Day Thirty (24 January)

It was a long and uncomfortable night – a coastal storm lashed at me, I’d chosen a fairly protected place to sleep (overgrowth and wind shield, but no real risk of falling branches), but sadly the tarp failed.

Water was leaking in through little holes & rips, I was able to minimise the discomfort by plugging some with my blister bandaids, but a little wind and water is an uncomfortable sleeping partner.

I wish I’d taken more pictures and video, even tried to narrate the experience a bit. But you know what they say about wishes and fishes. Hmm. But do I ? Let me think … if wishes were fishes we’d never go hungry .. is that it ??

I’d layered up in the hammock, wearing my dry blue uniform underneath, my dirty green uniform over that, and my military overcoat over the top.

But there’s no remedy for a soggy bum 🙂

I didn’t get started again at dawn, because the rain was still quite heavy. I lay there for about an hour in the hopes that it would ease off (it did), just kind of half-dozing.

I was camped on top of a steep hill, in a little nook protected by these really heavy, dense spikey bushes. Methodically gathering my gear, I packed up, put on my wet boots (in that terrain going in sandals would have been too iffy .. because of snakes and the need for absolute sure-footedness).

There were no paths, dense undergrowth every where. Dryer than rainforest, but still quite lush. It was truly gorgeous.

Dangerous and uneven terrain too – lots of quite steep hills, I spent 2-3 hours navigating my way out.

I find that amazing and funny – a few hours wading my way through the inhospitable terrain, stepping over vines, around fallen logs, clambering down steep hills or grunting my way up them.

I did find an old ranger trail at one point. Not a track, it was heavily overgrown with these low ferns, but you could tell that it was newer growth, and it followed a natural ridge line, allowing me to avoid the up-again-down-again hills.

I kept my sturdy wooden stick from the day before (wizards staff) and was pretty diligent about giving the ground in front of me a good thump so I didn’t accidentally step on a snake.

I did see a black snake, all sleek and deadly, sliding along below a fallen log at one point (I can only assume hunting for little forest rodents that probably burrow along there).

I couldn’t risk lingering, or fumbling with the camera, my motto was to stay calm, not antagonise it and put distance between us.

Along that ridge trail, I could see a peak of sand and blue to the southeast – I’d made it past the headland.

It was a huge relief, I can’t overstate how much it takes out of you, pushing through bush, hilly terrain, a wet pack.

And I cant overstate how helpful that is to has been broken down, almost to the point of death, for whom the joy and hope had been sucked out of life.

I was getting stronger, and the adventure of it was picking the lock to the cage that had been keeping my spirit confined for years.

It felt like I was coming alive, being alone in the green like that. I think if I ever reach real trouble in my life again, something I cant solve, can’t get past – I’ll go back there.

It’s not as simple as just .. camping.

It’s throwing yourself out into the world. Do or die. Having a Quest. Being at the mercy of the elements, the people you meet. Physical toil and struggle.

I had to climb this massive, steep grassy sand-dune, and when I lurched over the top, it was like being on an alien planet, sweeping hills of sand – after all that green.

Looking at me solemnly over a nearby dune, I spotted a pack of dingos, two juveniles and the mother, if I had to guess.

I still had my stick (used it as an anchor when climbing), but thankfully they didn’t interfere with me.

Maybe they were chuckling, looking at each other and asking in their dingo language, “Hey Mum, what’s the bloody deal with this guy ?!”

Or maybe, as my friend Uncle Phil taught me later, they were spirits with thoughts and feelings like me, maybe they wished me well.

After the headland, it was about three hours walking along really gorgeous beach. I did see a family, fishing and playing on the beach near their 4WD. They were friendly and kind and had a shady shelter, asking if I needed a drink.

But I was exhausted, and I knew if I stopped I might not get started again, so I kept trudging forward.

I was really pleased with that, honestly. Hours of toil in the forest, hours trudging through soft sand (every step harder than it needed to be).

It’s the stamina of it – the stubbornness of it. I was tired. More than that, exhausted. My legs were in a low-grade constant pain .. or .. soreness .. but I kept pressing forward. Eventually I reached to a crossing point, pictured above, where I transitioned across to a road – you can see the pretty lake in the picture, Mungo Brush really is a beautiful place. There’s a campsite there, but the water is not drinkable, and I was running very low by this point – so I started rationing myself.

I was back on the air (intermittently), every now and then reception went from NONE to just AWFUL, so I was able to call the Tea Gardens police station and explain that I was okay (after learning that a follower had reported me missing / in peril).

As you can see by the yawn, I was pretty tired, but I pressed about 15km further down that road, despite the exhaustion it really was a lovely day.

(He says, immediately thinking of Bill Withers)

(“Lovely Day”, just a great song)

I did pass a campground at one point, and checked for drinkable water (no luck), but this absolutely gorgeous family up from Sydney came over, all curious.

I explained who I was, what I was doing, and that I’d ran out of water, and they kindly hooked me up with a litre from their stash (they had an abundance and were going into town later anyways).

But .. ahh .. the kindness of it.

I had been thinking of pushing forward that final 10km or so into Tea Gardens – the map told me there was a golf course, so even arriving after night, I could probably find a source of drinkable water.

But with that generous act of kindness from that lovely family, the pressure was off.

So I turned my attention to viable campsites, and just as the sun was starting to sink over the horizon, I set myself up in a grove by the side of the road.

It was a bit swampy, but once I was under the hammock’s insect netting and had a bit of the Bushman’s sprayed on me, I was all good.

Another deep sleep, but with vivid dreams. I normally promptly forget my dreams on waking, but I do remember this one – I was living in an island community, Hawaii maybe, and there was a global apocalypse – I can’t tell you why, by sea levels were rising over a span of 24 hours, and everybody was fighting to get to higher ground in the hopes that they might survive, even just a while longer.

In the dream, my family were with me, and I stole a car (unoccupied, somehow I hotwired it although I have no idea how to do that ), and we drove up into rainforesty mountains, the ocean water was lashing up, chasing and ever rising. What a weird dream. But it was so vivid and I still remember it very clearly, which is unusual.