Day Twenty Two (16 January)

The 22nd day of Captain Australia’s BIG WALK was actually pretty chill. I’d gone a fair whack the day prior, over sand and with a heavy pack – so it’s a good thing, old fella was feeling a bit tired.

I woke to fair weather, spotty clouds, and gathered my gear together (now quite proficient at it, and I hadn’t lost anything in AGES .. well, a couple of weeks).

It was a lovely, remote area – and I was still very much benefiting from the solitude. These long walks through natural beauty were hugely therapeutic for me, and anybody suffering through some time of darkness should consider dropping-tools and getting out in the green.

You can see by the picture to the right how scrappy the trees in the area were, my hammock the night before had been pretty dodgy, close to the ground and a bit too loose – so my sleep hadn’t been great.

But even so, I *felt* great, marvelous even.

Big or small, suffering doesn’t have to define us.

The worst part of being in the middle of nowhere was being out of touch for my morning/evening calls to the family. I hadn’t spoken to them in 24 hours and needed that regular contact as a kind of inoculation against weepy powderfinger songs.

But spirits were high, sunrise was beautiful, and I was dressed like a bold superhero in a strangely creepy mask almost like something from a horror movie (unless I had sunglasses which made it ‘cooler’).

Whether I was starring in a horror movie, drama or comedy remained to be seen. Haha, I like to think it was a little bit of everything.

But maybe a coming-of-age-dramedy, although I guess 50+ is a bit over the normal age demographic for those kinds of movies 🙂

In any case, I eventually the road became firmer and more paved (a relief, as marching in soft sand takes it out of you), and after an hour or so of that, I started to see remote properties.

I did see another live snake, pretty sure it was just a carpet python, but I stayed on the opposite side of the road. Even later when I’d see the occasional red-belly-black, I was never really worried about snakes. Or people. I think the only threats I took particularly seriously were vehicles and falling over.

But yeah, it was a lovely morning march, and I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to receive an offer of hospitality in Port Macquarie. (Well Harrington, actually, but let me explain).

You see, there’s this absolutely lovely lady who lives in Melbourne (T Kaz) who was turning into a bit of a sinister super-villain, she had given me a couple of Daily Donor Dares of DoooOoom.

My idea was to open myself up to giggles and possible humiliation in the hopes that it served the charity’s interests, the idea was to ‘super villain up for science’ and by far it was T Kaz most turning into my own personal Lez Luthor. More on that in the weeks to follow.

For now, she’d done something unexpected and beautifully kind. She messaged me as I was rolling into Port Macquarie mid-morning that she’d organised a cabin in a local caravan park.

Awesome. Batteries were running low, I was ponging pretty bad – another chance to do a bit of laundry and get the old power pack all charged up.

There was one problem.

She hadn’t booked it in Port Macquarie at all, it was in a place called Harrington, something like 75km to the south. (I realised this as I was waiting for the ferry).

Thankfully, the kindness wasn’t wasted, I was able to ring them and postpone the stay until a couple of days later.

When the ferry arrived to take me across into Port Macquarie proper, I was waved on by Tom the Ferryman, who didn’t ask me to pay.

I’d strapped my camera & live-stream to my chest, and it was another pitiful example of just how badly skilled I was/am at all of this stuff. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, I basically recorded the floor of the boat. One of my greatest regrets in the walk was doing that again much later, in a gorgeous town called Orbost (but more on that down the track).

This bloke Tom the ferryman was outstanding, a completely inspirational person. He had two kids of his own, but was taking in indigenous foster kids, getting them out of the system, raising them right, with love, stability, fun, ethics. He had adopted four already, and was building a big sprawling place on a plot of land nearby. Works two jobs, and is studying to be a registered nurse.

The thing that blew my mind was this lovely, fine, outstanding example of a human was telling me how inspirational *I* was.

It was starting to teach me something important: that it’s in us. All of us.

You, me, we – we can lift each other up. In the right conditions, we can remind each other of the beauty in life and in each other.

We can remind each other that it’s incumbent on us to share it, to keep the faith, to look after those who are broken, hurt or alone.

Walking along the lovely north shore of Port Mac, I was deciding whether to push through town and camp somewhere to the south, and whether to follow the beach or the road, when I got a message from a local mother who wanted me to come and meet her family.

I found them fishing not far away, and we sat down and had a good old chat, they were so lovely. Three gorgeous dogs, a couple of gorgeous kids.

Thing is, I can never be friends with the Dad 🙂

“Why ?”, you ask.

It’s because he’s living proof that I’m a high functioning moron.

I was swapping stories with them when I explained how I’d overpacked at the start of the walk, even bringing a big heavy spanner in case I had to tamper with any headless taps.

Quietly, he gets up, walks over to his toolbox, comes back and tosses me this little cross-shaped piece of metal, weighing maybe 100grams.

Hahaha. Yeah, it was a funny moment, and I think his good-natured joshing fit well with my good-natured total humiliation. Haha. I just couldn’t stop laughing, and grin now as I remember the moment.

While I was hanging out with them, I got in another message, I can’t remember if it was Helen or Jo, or someone else altogether – but there were these angels watching the walk online, and although they knew I didn’t want anyone buying me a bed somewhere, and I’d happily sleep rough by default, they knew I’d accept hospitality if offered. (That “never discourage kindness” ethic I was learning – despite the fact that all my life I’ve always said ‘no thank you’).

They’d rang ahead and spoken to someone at the Palm Court Motel, who had offered up a room !

When I got to the motel, it was still a bit early, so I took a wander, did a live-stream to update, picked up some food from Coles.

The kindness was overwhelming, and that plus all the time on the road was creating this constant state of reflection, and I was starting to learn that there was strength and dignity in me, because there was strength and dignity in what I was doing.

When I did these streams, I had no specific plan, no idea beyond that I might help somebody, even my own children or my future self. But yeah, I think I was moving on from self-repair and starting to rebuild, to make something BETTER.

When I got back to the motel, there was a note waiting for me at reception. Someone watching the streams had .. sorry, I get emotional looking back at it even now.

They’d sent me a bit of a care package, stuff for healing my poor old feet, but they’d written this lovely note.

You probably can’t read it in the photo, so I’ll type it out for you below, but .. I can’t tell you how moved I was. I wept a little when I read it, and my reason for weeping was simple – these gestures of kindness, they were killing little germs of self-loathing, little pieces of grief, little residues of past pain, just evaporating them away.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: kindness is the antidote to sorrow. Gandalf said it “not all tears are an evil”

But here’s what the note said:

Simon AKA Captain Australia, Your walk is an inspiration, your message a beacon of hope, and your charity an admirable & essential way to enhance communities. Your personal journey will remain a legacy for your family, your children and other groups going through what you have been through. Our family is unbelievably lucky to have never experienced what you have, however, what your story has enabled in our family is an understanding for our three kids as to what is important in life. Ive done 2 Oxfam Trailwalkers so I have a vague understanding of the challenges of long walks (as they are 100kms each). Hopefully this care pack and our donation can help with the cause. Regards Gill & The Mason Family./

As I sit here, trying to write it all down, I realise I’m doing a poor job. There was such poignancy and beauty in so much of the walk, and I’m just not capturing it.

I’ve been struggling with the job of it – finding the time and energy to write. (I’ve been dealing with long-covid, a kind of continual fatigue and listlessness)

I took a stroll around Port Macquarie, found a local laundry and washed my clothes, and the entire time I was … energized.

I was snapping fingers, pacing (PACING, after days upon days of walking), I think part of it was that I had stopped my toil prematurely – but there was also this .. I’m not sure what the best word is … alignment .. this sense of personal change starting to come together. Jigsaw pieces long disparate clicking into place after years of confusion, forming a larger picture.

I felt as if I was moving toward my centre, my personal truth.

After my laundry, I found a message from a local journalist who wanted to do an interview and agreed to meet her at the breakwater at sunset. I spent a couple of hours laying on my back watching “Rocky 4” on the tellie .. haha .. I had actually had a song from that movie in my head back around Byron Bay “Burning Hearts” by Survivor ‘in the warrior’s code there’s no surrender, although his body cries STOP his spirit shouts NEVER!’, haha. Let’s just call some of what I do/think/say arrested development.

The breakwater at Port Macquarie is just gorgeous. I fell in love with it right away. All of the stones have messages and pictures painted on them, and walking amongst them reading is a bit like walking through a very old cemetery – fascinating to see into those lives, wondering about the people. (But just not as morbid!)

Absolutely loved it.

It was such a beautiful afternoon, and I was in a great mood.

Also, people kept coming up to me, sharing stories of hope and suffering, and most joyful to me, this little dude comes up, maybe four years old, his smiling mother behind him, and says “Youre gweat, Captain Australia (pronounced Oss-tway-oooya), I fink you are so so great, so great, Captain, I fink youre the best!”

Haha, I loved that so much.

It was such a surreal buzz, walking through the gorgeous sunset, and hearing the occasional yell of “Look, there goes Captain Australia !”

(Is it a bird ? Is it a plane ? Is it a chubby old weirdo ?)

Haha. I’ll leave it there, I basically just went back to the motel and slept the sleep of the Just. (And had a lovely facetime with the wife and kids). Let me sign off with photos of the Port Macquarie breakwater.

clicking on the big green thingo goes to the next day (23)