Holy crap, the next couple of days were good. I didn’t know it, but I was about to drop into the Bermuda Triangle of cellphone service and have a couple of days where I barely saw another person.
The morning was spent passing through this gorgeous Lakes Region, and I’d completely shaken off the low energy funk from the day before. I’d slept well (apparently under a riot of kookaburras – did you know their collective noun was a “Riot” ? Having slept underneath them, I sure can explain why, noisy buggers) 🙂
As you can see from the picture, I’d try and choose a nice discreet spot to set up the hammock and tarp, I preferred to be as invisible as possible.
Part of it is – although sleeping rough and homelessness is not illegal, and I didn’t have actual camping gear, I didn’t want to test the rules.
Other part – I just wanted to be respectful. To landholders, and to our beautiful country too. No mess. No noise. Quiet. Low key.
I was becoming more adept with the gear, and stronger with the pack. People kept giving me suggestions, like a trolley, or a bike, but the thing is, I *wanted* it to be hard.
The pack, much heavier than it really should be, was essential, it was as important to my healing (teaching me strength) as the danger I was sometimes in (which was teaching me acceptance, and that my own life is just a small part of a greater whole.
But yeah, the gear could be a pain in the bum sometimes, sure, but I hadn’t lost anything in ages.
The night before, I’d followed a little farm road dividing some bush & properties, so I followed that back to the main highway, and enjoyed a long morning walk alongside the lakes.
It really was gorgeous, and the cool fresh air was energizing. I made comparatively great time, in the first 3 hours walking that morning I covered about 18 kilometres.
(Which, with the gear and general inertia, really was a tough-guy-action-hero level performance, trust me)
Mid-morning, I’m passing through this small country town (really just a few homes by the highway) and I hear “Hoy ! Captain ! Captain !!! MATE !!!”
I’d walked right past them, so turning back I had a lovely chinwag with Debbie and her family, over the fence.
They were kinda private, but took this nice photo of me.
There was a little dude about the age of my youngest son, playing with a Beyblade or a nerf gun or somesuch, I asked him questions about it and told him how ‘very cool’ it was.
I was finding great emotional nourishment from being Captain Australia – the … the *role* of it. But I wasn’t playing a role, not exactly.
It’s hard to describe.
You see, Captain Australia is better than me. Sees the best in people. Wants to help, always. Wants to lift people up. He’s grateful, trusting, and always takes the time to explain himself as honestly as he can.
I guess by becoming Captain Australia, I was purposefully adopting qualities that I have, or at least aspire to have, and deeply value. So it wasn’t like ‘pretending’ but more like ‘becoming’, if that makes any sense at all.
I didn’t know it, but this was going to be my last stream for a while, thanks to the Bermuda Triangle.
I was headed for Seal Rock, and then points south, ultimately winding up in Newcastle, then Sydney.
The road out to Seal Rock had no shoulder and a significant amount of traffic (school holidays and it’s a beautiful spot)
I didn’t want to annoy motorists, and it rained for the next several hours (impacting visibility), so as soon as I could, I started using these sandy tracks through the bush, kind of adjacent to the main road.
It was much harder going, but also much more fun. Swampy bits, grassy bits, soft sand, massive hills, it was hard, and I’d been walking for a month already, but it was also glorious, and showing me that I could build strength, even after a time of profound suffering and infirmity.
And when I got to Seal Rock .. yeah. Those VIEWS!
The town has a post office, so I was able to pick up a postcard for my mate Archer (but not post it because I couldn’t retrieve the message with his address).
Also a spot of lunch. Darren from the other day couldn’t make it out, so I just took a little break, a bit of food and drink, before pressing south.
But yeah, first a few views of Seal Rock, enjoy 🙂
The road south ran adjacent to the beach for about 10km, then diverted inland, but I found some overgrown ranger tracks and was able to follow them for a bit further before being forced onto the beach.
I say ‘forced’ but it was gorgeous, and isolated, no people in sight. I saw one 4WD with a family out playing and fishing, and nobody else for miles.
The weather had turned sunny, but there wasn’t that firm line of hard packed sand – every step had my feet sinking into soft sand, wet or dry.
It was a glorious day, through wildly varying terrain and weather conditions, and I was loving it.
I slogged along the beach for a few hours – I’m not 100% sure, I think I was followed for a bit by a dingo up in the dunes. (I saw a family of them the following day)
I was hugely tired, but I kept finding new pools of endurance tucked away inside me, when I felt I was just running on fumes.
(Maybe it’s just my body accessing the extra calories stored in my magnificent gut)
I didn’t know it, but even after that tremendous effort, as the day was winding down into late afternoon, the most difficult bit was ahead of me (it was the wildest part of the entire walk).
Feeling quite tired and ready to pack it in for the day, I had reached a headland.
I probably could have inched my way around the cliffs, but with the heavy pack and my own fatigue, a mis-step could turn fatal. I knew there was a road a couple of kilometres to the west, and more beach past the headland, so I decided to climb the dunes and ‘go bush’
The pictures and video don’t really show it, but the dunes are about 2-3 storeys high, with densely packed scrub up the top.
I know it might have been unwise, but on another truer level, it was the wisest thing I could have done.
(I didnt know at the time, but people watching were worried, with no streams or pictures, one lady had even called the Seal Rock post office and the police at Tea Gardens, something I discovered later)
The thing is, being so completely alone, and in many ways vulnerable, it wasn’t scary, it was liberating.
The terrain was crazy, hills and ravines, heavy scrub blocking me, it was a tremendous effort physically, and I was completely in the moment.
I was finding strength I didn’t know I had, enjoying beauty that I didn’t know existed, and facing dangers that didn’t frighten me.
(I did get a big Gandalf-style stick though and start pounding the ground in front of me and making noise to alert any snakes)
One of the most crippling things from my own fight with stage 4 head and neck cancer was the idea that my three young sons would have to face life without me, be deprived of my love, my guidance, my humour, all of the best things inside me – I reserved for them.
But I think this time, being so completely alone, accepting my vulnerability and whatever happened next – it was allowing me to unpack and release some of those last little bits of grief and sorrow, anger and regret. To see the ‘big picture’, to move on.
It took me 2 hours of intense work to make it maybe 500 metres or 1 kilometre, and a storm started to hit in the late afternoon, so I pitched camp, made a quick video, and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.