Day Thirty Three (27 January)

This was the day I arrived in Newcastle, and met some fantastic new friends.

But first ..

I woke up by the side of the road about 12km out of Stockton. I’d been vomiting on and off throughout the night, and hadn’t slept well.

It wasn’t that I was specifically sick, it’s just that since chemoradiation, if I get even a little congested, things can cascade.

Sorry it’s a bit gross – but yeah, all night I’d have to lean out of the hammock and do a little mini-spew (as I say in the video, a Stewy the Spewy).

Throughout the day I also was plagued by fairly regular and moderately severe neck cramps.

Another gift from the chemoradiation nerve damage and scarring, if I was even a little congested, I’d get these really nasty pains.

Starting in the left side of my neck, the cramp and pain would be at first sharp and localised, then radiate outward.

(I understand it’s due to displacement as lymphatic fluid builds up because of the radiation damaged underperforming lymph nodes).

Anyway, push through and power on, old fella !

That morning, I had the privilege of meeting Jo’s (Alfred from Ballina) parents. They brought me a lovely chutney sandwich 🙂

This was one of those days where I kept continuously falling behind schedule.

I think the walk to Stockton was about 12km (plus a few extra getting down to the ferry), but I didn’t roll into Newcastle until mid/late afternoon.

The morning was bright and sunny, and although people kept asking me how I was coping with the heat, I honestly barely felt it.

There were weird little burnt patches on my fingertips (fingerless gloves) and around my beard (little bits of exposed skin), but the Captain Australia uniform was marvelously good for resisting the sun.

As the old song goes, Slip, Slop Slap, but I barely had to worry with sunscreen – I was like an Arab Sheik in their whole body garb – pretty much completely protected from the sun.

Strangely, it only became really oppressive for a few days going through North Sydney.

I got there eventually, and to my enduring joy made some new friends on arrival.

Despite my repeated slippage in forecasted arrival times, the lovely Gayle, Grant and Maree where there at Newcastle Pier, waiting for me.

We had an adventure together the following day, but what a joy it was to meet them after a long days’ walk.

Gayle had come dressed up as superwoman, and we drew a few stares and curious comments.

This gaggle of teenagers (I’m sure the collective noun for teenagers is gaggle, and if it isn’t, it should be) wandered over, and at first they were openly mocking, totally taking the piss.

But I smiled, we talked, I got the chance to explain what I was doing and why – and I absolutely love it, LOVE IT, that things turned around completely.

We even did a bit of battle-rapping, if I remember right. I just did a pretty terrible job of recording the experience, because I was too busy experiencing it.

But yeah, arriving in Newcastle was great, a real high point, not just because of Gayle, Grant and Maree (who I am humbled to count as friends, and was really lifted up that I had their support), but those kids. After the initial combative stuff, they were hugely friendly and had heaps of questions.

One guy started to take the piss at one point, and another teen turned and glared at him, saying “Show some damned respect ! This guy is a good person, he’s doing something great, what did YOU ever do ?!”

(I’m not happy about the hostility of it, but I really adore the fact that we can move away from that to peace, respect, even appreciation).

All in all, it was an excellent encounter, I really enjoyed it, and it elevated me, their appreciation helped me appreciate myself.

But it was also just lovely old shits & giggles, you know ?

Being in the world, awake to the world. If it weren’t light filled but instead went all punchy-punch and I got beat up, I think I’d still have had a tremendous time.

I was alive. I had something to offer. Meeting these people was teaching me that, it was restoring what cancer had drained from me.

Oh and this bloke to the left works at the pier, his nickname is “Cutsnake” as in ‘mad as a ..’, but was a completely lovely man – and you just know he has about a dozen crackerjack stories to tell over a beer.

The flamingo glasses were brought along by Gayle, who had heard in a stream that I’d received a Daily Donor Dare of DoooOOooM to “wear a flamingo”, so thanks to her warm kindness, I was able to tick that off.

(I wore them all the following day, despite barely being able to see – in fact, haha, when we got to Lake Macquarie, I actually tripped over a manhole and fell!)

After we had a good old chat on the pier, we started walking toward the hotel, and met up with Andrew.

There aren’t many pictures of him, he’s a very reserved person. I can’t overstate how impressed I was by this man, it’s hard even to begin.

Gayle, Grant and Maree – they saw merit in what I was doing, they came to show support, and it was also FUN, a great experience to share in. I love that. Andrew was a bit different though. A former high ranking policeman, he’d led some major criminal investigations, worked in homicide and crimes against children. He’d seen darkness and evil, had every reason to be a complete cynic.

But he saw merit in me. He saw the truth of what I was doing.

More on these lovely people tomorrow, but I just wanted to try and explain how much I was lifted up by these people. It’s like the old saying about praise from the praise-worthy, as I learned their stories, their struggles, their hopes and goals, it was reinforcing things that I had already started to learn in my long walk of healing and rebuilding … that we are all connected, their is light in all of us, and although we can dim it, even kill it – if we share it, it grows. We can lift each other up.

So, with my armed escort (eight arms in total), we ambled over to the hotel, in the middle of Newcastle, provided by this fine human being, Andy. I wish he hadn’t paid for it, I asked people not to, but done is done – so I was and always will be hugely grateful for that kindness.

I was able to get some laundry done (that characteristic fog of pong that surrounded me later in the walk was so far being staved off), and wander over to Woolies and pick up some food.

I then retired to the hotel room, caught up on all my messages and whatnot, had a lovely facetime call with my family, and then set up to do a bit of a debrief stream for the people who were watching.

The next day, we (Andy, Gayle, Grant, Maree and Myself) cut through Newcastle along the Fernleigh Track (an old train track converted to a walking/bike path).

I enjoyed every minute of it, a real high point.

For now, another evening laying in warmth and comfort, purring like a spoiled cat.

My original plan of always sleeping rough wasn’t panning out exactly as intended, but I loved the kindness I was finding in the world.

I think they were both equally healing – I really got something from being ‘out in it’, the weather, the elements, the day to day survival – but I equally found great joy and healing in the kindness from others.

Kindness is the antidote to sorrow.