Day Forty (3 February)

OK, we’re starting to get into the nitty gritty of it, because south of Sydney, all the changes in me started to coalesce a bit, to combine into a greater whole.

I’d had insights, growth, found strength and a certain relentlessness. I’d talked about and refined my motivations, I’d discovered new personal ethics.

But it was really this latter half of the walk when the changes started winding in together.

The night at Hurstville had been pretty weird. The balcony out back of my room was shared with a number of other rooms, and overlooked a busy evening street. There was a bit of noise and rowdiness throughout the night, squealing of tires (and sometimes of people). Honestly, as I’d lean over the balcony, quietly watching the drama below, it made me pretty eager to get back into the country.

First things first though, I needed to buy thermals, as the further south I got, and with the season turning, I was expecting some cold nights ahead, especially in the wet.

In many ways navigating the local shops was as tricky as finding my way through tangled bush paths, but I found this shop (with the help of supporters) that had a japanese name I can’t remember – and carried thermals. Victory !

The new tarp was larger, lighter, but slightly less durable. By the time I got to Melbourne, it had been compromised, but I was able to Macgyver my way around it.

All kitted out, I was good to go and ready for the next leg through the southern coast and across the Victorian border.

(At this point I had absolutely no doubt I’d make it)

I’ll be honest, when getting help from the asian guy assisting customers, I’d completely forgotten that I was supposed to be ‘talking like a pirate’ in accordance with a DAILY DONOR DARE OF DOOooOOOM received a couple of days prior.

(Thankfully, I struggled to make myself understood in just my normal voice, but we got there in time – and the thermals were just perfect and not too expensive)

(And green, to match the ensemble)

The next few hours were spent navigating my way out of the southern Sydney suburbs, and I remembered (remembAAARRRRed) that I was supposed to be talking like a pirate.

Ahh the booty jokes. So many jokes about seizing your booty, do you have a lot of booty, my pirate cravings for booty … so terrible. It couldnt have been much worse if we had me toddling around to some Benny Hill theme music. (Not that anyone under 50 will know who Benny Hill was, may he rest in peace)

(If they did know, I’m sure they’d effing well try and cancel him posthumously)

I crossed through some pretty waterside suburbs, a couple of car crashes and a lot of traffic, before things opened out and started to get proper green again.

Despite being in a population centre, not much human contact unless it was initiated by me, although I did get some lovely waves and smiles from cars.

I did stumble across this lovely bush short cut, which took me through some beautiful country. Probably just a nature strip between suburbs, for hikers and mountain-bikers – that doesn’t reduce it’s beauty. It was a pretty lovely patch of bush.

I ended up following a dry creek-bed after realising the winding path was taking me in the wrong direction, but I very quickly started to feel that serenity of being under the sky and in some lovely green.

I also heard from ABC National News, and was delighted to learn that they wanted me on the morning program for an interview.

I’d reached out to them before Sydney, and – GOLD – they wanted to do a live cross from Stanwell Tops.

It was 67km from my start point, and they wanted me there at about 8am, so I needed to make most of that distance in one day.

I’d also heard from some lovely people (Mike and Camilla) who were nearby and wanted to meet me – at some local sporting oval or somesuch – so I had a couple of goals to work toward.

The media attention was tremendously important to helping the charity donations spike upward, so I was very excited (and a little nervous) about that.

In the calls and texts, I mentioned the following day was my sons’ birthday, and asked if I could possibly give him a shout out at the end.

Eventually, no track turned into a stream-bed, the stream-bed widened, joined a larger track, which joined a path which eventually became more like a road.

After an hour and a half of pleasant hiking, I found myself (later than expected) meeting the absolutely lovely Mick & Camilla from “The Travelling Barista

I tried to keep up the talk-like-a-pirate, but eventually there was mutual agreement to put that aside and just talk from the heart.

What a lovely couple, warm, sincere, hard-working. The fact that they saw merit in my Quest, supported it, and took the time to feed & water me (a lovely big muffin and coffee), was humbling and wonderful.

We took counsel on the road ahead and how I could best make it to Stanwell tops, and after a nice half hour or so visit, I kept on legging it south.

I don’t remember much human contact in that long afternoon walk, except for one absolute stand out.

After my piratey farewell to Mick and Camilla, I proceeded toward Waterfall, and the road highway eventually became much more rural, but in the suburbs around there – I think at a place called Engadine – I had an absolutely lovely encounter.

It was with a bunch of kids.

After pausing to give this update to the people following the walk, I came across a little skate park with a bunch of kids probably aged around 10-12.

At first they had a rough kind of self-confident swagger, but there was this one kid who seemed genuinely interested, and I stopped and spoke to him over the fence for quite a while.

It was mostly about what I was doing and why.

But as the other kids came over, listening and joining in much more respectfully, we started talking about life values, that simple human struggle that we all go through regardless how old we are.

This one kid, he was listening with such a solemnity, and I absolutely loved and was gobsmacked when a rando mum wrote in a few days later, “What did you do to my son ?!”

Haha, a bit nervous about that, then she explained that her boy, met in a skate park, had been talking about meeting me, and had been more respectful, loving and courteous to his family members.

Straight-up, I tell you – I adore that.

Sometimes you look around the world and see this decline, and fret and worry and wonder “what can I do about it ?”

But that’s exactly what: tell the truth, speak from the heart, don’t talk down to a child but share your experience, don’t glorify yourself or big-note yourself but understand our shared struggle.

We can lift each other up !

I think the kid saw my love for my children, sort of realised that his own parents shared in that, that we can lose each other, face sorrow, but should be brave and celebrate and respect each other.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it – but flat-strap I love the idea that this kid took a slightly brighter path after we met and shared stories.

That afternoon I saw my first roadsign with MELBOURNE on it. What a feeling that was, the sense that I was getting there, in time I’d see my family’s faces again. That sense of achievement that I was half way.

Across the afternoon, foul weather set in, getting progressively more threatening as the sun began to set.

I’ve really never developed that certain weather sense I had picked up as a child (or at least thought I did) but I could tell there’d be a storm overnight.

But I *had* to get to (or near) Stanwell Tops for this ABC interview. It was of crucial importance.

Not for me, I didn’t want or need that, in fact I was nervous and camera-shy, but I knew from experience that a minute on national TV could result in $20,000 for the charity.

So that made it tremendously important.

I could not be late !

I could not flub it, be sleepy, muddle my words !

I had to find and keep to my centre.

That was my trick, mind you – I never really rehearsed anything I sad in a stream or on the tellie (unless the updates themselves counted as practice)

I relied on finding my centre and speaking as truthfully and openly as I could.

Anyway, I found myself walking into the night (something I preferred not to do, for safety reasons).

I’d lost my maglite torch, but whenever a car or truck came past I’d light up that LED torch the Kids’ Cancer Project team had given me, to be as visible as possible, and also head off well into the side of the road.

I was on quite a remote road with no light and little traffic, but I made do. At one point a young couple in their 20s pulled up and asked if I was OK.

I adore that. Good on you.

Once it got close to 10pm, I was still maybe 10-12km away from Stanwell Tops, but the steady rain was turning into a storm.

I had to call it.

So I found a nice piece of clear bush with sturdy live trees, and set up with my new tarp for the first time.

It was a little bit iffy, fumbling around in the rain and the dark, but I got there. My problem was, I had to set an alarm for 4:30am, to allow me time to pack my gear in the dark, and make the remaining distance in the morning before 8am, so I could be on time for the interview.

clicking on this image will take you to Day 41