a school assignment on Captain Australia! I hope she got an A+)

It was something like 3pm when I was properly back on the road again, and I wanted to make it past Bodalla and closer to Narooma (but fate intervened).

I spent the next 3-4 hours getting to Bodalla. It was a lovely walk, including a long stretch of roadworks, and the waving laughter, cheers and jokes from the workers.

At one point I remember saying “sorry fellas to toddle on through your worksite”

And the big bloke laughed and said “Mate, it’s an absolute fuckin’ honour ! Captain Australia for Prime Minister mate, you’re a fuckin’ legend, you are !!” (haha)

After the roadworks, I got a message from a concerned Mum asking me to do a shout out for her son, Callum.

He had suffered terrible bullying at a local high school, and they’d been watching my boofhead walk and she felt it would lift his spirits.

I didn’t know exactly what to say, so I just talked from the heart, knowing it was important to ‘show up’ for this kid, so instead of a shout out, it turned more into a rant (see video).

Good, Bad or Indifferent, I reckon telling the truth is our pathway forward. We are surrounded day-to-day by so much falsehood, so many little lies. Even the benign ones are damaging – adding to our confusion and isolation.

So I figure, even if I catastrophically screw it up, if I tell the truth, at least there’s that. I was honest and I did my best.

In any case, apparently I got it right, or mostly right, because a message back from his mum told me that Callum really responded to the words, and went back to school the following day feeling better and more positive. Stronger.

This was just reinforcing this important thing that I learned – that if we can help, we MUST.

I’m just a doddering old boofhead, but if I can make a positive impact in this innocent, beset child’s life, then it means we all can do that.

We can be these marvelous batteries – sources of spiritual power .. making each other stronger, more capable, more hopeful.

As you can see from these pictures, the road was not without it’s obstacles.

There were heaps of occasions (like this bridge) where I had to adapt to potentially risky situations.

My biggest concern on the road was not causing a vehicular accident – not distracting drivers or being the cause of a situation that became unsafe for others, not just me.

Using the bridge as an example, when a vehicle came, I was able to stand on the concrete gutter, hold onto the struts and be completely still.

I’d do that well before a vehicle got close – so they could see where I was and be confident I wasn’t going to suddenly move – so they could stick to their lane and not have to do anything erratic.

That’s the thing – for the most part, with a bit of courtesy and mutual awareness, you can avoid unsafe situations, take care of each other.

The world tries to tell us that we’re surrounded by crazy narcissists and you can’t rely on other people (except to put you in danger).

It’s just not true – for the most part the people on the road are warm, helpful, concerned.

And, like the young man back at Gerringong, many of them had no clue who I was or what I was doing.

They are concerned and kind because that is who they are.

I think it’s important to remind and remember – however isolated we may feel, however lost and alone .. with a bit of trust, honesty, hope – the world and people in it can be a tremendous source of wisdom and nurture.

It was around 6pm that I made it to Bodalla, which is a bit higher up in the hills, and had these sweeping majestic views of local bush and farmland.

A peaceful, pretty little town, I wandered through, mind turning to how much further I could make it before dark.

A local property owner waves me over and we have a long chat about cancer (he had lost his mother the year prior), and then Einstein pulls up and calls me over.

“It’s a miracle, Captain !”, he says, “The pub is completely choc-a-block full of people. I think they’re here for *you*”

Haha. Einstein is a sweet, thoughtful person, but I think he has some inflated ideas about Captain Australia. Skeptical, I wander with him through town.

Walking past this lovely church, we speculate, he tells me the pub never has a crowd this large, wondering aloud if it might be some facebook follower who has organised it.

“Mate, I’m sure it’s some local celebration, lets pop in for a beer but keep it low-key, I don’t want to photo-bomb a wedding or something, mate”

So we wander in, and it turns out it’s the publican’s birthday.

Thing is, Einstein was actually half-right, because they were aware of me, and that I was passing through the area.

(I’d even been invited in for a beer, but I often missed messages or didn’t connect-the-dots)

So although my first concern was bumbling in and mucking up someone’s event, they knew who I was and what I was about, and this lovely bloke (the publican’s son) invited me in, welcomed me, offered words of appreciation for my Mad Quest, and bought me a massive glass of beer to wash away the road dust.

I stowed my bag near the front entrance (Einstein warning me that it might be stolen, which I shrugged off – I’d rather give trust and be let down than live like that .. if I can’t trust the folk of a small country town like Bodalla, we might as well all pack it in and take up jobs as call centre catfish romance scammers).

I said later, in my little speech, that the people were “just bloody gorgeous” and I meant it.

I’ll let the video speak for itself – the first little one is a live stream, but it pooped itself, and Einstein cleverly switched to video.

There was a band playing for the birthday, and after they finished their song, they waved me up to “tell my story”

Just like every other bloody time I was supposed to speak, I just … let go. Surrendered. Don’t worry about sounding stupid. Tell the truth, say it true and straight from the heart.

So I did.

I remember contrasting the suffering of the community, the ravages of bushfire, with the way cancer ravaged through my own life.

About how that gave us a kind of kinship – how we’d been through so much, but somehow still had hope, were capable of coming together and healing.

The same themes would strike me again as I passed through Cobargo and Quaama, through the whole region, passing through the ravages of fire, the remnants of buildings that were lost, and the blooming hope of new growth, and people coming together to help each other.

Oh yeah, and there was also some impromptu singing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” (thanks Proclaimers)

After the pub, it was on the edge of dark, and I decided to make a bit more distance. Recovering my pack and wandering outside, I bumble into Sharan. (I’m not 100% sure, but I think she’d been lingering there for quite a while, hoping we’d meet)

What a delightful person, one of these quiet, positive presences that add so much to a community. She even had a thoughtful gift (money – I think it was fifty or a hundred dollars, sorry Sharan I can’t remember!)

I’m very grateful for your kindness, and friendship, Sharan.

Every time someone gave me cash money, it went straight into the donations portal (for The Kids’ Cancer Project), but sometimes people would inside that they wanted to do something for ME, wanted me to buy a meal or a cold drink, they wanted to somehow recognise my toil. It only happened a few times, but it was always with something like “look mate, I’ve already donated to the charity, this is for YOU, please, I want you to buy yourself a lovely hot meal tonight, your favourite food, and know that you’re doing a good thing, and that it’s appreciated”.

Every time, I’d cry after these kindnesses.

All my life it never sat well with me to receive, maybe my childhood had isolated me and made me feel unworthy. I don’t even know any more. But I know these kindnesses HURT, but it was a sweet pain, a healing pain. They allowed pus to leak out of old wounds.

Kindness is the antidote to sorrow.

Above is a lovely video of an encounter with Little Kye, Clint and Jess, a local family who had been keeping their eye on the road, hoping to meet me (and Kye gave me freddos and orange juice, yum !)

After we parted ways, it was getting DARK, and I decided I’d get a few kilometres out of town and find a nice bit of bush to camp in.

But I hear a beep-beep-beep and a screech of tires, and these blokes telling me to “Come to Manland!”

(That’s David in the picture)

They’re mates with Macca from Broulee, and they’d just bought some chinese dinner, so I was able to hang out with them until the jaw-cracking yawns started, share in the kindness, hospitality the stories and the food, and then pitch my hammock for a good old sleep.

Manland: visited once, but a little piece of my heart will remain there.