Day Thirty One (25 January)

I’d slept in a rough patch of scrub by the roadside, maybe 10-12km out of Hawks Nest.

My plan was to press forward into town, get there mid-morning, see if I could find myself a hot breakfast, and then catch the ferry over to Nelson Bay.

I figured on camping somewhere south of there, and pushing for Newcastle the following day.

I felt pretty good, on waking. Tired, but not oppressively so – I could tell I had spent more (endurance) than I had in the bank in my massive trek yesterday, but I was still good-to-go.

I think I got started at about 5am, and although that sounds early, I’d zonked out at about 8pm the night before, so I’d enjoyed a deep and restful, healing sleep – more than 9 hours.

The road was incredibly quiet, although I did see little packs, herds, peloton ?! did you know the collective noun for cyclists was peloton or platoon ? … anyway yeah, a remote and quiet road, but saw quite a few groups of cyclists that morning.

To the right, that’s me huddled in bush as two zoomed past at sparrow-fart. No rain that day.

Creeping back out onto the road at the pack of dawn, I abandoned my swampy campsite (with a fond farewell to those bloody mozzies).

I think it was about 2 and a half hours to get to Hawks Nest, and I had no service, so after taking a brief update video, I hit the road.

Even though I’d gone into a bit of stamina-debt the day before, I was able to set a half decent pace.

The country north of Hawks Nest is really pretty, I think it must be normally be really popular – but my BIG WALK was still while we were wrapping our heads around COVID, so even though it was school holidays, I didn’t really see many cars or people.

(Except for the occasional platoon of cyclists)

Physical fatigue, heavy pack, crisp morning air, beautiful country – this combination of elements was brewing into a magic potion that was allowing me to heal myself.

It was still early morning, maybe 9am, when I arrived at Hawks Nest (the first sign of civilisation being this massive bush golf-course).

Heading down the main drag, I found a newsagency, post office and a bakery.

I had to fart arse around a little bit with all the covid sign-ins, masking up, all that stuff – and while I was finding some food and drink, I got a phone call from a local journalist, who I think had seen the article taken in Port Macquarie.

We had a lovely chat, and I just did my best to try and tell the truth as clearly and carefully as I could. It was important to me to try and capture the simple truth of what I was trying to do, not to play it up or big-note myself.

At it’s core, it was a pilgrimage for personal healing. Breathing life into a small spark of hope that I might, with toil and commitment, be able to heal myself – get past the physical and psychic injuries, the scars left by my cancer.

Then there was ‘superhero up for science’, the idea that I could be of service, try and dedicate my work to an important charity (The Kids’ Cancer Project). That whole belief that kindness is a circle we draw together – and that it is the antidote to sorrow.

And then last of all, that in pursuing those goals, and trying my best to share them, I might be able to provide a kind of roadmap toward personal healing for other people who feel that they have an unbeatable problem.

Or at least demonstrate that a broken life can be fixed, no matter how bleak the horizon looks.

After the long phone interview, I was able to toddle into the post office and finally post that card that I’d gotten for Archer in Seal Rock.

His Mum had told me that he loved getting that first postcard from Forster Tuncurry, I suppose that it made him feel tangibly part of this walk against cancer.

Being confined to an ICU hospital room for so long, for such a young dude – it must have been so heartbreaking. After the BIG WALK we had a video call, and I could see in his eyes how harrowing it was for him.

I love the idea that, through his ordeal, I might have been able to let in a little bit of sunshine, share even just a little spark of the joy and kindness i was finding out in the world.

While I was muddling about my morning business, and enjoying a humble meal (another pie), I received an invitation !

Thanks to the kindness of Warren and the team at the Tea Garden Country Club & Motel, I’d been invited to come and stay there.

Laundry ! Shower ! An afternoon of comfort and rest !

It really felt as if someone up there was looking out for me.

The staff at the Motel were just wonderful, they treated me like some kind of rock star, it was amazing.

I got to bathe (spa bath ! Ohhh, the joy, even remembering it makes my skin tingle). I was learning that toil and suffering could illuminate and amplify joy.

People had asked about the changes in my body, so I took some photos and did that ill advised old-man-boob live stream.

The chemo-radiation treatments that I had decimated my thyroid (the gland which regulates your metabolism – how your body uses and stores energy).

After treatment, I piled on weight, the depression and sorrow didn’t help. 4 years after treatment, I weighed in at 140kg.

But as you can see from the pictures, my body was getting better, as was my internal health, spirit and outlook.

The hospitality of Warren and team was just plain gorgeous. We had some beers, and I went off and at some wonton soup and oysters.

As I sat there, methodically gobbling down the food, I noticed a sound. I stopped, blinking, then almost laughed aloud when I realised what it was.

I was moaning softly as I ate 🙂

I spent the late afternoon dealing with laundry, and after that, I lay in bed, all stretched out, watching the comedy channel on the tellie. Re-runs of FRIENDS and other stuff like that as I sat in a contented doze, like a cat that’s full of milk.

Another long, healing sleep, and up in the morning to jump on a ferry across to Nelson Bay.