19th March 2014 Permanence

Sorry about the last two days. I’ve been too shattered to doing anything but put up my tent, eat and sleep. Yesterday I did three days worth of walking in one day, and didn’t get to my campsite until 21:00. It was beautiful walking in the sunset though. The things I’ve seen in the last couple of days have been absolutely brilliant. I wish I wasn’t so tired so that I could write more.

Today was officially one week in. 1/6 of the way through. I’ve had another tough day, and I’ve covered about 80km in the last three days. Today was only 14km but took 6 hours. It’s plenty harder than the highway when you have to climb and descend cliff after cliff. Along the way however, I was given free water, cheese, apples and marmalade that was so good that when I realised the cheese and marmalade and fallen out of my bag, I ran back 4 km to find it.

The stars tonight  are absolutely beautiful. The sound of the waves in the sea below, far from anywhere with artificial lights, sitting on top of a cliff.

Starting to reconsider my choice to stay in Australia until August, even though I really want to get my three months of farm work done.

Time stretches on,

Your presence doesn’t physically,

But it is possible to be permanent in the minds of others.

 

20th March 2014 Dependence

Finished the Great Ocean Walk today, almost. I’m 4km away but because most people just finish it then get a bus home, this is the nearest campsite to the finish. Just checked my bank balance, it’s dire. Had to email Dad. I hate doing that, I don’t want to be that guy who depends on his parents wallet’s all the time. I suppose there’s little I can do now except be as careful as possible with money. Looks like I’ll be heading home in May after all eh?

Met a nice couple in a bar today (before checking my bank account), Irish couple who lived in a van for a year as their honeymoon. They bought me a beer and had a nice chat with me, definitely think I’m a bit wrong in the head though.

Also had a major run in with what I thought at the time was a dead Eastern Brown snake. It wasn’t. I was sat about a meter away from it when it decided to make it’s ability to live and be the second most venomous land snake in the world known to me. Luckily I got away with a warning.

In other news, after a week of spending all daylight in the sun, I have awesome blonde hair now…I may be living in a tent and smell like a piss-ridden wombat, but I can still keep a bit of vanity no?

Depending on someone is to say:

“Here are my hopes and dreams,

Feel free to aid me getting there,

But you can piss on them if you want.” 

 

21st March 2014 Dominance

Today I was dominated. However much I may like to say I was in my tent under the stars with only the mosquito net above me and a lover, it wasn’t. Today I was dominated inside and out by the weather.

I left the campsite early (8.45am) so as not to have to pay for the campsite. I thought this was okay seeing as I was broke, and didn’t use any of the facilities. Karma clearly had other ideas. After a nice, wallet conscious breakfast, I set out in a drizzle that  looked like it would last all day. Oh well, it wasn’t that bad, seeing as it wasn’t heavy and there was little rain. Yet.

The first 10km was fine, finished the Great Ocean Walk, thought more about Max’s idea about a similar walk in the Lake District back home that he’d suggested a few days before. Then the rain got heavier, and the wind picked up. My waterproof jacket is a polyester lie. I’m going to be having words with Kathmandu. Still wasn’t too bad though. Then the rain really kicked in. The wind pushed me left, right, centre, repeat, causing bitter cold. After 20km I got to Port Campbell, and stopped to eat a sandwich at a public barbecue, knowing I only had another 10km left. After eating it and sitting still for a bit, things got really shit. The idea of zipping my bag up seemed like a bigger task than the whole walk itself, I was trapped inside my frozen body. My chest got so tight, and my teeth stopped chattering. I knew from diving that if I’m cold and stop shivering, I’m in real trouble. Luckily I was 300m away from a caravan park, with hot showers. Unfortunately 300m is a long way when you feel like you could just lie down and die. Walking back out into the rain was arguably one of the hardest steps of my life.Even worse was that when I did get to the main office there was the obligatory “Back in 10 minutes” sign on the front door. I waited 10 minutes, not sitting, not doing anything, I just remember staring straight ahead. After 15 minutes I picked up the emergency phone “In case of fire” on the wall and got through to the park manager: “What is it?”

“Excuse me..” It was hard to remember what I was going to say.

“What!? Is there an emergency!?”

“I think if I don’t get inside I’m going to die.”

“Okay…..” And the dial tone.

It took another 2 minutes for the front door to open. And 10 minutes for me to book a spot, try to remember my details, even my pin code was a struggle, and get over to the shower block. The most tempting thing was to stick on the hottest water and dive in, but I knew the shock can kill. So I walked into a lukewarm shower fully clothed, backpack still on. I slowly undressed as I increased the temperature over half an hour, until I was naked and steaming up the whole place. I spent 3 hours in that shower room, midst running out in a towel to stick my clothes in the wash, and then dry them.

I phoned my grandma. It was great to talk to her for about 45 minutes. I didn’t ask or mention money, but she offered to put money into my account. The whole conversation and reading the Dalai Lama’s ‘The Art of Happiness’ gave me an epiphanic slap in the face. He says wealth is in compassion between humans. When you have nothing but those you love, if you have them, you are always wealthy. Not that I had nothing, I always had an escape route, my parents would support me if I needed it, but today I came closest to being nothing, weak and helpless. It’s not the money my grandma gave me, it’s the gesture of offering it, knowing that I was down and knowing I was loved, even from the other side of the world, was what would help.

Met a nice girl from the Netherlands, she’s my age, which I’ve found strangely uncommon when travelling (most are mid twenties.) We chatted lots about travels etc. Also turns out that lots of people at the caravan park drove past me today. They find it funny. I don’t.

Dominance is control, your positive outlook must dominate your life otherwise the negative one will. Then you’re just in a rut, not on your way out of one.

 

22nd/23rd March 2014  Independence

After the awful hypothermic day the day before, I set off, exhausted, hoping to get past Peterborough to the half way point to Warrnambool. A place called Childers Cove, an awesome surf spot apparently. After getting lost trying to leave Port Campbell, I realised just how shut down my brain became yesterday, what I thought was the way I’d come in was actually a long walk off a short cliff. I became really quite glad that I’d stopped for that bite to eat, otherwise who knows how bad things could have got in that awful visibility.

The distance to Childers Cove was about 30km, but real soon into starting, my world started spinning. I stopped, ate an apple, and drank a litre of water. I’d only gone 1km. Only now did I realise how destroyed I was. I should have taken a rest day, but I was aching to keep moving. I settled for the idea that I’d stop at Peterborough, where I’d meant to get to the day before, a mere 10km away. I took it slow, taking lots of photos of bays and beaches. I stopped to eat on a bunch of rocks on a beach that I had to slide down kangaroo trails to get to, and got a beautifully uninterrupted distant view of the 12 Apostles, which I hadn’t seen the day before because of the visibility. When climbing back to the highway my nose started bleeding out of the blue, which freaked me out about my physical state even further, a worry heightened by the un-coincidental appearance of 3 dingos, who just followed me on the side of the road until a road-train scared them off.

At a place called London Bridge, (so called because it’s a big rock with a gap underneath, does not function like London Bridge) lots of tourists stopped and pointed out that they’d happened to have seen me on the one road between the two towns (I get sarcastic when I’m tired), and asked what I was doing. Of these tourists there were four incredible French girls who I had a chat with for about half an hour, about what I was doing, and what they were doing, the fact that all of us were single…. They offered to give me a lift to Peterborough and to let me stay in their camper van with them. My mental state was clearly deteriorating because I turned them down. [Addendum: Upon typing this up, in September of the same year, it is still to date, the stupidest thing I have ever done.]

My feet were killing me when I got to Peterborough. After a shower and dinner I decided to take a rest the next day…

Which is today. Had a lie in (possible in a tent), shower and home made apple pancakes for breakfast. I also decided to build a hand cart to drag across the 180km of beach that is the Coorong that waits for me in 22 days. That way I can take enough food and water to survive, as well as hopefully move a bit faster. The problem would be getting hold of wheels, but there was little I could do about that here. I could probably get some in Warrnambool, but then I’d be carrying them with me for 20 days.

I’m now setting nicely into the routine though, the living in a tent, a different place every day, walking. I’m glad I got the hyperthermia out of the way, rather do it earlier than later, and I’ll be more careful with the weather.

Independence isn’t being alone, or not accepting help. It’s making up your mind as to when to be alone, and when to ask for help.

24th March 2014 Indifference

Today started late, at noon. Badly. As I took down my tent I saw both poles had snapped overnight. Shit. Well it still stood up, so it was no reason to go home.

The walk today started okay, I went the wrong way and spent a good half hour trying to find myself on a beach. Having found myself (on the wrong beach), I went in search of a maintenance track -dirt tracks for the SUVs that the council workers use to look after the coastline- which apparently ran the whole way to Warrnambool, although by this time I’d decided to go to Childer’s Cove and chill for the night. I found the maintenance track, and about 5km into it I discovered that the council workers who used it to look after the coastline were pretty shit at their job. The track turned a corner and dropped into a gully made by two boulders underneath it moving apart. It had clearly been like this for a while, and was covered in thistles, brambles etc, and just looked perfect for snakes to chill in. For some as yet unknown reason, I climbed (slipped) down, which hurt. Trying to get up the other side was proving impossible, it was way steeper and the only foothold I could find was an old tree. When I put my weight on it my foot went right into it, the point at which in any film, spiders would come flying out in all different directions. I could see myself dying here. At least I could see the Bay of Islands from here, which was sweet.

Another hour later I emerged from the gully on the same side I’d entered it, sweaty, swearing and saturated with thorns. I rejoined the highway and walked for two hours before turning off down a gravel path, across fields full of cows surrounded with electric fences, to get back to the maintenance track, 100m away from the gully.

I ate dinner with cows looking over my shoulder and decided to walk into the night. That plan lasted all of an hour until my torch broke. I wandered to flattish ground, pitched my broken tent and now I’m lying here waiting to be murdered.

Indifference is… yeah.

25th March 2014 Difference

Woke up slowly today. Enjoying not being murdered, or in some Wolf Creek-esque mine. Yesterday I’d walked for 8 hours but was only 20km closer to Warrnambool, and I felt sufficiently shit.

After walking for about an hour, a farmer, old guy with strong, deep wrinkles, drove up beside me on a dirt bike, (the same I’d had in Thailand) and asked if I was lost. He pointed me in the right direction and let me cut across one of his fields, telling me to watch out for 4×4 drivers who could come over a hill, in the air, and take off my head with their bumpers. He offered to give me a lift to Warrnambool if he passed me.

About two hours later he drove down the track, having come to find me, I couldn’t really turn down a lift after that. He drove me to Childers Cove, and we sat on the beach, having a cigarette and talking about farming (he talked). He dropped me in Warrnambool outside a Chinese buffet, all you can eat for $10. Five plates of food, two bowls of soup, two ice creams, jelly, coffee and four hours later I was asked politely to leave, I reckon I could’ve eaten more, but I’d be pushing it.

At the campsite I met a guy who was walking from NSW to Mt. Gambier, pushing everything in a cart. If anyone wants to hear about him, he’s not on Facebook but he was stopped by the news: http://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2014/04/01/3975506.htm His name’s Jamie Rose and he turned out to be a solid part of my inspiration for carrying on. That night we sat up drinking with some people driving through, who clearly thought we were mad, but we understood each other. He offered, jokingly, to sell me his cart when he finished. I didn’t take him seriously, but I’ll put in an offer tomorrow morning.