Day Twenty One (15 January)

Straight up, Day 21 was a gorgeous day. It ended with horrible weather, a deadly snake encounter and fear of sudden death, but it was a marvelous day ! 🙂

I don’t remember much sookery that day, I think I’d wept away most of my forlorn missing of my wife & kids. I was resolute, and day by day starting to feel more into the Quest. Looking back at the first days, I felt like a fraud – and I suppose that’s a residue from a lifetime of imposter syndrome – but the walk was healing me. It was making me stronger, making me better. I was sharing my experience with people online who saw merit in me, and that was training me that I *had* merit. We all do.

The walk wasn’t just getting me past the unprocessed grief and sorrow from my fight with cancer, it was healing the accumulated grief and sorrow of a lifetime. False lessons learned, tests passed and failed. It was helping me move on. I didn’t know at the time, but I was slowly falling in love with myself.

And you helped me do that. Thank you.

The people following were showing me that I could be righteous. The love was nourishing and taught me that it’s out there in the world, waiting to shine.

My campsite was quite beautiful, tucked away, several hundred metres away from a little-travelled road, very peaceful.

(Hard to tell from the pictures but I was actually on a rocky hill with about a 30 degree incline, but the hammock neutralised that)

Cancer stole my sleep, but it was a constant joy to wake up after a night of like 9 or 10 hours sleep, the rest of the righteous ! 🙂 My healing was overlapping and growing and exciting and boosting me, helping me keep moving forward.

I remember it was a very sing-song morning. I was rationing my power supply, so I wasn’t playing music – just having it play over and over in my mind.

It’s weird the things you learn when you strip your life back to the basics.

Some days what floods in to fill the empty places is DISCO 🙂

Yeah, for much of the morning, this strange old fella dressed like a vagabond superhero, walking down the side of an empty road as the sun raises above the treeline, a peculiar smile on his face, happy to be alive.

Singing “You to me are everything, the sweetest song that I could sing, oh baby, oh baby, to you I guess I’m just a clown who lifts you up each time you’re down oh baby, oh baby”

Yeah, not a good look !

There was no human contact walking into town, cars would pass, but none of the pull-over-say-gday-it’s-CAPTAIN-AUSTRALIA stuff that started happening from the south coast.

Just long stretches of bush-like road. Good visibility so I could just walk straight down the bitumen and head off into the grass when I saw a car coming (always walk on the side of oncoming cars, not with them coming up behind you !)

Eventually bush gave way to burbs.

These were lovely days, I’d let go of the “hurry hurry old fool” stress of the early walk, and wasn’t yet caught in the cycle of kindness and interest that came as I got further south.

(Where people would arrange for hospitality, or want to meet me, and I’d find myself walking to deadlines).

I did have an interview with WEST BREMER RADIO and this funny-as-hell guy Dan, who would have me giggling when trying to talk about where I was and what I was doing.

(He rang every saturday, sometimes as early as 6am, but normally around 8:30am or so)

So I wandered into Crescent Head, getting a few curious stares here and there. I found the bakery and set up on a park bench with a meat pie brekky.

Bumped into another homeless traveller as I filled up my water supply in a nearby public restroom.

Can’t remember his name but he was an absolutely lovely bloke, full of laughter and questions, we chatted for about half an hour about life, death and the universe, then I hit the road, decided to look for a walking track across the headland.

Clambering up a hill with my heavy pack and past a golf course, I was almost knocked off my feet by the view.

Yeah, Crescent Head is gorgeous.

Stopped at the top of the golf course in front of two chaps sitting on a bench enjoying the view (one young, one older).

Took a video of the gob-smacking view, apologising to them for getting in their way. The older fellow asked what I was up to, and I explained my quest.

It wasn’t until I got a closer look at the younger guy (who had dark glasses and a hat pulled low) that it was Liam Hemsworth and his Dad.

Not 100% sure, but maybe 90+

I second-guess this moment, to be honest, that little moment of recognition.

Why ?

Because a tiny piece of that fame, a tiny nod toward my Quest could change the whole outcome for the charity dramatically.

So what’s the ethical choice ?

I think for me it’s a concrete example of “does the end justify the means ?”. I could have manipulated them a little, pushed a little, had and executed a strategy to try and get them to tell my story to their audience. Other opportunities came later to do something similar.

I always shied away from it. Why ? Because the ends DONT justify the means.

I think I had realised, or decided, that I wasn’t just rebuilding myself physically and emotionally, but I was also doing an ethical stocktake.

Pulling out little things that I may have previously decided and re-examining them.

Not just figuring out how to get past my past grief and sorrow, but to better myself, decide who I wanted to be going forward.

From the cliff-top, my phone rings, and I had a lovely chat with Dan from West Bremer, explaining where I was and what I was doing.

“Jeez mate, have some better stories for next week, OK ?!”, he says.

After that, I had an option of following a winding road or going into the bush, and I saw little goat trails and figured the odds were pretty good that I could find one which would take me all the way down to the beach.

It was a lovely, fun and exciting walk, and not knowing, the uncertainty of it added to it.

Live. Die. Whatever, man. Use your wits. Do your best. Be in it. Stop fretting.

Yeah.

So I followed these goat paths (no doubt used by locals all the time, but I saw no people) down to a long lovely stretch of beach.

Ahh .. the feeling of sand and ocean between the old toes after a morning in the boots.

I certainly do appreciate life’s little pleasures now.

There was a pretty, topless lady sunbaking on this remote corner of the beach, so I tried my very best to not look at her, completely averting my eyes, haha – but at the same time collapsing for a nice rest not too far away.

I was just kinda tired from all the hill-walking and needed to stretch out for a quarter hour, but she got up and moved away almost immediately.

I felt kinda bad, but at the same time – done is done, so I just kinda collapsed there and spread out in the warm late-morning sun. On reflection it must have been pretty weird for her. This strange old man dressed in weirdo army gear with a massive pack plods out of the bush and collapses on the beach not far from where you’re trying to privately brown your boobs!

Next was a few hours down a long stretch of beach. It was gorgeous, hot, and shelterless – so I just knuckled down and marched along the waterline, loving it when a big unexpected wave would surge up and wet me past the knee.

Every so often I’d see a flock of seagulls, and I swear, every single time it happened, I’d get that song in my head for at least the next half hour.

(You know “And I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls. I think it might have been a one-hit wonder)

Yeah. That’s just how my mind works.

It’s still an open question whether a lot of that stuff (example Barry the non-existent sound intern) was me declining slowly into walk-induced insanity, or simply finding joy, humour and pleasure in the little things.

If given the chance, I’ll delcare for the latter 🙂

Oh yeah, below is a weird outsider shelter or dump or something I spotted, never figured out for sure what it was, except that it was in the middle of nowhere and intriguing.

After the beach, I found a nice shady spot for a rest and there was enough service to be able to call home and tell my family how much I loved and missed them.

Then, switch to road and push south.

The afternoon walk took me down a long stretch with beach side campgrounds, then into winding dirt roads through some utterly gorgeous national park.

Not just pretty, absolutely gob-smacking gorgeous.

Had a few local fishermen pull up for a g’day and a chat, one of whom was this absolute flat-strap utter bloody gentleman named Kim. I really need to recognise this fellow, because .. and understand this, he’s a normal aussie man … this normal aussie man GAVE ME ONE OF HIS BEERS.

If youre from another part of the world, I can’t over-state the significance of that simple act.

In that one gesture, sharing his frosty cold beer, he was asserting merit, acceptance and mateship.

Strangers on the road ? No, brothers !

That beer tasted like aussie kindness.

The afternoon walk was gorgeous, through pretty country, but not much happened until late arvo, when a storm set in.

I was on this sand-road .. path might be a better word .. and I was struggling. Heavy pack, walking on sand, long day, starting to flag, running on fumes.

I was keeping my eyes open for viable trees for an early camp, but they were all too light, too far apart or somehow problematic.

Taking a rest opposite this weird cluster of Blair Witch type branches, I sat down to rest my feet and photograph it.

Leaning over to get a protein bar from my pack, I saw, just past me, sunning itself .. was a MASSIVE brown snake. Maybe 2 metres away.

Smile. Nod. Mentally communicate with it “g’day mate, just a couple of predators chilling. Sorry, you were here first though – I’ll move on!”

(And then get the eff outta there!)

Eventually the skies opened and I chose a spot and put up the hammock and tarp. It was early (maybe 6pm) and I just kinda lay there resting, dozing, and woke up in the dark a couple of hours later, needing to relieve my bladder.

The rain had stopped but there was a bloody magnificent electrical storm overhead, lightning blazing every which-way.

Not one to turn down a free show, I lift the tarp aside and lay there watching, when my phone starts beeping. I’d had very little service and had only been able to send a ‘love you talk tomorrow’ text to my wife Jenny – but I got a few texts in rapid succession, the best being from this bloke I met at the Gold Coast “GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE TSUNAMI TSUNAMI” haha.

A couple from other friends, a bit more measured in tone, but all concerned. (This was the ocean-quake near Tonga that triggered an east-coast tsunami warning, but really it just caused a series of king tides).

But I couldnt get online to research, so all I had was some texts urging me to find high ground (I was a small sand dune away from the mighty ocean).

I consciously decided that if I had to die on a Quest for Healing, it’s a damn sight better than a cancer hospital bed of pain. And at least I was dressed like a superhero. It’d be one of the worlds’ best tombstones “dragged away dressed as a ridiculous superhero by the 2022 tsunami, with a hammock wrapped around his ankle”

But all was well, and I slept like a baby, after the rain hit and I had to turn off the lightning show above me.