Day Seven (1 January 2022)

So, up at sparrowfart again, and greeting the dawn. This cycle of early rising and being in nature was teaching me, making me stronger and happier.

How strange it is, that now – back in my ‘normal life’ after the walk, sitting down trying to write it up, trying to capture the essence .. I resist that kind of self abnegation, that kind of discipline. Since the walk, I’ve been in a kind of mild collapse, it’s been two months of rest and lazing about. I *know* I need to start getting up early, walking, breathing in each day, because the walk taught me how valuable that is, how precious life is overall. And yet, strangely I resist it, perpetually in a mode of “I’ll start tomorrow”.

Anyway that’s now, I’m talking about then – so let’s go 🙂

I woke to a new year, but not quite to a new man. After 84 days of walking, I’m not sure I properly finished that process of rebuilding (but I sure put a big dent in it).

I was starting to relax about timing, the pressure to hurry up, to get on schedule. I was beginning to accept it would take however long it took.

That process of surrender and acceptance was crucial to the early walk, a vital part of scouring away who I was and leaving room to fill myself with … well, I was hoping for LIGHT. I had this primitive understanding that I was full of junk: pain, sloth, grief, self regard, and an old school religious person would say I was ‘humbling myself before God’. Maybe so. I was about to meet an old-school religious person in a remote stretch of beach (but more on that soon)


Actually, a bunch of them, and this one was horrible in it’s simplicity: walk backward.


I recorded maybe the first ten minutes or so of it, then switched off, figuring I was just pegging time.

Haha, foolish old man. I did such an awful job of capturing moments. If I’d just kept streaming I would have caught it all on camera, but I was worried about boring you.

You see, about thirty minutes or so in, I fell on my magnificent bum !

It was glorious. I tripped on a piece of branch, and got stuck on my back like an overturned turtle, spending several minutes struggling to divest myself of my massive pack. Ahh how funny and embarassing it would have been if I’d had a drone following and filming.

No such luck, as with so much of the walk, it was me alone with my thoughts, and my thoughts in this case were a mush-mash of laughter and self mockery.

This bloke DANNY had contacted me via Facebook saying that he did a show (based from Ipswich) called WEST BREMER RADIO (follow this link if you wan to know more about them).

This was good, because I’d slightly sprained my ankle in my ridiculous fall, and the old boofhead needed a bit of a sit-down.

I was getting kinda close to Byron Bay, so I decided to plug on a bit further and see if I could find a spot out of the rain. (No such luck).

I did meet this lovely man, Igor.

He was living in a community of Seventh Day Adventists somewhere just off the beach north of Byron Bay.

When I stumbled upon him, he had been bathing in the ocean, using sand as soap, and looked magnificently feral, the picture of health and vitality. He came over with a gentle smile (everything about him was gentle), and we had a long long chat about existence, ethics, and God.

I recorded the conversation, or much of it – by accident. The phone had been damaged, you see. Sound was wobbly, it kept turning on and off. (great job, old boy, perfect for streaming and staying in touch!)

But it did record this conversation about God, Existence, human ethics, the meaning of life, so I share it anyway, in case there’s something of value to someone, some day.

If nothing else, it’s a demonstration of how people of different beliefs and outlooks can and should come together and share. Igor spoke with great dignity about Yeshua (he felt he had a pretty personal relationship with God, and that God is woven into his – and I guess every – life).

I’ve always been spiritually minded. I don’t think we’re bags of meat, nor do I think conventional religions have it quite right. That said, I *do* believe that belief systems are personal, individual outlooks. Sharing them is just for context – because reality, it’s all about personal experience, perspective. We can’t even say with absolute surety that we’re not living in THE MATRIX. As such, it’s paramount to respect other people’s beliefs, ideally share in them, bathe in them, try them on for size.

Anyway, my friend Igor gave me a little booklet about his Church, and I promised to read it (I did, until weeks later it became too waterlogged to continue, sadly).

I continued down the beach in a thoughtful, reflective state of mind. (Still looking for a dry place to stop and do this radio interview).

Danny was a real hoot, he called almost every Saturday morning through the walk.

The radio interview was good for a few reasons – one, it gave me an excuse to sit down and eat my breakfast, and two – it was an early opportunity to start practicing with the media, getting better at articulating my thoughts and goals.

I also learned very practical things, like never eat before an interview and always drink heaps of water and have it on hand.

You see, after my struggle with stage 4 cancer, the inside of my mouth and throat has been pretty ravaged. Little flecks of food get stuck in the dry parts (I no longer make saliva, the glands were destroyed by radiation) and I have coughing fits.

This happened during the interview, I was so embarassed..

Not so much by the coughing, but by my thoughtlessness.

After a bit of a rest, I hauled myself to my feet and continued onward. I actually loved this next little bit of the Walk, because I was about to DO SOMETHING STUPID. (again) (not the first and not the last)

You see, I came to this inlet. After all the weather, the water was running hard, and although a local man was able to walk across, he was very lightly burdened. With my pack, it was a real risk. When I got in waist high, I could feel the water wanting to tug me over. With the pack on, that could even prove fatal, if I were ridiculously unlucky.

My bloody phone bloody well died, so I didn’t capture the event, the actual crossing, but I did get the before & after.

This lovely man, Billy, an expat or visitor from the UK and built like a magnificent brick shithouse, came and met me midway, and stood there like an anchor, helping me across and making sure I didn’t fall.

Thank you, Billy. Legend.

I used to love Byron Bay. Passing through as a child on my first walk, it was a gorgeous little beach town. I’d go back once or twice a year – from ages through 16 to about 19. Camp in scrub or at a caravan park with friends once or twice. It took me back to the adventure of my trek to Sydney. Kinda captured it, in a place.

This time ? Hated it. Sorry if you live there, or love the place, but I hated it, and but for one moment of profound kindness, I couldn’t wait to escape.

I think people are full of light, truly I do. But it’s often locked away and not immediately accessible. People can also be plastic, fake, liars, thieves, hurters, takers, breakers. For me, Byron Bay was completely plastic. Mind you, sorrow had set in again pretty hard, no doubt darkening my outlook – but everywhere I looked I saw young people in these ‘uniforms’, much more a uniform than mine. You know what I mean … like … Kardassian-in-training. Or young guys who go to the gym but only work their shoulders and abs because it’s for vanity not strength.

I don’t like to be judgey or dismissive, to trivialise the complex, to ignore nuance. But the place just felt GROSS. I needed to get out of there. Forget promoting the Quest, just get out.

But I had a couple of priorities – changing my wet socks and doing laundry (blisters were coming in from all the wet weather friction), and picking up a bit of food & water for the road south. (My plan was to continue down the coastline / beach, but I ended up changing that)

A little blister to the left, and my Byron Bounty above, was able to pick up some juice, bananas and protein bars.

After putting on dry socks and changing my boots, I was sitting on a bench just quietly crying (missing my family), and these three guys approached me. Young guys, and I only noticed in my periphery, caught up in my self-indulging sadness, but I remember thinking “here we go”, expecting them to start making fun of me).

But they were so lovely. Visiting from points south, they approached and gently asked if I was OK. What was my story. Why was I dressed like a homeless superhero. Why was I crying.

I explained myself as best I could. Laughed off the tears a bit. I felt my sorrow – really FELT it, and I was training myself to feel and show my feelings, I guess – but at the same time a little part of me found it hilarious too. Completely self inflicted. Chose the situation. Chubby old man crying in public.

After chatting to those guys, I actually fired up. I did a hard march for about 5km, also had a few g’days and whatnot, but I went head-down-bum-up. Now, this is embarassing, but tell it, Simon, tell it all. As I was walking, I had this little snatch of lyric in my head, it’s from a song from a movie “ROCKY 4”, the band is Survivor (they did “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky 3), but it’s .. um .. less great. “Burning Heart”

Bugger it, here’s the video. Haha.

But there I was, storming through Byron Bay, just doing one snatch of lyric over and over “In the Warrior’s Code, there’s no surrender, though his body says STOP, his spirit cries NEVER!”

Haha. Yeah. I know.

I think back and grin, imagining anybody who saw me, or even heard me muttering the lyrics over and over to myself. Haha.

Hang on, let me drop in a bunch of photos from the next bit, and try and explain what happened, because my phone kept pooping itself and I had zero reception and didn’t really share it well at the time./

So I turned west and started to climb a long and winding hill. My goal was to get out into nature, and off the beaten track a bit. I was in this personal phase of the walk, the crucial breaking down and re-learning, processing my grief and sorrow, living in the moment, learning to accept and have a bit of faith.

I took this road into the hinterlands, and was soon up pretty high, with some lovely views.

If you look at that map, you’ll see the road takes a sharp V, and I realised by jumping a fence, climbing a steep hill and crossing a paddock, I could turn an 8km walk into a 2km detour. Bottom right is the high grass concealing the fence.

The other pictures are the paddock itself (riddled with cow shit) and the barbed wire fences I had to struggle over.

And here’s a video.

The camera is weirdly reductive. I was climbing quite a steep hill, and when I got to the top, climbing over the barbed wire fence was a tremendous challenge for an old fella.

(Hurtle the pack over, then grunt my way to the top, making sure not to skewer anything important).

I really regret that the images and video don’t tell the story very well. I was tired, soggy, fatigued, but this was very much a Huck Finn moment for me. Adventure. I clambered a fence, climbed a long steep hill, deftly avoiding multiple cow patties (but not seeing actual cows), and clambered over a high barbed fence to rejoin the road at the top.

I think I’d stumbled into a kind of ‘fancy pants’ part of Byron Bay where rich city folk wannabe farmers had bought these McMansion style mini-farms. It felt country, but fake-country, you know ? Spit and you’d wet the roads of Byron Bay, you’re a hop skip & a jump away from all kinds of amenities.

So I passed through some quite beautiful homes, and left five bucks in one of these take-some-honey stalls (which I poured into my water, made it delicious).

After a while the shoulder-to-shoulder McMansions turned into larger properties (still with the Mansions, just more actual land as well). It was a very pretty area to walk through, but nothing like the bush and forest that was to come. It felt a bit like a ‘pacified suburban curated bush experience’. Heh. But again, maybe my mood and mindset were a bit dark and bleak.

At this point, it was getting late in the afternoon and I was about ready to stop. First day of a New Year, and … it’s hard to explain my mood.

I was grumpy, sure. I felt my mood contaminated by Byron Bay and the facile look-at-me-look-at-me vibe the place had taken, but I was also happy, buoyed by my Quest, elated by the sense that healing was available to me if I stuck to it and kept doing the work.

I also felt a bit guilty. Part of me felt like I was supposed to be back there in Byron, spending the day, go up to the lighthouse, share that with the people online, but also draw attention to myself from the gaggle of locals. Try and garner support for the charity.

But I chose… solitary. I saw one man that afternoon, walking his dog.

But yeah, I was tired and ready to rest.

It wasn’t in the cards though, because although I found a nice spot – you’ll see in the picture below, big, sturdy trees tucked away on the back of a property. Wet & mosquito-y, but not too bad – after I got the hammock up, I noticed I had no service.

Like, absolutely no. Zero. Couldn’t phone or text.

I was in the habit of speaking to Jen & the kids twice a day, morning and night, and the idea of being out of contact was more distressing than the exhaustion I was feeling.

Not just for me – I didn’t want them to worry, I needed to tell them I was OK and taking my rest.

This is turning into a long write-up ! But, almost done.

I repacked, got myself together, and continued walking. More pretty, winding country roads, more rain. I got some signal back, still not great, and started looking for little discreetly hidden nests of trees where I could camp.

As I walked, I realised I should have another crack at that “Singing in the Rain” DAILY DONOR DARE OF DOOM, so I did my best.

(Video to the left)

(Yeah, it ain’t pretty)

(But I did my best)

I actually wound up striking gold in terms of a place to sleep. Just as the sun was starting to set, and I was getting cold and saturated, I found a small country school. It was just a little cluster of buildings, but sheltered (which was lucky, a fierce storm did hit that night), and POWER! Yep, I was able to find an external power outlet near the tuckshop, and get my power pack completely back up to 100%

You’ll see I switched again to my dry, high-vis, ‘waterproof’ Captain Australia outfit. Every time a car headlight would sweep past, I’d glow from the high-vis, so tucked myself away in a small discreet area near the office. It was uncomfortable, but dry.