Day Seventy Four (9 March)

As the walk was winding into it’s final days, I had less distance to cover, as I’d planned to work backward from crossing into Federation Square on Saturday the 19th.

As such, the days of walking were much shorter, and Day 74 (Sale to Rosedale) was only 28km

I say ONLY, like it’s nothing, but in context, at a relaxed pace that’s about 7 hours of continuous walking. (Pace of 4km relaxed because you’re carrying a very heavy bag)

First though, I had friends in Sale to meet, and I’d promised to head to the clocktower in the middle of town to chat with members of the public for an hour.

After that hour was up, reporters from WIN News were due to arrive and conduct an interview for the morning news.

(Speaking of PR, overnight someone sent me a copy of the Lakes Post, with a lovely little story about the BIG WALK. I think the photo with the kids is awesome)

Kaz, Bec, Lorraine and Hayley came to the motel (thanks again Midtown Motor Inn, Sale) and we had a few giggles, took some photos, then strolled across to the clocktower.

On the way there, this fella was striding up and down the main street, a bit like a rooster, a really weird .. almost Mick Jagger-ish strut.

He was yelling abuse at passersby, sometimes even pausing to punch shop windows. Everybody was avoiding him, averting eyes, waiting for the police (who got there pretty quickly)

When Kaz nudged me, I realised I’d stopped and was staring openly at him. I felt this weird combination of pity and disgust.

He was clearly off his head, and people had told me the city has a bit of a meth problem. I was disgusted by the antisocial behavior, the selfish puking of darkness into the world – but moreso at the people who manufacture and distribute the stuff. Pure arseholery, right there.

I feel sympathy for the addict, we all have our struggles, but when your decline gets so bad that you find yourself hurting other people, acting violently or antisocially, that’s where my sympathy dries up. I don’t mean to be judgey or harsh – I just feel that we have to draw a line somewhere, we have to be clear and firm on the things that are ‘just not on’.

Hurting ? Breaking ? Taking ? It’s just not on.

I don’t care what the situation is, and sure, I’ll recognise mitigating circumstances – but at the end of the day I think it’s weakness to use our sickness or compulsion to justify hurtful choices.

The clocktower was great, and this lovely bloke rolled out their rainbow piano (which people can just wander past and stop for a bit of a play)

He even improvised “The Captain Australia Theme” which I thought was very kind.

It was a great morning, just hanging out, drinking coffee, talking to locals.

But after the interview (which you can watch below), I needed to leg it back to the motel, grab my big old bag (the dag with a bag and a flag) and get moving.

Even though it wasn’t a massive walk (less than 30km was pretty much a ‘rest day’), as they say, the sooner begun, the sooner done.

My plan was to get to Rosedale, a little country town where there were hints that a few people wanted to meet me at a local park or something, maybe have a sausage sizzle.

Before hitting the road, I had to once more thank the phenomenal Bec, and have a bit of a superhero combat with Harley.

Look at how Harley leans back, perfectly centred balance. I was taught that when facing a superior opponent, shock and awe – crazy aggression is your only chance, but I think the photograph tells it’s own story – I’m maybe a microsecond away from a sharply executed kick to the balls.

Captain Australia’s nemesis would appear to be genus Australis Teenagerifficus.

The police had come and taken away our wild and mildly violent meth friend (in fact during the first bit of the interview with WIN News, so we had to start over), so shaking off the musings about dark & light, personal choice and all that stuff and saying a farewell to my new friends .. I hit the road.

Sale’s a pleasant town, and a pretty large hub for the smaller country towns around it.

Just as I was about to leave, I paused at a little bus stop to give a livestream update, and this lovely young person (April) wandered over and invited me into her (very busy) workplace for a coffee.

I realise now that things like that were an opportunity – hang out there a bit, talk to locals, spread the word.

But during the walk, I was still pretty much the same shy, low-key person I ever was, so my main/only motivation was respecting and thanking the people who wanted to chat, not so much “drum up business”

I feel I let down the charity a bit in that respect, not spending as much time as I could/should with local communities. Its another reason for the second walk (lap), I think I can do better.

And it’s not just about helping the charity, it’s about helping the people I meet. Just to show them that a broken life can be fixed, point out a lighter, brighter and more optimistic world. (Which can only come to be if we work diligently to create it)

All told, I think the walk was stretched out over about 7 or 8 hours, and much of it was through roadworks. (I think there was a major highway upgrade).

I was always careful and respectful on the road – didn’t want to freak out or distract motorists, or create issues with worksites.

I think people kinda sensed the respect in the approach, that it wasn’t just some narcissistic dickhead trying to show the world how incredible he is.

(despite the superhero gear)

I think Aussies respond to that kind of thing .. doing the hard yards .. playing it low key .. being un-dickheadish .. the work crews certainly did – they’d all drive over for a g’day, often sharing drinks (wonderful kindness).

They also warned me about lots of redbelly black snakes in the area, unsettled by the roadworks, so I did my best to stay extra vigilant as I passed through.

Throughout the afternoon, I kept getting messages from this lady “Coola” in Rosedale.

For all my empathy, it really didn’t properly sink in that there were people like her making a REAL EFFORT to meet up, share in the experience, support the charity.

She’d a whirlwind in her local community, all the people of Rosedale were just lovely – warm, welcoming, friendly.

It just never completely twigged for me that behind these messages there was an actual person trying to organise a few dozen other actual people. In my head, it was “get from Town A to Town B”. Just another musing, another regret, another thing to learn from for next time.

The great thing is I’ve had volunteers offer to help out with that kind of stuff .. the messages, the scheduling of community events / activities.

But on Day 74, it was me, toddling down the highway, and Coola organising people, food, all of this wonderful reception that I didn’t know know was waiting for me.

This dude (Larry) is Coola’s husband, and he was waiting for me at the entrance to Rosedale.

I normally prefer not to swear, but I have to say it .. Larry is cool-as-fuck. He has this incredible smile that brightens a room, and this warmth and kindness, with a kind of old school macho swagger.

Him, Coola, the community – Rosedale was absolutely bloody lovely. Below is a video of me arriving, saying some g’days, and heading to the community hall for a BBQ.

The afternoon/evening drifted by in a lovely way, just ambling from conversation to conversation.

No big speeches or anything, and a few slightly more intense talks about grief and hope, as there were some people who were seriously ill, even dying – who had come out to speak with me.

I felt such gravity in those talks, like the possibility to really help somebody, to shoulder a small piece of their burden, to share in the tremendous hope that people had given to me, and now blazed in my heart.

This lady is a person like that, Colleen – she’d driven out from Morwell to talk, but sadly it was disrupted. One of the kids in the background (Jarl) thought to do some parkour on a nearby rooftop and fell badly, hurting himself – had to take an ambulance ride. (He’s okay now)

It was a lovely evening, thank you, Rosedale.

After that, MORE hospitality thanks to the community and the Coach Lamp Motel (I was actually starting to miss sleeping rough!)

Was able to recharge my gadgets and myself in comfort and safety, a long and restful sleep.