Before we get into it, at the bottom of the page you’ll find two videos. The first is me trying to explain the lead-up to the BIG WALK, the motivations, the preparation.
The second is a video compilation of streams and images collected in the first day of the BIG WALK (26.12.21). Be warned that both videos are kinda long. (But if you watch them all on YouTube, like and subscribe and all that stuff, you’ll be helping me out – I just advise patience & popcorn).
(Oh and here’s a link to my YouTube Profile: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheCaptainAustralia/videos)
Okay, so first let’s start with who I am, what I did, and why.
My name is Simon. On the 26th of December 2021 I dressed up as the boofhead homebrand superhero Captain Australia ™ and walked from Brisbane to Melbourne (a long and winding route of about 2200km). I had a great many adventures on the road, and this CABW84 Journal is my attempt at re-telling each day of my Mad Quest.
In a world where just about everything is created to manipulate us, my goal is to try and be righteous, be of service, and “tell it true”, even if it comes across weird or crazy.
My initial motivation was personal healing. When I was a child (15) I had walked from Brisbane to Sydney to live with my Grandma, escaping a bad domestic situation. When I was 44 years old I was diagnosed with a Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of the head & neck, and given 6 months to live (with a 40-60% chance at curative chemoradiation). I beat the cancer but not it’s ramifications. In the following years it loomed on the horizon like a dark storm cloud, sucking the hope and joy out of my life. My BIG WALK was an attempt to overcome that, I built a lot of hope around the idea that if I repeated my childhood walk, did a Quest, I could heal myself. And it worked.
I also did it in service of a charity called The Kids’ Cancer Project, as I firmly believe that kindness is the antidote to suffering and sorrow.
That spark of hope ultimately grew into a fierce flame. In the weeks and months leading up to the walk, I was training every day. Overcoming a crippling thyroid problem induced by the chemoradiation, I lost 50kg in six months. I was getting stronger. As the BIG DAY loomed closer and closer, the nerves started to build up, but although the people around me probably thought I was crazy and that I could never achieve it, I knew in my heart that it was a necessary thing, an important Quest, and that I would succeed.
I didn’t know at the time that it was also for YOU, and that as I pushed through forest, road, river and ocean, through cities and towns torn by COVID and political strife, that I’d meet such lovely kindness, and that together we’d take heart from the idea that a broken life can be fixed. I didn’t know that yet – but I did feel that what I was doing was important. “Save but one life and you save the world entire” is an old Hebrew proverb that has guided my outlook toward helping and kindness. So I figured even if my walk helped just one child – it would be a success.
I didn’t realise until much later, that we were also saving my own life – and by that standard, maybe that blooming idea of kindness and righteousness that we were sharing COULD save the world. Or at least make it better.
And so .. Day 1.
I got up at Sparrowfart (so early and quiet you can hear the sparrows farting), gathered my bag (which weighed about 25kg) and rode a bus into the middle of the city, King George Square.
I had to get in their quite early, even though I was planning to set out at 10:30am, because thankfully the WEEKEND TODAY show had agreed to interview me. The media exposure was a big part of the strategy, and was instrumental in helping to raise the $164,000 that we raised for the charity.
So I got into town, suited up and did the interview. It was a chaotic morning, as a bunch of people came out to wish me well (something that surprised and delighted me).
It’s all in the video at the very bottom of this journal page. One of the people who made the trip to see me off (on Boxing Day mind you) was this lovely man Jamie who has this charity-oriented organisation called Chatty Chairs, which promotes mental health, happiness and personal ethics.
After the TODAY interview, I sat with Jamie for almost an hour, just talking about Life, Death and the Universe. Honestly it’s a bit of a blur, because although it was a momentous day for me, I was under-slept and quite nervous.
It was a combination of a kind of performance anxiety, an idea that I had to TALK TRUE, I had to share myself as succinctly and thoroughly as possible.
The answer is morbid. I wanted to leave a kind of living journal for my children in case the cancer came back for me. That’s what this is, I guess – as complete a snapshot of who dad was that I can manage.
Sorry for this wall of text, by the way. I know people don’t read anymore. But before THE BIG WALK was for you, it was for my sons, and I’ve realised as I try to re-tell it, that’s who I’m writing for.
Even if you’re looking at this twenty years later, and I’m gone – know I loved you boys. I loved you with all my heart. I’d die for you.
And, perhaps more poignantly, I’d *LIVE* for you. Find my centre, my joy. Be a better example. A better role model, a better person. Heal myself and show you that healing is possible, no matter the darkness.
I guess that’s what the BIG WALK was all about.
It’s hard to describe that morning – I had almost 3 hours to kill and was eager to set out – but people would come up and ask me what I was doing, or supporters who came there on purpose would want to chat. I was pretty distracted but at the same time quite chuffed – people were telling me that they found the walk inspiring and I hadn’t even started yet. I guess that put me in a mindset of not wanting to let them down, and is in part why I struggled so much in the days that followed.
Eventually though, 10:30 hit and it was time for me to start my stream and get going.
Those early streams, the quality, the sound – although I’d practiced using the technology, I was pretty awful at it. If I would do anything different it would be to do that stuff with clarity and purpose.
There’s so much that I missed, too slow with the camera, too shy to ask for a video or a photo. I wouldn’t do or say anything different, I’d just do a much better job of recording it.
Channel 9 News sent a cameraman down who recorded me setting out, which they ran on the news later that evening (it’s in the video at the bottom if you’d like to watch it). It was great having a bunch of people there to join in, I was especially happy to see my friend Helen, who has been a relentless supporter leading up to and during the walk.
We walked down the Queen Street Mall, definitely getting a few funny glances, and crossed over Captain Cook bridge to Southbank.
I wish I’d caught more from the people on the way. I got a little better over time, but in those early days I was just too shy (something I laugh at now). I felt really awkward asking people to speak, or if I could put them on the facebook page. But I met some lovely people.
These lovely blokes Jon and (guessing, can’t remember) Murray came further with me – all the way out to Greenslopes (I think about 6-8km). We had some pretty funny chats, also spoke about some philosophical stuff too – gender politics, mental health, quite a wide and deep pool of conversation.
The hours that followed were grueling. My bag was too heavy, and more significantly so were my spirits. Every step felt like a step away from my loved ones, and the road ahead was daunting. And at the same time, I felt chains inside me begin to loosen. I felt little tugs as my heart began to realise – I was doing it. I was fixing my broken life. I was on my Great Quest. Because I’d been on the TODAY SHOW that morning, people kept coming up and wishing me well, which was great. I was beginning to see the light in the world. That I was not alone.
I had a profound encounter mid afternoon under a bridge near Logan. My feet were forming minor blisters so I thought it best to give them a rest without the boots. As soon as I took them off, I was struck by awful, intense cramps in both legs.
This wasn’t the first time I’d experienced such cramps. I had adverse events after both of my vaccinations – the first one was 4-5 nights of intense cramps. Not like normal exercise-based muscular leg cramps, these were a result of inflammation (“vaccine induced multisystem inflammatory syndrome”). Second go-round I lost all hearing in my right ear due to a swollen vein in my brain which at first they diagnosed as likely cancer! (but no leg cramps until under the bridge in Logan).
The profound thing was what happened next. This goliath of a man, great big Samoan fellow covered with tatoos, his right hand actively bleeding, jumped a chain fence and ran over to me.
His name was Menu and through our encounter he kept calling me “Uso” which he said meant brother. He cared for me like my old nanna, showing grave concern about my condition, helping with my legs with such gentle kindness that was completely heart warming.
Thing is, he was a broken person, his hand told the tale of recent acts of violence. His lips told me a story of pretty much a lifetime in prison. He’d done dark deeds, no doubt.
And yet there was beauty in him, kindness, and it was gorgeous. He was sweet and honest and authentic. He treated me with respect, and although he was clearly a sometimes violent thief, he had no regard for my belongings strewn out around me, or my vulnerability. He wanted to help.
You see, that encounter was a small piece clicking into place – the darkness doesn’t have to define us. Our past deeds don’t have to define us. We are what we are NOW. We get to choose. We can all be beautiful. We are capable of spontaneous, total remission. We can bloom.
Sadly, it’s so often temporary. It’s incumbent on us to do the work, keep walking in the right direction.
I’m not sure if Menu did that, but that afternoon he was a great comfort and a help to me.
The remainder of the afternoon was just a long, slow plod. I felt behind schedule and under-the-pump, and hadn’t yet “found my stride”.
I never really doubted that I could make it, but these early days of the walk were intense psychological toil alongside the physical effort.
I wasn’t checking social media messages or anything, I didn’t really have a plan or a clue, I was just trying to deal with the weight of my pack and keep moving.
I walked into the night, but at about 9:30 a light but persistent rain kept harassing me. Now, I laugh at the rain, I love it. I’m *immune* to it, in my Magic Coota-Coat (more on that later).
But I was pretty run down and soggy when I pitched that first camp. I had intended to walk until 2am but gave up around midnight, pitching my hammock and tarp (which was a golden plastic tablecloth chosen for colour not durability – more on THAT later too). It must have been near a waterway as there were plenty of mosquitoes, but the hammock had a net to keep them out. I was uncomfortable, and probably unsafe, but I was OK.
BELOW ARE TWO VIDEOS AND A BUTTON:
- THE FIRST VIDEO IS A RUN-DOWN OF THE PRE-WALK PREPARATION I DID, AND MY FIGHT WITH CANCER, IT COVERS MY MOTIVATIONS AND GOALS EARLY ON
- THE SECOND VIDEO IS DAY 1 COMPILED – ITS AN HOUR LONG, MAKE POPCORN
- THE BUTTON WILL TAKE YOU TO THE JOURNAL FOR DAY 2 AND BEYOND (EVERY DAY WILL HAVE A VIDEO AND A WRITE-UP)
CLICK BELOW TO CONTINUE ON AND LOOK AT DAY 2