Day 41 was a gorgeous day, and our poor old wannabe homebrand superhero – the old fella was really under the pump.
(For our friends from non-english backgrounds not used to colloquial terms, ‘under the pump’ means ‘working hard and under pressure’.
My alarm woke me at 4:30am, about 12km out of Stanwell Tops. It was completely dark and still raining.
You see, I had to make it to Stanwell Tops by 8:00am, as the ABC had been in contact yesterday wanting to get me on the morning news. The media attention was massively important for the charity, and although it was difficult, I never had a single pause or grumble in my thought process. My only concern was not letting anybody down.
It was also my middle sons’ birthday, and I was really really hoping I’d have the chance to give him a shout-out on the tellie.
It took me about a half hour to pack everything up in the dark with the new kit (the tarp was larger and a bit more finicky).
So I had less than 3 hours to walk about 12 kilometres.
That doesn’t sound too bad, but bear in mind the heavy pack, grim weather, and relentless days of walking that I’d already done: it was a challenge !
But I reached inside and told myself to ‘knuckle down’. (That’s another colloquialism meaning to throw yourself into a task – work hard)
In retrospect, the entire walk probably should have had an element of this pressure – driven by the need to do well for the charity.
I was a bit too Zen about it all, a bit too shy, missed a lot of opportunities.
But that day ? I was on fire.
Walking to Stanwell Tops at a reasonably vigorous (for an old feller) march, I got a call from the ABC.
“Yeah mate, I’ll be there on time, I promise!”
Confusion. It was actually ABC morning radio, the James Valentine show, wanting to do a video, not knowing about the TV news stuff.
But I juggled that in,all the while marching forward at a reasonable pace. It was a great interview and great fun. (But I remember him joking ‘jeez mate, you can’t sit down and take a breath’ ?)
Plates in the air mate, stop moving and they’ll all come smashing down !
It was 7:40am when I got to Stanwell Tops and met the absolutely lovely camera guy (I think his name might have been James).
The view was gorgeous, gob-smacking.
Even though I had an important interview, I wasn’t really running through it in my mind, I was just THERE.
Enjoy the view, follow directions, stand here. Smile. Cough. Are you ready ?
Yeah, I was ready.
You see, I’d learned about the most important and powerful tool you can have in your life: self acceptance.
Win/lose/draw, it really doesn’t matter. Find your centre, and trust in yourself.
I knew my job was to just ‘talk true’, to explain myself, elaborate where they wanted me to, and hope that my Quest earned your regard.
(And that your regard would translate into support for the charity)
So going into the interview, I was actually pretty relaxed. The only thing in the back of my mind was the hope that I’d get a chance to wish my boy Sully a happy birthday.
(And what a joy it was when they gave me that chance at the end. I was crying a little, I just wanted him to know that no matter what compromises or mistakes I might make in life, he (and his mum and brothers) are the centre of my Universe.
I love you, Sully.
What a gift it is to still be alive to say that.
Every day. It’s a gift.
Whatever suffering or sorrow came before, you can’t allow it to suck the joy out of that simple fact: you’re alive, viable.
Even if there’s no light and love in your life at present, you have the tools you need to go out and find it.
To stand up, move forward.
After the interview was done (thank you so much, team at the ABC), I was able to relax at Stanwell Tops for a bit.
It was raining on-and-off, so I spent about an hour up there waiting out the weather. (I remember these ‘robot toilets’ that slid the doors open and shut and gave me various warnings, I felt like a time traveller, haha)
But the birds ! Ahh the joy.
As I was sitting, eating my granola protein bar thingos, these gorgeous birds started to gather and sing to me. Rosellas, magpies, a big old crow that muscled in.
They came right up and took pieces of grain out of my hand. They must be well used to tourists. At one point this little one climbed up my arm and was cooing into my ear.
I loved it so much.
I bought myself a burger at this lovely little cafe (Flying High), then wrapped myself up (windy & cold!) and hit the Frog & Toad. (That’s another inefficient colloquialism for ‘Road’ a bit like saying ‘Frank the Bank’ instead of just Bank or ATM)
More pictures and videos, but I wanted to get to or near Wollongong – so restored by the meal, I got moving.
The road to get to the lookout had been quite dangerous (as a pedestrian), almost no shoulder to walk on. I was examining the next bit down to town and it looked even worse.
While I was assessing, this lovely bloke pulls up and offers me a ride down. I sadly had to refuse, but he did mention that there were ‘bush paths’ down the hill that might be a bit safer.
There were some bits that were outright slippery and perilous, but I soon came to solid and safe tracks.
It was a great tip – I almost always got golden tips from locals, and I think it’s important to try and show you how excellent people were.
Helpful. Kind. Curious.
Maybe not so much in the major cities, but most everywhere else the people were really quite gorgeous.
For me, that’s important to remember. Although the societies we build don’t always foster it, and can even outright crush or discourage it – people individually are generally quite great.
I think too often we allow distrust, uncertainty, fear of bad outcomes – to distort how we could deal with people, contaminate that potential for friendship, laughter, joyful exchange.
I’m still in daily contact with people I met on the road, wonderful people, and what a gift that is.
So I made it down through bush tracks to a series of lovely beach-side towns, the afternoon walk was really very beautiful.
There’s this long, winding highway along the ocean there in the Illawarra Region, there are some truly gorgeous views – not suggesting you walk it (although consider having a crack!), but it would be a very lovely sunday afternoon drive.
Thing is, on the road and I got another call.
Another TV appearance !
I found myself talking to this absolutely lovely man, Hamish McDonald, who went through some questions they’d like to ask me that afternoon in an interview with THE PROJECT.
So I’m winding down, ‘mission accomplished’ with the morning interview, and BANG, suddenly a new bee up my bum.
I found myself urgently legging it toward a beachside town called Thirroul, where I’d meet the camera people and set up for the interview.
Rush rush rush, old man !
Haha, I’m sure people I bumped into thought I was Forrest Gump. It’s a bit of a blur, but I do remember repeatedly muttering to people who wanted to chat “so sorry, thank you, so sorry, gotta be on the project, gotta run, so sorry”
Haha. Heavy-set, scruffy-bearded old fellow, dressed like a superhero, stridently lurching forward.
I love reflecting on the kind of strange memory that would have made for people who saw me.
(Hamish rang during a bit of a roadside nap)
I did have a lovely chat with this young man who was an apprentice chef and an all-round sweetheart of a human, but sadly most human contact was cut short as I legged it for the interview.
(The interview itself went really well, a nice blend of serious, funny, friendly – I think the public response was great)
It was pre-recorded, and by the time we were done it was getting quite late in the afternoon.
I relaxed my pace and started looking for a viable place to sleep. My main criteria being – two sturdy trees and some kind of a screen of bush so I could remain unseen.
The problem ? It was all pretty heavily housed, to get into real bush, I’d have to bludgeon my way off-track, taking a detour inland.
While I was figuring it out, I had a few lovely G’days.
I was at the winding-down part of a long and glorious day, and although I was beyond any feelings of tiredness or fatigue, I was pretty keen to set up for sleep before it got dark.
(Silly old fella got a bit of sunburn despite the overcast day: gotta remember, Slip, Slop, Slap)
As I was plodding along, eyes peeled for bush, I came across a Coles, and for some reason I thought it Ham & Camembert was a great meal choice. (Had to throw most of it)
After all the media attention, I kept getting messages throughout the day, and heaps in the afternoon and evening.
I regret not doing a better job of handling them all, for a couple of reasons:
- Like this wonderful lady pictured, it was a chance for nourishment and positive sharing, to give and to receive.
- It could have unlocked experiences and encounters that I missed out on in my relentless drive to keep moving forward
- Some of those experiences might have been fun or inspiring if shared, and that sharing may also have benefited the charity
I plan to do a much better job when I attempt my circumnavigation. (That word doesn’t just apply to boating, it means to go completely around something!)
I hope I get my chance to do it, I feel strongly that I’m supposed to try.
I ended up settling on this teeny nature strip where the main road divided into two – there was this dense (but small) copse of trees and bushes, and enough of a screen that I should be quite hard to see from the road.
It was getting dark and starting to rain again, so I made the right choice.
Although I was tired, phone service was good, so I fired up a live stream, wanting to thank people for their support, and encourage them to donate to the charity.
The stream ended up being quite long (you can watch it to the left), and covered some pretty deep topics, like the social ramifications of cancer, not just for the sufferer, but for their support network. Fielded some GREAT questions.
All in all, a lovely (and productive) day.
I think we made almost thirty thousand dollars in service of the charity.
Congratulations, and thank you for getting behind it.