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
Me: No bullshit.
Him: Where are you going?
Me: I’m walking to Brisbane.
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…