Brain Injury Hike Last Lap

Fundraising and Awareness Hike: 450km total

22nd of October to 25th of October 2019

The cool guy I’m married to dropped me off in Dayboro, which meant I skipped the long walk from D’Aguilar to Dayboro. That suited me because I was a bit worried about the road into Dayboro. I had decided to get there by a back road and I wasn’t one hundred percent certain that the map I had would be accurate when I actually got out in the middle of nowhere. I had to make up the lost kilometres and I did this by going on a walk when I got home that afternoon and by walking around in Brisbane when I came back for a function after the walk had ended.

As I was about to start walking in Dayboro, a nice lady came up and wanted to give me a donation, but had to go to the IGA to get cash out. As we waited for her I spotted a group of people on the footpath with a little stand. “I think it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I said to the cool guy. After the nice lady had given me the donation I said goodbye to the cool guy and started walking. I wanted to see what the JWs would say to me when I walked past. They said nothing! They just stared at me. I was disappointed. I wanted to have a lovely chat with them about my existential beliefs. Oh well, too bad for them.

I only got about 100 metres down the road before I stopped chatting to three guys having a coffee: Rick, Gavin and Farmer Jim. I ended up sitting down with them and getting a coffee myself. The cool guy drove past and beeped. I waved at him and Rick said, “Do you know that fella?” “Yeah, he’s my husband,” I said. The cool guy told me later that he’d already driven past the cafe once and Rick had waved at him, so it probably looked a bit weird that he was driving past AGAIN and beeping this time. I sat with them for ages and had a really good chat about lots of stuff. I really wish I could just wander up to random people in non-hiking life and start talking to them as though we’d always been friends just like I did with the three dudes in Dayboro.

At the top of the hill I couldn’t remember if I was meant to turn left or right, so I called into the cop shop to ask which way to go. The copper was an older guy, but man-oh-man did he look good in that uniform! [It’s a pity about this. If I saw this guy again now, I’d not think the same thing. I had some very negative experiences with the Qld Police Force in the recent State of Emergency in my town and it has changed the way I see them].

The road to Mount Samford was really good. A beautiful lady stopped in a ute and I talked to her for ages. Her name was Sonya and she was the CMC for Pine Rivers. She gave me a huge pile of coins from her car ashtray, which I tried to deposit later at Samford, only to be told that the post office isn’t allowed to accept coins. Funny, I’d deposited about $100 more coins in Glasshouse without a problem. I wonder what she would have done if I wanted to pay for something with coins.

It didn’t take that long to get to the campsite. I set everything up and went and had a look in the bush. I thought that this might be the spot that I find a dead body. It wasn’t. I’ve been looking for one since I was a kid. I don’t want to find a gross, rotten, maggoty thing, but probably a skeleton or one that’s almost a skeleton. I was going on and on about his one day on a field trip bus at uni and the dude in front of me said that he’d actually found a dead body in a cave once. It wasn’t fair, why is he so lucky, I thought. Sounds twisted, right? That’s because it is and I’m OK with that.

The bush around the campsite was pretty cool. I found a washout with steps cut into the side of it, so I climbed up and followed a winding track. At the top of a hill there was an old blue tarp tepee. Further along there was another structure that had fallen down. It was probably a tepe once too.

I was so hungry that I ended up eating my dinner at 4.30pm. I packed everything up, so the only thing visible at the campsite was my tent. I was secure in the idea that no one would come along, but I was wrong. I was so glad I’d packed all my crap up because a lady came running down the hill with her staffy. I quickly darted behind the tent because all of a sudden it seemed really important that nobody see me. I thought that would be it; she’d turn around an just run away, but no; she kept running down, turning around and doing the same thing over and over again. I was pretty sure she hadn’t seen me, but then for her last lap she got another dog from somewhere and it tried to run over to where I was, so she then saw my camp. I was really annoyed! I hate the idea that people know where I’m camping, especially when it’s in the middle of nowhere like this was. At least she didn’t see me, so she had no way to know that I was a lone female and I know from experience that she would have assumed I was a man. Not that she would be a threat to me necessarily, but if she had a big mouth and went telling people that she’d seen me down there, then that could be a problem. Everything was fine though.

Campsite at Mount Samson

The next day I walked to Samford. The road had a lot of treasures on it. There were lots of number plates, but most of them were twisted and broken, so I didn’t pick them up. I also found half a cloven hoof, a colourful fingernail, a five cent piece, then a tent cent piece and a parcel that must have fallen off a delivery truck. I was hopeful I could deliver it, but the numbers were going the wrong way, so I rang the phone number on the delivery docket and told the guy that I’d leave it under the Welcome to Samford sign. He came along a bit later and said thankyou. He talked a lot about the building that the thing I found was for and how it was a drama to build it because of the huge roof angle.

I got quite a few donations off the road on my way to Samford, actually it was probably the most generous road that I walked along on the entire hike.

Myles from Mt Mee stopped and said hi. It felt really good to see him again for some reason, like he was an old friend or something. Another man stopped to ask what I was doing. He was interested because he and his husband were carers for disabled people and they were on the way to a picnic they’d organised for some of the people they cared for. He later gave me a donation via the PA fundraising platform. A bit further along a man pulled up in a ute ahead of me. He got out and started walking in my direction saying, “I’ve got a donation: $100.” He looked so much like Samuel Johnson (who I’ve always really liked) that I thought it was actually him – it wasn’t – but he was still a nice guy. His name was Aaron and he told me that he had a brain injury from an aneurysm. He said he was just sitting on the couch watching TV and all of a sudden it felt like someone hit him over the head with a baseball bat.

I really wanted to get a sars when I arrived in Samford, but I couldn’t find any. I walked past some people having lunch at a cafe and asked them about sars and if they knew where I might find some. They couldn’t help me, but I ended up sitting down and talking to them for a while. They were on holidays from America and Canada. Once again, it would be great if I could push forward with the idea that I can just wander up to random people and start chatting to them while they’re having a meal or a coffee in non-hiking life. After I left them I went over to the Injinji shop to see what their stuff was like. I really should have come back to Samford and bought my trailrunning shoes here, rather than Athletes Foot. The Saucony shoes I bought cost me $220 and a big hole ripped in the upper in the first twenty minutes of my using them. I’ve had to sew them up myself because the store and Saucony said I misused them. Aaaaaaarrrrrrghhhhhh. OK, whatever…now moving on (hopefully).

I went to meet the lady I had arranged to stay with; my friend Tiiu. I’d met Tiiu previously when I’d come through Samford asking about places to camp. She was volunteering at the tourist information centre that day, so it was great that our paths crossed. She had a brain injury too and I felt very strongly that we had forged a meaningful connection when we first met.

I left my pack with Tiiu, and armed with directions for the supermarket, headed off in search of sars. When I got there I got into a good discussion with a lady in her seventies who had been protesting against the Adani mine. She was wearing a Stop Adani t-shirt. Peter Garrett wore one of these (amongst others) when I saw Midnight Oil in concert a while back. The Stop Adani lady and I talked about activism and I told her how I’ve never really been a frontline activist for the environment, even though I’ve always cared very much about environmental issues (afterall, I have an environmental science degree). I see my role in activism as providing a lived example of how to become liberated from fear and apathy, which I believe hold us back from living meaningful lives and also hold us back as a society from achieving both the small and large goals that will allow us to overcome the big problems that we are now facing and will continue to face into the future.

After the D&M I got the sars: YAY!! and headed back to Tiiu at the tourist information centre, so we could go to her house in a neighbouring suburb. I had no idea where I was in terms of geography, so it was good to have her driving me around.

I had a great time at Tiiu’s place. Her two kids, Toby and Ava were really cool. Ava gave up her bed for me and Toby kept me on my toes with hilarious puns all night. He came in from the bus, walked straight to the fridge, got an egg out, and holding it aloft, said, “I hope its going to be “eggseptional evening.” It was total crack up. (get it).

The next day Tiiu decided to walk with me. We had to head back into Samford to start from there again:

Me organising my crap and looking at the map in Samford. Photo: Tiiu

Tiiu and I ready to go in front of the tourist information centre. Photo: some random person.

I had a great time walking with Tiiu. I felt like I’d been best friends with her my whole life. At one point we even said the same thing at exactly the same time. We “got” each other in a way that only comes from shared adversity. Tiiu stopped walking at a shopping centre to catch a bus back to Samford and I continued on to The Gap.

I’d originally planned to catch a bus some of the way into The Gap because I wasn’t happy about the narrow shoulder on the big hill. After walking up Mt Mee I felt like I should just do it because I knew that nothing could beat the Mt Mee road for harem-scarem.

At The Gap I walked past a group of school children being led along by their teachers. I smiled at the teachers and did small waves to the children. The teachers looked at and looked away again as quickly as they could. The kids did the same, but I could tell it was hard for them not stare at me. At the end of the long line of kids I said hello and smiled to the person I thought was probably a teacher’s aide, but she totally ignored me and looked straight ahead as though she had no idea I even existed. Nice.

I’d arranged to stay with a lady (Deanne) I’d never met through one of my neighbours. She’d told me to meet her at Coles, but I had no idea where it was, so at the servo I asked a lady fueling up if she knew. She said she’d just take me straight to Deanne’s house, which was really nice of her.

That night we all went out for dinner because I’d arranged another Facebook event at The Gap Tavern, which no one came to aside from a lady whom my friend Shanny sent along. Still, it was a good night and I ate lots of food, which was very kindly bought for me by Deanne and her husband, Simon. As I was leaving the table to go to the bathroom, I heard someone say, “I couldn’t even eat that much!” I was so totally sick of damn muesli bars by this stage. It was good to eat real food again and I felt it necessary to eat as much as physically possible while it was available!

The next day as I was walking, I felt like the biggest weirdo of all time because everyone kept looking at me like I was a freak. Some young women, all of whom we wearing too much makeup laughed at me as I passed by and said hello.

I got a good laugh at one point though. I’m still getting mileage out of it. I walked past a school and the bell hadn’t gone yet, so all the kids were playing on the oval. One little boy (about seven or eight) was running along the fence with his friends and his hat had his name on it: Cooper Jones. He ran right up to the fence where I was walking and I said, “hello, Cooper,” and just kept walking. It freaked him right out! It was awesome!

Down the road a bit, a nice man stopped mid-jog and gave me a donation and even further down the road a lovely elderly man gave me a rather large donation because he was utterly gobsmacked by what I was doing. He kept patting me on the shoulder and telling me that he just couldn’t believe it. It kind of felt like he was patting me that way because he was testing to see if I was actually real and not just an apparition.

Next, a nice lady called Felicity stopped her car to come and talk to me about her son, Hayden, who’d been brain injured and how hard things had gotten for them since. She’d actually done several u-turns to get to where I was. I gave her a card so she could donate online later.

As I closed in on the city it fell on me that the whole thing was almost over:

At the CBD I wanted to tell everyone how great I was, and even though the city was full of people, I didn’t think I could. I got some tourists to take this photo of me:

I wandered around in the Queen Street Mall for a fair while because I had to meet the STEPS Coordinator, Sue at 1pm so we could go and see the Minister of Health: the Hon. Dr Seven Miles. I had “brunch” at a fancy cafe, which was right next to the Tattersalls Club and talked to a really nice older man there about hiking. He’d never been hiking before and wanted to start. It was nice to have someone so interested in the hiking part of what I was doing. He asked me to demonstrate how to take the pack off and put it back on again. I got him to lift it up and he was a bit scared about how heavy it was. “If you’re hiking with other people, your pack doesn’t need to have absolutley everything in it because you can share the load. Plus, I’ve walked 450km, so I needed a lot of stuff for such a distance,” I said, and he nodded, but I could still see he was a bit worried. “Don’t even worry about it. Once the pack is on your back and you’ve started moving, you really don’t even know it’s there,” I said. It’s hard to believe this, but it’s actually true.

I went back out into the mall and a random person shoved $5 at me and kept walking. I didn’t even get to see their face! It was really funny. At the Pen Shoppe I got talking to the ladies working there and they gave me a donation too. I’ve always loved that shop. I have a bit of a weird obsession with pens (I have a small chest of three drawers that is FULL of pens and it’s so hard to not keep buying more). I have it with paper too, but I’ve had to set that one aside because it’s very hard to find nice writing paper these days.

Finally it was time to meet Sue and we walked over to the Minister’s office to see him. Sue said he wanted to come on a walk with me. We waited for him with his sidekick, Riley, out the front. A fit looking man about my age strode up wearing a Deadly Choices shirt, shorts and a pair of runners. “You’re not what I was expecting,” I said and he laughed. I really thought he’d be a fat old guy in a suit. I really liked him and we talked about heaps of everyday stuff on a fast walk over the bridge. I felt a bit sorry for Sue and Riley as I knew it was probably a bit hard for them to keep up. When we arrived, two people from the PA Research Foundation were waiting to meet us: Damien (CEO) and Meredith (Marketing Coordinator). Everyone from the PA was really happy to have the opportunity to speak to the minister because it’s not something they would normally be able to do.

The Health Minister and me on our walk across the bridge. He ran back to the office after this.

Damien very kindly bought me a thickshake after the minister had left and we sat around a bit until it was time to leave. Sue dropped me back at the Roma Street station with another bag of corn chips. I had to catch the train back to Bundaberg. As I travelled I saw places I’d been on the hike and it made me nostalgic for what had just been.

I wish it could always be like the hike; the feeling that I’m doing something at least a little bit worthwhile. I wonder if the people I saw, smiled at and spoke to will remember me. I wonder what it might be like to have perfect recall and what my brain is like now. Is smarter than it was before part of it was cut out; both less and more at the same time? Less because some of it is missing, more because of the connections that have grown in through all that I’ve done since becoming brain injured. I long to see myself objectively, but I know this is impossible. I want to know how it is that I appear to others; in my actions, my words, my mannerisms and my pursuits. How am I perceived?

As the train pulled in at Bundaberg I thought I caught a glimpse of the person who was picking me up, there he is! I thought and I smiled, but when I got out of the train, it wasn’t him because the platform was empty. He’s forgotten to pick me up, I thought, disappointed, and it felt like someone had pulled the plug out of sink filled with happiness water. All the water drained right out when I saw that he was actually sitting in the car out in the carpark. He didn’t even ask if I wanted help with my stuff. I was never more sad that the cool guy I’m married to wasn’t there to share in what should have been an awesome moment to end a significant achievement. I really wanted the whole thing to end on a good note, but it didn’t and that’s not something I really had any control over, unlike the hiking itself, which I was totally in charge of.

 This song with its simple lyrics has had a big impact on me. It’s about my life (and your life too) and also about the hike:

 

THE END

 

 

Brain Injury Hike Caboolture to D’Aguilar National Park 47.5km

Fundraising and Awareness Hike: 450km total

16th of October to 21st of October 2019

I’d arranged with the STEPS coordinator Sue to pick me up from the showgrounds at Caboolture so I could go to the Chermside STEPS group. I always worry about recognising someone if they’re coming to meet me, but I kept telling myself that she would recognise me and that everything would be fine. See, I have prosopagnosia from my brain injury, which affects my ability to recognise people, even if I know them very well. Often pieces fall into place once I’ve had a chance to interact with a person, but not always. Sometimes the only approach I have is to say, “Have I met you before? I have facial blindness and sometimes I can’t recognise people.”

If you can, just for a moment, imagine what this is really like in the context of social situations. It makes even brief encounters stressful and I come away from a lot of interactions feeling stupid and self-conscious. Did they get what I meant about facial blindness or did they just think I was being an idiot? 

As I was waiting for Sue I watched some roadworks that were going on right in front of me. It was so interesting to watch up close. This machine came along and sliced off the edge of the road. It “sucked” it up and shot the chunks into the back of a moving truck. The whole thing had to be tightly controlled by a man on the ground indicating with hand movements if the truck should stop, move forward, speed up or slow down. After the road slicer had done his bit, a bob cat operator came in and cleaned up the scraps left behind. This is my calling, I thought as I watched it unfolding in front of me. I gave the dude on the road slicer thumbs up and he did the same in return. It was really hard not to ask the site supervisor if I could touch his long plaited beard as he explained to me what each piece of machinery did.

Sue brought me Doritos. She’d gone to the trouble of searching  through my website to find out what food I fantasised about while hiking! How cool is that.

The STEPS meeting was a bit difficult, but also really good. I met a lot of nice people, many of them in their twenties who had been struck down with brain injuries from various causes. One of them in particular had a big impact on me and for the rest of the hike I couldn’t stop thinking about her and her family. In fact, I will never forget her.

A lovely lady gave me a big donation and told me that she’d come along especially to see me. She looked like the actress Laura Linney and her daughter’s hairstyle made me think of Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby, one of my favourite movies.

The meeting was difficult because it’s hard to hear about how people came to be brain injured and the obstacles they’re still enduring as a result of that. Some people have made partial recoveries, but others won’t and it made me sad, angry and impatient for a world where people who aren’t brain injured could be imbued magically with understanding. If only people who aren’t brain injured could come to these meetings and see what it’s like for all of us living with this shit, I thought as I recalled what it was like to be all of a sudden treated as though I was dangerous, reckless and stupid by people who had previously respected me, trusted my judgement and valued my work before they found out I was brain injured.

That night I’d arranged to stay with my friend, Yvonne in Morayfied. I’d met Yvonne at the RBH in 2005. Her husband, Mick was in the same ward as me and had the same kind of brain tumour I did. Unfortunatley Mick passed away some years ago. Yvonne and I stayed in touch, but it had been a long time since I’d seen her. It was good to catch up with her and her granddaughter, Zoe, who had come to live with Yvonne, kindly gave up her bedroom so that I could have a “real” bed to sleep in.

The next day I went to another STEPS meeting with Sue. This time at Northlakes where I met more nice people. I felt that my experience of trying to get work and sustain employment once I attained it very strongly mirrored the experience of one of the ladies in the group and I spent a fair bit of time talking to her about what that was like. I’ve always felt like a bit of loser not being able to get a job after I struggled through a degree. I wasn’t happy that she’d had the same experience, but it was still good to learn that I wasn’t alone.

I got to thinking about my own brain injury and how it can’t possibly be called mild. Just because I don’t have a compromised gait or slurred speech doesn’t mean my brain injury isn’t severe. I mean, some of my brain got cut out for crying out loud, a big chunk in fact, and my entire brain was swollen for a long time (weeks and weeks). I even went temporarily blind from the intracranial pressure. Then there was the chemotherapy and radiation. All of it happened over an extended period, not just in an isolated event. When I hear other people talking about their brain injuries and the services they’ve been able to access it makes me  really pissed off that I never got to access any of those things and can’t access any of them because how would I? I look normal, I sound normal and I’ve got no way to prove that there’s anything wrong with me, besides the big scar on my head and my MRI pictures, but even then, it’s hard to make people understand because they just don’t get it, even professionals.

Sue dropped me back off at Caboolture to start walking again after the meeting. She took this photo at the trail head of the Caboolture to Wamuran Rail Trail.

The walk along the rail trail was pretty good, but it was so farking hot. I drank nearly all the water in both my bottles. It probably didn’t help that I was scarfing down salty Dorito chips at every opportunity I got.

At one spot in the middle of nowhere I saw this guy just sitting there on the side of the trail. He looked a bit weird and he was staring right at me, so I said hello to him. He started to get up and was trying to talk to me, but I said, “sorry, I’ve got to keep going.” I really didn’t, but he kind of freaked me out a bit.

I did worry about going the wrong way because the trail had no signs and I had to cross over a road and go through what looked like someone’s front yard. I could see a pink flagging tape fluttering around across the paddock, so I thought that could be where I was meant to go. It seemed like it, but I couldn’t be totally sure because just like the trail before it, there were no signs after it. I felt a bit better when I saw this garden at the back of a big sawmill. I thought it was pretty cool that people would do this at their workplace:

On the other side of the blue thing was a whole section of pumpkins. The space between the front of the garden beds and the top of the trail was full of seedlings. The garden beds are old truck tyres.

I’d gotten permission to stay on the patch of ground between the hall and the Wamuran Men’s Shed. People had been texting me telling me to watch out for a storm that was brewing, so I thought I’d wait a bit to set up my tent. I also didn’t want people to see what I was doing and there were people in the hall having a meeting. I thought I might have to camp on the hall verandah if the storm got really bad. There were a couple of thunder claps and some rain, but it came to nothing really.

I camped at the back of the hall in the end, but I waited until dark to put my tent up. The next morning as I was packing up I could see some feet marching in my direction. I knew they belonged to someone who was coming to see what I was doing because there was no other reason to come down to where I was camped. Here we go, I thought. It was lucky that I’d recorded the names of the men I’d spoken to from the men’s shed when I was asking about camping there because old mate was not impressed that I’d camped there overnight. He didn’t turn out to be all bad though because he went and told the lady in the coffee van out the front that I was there and she brought me a free coffee, which was really nice. I had to tip it out after she’d gone because it had milk in it and I couldn’t drink it. I didn’t tell her that though.

Wamuran campsite at back of the hall.

As I was leaving I went to the coffee van to say hi. Some ladies were getting coffee before going to Yoga and they were really interested in what I was doing. One of them gave me a donation and the coffee van owner (Tanya) gave me her phone number in case I needed help along the road. I was planning on walking along the unfinished rail trail to D’Aguilar, but the yoga ladies said it would be easy to get lost, so I just stuck to the highway.

This was the worst bridge I encountered on the entire hike. I ran across this one because the road was really busy with trucks coming from both directions. There was only a very narrow shoulder on one side of the bridge because the other side had barriers taking up the shoulder. I made it across just as two trucks came thundering along in opposite directions.

I thought it would take around 3 – 4 hours to walk the distance to D’Aguilar, but I did it in just over 2 hours. It sounds ridiculous, but it seemed too easy. I was worried the pub would forget that they’d said I could stay there for free, so I scoped out potential campsites as I got closer to town. When I arrived the manager did remember me and she let me go to my room even though it was too early for check-in. I had a shower and tried to go to sleep, but I was too lazy to get up and turn the air conditioning off, which meant I was too cold to sleep. I don’t know why I do this kind of thing. I’m sure other people do it too. It’s like needing to pee in the middle of the night; I always lay there pretending that the need to pee will just magically disappear, but of course that never happens and I waste three hours of sleeping time trying to ignore the need to go. In the end I get up and stomp to the toilet as though my body has manufactured a full bladder just to annoy me.

D’Aguilar Pub. I had a great time here.

My room at the pub. It was really awesome!

I met some locals at the pub. They were all hilarious, especially Goomba:

Me and Goomba (not sure how he earned that nickname.). He seemed to be the local larrikin. He kept asking everyone in the bar to give me donations and I got around $200 through him pestering everyone about it. I had a really awesome time, except for when Goomba went and kindly got me a coffee after I told him I didn’t drink alcohol. The coffee was the worst kind for me: a latte. Ugh! I couldn’t tip this one out, so I had to force my way through it without pulling faces about how disgusting it was. It was hard, but I made it to the end of the seemingly bottomless mug. The pub was really pumping and was full of people. I wish the pub at Woodgate could be more like that!

This was another local. I can’t recall exactly his name, but it went something like this: Sir Edward Smithsonian Belladonna Moore. His t-shirt really sums the whole thing up:

Everyone I ended up sitting with seemed to be pretty drunk and it made me so glad that I don’t drink.I made up a bullshit story at the pub about how I’m not allowed to drink for medical reasons due to my brain injury. This story stops people from asking why I don’t drink and trying to convince me to drink with them when they invariably don’t understand my reasons for not drinking whenever I elaborate.

I left at 8.30pm. I was worried about the next day and Mt Mee. It had been on my mind since I first started the hike.

In the morning as I was getting ready to go, I got called a man again. There were two hotel employees sitting at a table near my room and one of them said to the other, “there’s that guy doing the walk along the road.” I looked around and the other one said, “that’s a chic!” I asked the first one why he thought I was a man, but like the dude in Glasshouse he was really embarrassed. I told him I wasn’t offended, just interested in what made him think I was a man. He was kind of squirming with embarrassment, but he eventually said, “Well, you’ve got short hair and you just don’t expect a woman to be doing something like what you’re doing. Sorry, luv, sorry.”

Like I said earlier though, it can’t be because of the pack. I’ve been called a man when I’m not hiking. Just the other night, at a dinner party, a drunk moron told me that I looked like a lavatory door. “You know, you’ve got no womanly shape. Your hair is too short. You should flirt more.” What the actual fuck? He told me in the end that I looked like an alien, to which I quipped without skipping a beat, “I won’t bother telling you what you look like.” What I really wanted to say was, you look like a fuckhead. I didn’t say that though because I was at someone else’s house and he was their friend. Emphasis on the their in that sentence.

The walk to Mt Mee wasn’t too bad in the end. I was worried about the windiness of the road, not the steep climb:

This sign made me smile:

I found I really enjoyed walking up the mountain. The harder it should have been (but wasn’t), the more I felt invincible. I even started laughing a couple of times because I simply felt like the most amazing person who had ever existed. This feeling must have something to do with the VO2 max.

The view was pretty good walking up the mountain:

The rain chased me the whole way. I just made it to the lookout and under a tiny shelter shed before it started pouring. Eventually it stopped and I made it to where I’d planned to camp that night. I collected my food cache that I’d hidden weeks beforehand and went over to the cafe/restaurant to have a coffee. I sat there for ages and then it started storming, so I went and got another drink. “I thought I’d get another coffee if it’s going to storm,” I said smiling. It wasn’t busy (I was the only one in the place), so I didn’t think they’d mind if I hung around a bit. They knew what I was a charity walker because I’d told them ages ago that I’d be coming through when I was mapping the hike (plus,I had my pack with me while I was there [obviously] and it has a big sign on it). “We do close at 4pm,” said the lady behind the counter.

Just before 4pm I went up to pay for my coffee. I thought that they’d offer for me to stay seeing it was still storming. Maybe they’ll just let me sit on the little verandah. No, they didn’t and I had to leave. They did give me one coffee for free, which is something I guess. I really wanted to tell someone how great I was for walking up the mountain in under 3 hours, but I didn’t because no one asked how the hike was going and I suppose I got a bit disappointed about that. It’s hard to remember that just because I care about something, it doesn’t mean other people care about it too.

I decided I didn’t want to camp behind the church. After I had to leave the restaurant I felt that the restaurant people weren’t particularly friendly and they would have been able to see that I’d gone behind the church and because I hadn’t been able to ask for permission to camp there, I didn’t want to get in trouble for it, so I went looking for somewhere else. I ended up camping underneath the hall. I’d tried to contact the people in charge of it previously, but no one got back to me about it. I was worried about getting into trouble, so I tucked my tent out of view and waited until after dark to set it up:

It was impossible to sleep here because of the possum olympics. Several competing teams of possums ran riot all night long. There were crashing sounds in the gardens and I imagined that a rogue possum was throwing his counterparts from the balcony into the foliage. The peacock was the referee, who policed proceedings with a stupid honk that went on all night long. Peacocks aren’t nocturnal! Why was he up all night? I really could have strangled all of them. I also got really cold, which didn’t help matters. I guess you might have said that I had the shits!

This was one of the reasons:

I kind of felt like Mt Mee didn’t like me. I had to go over to the school to get water out of the bubblers, which wasn’t easy. I wasn’t expecting that. I’ve never seen taps padlocked before.

The next morning a lady came while I was packing up. I’d put my tent away really early so I couldn’t get into trouble for camping. I told her that I was just reconfiguring my pack and I asked her if she was going to get up me for camping there. When she said no, I told her what I was really doing. She started talking about how dangerous the world is. “When I go into a shopping centre carpark I always make sure there’s more than one or two other people there so I don’t get mugged. It’s happening all the time,” she said. I asked her where she saw it happening. Her answer of course was, on the news. “How many times have you seen on the news about how someone made a successful journey through a shopping centre carpark? The world is not a dangerous place. No one likes to hear this, but it’s actually true. We see violence on the news, hear it on the radio and it’s fed to us non stop online. People talk about it on social media and keep bringing it up over and over again. This causes us to believe that the world is something it’s not. Did you know that the most dangerous place for a woman is in her own home with a man she knows?” She didn’t really have a response for anything of these things, but I did get the feeling that she actually heard what I was saying, which was promising. It’s challenging for people to meet someone who says stuff that totally conflicts with their view of reality and is a living example of the conflict.

That night I was meant to be camping, but the cool guy I’m married to wanted to come and pick me up because he’d been called away for work in PNG. If I didn’t take the opportunity to see him then I wouldn’t have been able to see him until well into December. We arranged to meet at D’Aguilar National Park, which wasn’t far from where I’d camped, so I got walking. He was going to drop me back the next day.

Down the road I started talking to some nice people who were embarrassed about the stench of the fertiliser they were spreading in the garden. I told them I’d camped at the hall. The lady said, “that’s ok, I’m on the committee.” I wish I had known that, then I could have just come to see her when I was planning the hike. They had a beautiful view from their house.

A bit further down the road I met Myles and Holly who stopped to give me a donation. They had dogs with them: two staffies called Mash and Teabag. I wanted to pat them because I really missed my own dogs and hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Biggie’s fluffy tail that sticks almost straight up. He’s our red cattle dog. I got whinging to Myles about the Metallica concert being cancelled on the 29th of October. Holly was wearing a Pennywise jumper and it reminded me of the original reason behind my idea for walking to Brisbane: going to the Metallica concert. I really liked both Holly and Myles. I saw Myles again a few days later on the road outside Samford. It was really nice to see him again, but Holly was at work this time.

Biggie and the tail

It was a hard walk up to the national park. It was because I was so damn tired from the possum olympics. The view was really amazing though. There was a house that had a view that never ended. “You’d never get tired of looking at that,” I said to no one in particular. I saw this cool truck at one spot:

I took this photo as I got into the national park. I had to run to retrieve the camera because as soon as I set the timer two motorbikes started coming down the track and would have run right over it:

I stayed awake for the 3.5 hour trip home, but as soon as we arrived I laid down and went straight to sleep for an hour. That night I went to sleep immediately and didn’t wake up at all until the morning. It would’ve been one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brain Injury Hike Burrum Heads to Rainbow Beach 150km

Fundraising and Awareness Hike: 450km total 

17th of September – 25th of September:

The pack wasn’t too heavy (about 15kg) when I started out because I only had stuff for one night of camping (I had to get picked up and dropped back twice), but as it turned out I didn’t get to use any of it, so it all got carried across the country-side for a little holiday of its own.

I walked through the roadworks at the back of Craignish and saw Kim again, who I’d met when I was first mapping the hike. I asked her why the roadworks were taking so long and she said they’d found some really weird shit buried under the road they were trying to fix; an old wooden bridge that wasn’t meant to be there and an underground creek. She said the bridge was totally intact and was so old that the timber appeared almost petrified.

A bit further along I met a man down a hole who was very excited about what I was doing. He kept telling me that I was awesome after he got over his disbelief about what I was doing:

Him: Where did you start?

Me: Burrum Heads today

Him: Bullshit!

Me: No bullshit.

Him: Where are you going?

Me: I’m walking to Brisbane.

Him: Bullshit!

Me: No bullshit.

I wanted to stay and talk to him, but he had hole-based work to do and I had leg-based work to do, so off I went.

A bit further along I came across this giant mattress dump:

I’d never seen anything like it, so I thought it warranted a photo. I wonder what they do with them?

Around the corner, a lady pulled up in her car and asked me what I was doing. She got very emotional when I told her about the hike. She was a carer for some people with disabilities. She offered to take me dragon boating and gave me a big hug when she left.

Out on the hiway I remembered how crappy it is walking along next to cars that are going 100km/hour. It’s totally ridiculous, but it’s really hard not to take the traffic personally. Is that the stupidest thing of all time or what!? Anyway, up ahead I could see a car on the side of the road and there were people in it. I had to walk right next to them and I said hello as I walked past and I asked the guy inside what was wrong. He was a pretty big dude, covered in bad tattoos and had a shaved head. He also looked like he was totally wired:

Me: Hello, how’s it going? What happened?

Him: Ahhh, fuckin’ thing’s cooked. Just fuckin’ bought it too. Fuckin’ bullshit.

Me: Ohh, that’s no good. Is someone coming to give you a hand?

Him: Fuckin’ hope so. Just fuckin’s sittin’ ‘ere waitin’ now. Fuckin’ bullshit. But, hey, you watch out for snakes and stay safe on the road, ok.

It was funny how cranky he was about the car, but how nice he was about wanting me to stay safe. I wouldn’t have normally gone so close to a car parked on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, but it wasn’t like I could cross over to the other side because there was a big wire barrier in the middle of the lanes and there was a big drop-off to my right.

When I got to the big round-a-bout on the Maryborough-Hervey Bay Road I cut down into the bush and walked along the gas line for most of the way to Susan River, where I’d arranged to camp that night. It was nice on the gas line. Better than walking along the road, but defeating the purpose of making a spectacle of myself for brain injury:

I’d arranged to stay overnight at Susan River Homestead. The owner (Norm) had told me he’d let me camp there for free, but when I arrived he gave me a room instead, which was really nice. He also fed me dinner that night and breakfast the next day.

At dinner I sat in the dining room with the family and we talked about all kinds of things, including brain injury. Norm’s son was a stunt man in Hollywood and had been terribly injured during filming of a movie resulting in a traumatic brain injury. I’d watched that particular movie many times (the cool guy I’m married to and I consider it to be one of our classics) and I didn’t even realise that someone had nearly died in the making of it.

Over dinner I felt like I had a shared history with these people who I’d never met before and it was as though I’d known them all my life. At breakfast, in the kitchen, I wanted to talk to Norm about his life and his business because I found him endlessly interesting, but he had to keep getting up to answer the phone. “After the caravan park that we’re building is finished, I’m putting the place on the market,” he said, sitting down, attempting to eat his breakfast. Momentarily he was up again, his laden fork placed back on the plate as the phone rang once again.  I was shocked, thinking that the property would stay in the same family forever. After all, it’s a local icon.  “No one wants to take it over, see.” And he explained how he never gets a break from the place and the hours are very long. I’d never really given the place too much thought before we had this conversation, but I found myself concerned for the property and how the “feel” of the place would be preserved with new owners running it.  I thought later that Norm would be an interesting subject for biography.

At the corner as I was heading back out onto the hiway, a big black car stopped and the passenger handed me a $20 note. “You’re doing a good thing,” she said and they drove off.

I walked along the gas line for as long as I could. I got stuck at the top of a cutting right before Saltwater Creek bridge and had to slide back down onto the road on my arse. I’d gone up there entertaining a fantasy that it would be a secret way across the creek without having to walk on the bridge. It wasn’t.

Bridges are a worry and I’d been worrying about this particular bridge because it’s narrow and it’s a very busy road. I attached my orange hi-vis bag to the handle of one of my poles and waved it around, high above my head. See, motorists don’t notice me because they’re not looking for a hiker on the road and that’s why the bridges are the most dangerous parts of the hike. Motorists literally don’t even see me AT ALL. The high-vis bag helps a little bit, but I’m serious, for the most part, people have no idea that I’m even there. To them, I’m Harry Potter in the invisibility cloak. It sounds nuts, and it is, but it’s true. The last charity hike I did I got talking to some motorists in a free camp and several of them admitted that they didn’t notice me on the road at all even though they’d driven right past me. Click here to see if you’d notice me.

I wrote a prayer to say before bridge crossings:

Hale to the bridge gods

Banks north, south, east and west

Be the path across safe

No hazards make

And bring your will against my back to push me forward and shepherd my way

Let the traffic flow as it must so I can arrive as I did approach

Hale to the bridge gods

As I was coming into Maryborough, a man zipped up on a little postie bike. He was very excited about giving me a donation. “This is from Ezy Build,” he said. He zipped off only to come back a couple of minutes later wanting to bring me cold water. I had a job to do to tell him I didn’t need water! I felt sorry for him because he obviously really wanted to give me some cold water, but I really don’t like cold water and it was difficult to explain that without seeming weird. But then, I probably didn’t appear particularly normal in the first place.

I found the walk from Burrum Heads to Maryborough pretty easy and I wondered why that could be. I know I really struggled with the last charity hike I did. It’s probably because I am much fitter and the pack is a bit lighter this time.

…This line of thinking didn’t really last that long…

The Cool Guy picked me up in Maryborough and dropped me back the next day. The pack is now almost 26kg, which is waaaay to heavy. I still hadn’t used my tent!

I walked past this cool structure. I don’t know what it is, but I liked it, so I took a photo of it. It’s opposite Walkers and next to the slipway:

Two people gave me donations as I was walking through Granville and I got talking to one of them about a rogaine event they’d just been to. I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about and I assumed that they were marketing some kind of baldness treatment until I asked them what rogaine was. Turns out it’s like orienteering. I didn’t tell them I’d thought it was about baldness! What a dick!

The road to the first real campsite was pretty good. I walked past an earthmoving yard and there was an orange tree totally laden with huge oranges. I wanted so much to go and get some, but it was too much effort, so I just kept walking. I thought today was only 15km, but after I arrived at the campsite I saw on the itinerary that it was actually over 17km. Still, I was pretty impressed with my idea of using toe socks for this hike and my weightlifting gloves for the hiking poles. Both things made such a huge difference.

I was worried about the bee hives that were on the edge of the forestry and I crossed over to the other side of the road to get away from them. I had to really handle my shit not to lose my mind as I walked past them. I am really scared of bees! A couple flew out and I almost started to panic. It was a huge effort to not start crying. It seems so outrageiously stupid that I can do all this tough mo-fo stuff, but if I see a single bee or a spider I start losing it. It’s totally irrational.

I got past the bees and made it to the first camp. Finally, I got to use my tent (Trangia stove in the foreground):

Campsite: Rainbow Beach 1

I almost lost half of the tent today. The inner and the outer each have their own pouches and one of the pouches had nearly migrated out of the bag that I had them in. It was strapped to the outside of my pack. It wouldn’t have made for a very happy ending if I’d lost it. After that I made a special effort to do the tent bag up a different way and to check the outside of the pack every so often.

This campsite was ok, but it was pretty close to the road and also the turn off, so there were streams of trucks all night long. There were a lot of mozzies and sandflies, but they were doing me a favour by offering graduated exposure to the unending hoards of them at the next camp. I went to bed at 7pm.

The next day was a bit harder and I thought to myself, this is more like it. I walked for  a fair bit inside the forestry. It was nice in there, away from the road and I took this photo:

I was looking forward to the second campsite because it had a tidal waterhole and the day was really hot, so I spent a good deal of time fantasising about a swim at the end of the day.

Campsite: Rainbow Beach 2

I went down to the waterhole, which wasn’t easy as it’s not really a path. The road isn’t even a real road, just a slash that’s been pushed with a posi-track blade. Who knows why it’s even there. No one would be able to drive on it. The woo-boys are huge. (Woo-boys are like giant speed bumps. These ones had been put there for drainage). I thought maybe the person who pushed the road might have wanted their own personal access to the secret waterhole.

I stood on some rocks and had an internal argument with myself about getting in the water, which wasn’t helped when I saw this come out from under the rock I was standing on:

Mudcrab: It looks tiny in this photo, but it would have been just under legal size. That’s it, I’m not going in there! I thought, but I made myself do it. I only lasted about one minute in the water, but I was glad I did it. This is what it looked like:

It’s bizarre to me that this is a tidal waterhole and I was nowhere near the ocean. At night the waterhole came alive. It started out with several gigantic belly slaps. Soon after that it sounded as though the whole thing was full of several teams of olympians playing water polo. I imagined a legion of dolphins that had been trapped during the high tide and there were sirens of the sea cavorting and chasing each other. It kept this up all night long.  I really wanted to go and have a look, but there were way too many bities to even imagine opening the screen on the tent. The space between the fly and in the inner was literally black with mosquitoes. This was the nicest campsite for the location, but the worst for the sand and the bities.

The next day seemed very difficult. I turned the GPS on more than three times to see how far the campsite was because I felt like I should have been there already. I think it was the heat. Plus I walked through a lot of soft sand today and the hills wouldn’t have helped. The hills are weird. They can be huge, but I don’t even notice that I’m walking up hill. It just feels the same as when I’m walking on the flat. I don’t even slow my pace down going up, no matter how steep it is. Going down is a different story. That’s much harder and I have to slow right down.

I walked through a cutting into the forestry thinking that it would just snake back around and onto the road. It didn’t and I had to slide back down on my arse onto the side of the road. Of course I did it right on top of a meat ant nest and they got all over me. They are the one type of ant I’m not afraid of because they don’t actually sting. Thank god for that considering there were hundreds of them on me and I’m alergic to ants, bees and wasps.

I met some long distance bike riders today: Rose and John. They’d started out in Cairns and were on their way to Brisbane. They gave me a donation. Rose said she’d heard about me, but couldn’t recall who from. She thought it was another long distance cyclist. I was sad to see them ride away. It had been a couple of days since I’d talked to another person.

Rose and John on their way to Tin Can Bay

I walked into military territory today, well, not quite into it, but past it:

Lots of cars beeped at me today. I raised my pole closest to the road in response. It makes me feel really good when people do this.

This campsite was the best one on the whole hike because there were almost no bities here and the ground was quite comfy. I went to bed at 4.20pm:

Campsite: Rainbow Beach 3

I didn’t really get that much sleep here though because I had the stupidest dream of all time that featured my ex-best friend, a fancy motel and an elevator that went upwards at an angle. The road was constant with truck after truck. Plus a dog was barking in the distance at one point and I thought how unusual it was for a wild dog to bark like that. It was a long way off, but seemed to be getting closer. Gees, he’s travelling fast. He must be chasing a galloping brumby, I thought. Louder and closer he got and I thought how big he must be to be covering such a distance as he was. I got a teeny tiny bit worried. He was almost right at my camp and it was then I realised he was on the back of a ute doing what I call “the barking tour” and off he went barking into the distance in the opposite direction.  I felt like a dick!

**

Today while I was walking I got to thinking that you don’t get to pick the things you’re good at and the things you’re good at might not necessarily be useful for any tangible purpose other than for your own enjoyment. The idea that it’s possible to commodify a skill or a passion is something that’s common in contemporary society, but to me, doing this could present a great opportunity to extinguish something you love and take away a central part of your identity.

**

I decided at this spot I was carrying too many clothes, so I packed everything up that I didn’t really need and left it under a grass tree to collect when the cool guy I’m married to picked me up from Rainbow Beach. I also fashioned a vermin proof rubbish canister out of my 5 litre water bottle by cutting the top off, stuffing it with rubbish and taping it back up with duct tape. I shoved it under the grass tree too. I don’t leave anything behind when I hike, so I had to go back to each site after pick up and collect the water bottles.

Because I’d struggled so much the day before, I looked at the pack when I was ready to leave and I said to it, “I hate you” then I took this photo:

After I’d offloaded all that stuff it was much easier going and I stopped worrying so much about walking the 20km into Rainbow Beach on the last day. There were a lot of hills again and the road and forest seemed never ending:

It took me over six hours of walking today, but I faffed around a fair bit. I talked for ages with a dude in a posi track about how annoying the wooboys are on the forestry roads. I also went all the way up into this cutting that I’d thought would snake back around, only to discover that at the top of the hill it went in the opposite direction. I had to come back down again and almost fell down the embankment because I was too lazy to walk back to the start of the track again and thought I could just go down the side. The grass was taller than me.

As I came to the nursery, which was the only retail business I’d seen since leaving Maryborough,  I thought I’d go and see if they had cold drinks, but I walked all the way past the service road and had to double back to get into the nursery. I stood there looking at the sign that said “closed Wednesdays.”  How will I know if it’s Wednesday? I wondered aloud. I stood there for a couple of minutes trying to work out how I’d figure out which day it was before it dawned on me to look at my fitwatch. Durr (my phone was almost flat and I didn’t want to waste the battery turning it on to check the day). In the nursery no one was there, so I had to just leave again anyway. Poo bum wee.

At the last campsite I wasn’t happy with the spot I’d picked. It was too close to the road and everyone who drove past would have been able to see me, so I took my pack off and walked around for about twenty minutes until I found a spot that I thought was really good. It was. That is, until the lights came on. I was camped at a water treatment plant and the damn thing was lit up like a Christmas tree as soon as the sun went down. I had to tie a bandana over my eyes! Not only that, there were various pumps kicking in and out all night long. I didn’t get to bed until after 8pm, which was getting really late considering I’d been going to bed at an average of 5pm. The road was also pretty eventful. Every car that stopped at the turn off from Cooloola Cove laid a line of rubber. A team of Harleys came through at some ungodly hour and then there was a carload of people who stopped at the corner and started partying. I was so very glad I’d moved the campsite. No one could see me at all in the new spot:

Campsite: Rainbow Beach 4

On the way into Rainbow Beach more cars beeped, which made me smile. I wanted to stop in at Seary’s Creek and take a photo, but I got talking to a ranger there and I forgot about the photo. I was annoyed with myself because I descended into whinging when I was talking to her, which is what made me forget the reason I went there in the first place. It’s very hard for me to not get caught up in whinging when I get the audience of anyone from QPWS. See, I spent a good chunk of my life (almost 20 years) trying to be a ranger, but could never even get an interview. It’s really hard not to be embittered by this. Sometimes I feel better about it all than I do other times, but I doubt if I’ll ever be totally at peace with it.

Anyway, she was a nice lady and was interested in what I was doing. It wasn’t until I got 200 metres down the road that I realised that I hadn’t gone to the toilet, nor had I taken the photo.

As I got closer to Rainbow Beach the amount of crap on the road increased. I heard a giant rustling in the bush behind me and I thought, gees, that’s a big goanna, so I stopped to look and at the same time, the rustling also stopped. I started walking again and the rustling started up too. What’s going on? I thought. Looking down at my shoe I noticed that I had fishing line caught around it and must’ve been pulling a giant wad of it through the bush with each step I took. Normally I would have stopped and found the end of the line, rolled it up and taken it with me, but there was so much of it on the road, that it wouldn’t have made any difference at all. Not only that, who could tell how long it was or where the end could possibly be.

Further down the road I found an animal’s horn, but no animal. I found a wallet that had been sitting there since probably 2014. That was when all the cards expired and lots of camping bits and pieces and stuff from boats.

I met a lady while I was walking who stopped and gave me a donation. She went back into town and organised for another lady to meet me and walk into town with me:

Alison and I just before Rainbow Beach

Right before we had this photo taken I found a $50 note on the road! How cool is that! I’ve found money on the road before, but never anymore than a $10 note. I felt sorry for the person who’d lost the $50, but happy for me!

I was meant to be staying with Gary and Julie, but Julie had to go away on short notice and Gary’s two brothers had decided to come and visit, so I ended up staying with their neighbour Lyn. I’d never met any of these people before. It had all been very kindly organised for me by way of Lee McCarthy who runs the local newspaper.

Gary dropped me off at Lyn’s place. She wasn’t home, but had left the place open so I could go inside and have a shower. It was pretty cool that someone I’d never met just left their home open for me to access. I was very excited about having a shower. It was the first one in five days.

Later that afternoon I went with Gary to St Vinnies, where they’d offered for me to have anything I wanted for free from the shop. I only needed a pair of thongs, but they didn’t have any, so one of the guys volunteering there gave me his fancy Havaianas (I left them with Gary to return to him the next day).

That night we all went out for dinner to the sports club where the manager gave me a meal for free. Some people from the community came and I got lots of donations, which was really nice considering none of these people knew me at all: $220 in total. I gave a speech I’d written beforehand. I felt dumb saying it. It’s always difficult to talk to a smaller group of people than it is to speak to a larger group. You can’t fake eye contact with a smaller group and it’s more likely that everyone is paying closer attention to you as well.

Back at Lyn’s she gave me chocolate icecream because the kitchen was closed by the time I’d asked about getting dessert. I love icecream. I’d wanted to get a ginger beer spider when I arrived in town. I’d been fantasising about it for a while, but there wasn’t really anywhere to get one, so I bought a small bottle of sarsparilla and it was just as good.

I was really looking forward to seeing the cool guy I’m married to the next day. It felt like it had been forever since I’d seen him because I wasn’t able to talk to him while I was hiking; I forgot to charge my phone before I left and I was conscious of preserving what little charge there was incase of an emergency. “Didn’t you bring a charger?” someone asked. I just looked at them for a moment wondering what they could be possibly thinking. “Um, no, but if I did, where would I plug it in – to a tree?”

Some of the stuff people say to me when I’m hiking is out there. People think I can just walk down the road and back to get water, when down the road and back is over 10km in one direction, which would be a 20km return; an entire day’s walk. They don’t seem to understand the difficulty that water presents, often suggesting that I can walk along a different route because its easier or shorter even though there’s no water within 100km.

Once, when I was telling someone about the kind of food I take, they said, “Not me, I’d just have a BBQ everynight.” I wonder how they think they’d keep their meat fresh or where the actual BBQ might be or how in god’s name they’d do the dishes after a greasy BBQ.

Another one is the mattress. People forget that it’s hiking, not camping and there’s no vehicle to carry a giant mattress for you. Often I get suggestions about how comfortable such and such a mattress is, only to have to remind people that weight and size are factors when hiking.

After this little break, I’m off again and still have 300km to go. Yay!

I saw brumbies on the way home:

One foot, then the next, then the next, then the next…