On Day 4, I woke warm and rested, thanks largely to Murrary’s mother’s blanket (and the tarp that he and Donna gave me). They were a lovely couple – if you want to see the video where we met, you’ll find it on DAY THREE.
I had slept in a little patch of scrub right off the Miami holiday highrises, and on waking I noticed a small tarp city – an enclave of homeless were camped very nearby. I hope my presence didn’t worry or unsettle them, but they probably didn’t notice me. Despite my flamboyant getup, I was pretty discreet and quiet.
I always did my best to be sneaky (and respectful) wherever I hauled up for my sleeping rough, it’s hard to call it camping, it was pretty primitive.
Waking up and watching the sun rise over the ocean was tremendously spiritually nourishing. I’d see the rays cascading through clouds, feel the cold, feel the weariness in my limbs .. and I’d reach the realisation that I was alive and life is beautiful.
I was re-training myself to feel hope & joy, emptying out the darkness and grief and letting the sun shine in.
None of this changed the fact that I felt behind schedule and was eager to cross the border into New South Wales. I was only around 100km from my home, and I didn’t feel that I’d be “out in the wide world” until I made that border crossing. I was resolute that I’d do it today.
Walking down that long beach, boots tied together and hanging over my shoulder, I started to let go. To surrender. To accept that “it took however long it took”, and that my Quest was a marathon, not a sprint. As I continued explaining myself to the public, I started to refine and better understand what I was doing, and why.
I went from a loose understanding that I was working toward personal healing – stripping things back and affecting a kind of spiritual self-repair .. to actually getting a sense of that happening. The first clue, which puzzled me at the time, was when I burst into tears while walking down the beach.
Deep, wounded tears, sobbing almost, from deep inside me.
They were tears of pain and grief, but at the same time this flooding rush of gratitude.
I firmly believe I was releasing old pain, letting it go, leaving it on the beach. That poison of unprocessed grief, unfaced fear, unreconciled anger – it’s like the ocean, the sky became some kind of conduit, drawing it out of me. It was a feeling that was both marvelous and horrible.
But almost immediately, I felt lighter for it. Later, in a live stream, I tried to explain what was happening to me, but I’m not sure I did a good job (not sure I am now!)
In those first days, the streams were a kind of ‘living diary’ and I imagined myself talking to my future children, telling them who their dad was and what he was about.
But in time that morphed and it was a discussion, genuine dialogue with the people watching, riding on my shoulder – friend, companion & therapist.
I stopped midmorning to demonstrate my gear, and my naive hopes of being power independant. I had a power bank and a solar blanket, as well as a mini solar panel. It was a bright, bright, bright, bright sunshiney day – so I was pretty optimistic of being able to draw as much power as I used. (Laughable, in retrospect, given the storms that were to come).
It was high summer, so these were days of heat and labour, but my pack was no longer over-heavy, but still a burden (about 22kg).
As I walked, this was very much a day of reflection for me. I could almost FEEL myself healing, like a wound scabbing over after the pus is drained out. I felt husked out and emotionally tired, too distracted with what was happening to my mind and spirit to even really notice the toil of my body.
I know I’m doing a bad job of telling the story of the day. I’m just trying to make sure I capture the big picture stuff. Those major themes, because they were significant, real, and I think .. incredibly important. I think that kind of healing is available to all of us, but modern life distracts and muddles us, making it very challenging to access it.
I was starting to get used to people coming up and talking to me. Explaining who I was, and that I wasn’t completely mental. What I was doing, and why.
The lady in the picture on the left, she was hilarious. Her name was (I think) Karen, and she was massively enthusiastic about my walk and my goals. She explained to me that she was a cancer survivor too.
Her voice grew all soft and quiet, and she looked furtively back and forth, “It was ANAL cancer”
We both burst out laughing, suddenly joyful survivors – members of the same tribe. But like me, she had strife, grief and confusion in her life. Her cancer had damaged her sex life, and although I reckon her partnership seemed very strong from how she spoke, it was clear she was worried about it. We talked about leaning into hope, doing the best we can.
It was a joyful and hilarious conversation. Never did I expect to be standing on the side of the road laughing with some lovely lady, a perfect stranger, that even though her downstairs equipment might be malfunctioning, there are still plenty of ways she can get her *BOOM CHICKA BOW WOW* on.
Anyway, it was a day of lovely places, lovely people, until I got to Tweed Heads, that is. (More on that in a bit).
I made it to the border mid-afternoon, and as I passed through the Queensland side of Coolangatta / Tweed Heads, I fired up a livestream to record the moment.
But I kept getting stopped. It began to sink in that my terrible pace was in part due to the regular interruptions to stand and chat.
I’m not complaining, mind you. The people I met on the road were pretty much out-and-out wonderful. These joyful encounters, especially in the middle of the COVID crisis, were reminding me who we are at our core. Big hearted social creatures, inquisitive and friendly, ready to help.
That dude in the picture above left sings in a band, and when he was telling me he was a muso, I said “let me guess, a drummer ?” and he got all huffy (in a hysterically funny way), “lead singer, thank you very much !!”, to which I deftly responded, “I was thinking that, you clearly have the swagger and charisma of a lead singer, but I just thought from that intense muscularity you must be a drummer. Hey man, people like Phil Collins are famous for doing BOTH”. (That had him dropping down and doing pushups while everybody laughed)
There was always a giggle, a friendly back-and-forth, and I loved it. It was coaxing me back to life.
And so I finally bloody well made it to the bloody well border ! 🙂
To the right is a short video of my historical announcement when crossing.
(Something about subjugating the primitives of New South Wales and becoming their overlord)
(I may have been a little drunk)
(No, not really, I’m being reductive. There’s actually a complex network of pathology that dictates my strange behaviour, haha).
So I crossed the border, and as I say in the video, it felt at last that my BIG WALK had truly begun. It was a weird sensation. I honestly felt different, as though everything had more gravity. It wasn’t play acting any more. I’d come about 120km (on a map a straight run down the freeway, it comes in at something like 105km, just as if you chuck “Brisbane to Melbourne” into Google it will come in at less than 1800km – but that’s powering down the motorway, and doesn’t account for the road less traveled and it’s wild loops and deviations.
Tweed Heads felt like a mess to me. A massive cohort of highly visible homeless, lots of shops boarded over. It’s a borderland, and I think really suffered under the varying state rules during the COVID crisis.
I hadn’t really eaten, so first order of business was food. I had a craving for Wonton soup (since my cancer, soups are the easiest thing for me to eat).
I had to delay gratification as I was drawn into conversation with a group of about 8 homeless people. They were volatile and a bit dangerous – don’t get me wrong, I’m hugely sympathetic to the homeless, especially after my BIG WALK – but when you’re self medicating with substances, dealing with paranoia and other issues, and in groups, people who are individually sweet and harmless can become a bit of a powder-keg.
But I sat and chatted for a half hour or so, disarmed a bit of a violent outburst between two guys, then excused myself, as I needed to keep moving.
But first, Wonton Soup !
As I was drinking it, two shady guys, one ultra-lanky, the other huge and obese approached me. I was looking pretty homeless myself, sitting alone in a back-alley drinking my wonton soup directly from a plastic container. To my absolute shock, they approached and tried to buy drugs from me ! (Or inquire if I was carrying so they could attempt to roll me)
“Do you got any Andy ?” said the lanky guy in a loud, heavily accented (irish) voice.
I had no bloody idea what he was talking about, what he meant. I must have misheard. I asked him if that was a drug, he smiled and said yes, I explained I didn’t have any drugs. Andy. MDMA maybe ? Maybe he was saying Molly or something, and I misheard. I’ve always steered well clear of drugs, primarily because I’ve seen the harm they can inflict on a life, but also out of a concern that I might have a genetic predisposition to addiction.
It was getting late in the day, and I needed to get out of Tweed. I really didn’t fancy the idea of trying to sleep huddled in a back alley – I needed to find somewhere with a bit of bush. So I just kept pressing south.
I stopped briefly at a shopping centre and visited K-Mart (my flag had a tear, so I bought a little sewing kit and an extra tshirt for sleeping in.
As I kept walking, and the sun went down, it started raining. It was all shops and industrial buildings. I seem to remember walking past a Bunnings, continually pushing south, trying to find some viable scrub to pitch my hammock and tarp.
On the southern fringe of Tweed, I gave up and just selected a small patch of heavy trees and scrub lining a service road that joins the freeway. It was just about 3 metres of moderately dense rough scrub. It was raining and dark, and it directly abutted a suburban house (tall wooden fence)
I was still an amateur at setting up the gear, especially in the dark, but this was good practice. Silent as a ninja, I got it all set up, and changed into my blue (water resistant) uniform, out of the soggy military green outfit.
Undressing, I didnt notice it at the time, but I dropped and lost my sunglasses and this little bracelet that my wife had made for me shortly after we met. It’s stones with carvings in them, I love it and I love her, and I was pretty devastated to find I’d lost it the following day. (But that’s not the end of the Bracelet, I went back, found the site, and found it, something like 95 days later. I’m wearing it now).
But that’s it for DAY 4. Click on the Green button below if you’d like to continue to DAY 5