Day Thirty Two (26 January)


Aussie ! Aussie ! Aussie !

Oi ! Oi ! Oi !!!!


Day 32 started with a ferry ride, which was bloody wonderful. Tea Gardens is truly a beautiful place.

I was starting to get a little spoiled by all of these warm, safe, comfortable beds. As the walk progressed, it started happening more regularly, to the point where I quite missed sleeping rough.

I think it’s about this point where my thyroid medicine stopped working. I didn’t connect the dots at the time, but I was having little moments of fatigue here-and-there, and slightly more frequent neck cramps (a problem due to the scarring and nerve damage from chemoradiation, but it gets worse when I’m sick or my thyroid is out of whack).

But thanks to Warren and the team at Tea Gardens Country Club & Motel, I was all rested up, my uniform was clean, canteen was full and I was good-to-go !

Wandering over to the pier in the early morning, there were a few people out and about, walking their dogs and whatnot – and there was one lady waiting at the pier to meet me.

She was private (no photo) but had suffered a profound loss to cancer, so we sat and talked about mortality, grief and hope. She was shy, and crying a little, but I hope I helped her even if just a little.

The plan was to get over to Nelson Bay and leg it down toward Stockton, which is just north of Newcastle. A rough sleep and press into town the following morning.

A major city, people wanting to meet up – I was looking forward to it. (I also wanted to replace my tarp at some point, as it was no longer fully resisting storms).

The boat ride was lovely, for a couple of reasons.

Great music ! One of my favourite childhood songs “Ricky Don’t Lose That Number”, by Steely Dan.

Gorgeous views ! I saw some black swans, it was such a pretty ride.

Time travel ! Haha, moving forward at any pace faster than 5 kmph felt like going into warp speed in a Star Wars movie – ZOOOOOM.

“I dont need to be afraid of boofheads, the boofheads need to be afraid of ME”

There were some big crowds on the beach at Nelson Bay, a large inflatable water-play attraction, people having a great old time.

And my first impulse ? Escape.

I regret that, so stupid, I could have hung out there for a few hours ‘drumming up business’, generating support for the charity.

I can’t explain or justify it, except to say that I’ve always been quite shy. I think I’ve always been bothered by manipulation, in-your-face approaches .. those charity hucksters you’ll see in the city or shopping centres who get right up in your grill and try and make you feel guilty about Problems A, B or C.

Maybe that’s it.

I wanted to EARN your regard. I wanted you to support the cause consciously, because you saw merit in it. And if you didn’t that’s OK.

I wanted to be respectful.

And for all the superhero-dress-up, I wanted to get your attention, but I didn’t want to guilt or manipulate anybody.

Get the attention, what happens next is your call.

So maybe that’s why the impulse to escape – I felt if I tried to make it a job, and do all that stuff, I’d be changing a personal ethic that I was comfortable with already.

Well, whatever my garbled, old-man logic was, my impulse was to get out of there and start making Ks toward Stockton. I did wave, smile, say G’day to people who clearly wanted to say G’day. One family was having Aussie Day in the park by the water and they called me over, gave me a cold drink, and made a donation to The Kids’ Cancer Project.

I suppose now it’s all done, I second-guess, could or should I have done MORE.

The road to Stockton was pretty busy, a lot of Australia Day traffic – but by late afternoon, with the sun dropping low in the sky, it was more bush & farmsteads.

In the collection of pics below, you’ll see an abandoned old farm shed. It was slightly off down a side road, and I wandered in to get a closer look, and as I was approaching, saw a police cruiser parked discreetly behind a wall of trees.

Paranoia, I wondered briefly if they were out to nab our intrepid hero for illegal camping or trespassing, then I shrugged and went in for a closer look at the building anyway (figuring they were camping the highway for speeders/ Aussie day drunks).

Haha, I squealed like a teenager girl at a Justin Bieber concert when I almost stumbled right into a policeman behind some bushes (His shock mirroring my own)

He was .. um .. dealing with an emergency call of nature.


I quickly turned away, mumbling something about a charity walk, and taking photos of the wrecked building, then just continued down the road, not looking back.

Pretty sure he drove past (slowly) later on when I was taking a roadside rest (I waved).

This delightful lady had given me this really dense, home made fruitcake.

It took me ages to eat (since radiation treatment I dont make saliva any more so cake/biscuit is difficult) but it was delicious, nourishing and tasted just like kindness.

I love that lower photograph of me munching.

Why ?

I’ve always enjoyed ambiguity and nuance, and I love the fact that the person looking at it and reading the caption will wonder if the caption refers to the cake .. or to me 🙂

Fruitcake !

(Haha, obviously me!)

So it was a long and tiring afternoon hike, I think all told I did about 38km or so.

In the late afternoon, I came across a service station, and was able to buy a sandwich and a couple of drinks, reserving my remaining water for tomorrow.

Having to carry a couple of days worth of water made my pack wonderfully heavy – could add as much as 6kg to the load.

So it was great whenever someone would pull up on the side of the road and hand me cold water – the kindness of it was tremendous, but it usually meant being able to chug it down and worry about carrying less overall.

Although ironically, I’d often be given water at those points where I was most worried about running out – so I might be carrying an extra 6kg worth of backup water, and also have four or five little bottles handed to me by drivers, tucked into my thigh pockets, back pocket, anywhere I could fit them.

(I never had the heart to decline, although sometimes I had to – but always with the sincerest thanks .. never discourage kindness, Captain, not ever)

I’d been holding out for an hour or so looking for the perfect spot, but things kept getting WORSE. Fewer trees, less bush, fewer options.

I was starting to worry having to set up after dark (I tried to avoid that wherever possible due to the hazards) when I bit the bullet and just set up in a small culvert by the side of the road.

It was by far the worst spot I got stuck with during the entire walk.

Mozzies because of the low-lying culvert, traffic noise being directly next to the road, and highly visible with no screen of bush to keep me discreet.

But I was tired and it was getting dark.

I also generally preferred to be up a hill or behind a barrier when on the side of the road (in case of a car crash, avoid the risk of getting crushed).

But it was OK, and the road quietened up after about 10pm, I actually would have rested reasonably well except for an annoying reflux problem that had me vomitting a little bit troughout the night.

Yuck, sorry. Old man problems 🙂