There were days on the BIG WALK where I felt like a rockstar. Absent the narcissism, the substance abuse and the cash, but with all the undeserved attention.
Hmm, that sounds a bit harsh, I’ve just always thought celebrity is a bit stupid. Celebrate the achievements, the art, the music, the thing that was created. The person is just a conduit to that. We have it the wrong way around these days, cancel-culture toward art because the person was despicable.
Take Kanye West, the guy already deals with mental health stuff, and thanks to this insane amount of Cult of Celebrity stuff – poor bugger seems to think he’s Da Vinci (and Divinity?). I think celebrity is a slippery-slope and ultimately a bad thing, the artists I respect most are those for whom it sits a bit uncomfortably, like Keanu Reeves.
Was it getting to my head ?
All this quasi-C grade-celebrity effect from all the media ?
No, but it sure was getting to my tummy, haha.
From this point, the beeping and cheering and waving started happening a lot more frequently, and I was puzzled and delighted by the intensity of it.
It’s also when people started constantly giving me food 🙂
“Here, Captain Australia, we got you a BURGER”
“Here, Captain Australia, you need ENERGY, eat all of this chocolate, mate !”
I did wind up giving away much of the candy (sorry if that disappoints anybody), I’d often meet kids and find I had three bags of unopened lollies in my utility belt.
The emerging ethic of the walk was to ‘never discourage kindness’.
It’s beautiful and makes the world better.
After the cancer treatments (which destroyed my thyroid, the gland that regulates your metabolism), I gained about 60kg.
Before the walk, and in these first months, I’d lost most of that. It’s not a joke too, with a metabolism problem and already being over 50 years old.
But from Nowra, the weight loss stopped, starting with the lavish breakfast provided by Chris & Kelly at the Avaleen Lodge Motor Inn.
Even walking from dawn to dusk, the constant kindness from the public meant I was never hungry.
I think its worthwhile to try and wrap your head around that – the simple kindness of it, the giving .. of concern, food, words of support. It was CONSTANT.
I think that’s an important reminder of what our country and world is .. or at least can be.
(That’s Chris and Kelly to the left, by the way, if you’re ever in Nowra, consider staying at the Avaleen Lodge – great place, great people)
I remember some frustration at getting out of Nowra, it took me something like 3 hours to walk 10 kilometres, purely due to all of the g’days, hellos and how-the-hell-are-yas.
Word was traveling ahead of me now, so there wasn’t as much of “what are you ?! what are you doing ??”. There was this lovely wave of support.
Like most days of the BIG WALK, I felt the ordeal physically, but it became somewhat of a background thing.
If you’ve ever done a long chunk of walking – say at least 4 hours, you’ll know that you reach a point where your body starts regular complaints to management, which translates as “ugh, so tired, how long before I get HOME”
But for me, home was well over a month away.
So I was just kind of able to push that stuff into ‘background noise’.
Even when it intensified around dusk, I’d channel it into a focus on finding a great campsite, somewhere safe, dry and discreet.
In reality, I was ‘dog tired’ most of the time, but I think the mental, spiritual and psychological benefits often gave me a kind of .. euphoria, a sense of purified joy – and this more than balanced out the physical pain and fatigue.
But I was constantly too much ‘in my head’
You’ll see from all of these photos, the road out of Nowra was all about people. Look back a bit in the journal and it’s all me, and nature (and I’m only in the pictures because the people watching wanted it).
For every person or group I stopped and had a photo with, there were others where I was too shy.
Like these roadworkers, men ranging from 20s to 60s (age I mean) who stopped work and came over to talk to me.
Four men, lovely encounter, and I dont even have a photo.
They were so sincere and earnest and had such high praise, I was gobsmacked. One of these young blokes needed to hug me and he said “it’s fucking inspiring mate, you make me want to try and fix myself up, and then help others!”
(And to look at him, you never would have thought he had a single problem, just a young happy bloke in his prime. I loved the fact that what I was doing brightened his outlook).
But I do regret not doing a better job of collecting these encounters.
Once I was out of Nowra, I came across this long stretch of fence covered in frogs.
Stuffed toys, pictures hand drawn by (by talented kids, or less talented adults), just frogs everywhere.
(The collective noun for frogs being an ‘army’)
I never found out for sure what this army of frogs was about, and google isn’t much help today – I do seem to recall a message from a local about some kind of rare (maybe previously thought extinct) frog species in the area that halted construction of the new freeway.
I suppose this area could have been a shrine to those little frogs, which I quite love.
We, human beings, have the capacity for great evil and cruelty, especially when the tribes, businesses and clubs we create egg us onto it – but I love that underneath it all, we’ll still try and fix and preserve what we can.
Later in the afternoon, I was surprised to see Nathan (again!), who I’d met with his partner Jade days ago – they’d brought me sandwiches on a remote stretch of road outside Gerringong.
Lovely people, and Nathan was eager to walk for a bit with me.
(Turned out to be a good couple of hours, and his pace was strong, which was great, made the old fella have to redouble his efforts)
Nathan told me about his recovery from an injury and health struggles
That’s his story, not mine – but I wish I’d done a better job of collecting and sharing it.
Hrm, stop with the lamentations, Captain Australia !
The thing that I loved, adored even – was that my good deed was reaching out and touching lives like Nathan’s, people were taking inspiration from it, and using that to better their situations.
At the end of this long and joyful day, I got to meet Nathan and Jade’s 3 gorgeous kids and have a picnic with them.
The kids were flat-strap adorable.
We sat on a picnic blanket and gobbled pizza and shared stories, and along came Andy High, the gentleman who had kindly agreed to take delivery of my new boots, which had been shipped down from Brisbane.
(And that furry giant is Baxter, what a good dog!)
The kids were full of questions, inquisitive, bright, and a little bit upset that I’d been given a bottle of coke all for myself while they had to share (Mum & Dad wisely limiting sugar)
The young guy (I think only 3 or 4 years old) was fascinated with my selfie stick, and I showed him how you could telescope it out.
Similar to this little dude I met outside Old Bar, I told him that if ever I felt scared, I was able to hold my selfie stick and it made me feel brave again.
Anyway, he obviously liked it, so I made it my gift to him, only to find out a day or so later that he’d been driving his parents mental with it, using it like a lightsaber.
After fond farewells with the family, I buddied up with Andy High, and we scouted out a nearby clearing.
He was driving a big white van, but we found a dilapidated access road with an unlocked gate.
Deciding the odds of getting in trouble for trespassing were quite low, we set up in this open field surrounded by young growth trees.
I loved that evening with Andy.
Over a cup of tea, I told him my life story, warts and all. He shared some of his, as well as his passions and aspirations (aspires to be a stand up comic!)
But I’d say about 70% of our long and rambling talk was me working through my entire life story up until that moment – by the time we got onto Andy it was already late and the jaw-cracking yawns had started.
Lovely bloke though, and super-funny.
Haha, just did a search …
This is him at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. He describes himself as a ‘baby comedian’ (the world’s oldest), or still with training-wheels, but I think he is a natural story-teller and an all-round giggle-a-minute.
So this kind hearted man had agreed to take delivery of my boots, and brought them with him, and (thanks to the people at Valhalla OUtdoor and Tactical) there were extras.
It was kinda like a ‘military care package’, in addition to the boots there was a beanie with a head-mounted light, and some marvelously warm gloves, as well as a sleeping bag that had been organised by my friend Helen back in Brisbane.
Sat up talking about life death and the universe under the stars with Andy, until I could no longer stay awake. Deep, dreamless sleep in the hammock with my warm new kit.