Day Sixty Nine (4 March)

At Orbost, I didn’t get into the beer quite as much as I had at Ulladulla. Since cancer my capacity is much lower than a normal person, and in Ulladulla I’d learned that you’re never too old and wise to get a blinding hangover.

The night before was a massive hoot – just a long array of giggles, and a few poignant moments to boot.

On rising, I’d agreed to go and meet Peter and Julie, my remarkable hosts, at a local cafe, so I gathered my gear and found my way out of the big old building.

We had coffee and a quick breakfast at the Cozy Cafe on the main street of town, and it was lovely.

It might be hard to believe, but all my life I’ve been a solitary person. Shy. Reserved.

Sitting there at the cafe, lounging back in my chair, laughing boisterously (especially at Peter, really funny guy), I’m noticing now the start before/after of the walk. It changed me, in a way unlocked the person that I’m supposed to be.

I’m still not that guy, there’s still a LOT of work to do, but by setting my feet on this path, I’d opened the possibility. Of bloom.

After brekky, I hit the ‘frog and toad’ (road), and because Peter’s son had joined us, I got to walk this little guy to school. We had a long chat, he had a bunch of questions, and I love how Mum & Dad both knew how safe I was, despite my strangeness. I’d never hurt their son – in fact I’d lay down my life to save him.

We are so distrusting these days, so concerned about the evil motivations of others, it really helped my broken down self esteem that they saw and understood that there was no shadow within me (or what darkness there is, is aimed at myself not others).

I’d seen so much xenophobia, fear, distrust, judgement in my day-to-day life that it had become the norm – by casting myself out into this strange Quest, I was seeing (and participating in) a different world. A better world.

Leaving Orbost, I got lots of waves, I felt a little how a celebrity like The Rock must feel if they randomly stop in at a local McDonalds.

As I legged it up the highway, I was constantly beeped at – I think almost every car that drove past gave a jubilant little toot-toot to wish me on my way.

As I was legging it out of town, I got a message from Peter suggesting I stop at Newmerella School. (I think he’d been doing a little bit of calling-around, like Alfred to my Batman).

I did exactly that, and it was wonderful – but no videos or photos (young children)

We did a talk with the kids and staff out in the playground, and all the children got to try and lift up my pack.

I loved those school visits. Just wonderful. The way that the children would beam, and their flood of questions – I knew it was a memory we were creating, and one day, 30 years from now, after I’m gone, some guy – a bricklayer, let’s say, dealing with depression and addiction, pauses to remember that day they met the old boofhead Captain Australia on the road. How he was trying to help solve some grave problem like paediatric cancer.

And that memory, that example, maybe that guides him to realising how important and nourishing it is to be of service. Suddenly your own problems start to pale in significance when you purposefully and joyfully try and shoulder the burdens of others.

And that guy, thirty years later, with me dead & gone (or maybe not!), he sews up his own Captain Australia costume, and gets out there and does some Mad Quest.

I love that idea – the idea that the kindness, the joyfulness and good works – they ripple on, they leave an echo.

After I said my farewells to Peter, I began the next leg which had me headed for Lakes Entrance, and the final push for Melbourne.

I followed the highway for much of it, but I was also able to find some nice tracks and fire-trails here and there and get an hour away from the road.

(You’ll see from the pics and video above there was construction underway, and I was walking through tremendous clouds of road dust most of the time)

Luckily, I was on the road when Sarah and Gary (from Nowa Nowa) came looking for me.

What wonderful people.

They’d been following, saw that I lost my dodgy reading glasses, and took it upon themselves to drive out and find me with a replacement pair they picked up from a chemist (I think in Bairnsdale).

I was absolutely stoked, I could have lived without the glasses, but the kindness they gave me is still nourishing me as I sit here today.

It was a long, oppressively hot day, with lots of winding hills and plenty of people driving up to say G’day.

The Ridgewells (Sarah & Gary) had invited me to their property at Nowa Nowa which I accepted, delighted (so all-told by the end of the day I’d walked close to 40km).

A long, hot summer afternoon, a few times I started to feel very depleted, but there’d always be a friendly roadside chat just around the corner to give me a little boost and keep me moving forward.

As late afternoon set in and the sun began to slip away, I realised I probably wasn’t going to make it until after dark.

Fewer encounters, so I decided to march hard, and was really struggling.

Usually the live streams were about me updating, staying in touch with the family, sharing the story, trying to earn your regard and generate donations for The Kids’ Cancer Project.

But this afternoon, I turned to them for solace as well, needing a bit of a boost.

The stream (22 minutes) is below, just an old man rambling – but in the update I acknowledge I was struggling and it becomes more of a chat.

(If you decide to watch, be warned – I start singing)

While I was streaming, my mate Gary from before came out and joined me for those last few kilometres as the sun was setting.

The evening was a total delight. Sarah and the kids were waiting for me, and we did a little night-time bushwalk to get to their property.

As you can see, the kids took turns with the bag, but for most of it Sarah (a small slip of a lass) was carrying it (quite comfortably too, I think, putting me to shame, haha)

At their home, we shared a meal and some giggles, and as you can see they convinced me to braid my beard (that’s their daughter putting the braids in, see photo below)

I was able to have a long, hot shower, and got a chance to weigh myself on the bathroom scales.

Absent boots and gear, I was 88kg.

That’s actually much closer to a normal bodyweight (maybe <85kg) for me, and remember before the walk, a year before, I was weighing in at close to 140kg. Hopeless. No way forward.

And a year later, transformational change.

I think that’s one of the lessons of the walk- it doesn’t matter how dark it gets, you can push through and make significant progress.

Sadly, with radiation induced thyroid damage, I’m very prone to dramatic weight gain even without drastic over-eating, will need to stay on top of that for the rest of my life.

The evening with the Ridgewell & Jones families was just delightful. I slept a deep and restful sleep, and got to spend the following morning with them.

Day 70, they introduced me to the delightful Inca, another wonderful person I will never forget.