Day 42, the official half-way point, I suppose.
I’d slept huddled through a storm in a little nature strip in that divided the highway briefly, about 10km out of Wollongong.
It was still raining, when I gathered my gear and got moving, but not too bad. That morning walk through beach-side suburbs …
I didn’t know it yet….
But I was being HUNTED.
(By the nefarious DOCTOR CANADA!!) (if that’s his real name!)
People who were facing, or had faced, devastating loss to cancer seemed to take a kind of comfort in what I’m doing, so this chap, currently facing up to his own treatment, had written me, hoping to meet (and challenge?!) me.
But that’s for later … my first job that morning was to get to Wollongong. After all the TV exposure on the day prior, people were starting to pick up on my Mad Quest, and I was delighted to learn that many people were enjoying it. (It hadn’t really sunk in that some people were truly taking lessons from it, that the walk had somehow invested me with this gravity, that my struggle was helping people who also struggled).
These suburban stretches of walking, I usually felt eager to just ‘push through’ and get back into nature.
This was a strategic mistake, I should have focused on meeting and reaching people – but I think I was being guided by my continuing need for personal healing.
As I do now .. I just felt the pull of the green.
I know there’s danger. Walking up the west & north coasts will be outright peril. But I still feel the pull anyway.
I don’t think it’s just because it’s what I’m supposed to do (the BIG LAP, I mean), it’s also that strange pull – after being out and vulnerable in the wide and wild world, it’s left it’s mark.
Anyway, on Day 42 I was a soggy old (wannabe) superhero, but I found a grocery store where it looked like an ATM had been removed, it left me this little nook which was sheltered and still powered, so I was able to feed some juice back into my power-bank.
(My whole carefully-thought-out solar solution was just wasted, in retrospect, too much dodgy weather to make it viable)
A guy came up to me at one point and gave me a little bag of hot-cross-buns. Haha, I’m giggling as I remember this, because I’m *sure*, flat-strap certain, he just thought I was a rando homeless person.
As funny as that is to me, I also love it.
That this young bloke, with his own stuff to do, would take a moment to buy some bread for an old traveling swagman – I think that’s just lovely. It’s dripping with authentic Aussie values, know what I mean ?
Now, look, sorry if it’s gross, but this doesn’t get discussed much – our need to occasionally poo.
It’s especially not really mentioned for superheroes, unless it’s some kind of parody.
I mention it in honour of my mate Danny Hoyland from West Bremer Radio. This chappie had taken to calling me every Saturday morning, at varied hours, sometimes before 6am, other much later mid-morning.
It had slipped my mind that he was going to call that day, and when he did, our poor old Captain Australia had snuck into the amenities near this ATM spot to do a luxurious in-an-actual-TOILET poo.
Haha, I know, I know, TMI ! T effing M bloody I !
While I was appreciating the Wollongong beaches (the ocean felt more savage and untamed the further south I got, loved it), this lovely bloke Neil came up and said G’day.
Managing venues around the city, he took me to STEAMERS BAR & GRILL, where they showed me incredible kindness and hospitality.
Apparently they have an award as “the second best restaurant in Australia”, but I have to tell you – the food … ohhhhhhhhoohhhh
Sorry, needed a moment there.
I think I just had a mini tongue-gasm purely from the memory. The chef (Paul I think his name was) made this absolutely incredible golden snapper for me.
It was beyond delicious.
Since chemoradiation, fish is a hit & miss food for me, sometimes hard to eat – but he just .. it was perfect. Buttery, soft, juicy, so delicious.
Haha, sorry did it again !
But yeah, thank you, Neil, lovely bloke. I also met this awesome young guy looking to do an adventure walk across New Zealand. Neil said I should give him advice, but I don’t think he needed it, this bloke had massive heart.
(You’ll note me using terms like guy and bloke, because I *argh* can’t remember his name! And it happened a while back, so struggling to find info or a picture)
Another example of my shortcomings, failing to share a brilliant person.
Speaking of brilliant people … DOCTOR CANADA.
So this guy, Sean, is facing up to bone cancer, and had some pretty hefty treatments coming up (the same dealio that my little mate Archer has just slam-dunked, ONYA ARCHER!!!)
In many ways heartbroken and afraid, he had come to see me. (Doctor Canada I mean)
We streamed our conversation, and you can see it below (including the moment when I outwit him and defeat his nefarious schemes), but what you don’t see is the lovely stuff at the end.
Oh how I regret not capturing some of these moments.
You see, my struggle .. it had invested in me this strange gravity, this weirdly simple and powerful voice when it came to sorrow and grief, and the darkness of facing up to cancer.
I think (hope) I was able to lift Scott up.
We embraced, he was weeping a bit (in a manly way!), we spoke about how he was on the knife-edge between hope and despair.
I like to think i nudged him toward hope, even if just a little.
I try and check in sometimes on this lovely man, but I think he’s deep in the trenches at the moment, fighting his battle.
An afternoons’ walk later, (some of it backward, thanks to a DAILY DONOR DARE OF DOOoOM) I found myself walking through the environs of the Kembla Steelworks.
I actually quite loved it, these massive industrial buildings, it was like being in a different kind of forest, but it was a biome of steel and size.
STEAMERS had given me a care package of fruit, which I was gobbling as I walked.
Ultimately, any gift of food or water added to my physical burden, so I’d try and eat/drink it as quickly as I could.
I would never discard these gifts, even if the food wasn’t to my preference (I did give away some jerky one time, it was too spicy for me to abide). If I didn’t consume it, it would feel as if I were tossing aside beautiful kindness.
As I walked, I was starting to experience a bit of discomfort, even pain, in the soles of my feet, because the boots were compromised, the tread was completely worn down.
If I stepped on a pebble, I could feel it through the boot.
Thankfully, I’d written to the store where I bought them (Valhalla Outdoor and Tactical) and they’d agreed to send a new pair .. and fantastically (more kindness!) they didn’t want my money. (Whew ! For all the money I’d raised, I was poor as a churchmouse)
South of the steel mills, sun setting, I decided to call it a day, and found a screen of trees and bushes that looked okay to set up in.
I live streamed this bit, as well as had a long and chatty stream once I was comfortably laying in the hammock – so if you’re curious you can watch them below.