Day Seventy Three (8 March)

Thinking back to these days, it was a pretty surreal time of the BIG WALK, there was regular media interest, radio interviews, stuff like that, and all through the South Coast and into Victoria, massive interest from the public.

(Strangely dying off as I rolled into Melbourne – I dropped off the news cycle with the Ukraine invasion, but I think that’s just part of it. We’ll talk about Melbourne later, but it felt bleak and darkened, not the vibrant city I remembered)

It felt almost like visiting a formerly happy and vibrant friend who was now a rape victim. The city felt traumatised and unwelcoming. I don’t think it was projection or just in my mind.

Anyway, after leaving Bairnsdale (wonderful) I’d slept in some very lush bush and the goal on Day 73 was to press forward to Sale, where some people had written to me, eager to meet.

Breaking camp, I was always meticulously careful to not leave even the smallest accidental scrap. I did once or twice lose glasses (old fool), but it was very important to me to be diligent.

I wasn’t worried about losing gear (that’s just another challenge to adapt to), I was concerned about contaminating the natural beauty with my own garbage. There were bits of the walk where I carried garbage for more than 80km until I could ethically discard it.

That’s why it always shit me to tears when I’d find little bits of natural purity that some unthinking person had turned into their personal junkpile.

Even just along the side of the road, it’s bad, but sometimes there’d be such lovely places with junk littered about.

I’d see signs like this one .. stop species extinction, or let’s stop climate change .. and think to myself “how in the F* are we supposed to stop climate change if we can’t even be relied on to ethically dispose of a plastic bottle (let alone not use it in the first place)

I like to build understanding. Put judgement aside and really TALK, but there’s some stuff that I’m just outright judgey on, like old-man-angry-rant level of judgey.

Garbage in our beautiful country is one.

Probably the only other significant one is hurting kids, or even neglecting them or exposing them to harm. Animals too, actually, yeah, neglect or cruelty of a dog, for example – that really gets my dander up.

Oops ! Sorry ! Haha, yep, I think I just gave you a concrete example.

More bad weather on Day 73, so the road to Stratford (first little town on the way to Sale) was pretty solitary. Pleasant enough, pretty country, and in the rain it was quite cool and refreshing.

Stratford was lovely, and I was greeted by my new friend Bec from Sale, who’d driven out for a g’day.

This woman is phenomenal, a real whirlwind, quite active in her local community – always looking to get involved, lend a hand. Her and her family are great, and it’s a pleasure to know them.

Together, we wanted to the Stratford Segue Community Arts Centre, where they set us up in a lovely little area out back, and gave us a nice drink and some biscuits and sausages.

It was great to get the soggy boots off, but even better to get to chat with some of these awesome people. Just filled with light.

I think, by emptying out all the garbage left by my struggle with cancer, I’d created all this room inside me to receive the light, kindness, warmth from these great people that I was meeting.

And it was changing me, teaching me.

After that spot of lunch (thanks ladies, it was great!), I said farewell to Bec, gathered my gear and began the afternoon walk into Sale.

(About 18km all told)

I learned that (AGAIN!) I had a room on offer, so a safe, warm place to sleep, which was humbling .. and after all the weeks of pushing forward, I have to admit, a real pleasure.

Just outside Stratford, I was ambushed (in a nice way) by THIS character, my new mate Kerryn. Absolutely flat-strap wonderful person. Ethical, direct, honest.

She pulled me aside and tricked me into her car (with candy) and we did an interview for her followers there on the spot.

She does a podcast called “Get off the Bench“, I think initially designed to help with motivation and planning, how to turn a project from an idea into a reality.

But I think it also fits with stories about people who have found unconventional ways to make meaningful change in their lives, or ideally even the world. Get up off your old bum and DO something.

Below is the car interview, and also a call we did AFTER I had been home from the BIG WALK for a month or two.

She’s insightful, kind, and good old fun.

If you’re curious, look at some of her podcasts, you won’t regret it.

Later, about 7km out of Sale, THIS tremendous person (Kaz) approaches me. Just wearing a pair of old thongs, she walked with me for the next 2 hours, talking about every thing under the sun, pretty much.

Kaz, Bec,Lorraine and the young person in the school uniform, Harley, all knew one and other, and put on a bit of a welcome committee for Captain Australia.

Ambling into Sale at the end of a long, wet day was a great joy. Kaz had called the local newspaper, who sent a fellow out to take some photos.

(I reckon Harley looks a bit like the Mandalorian in some of these photos – they all took turns carrying my pack (now much lighter, no need to carry surplus water))

(That’s Bec to the right)

We did a live stream with local radio as we rolled into town, and I think everybody really just enjoyed the strangeness of it, combined with the magnitude of the Quest, and the fact that it was for such a worthy cause.

(The Kids’ Cancer Project)

After a few more delightful encounters, gdays & re-tellings of the story – I arrived at the Midtown Motel, and was able to take my rest.

Still raining, I was able to slip into my civilian ‘just an ordinary hobo’ clothes and duck out to find a local chinese restaurant and pick up a lovely nourishing combination chow mein (when in doubt, combo chow mein mate)

Back at the motel, gave a live stream, updated on tomorrow’s plans, said my thank yous and talked up the charity, after which I think I fell asleep in front of the tellie (old american sitcoms)