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 Landsborough to Caboolture 42.4km

Fundraising and Awareness Hike: 450km total

12th of October to 17th of October

My awesome friend, Shanny and I were meant to walk from Daisy’s Place into Landsborough on the 12th of October, but when we got there it started pouring rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. I decided it wasn’t safe so we called it off and Shanny’s husband, Adam ran me around all over the place to drop off some water to one of my campsites. While we were doing this I discovered that one of my campsites had been fenced off and there was no way for me to get into it. I just hoped that when I got there, I could find somewhere else safe to stay. Thankfully I hadn’t put any food drops inside the area.

Because we couldn’t walk that day, Shanny very kindly rescheduled an event I was meant to have at a cafe in Landsborough (I refuse to own an internet phone) and one of the people who had wanted to come to the cafe came into Mooloolaba instead to meet us later. She was a really cool lady and I was really glad she’d made time to come and talk to me. She’d done a lot of hiking too and it was good to talk to someone who wasn’t full of self-importance about the hikes they’d been on.

The next day I haven’t written anything in my hiking journal because I was too pissed off about what happened in the afternoon to write anything apart from swear words in big capital letters that start with the letters F and C (more about that in a minute), so I wrote most of it down the day after…It was a good day walking with Shanny from Daisy’s Place. We walked along the road for some of it and in the bush for some of it too. A lady came out from a fruit stall proffering mangoes, which neither of us really wanted, but it would have been impolite and disrespectful to refuse. All the same, it was a nice gesture. Shanny put them in her pack and told me she’d give them to her dad later on. I certainly had nowhere to put them, which was a shame because I really love mangoes. Quite a few cars beeped at us.

It’s hard for me to relax when I’m walking along the road with someone else. See, the road and I have an understanding that has grown in over weeks and weeks of trudging and I can kind of tell what sort of vehicle is coming up behind me or how fast someone is going just by paying close attention. I know exactly where to walk to stay the safest, not only from the traffic but from injuries arising from walking on uneven ground, a sloping road shoulder and slippery surfaces often littered with broken glass. Still, we got there in one piece and had a lovely morning tea with some of Shanny’s family who came to join us. I got to drive a big chocolate brownie into my face, so I was happy with that.

That afternoon, after everyone left I sent a text message to the lady who had offered for me to come and stay at her place via Facebook (the same way I’d come across Olivia and Peter – see the last post).  I told her that I’d arrived and that I was looking forward to meeting her and her husband. She responded by text message telling me that someone in her family was sick and as a result she had to fly to Sydney and that she’d forgotten to tell me that I could no longer stay with her. If she wasn’t home I could have still camped in her yard or she could have made alternative arrangements, which is exactly what happened in Rainbow Beach; my host’s mum got very sick and she had to fly out to Melbourne immediately. BUT, she knew I was coming and made arrangements for me to stay with her neighbour instead, which is probably what any NORMAL person would do. What I really think happened with this lady in Landsborough is that she didn’t want me to stay at her house and had just made up a lame excuse about it. I didn’t bother texting her back because that wouldn’t change anything and would only make me more pissed off. I didn’t hear from her again, not even to ask if I was alright. I guess that’s ok though because I didn’t bother asking her if she was alright either.

I asked a man in the cafe if he knew of anywhere to camp.

Me: (indicating pack) I’m doing a long distance charity hike and the people I was meant to be staying with have just piked on me. Do you know anywhere around here that I could camp for free?

Him: Well, if you were in Maleny, you could camp at the showgrounds.

Me: But I’m not in Maleny. (I really wanted to say, that statement is as useful as saying that if I was at home, then I could just stay in my own bed).

Him: (Looks at me in confusion) Well, the best thing to do when you’re upset is go for a walk and make sure you drink a lot of water.

Me: (In disbelief and indicating pack) Ok, good, thanks (said while restraining myself from screaming).

I left him and my pack in the cafe and went for an extremely fast walk to see if I could find somewhere else to camp. I didn’t come up with anything, so I went to the museum because I thought, they’re all volunteers, just like me, so they’ll help me. WRONG! They didn’t help and wouldn’t help and didn’t seem to particularly care even though I showed them my letter of authority from the PA Research Foundation, told them I’d walked several hundred kilometres and that I had a brain injury. “What am I meant to do then?” I asked. One of them told me to go to the Scout Camp, which was illogical for several reasons, but I realised there was no point getting into any kind of discussion with them, so I just left. I really, really wanted to yell at them, but I didn’t, which was one of the most difficult things of all time.

Eventually I found a campsite beside the church, but I had to wait until after dark to put my tent up so that nobody would see what I was doing and potentially tell me that I couldn’t do it.

I went back to get my pack, so I could take it to the pub for my Facebook event I’d scheduled for that afternoon. My “friend” from earlier was still there. I got him good because when he asked if I’d gotten myself sorted as though it would have been as easy as one-two-three,  I responded gruffly, “No. No, I did not.” and just kept walking.

The pub was pretty cool in the end. I sat there like a Nigel-No-Friends for a fair while, but got talking to some nice people after a couple of hours. I pretended that I was waiting to meet the people who had piked on me earlier and asked everyone if they knew where they lived. No one did, no one had even heard of them. I wanted to go around to their house to see if they were home, so I could legitimately call them liars later on, but I had to let it go, which wasn’t easy.

I met a nice man about my age whose leg was all mangled. He told me that he’d had a motorbike accident. “I came around a corner and ran into a truck,” he said. Later I met his mum who told me that he was a postie when it happened. “He got run over by a truck. It was my fault. I got him the job,” she said. It was awful to hear her talk like this, so I said to her, “No, it’s not your fault. It’s just something that happened.” She gave me a big hug when she left and wrote her phone number down on a beer coaster incase I needed help with anything. I’d told her the story of the pikers.

That night I got really cold in the tent. It was hard to sleep; probably because I was still pissed off, but also because I was freezing cold. Cars kept pulling up in the little carpark right in front of my tent (they couldn’t see me because I was hidden by the garden). They’d sit there for a while, then drive off. All night this went on. Only a couple of times did people get out of the cars. I couldn’t think what it could possibly be other than some kind of drug rendezvous.

I was lucky to find this nice patch of ground to camp. I took this photo after I’d quickly packed everything up to leave at 5.30am. I had to get moving early so that no one would come along and tell me off. You can only just see the drug rendezvous carpark.

The next day I walked to Glasshouse, which wasn’t too far. A man stopped in a big 4WD and put his orange rooftop lights on. I thought he might be going to get up me about walking along the road. He didn’t. He gave me a donation and told me how great I was. He stopped when he saw me because his son also had a brain injury from a car accident. His son was at one point doing charity ride on a recumbent trike around Tasmania, but couldn’t stay focused on what he was doing due to his brain injury and as a result never ended up completing the ride. He was a really nice man and I was glad that he stopped to talk to me. “I hope your son will be ok,” I said as he left.

There wasn’t anywhere to pee in secret in the last half of the walk, so when I got to Glasshouse I was busting. I went straight up to the public toilets at the top of the hill. I wanted to cook my lunch in the park, but I just couldn’t face dragging everything out of the pack and repacking it again afterwards. A lady came past and started talking to me about donating, so I asked her where to get a good milkshake. She sent me to Glasshouse Country Kitchen. Man, oh man, it was THE best thickshake I’ve literally ever had in my life and it only cost $5.50. When the man behind the counter brought my thickshake over, he refunded my money and also gave me a donation. What a nice guy!

At Glasshouse I’d arranged to stay with Gayle and Bob. I’d met Gayle at the tourist information centre when I first mapped the hike. She very kindly offered for me to stay at her place when I was asking about campsites in the area. On the way to Gayle and Bob’s a man called out from his yard, “Hey bloke! You got enough water?” I didn’t look around because I’m not a bloke. I thought he was talking to someone else, but he wasn’t because he yelled it again and by then I knew I was the only person on the street, so I went over to him to say hello and also to let him know that I was in fact a woman. I wasn’t offended that he called me a man. People do it all the time. The last time was about two weeks before I left on the hike and it had happened plenty of times before that as well. Little did I know that it would happen not too far into the future also.

This was the first time I’d ever had the opportunity to ask someone why they thought I was a man. He was too embarassed to give me a proper answer even though I assured him I really didn’t care about him thinking I was a man. In the end I felt bad for him, so I said goodbye with him calling out apologies as I walked off.

I don’t know why people think I’m a man! Have they seen my legs for crying out loud!? What man has legs like mine? I’ve certainly never seen any. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m 6ft tall (closer to 6′ 2” in my hiking boots). I don’t have a horse face, a square jaw or a particularly huge frame, my boobs are a good size, so the only other thing I can really put it down to is that I’m pretty skinny compared to a lot of women my age, but at the end of the day, I really don’t know what it is.

View across the road from Gayle and Bob’s

On the road I asked a boy of about 10 or 11 if he knew where the street was that I was  looking for. He didn’t, but he asked me to come back to his house so that he could give me a drink. What a nice kid: “If you you come with me, you can have a drink at my house and we can ask my mum. She’ll know where it is.” I told him that he was thoughtful and it was nice of him to offer, but I’d just ring the people up instead of bothering his mum. He rode off on his scooter.

I slept really good at Gayle and Bob’s and got off to a good start the next day for my walk into Caboolture, where I’d arranged to stay at the showgrounds. It was a nice walk because most of it was along the side of the road under the trees. Later I found a tick on the top of my head. Yuck! At least it wasn’t a leech. They are far more DIS-GUS-TING!

Mt Tibrogargan. There’s an Aboriginal legend that tells the story of the all the Glasshouse Mountains. I always thought this one looked like a gorilla, but in the legend he’s actually the father of all the mountains in the area aside from Mt Beerwah. The lines are the electric lines for the train (I was on the other side of the rail fence, so couldn’t get an unobstructed view).

I knew I had to turn off the road to head through to Caboolture via Elimbah, but I somehow ended up in Beerwah without seeing the sign for the turn off. I got a bit worried that I’d gone the wrong way, so I asked a man in a shop and then the lady in the post office to make absolutely sure I was going in the right direction; I was.

At Elimbah I decided to get a Bundaberg Sars from the servo. It’s really the only softdrink I can handle and even then only very occassionally. I’d started telling myself stories about the sars before I got to the shop. When I got there, they didn’t have any in the fridge, only several boxes of it on the shelf waiting to be put into the fridge. I tried to talk myself into one of the other types of softdrink, but couldn’t do it, so I went and sat outside for a while; mainly because I was pissed off about not getting what I wanted. I guess you’d say that I had the shits! I started talking to some guys from SEQ Water and they really did have to deal with actual shit, so I forgot about the sars and started laughing when they told me what it’s like dealing with shit everyday. They gave me a donation and I started walking again.

Today I walked into the Moreton Bay Region:

Because of what had happened in Landsborough I was a bit worried about the showgrounds changing their mind about letting me stay (they don’t normally allow tent-based camping). It was lucky that I’d written down the name of the guy I spoke to who had initially given me permission because the lady in the office began telling me how they don’t allow tents. I showed her the piece of paper he’d given me and she said in a vague kind of way, “I think I remember something about this.” It was ok though because the guy who said I could stay in the first place showed up in a little golf cart and took me to my spot with my own power and a big light if I needed it.

As I was setting up my tent a scruffy guy came over and started talking about how there’s no tents allowed and that I should watch out because the security guard was driving around. I couldn’t really understand what he was talking about. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to help me or if he was trying to get rid of me or what, so I just kept setting everything up while telling him about my hike. I wasn’t sure that he got it, but he went away eventually. Not long after, he came back and when I saw him coming I started to worry that he was going to be a nuisance and I decided that I’d have to tell him to leave me alone. He wasn’t being a pain though, he was bringing me a donation! He waved to me the next day as he was leaving. I felt bad for thinking he was going to be a problem.

Campsite at Caboolture Showgrounds. Check out the tent. Notice anything? The dickhead who put it up (me) put the fly on upside down. The stupid thing was; it was the second time I’d done it and both times I couldn’t work out what was wrong. I looked at it and thought, this doesn’t seem right. Why is this bit of stuff sticking out like this? I thought the zippers went the other way. Duh! Stupid much?

I got zero sleep here. The train line is just across the road and the goods trains thundered past all night long. It really sounded like they were right next to my head. Still, I was too lazy to dig out the earplugs. It was kind of satisfying to know that I wasn’t the only one who would have been kept awake all night. There were heaps of caravans and camper-trailers in the section across from me and they wouldn’t have been able to escape the noise either.

 

Brain Injury Hike Tewantin to Caloundra 80km (but probably more)

Fundraising and Awareness Hike: 450km total

8th of October – 11th of October

Right before I got to the Sunshine Coast I had to make up the distance I had missed out on by not being able to walk the Cooloola Great Walk (it was closed by QPWS). I did that at home by walking to my mum’s place along the Buxton Road (22km), and walking around Burrum Coast National Park and out along the road that connects Walkers Point to Woodgate. It’s pretty cool living right next to a national park:

The melaleuca circuit is 12km. One time, at the bird hide, a snake slithered over my hand. Another time, I saw a musk duck. That was pretty cool. Better than the snake.

Echidna all scrunched up. I tried to sneak up on him/her to get a good photo, but they must feel the vibrations of anything that is approaching and go straight into scrunch mode.

The wetlands on part of the Melaleuca Circuit.

Note on Sunshine Coast Section of hike: The hike jumped around a lot here. I expected to be able to walk straight from Tewantin to Caloundra, but wasn’t able to garner the interest of any caravan parks in helping me out with a free tent site, which meant I had to trek over, across, back, forwards and sideways to cover the distance, while being accommodated very kindly for free by some people I’d known for a long time, but mostly by people I’d never met before.

The first day on the Sunshine Coast was really hard. It was soooo freakin’ hot and the concrete paths really hurt my feet. It was good to learn this though. For the rest of the hike I stayed off the concrete and walked on the grass/dirt next to it.

The cool guy I’m married to dropped me near the Tewantin primary school and I walked from there.

I walked past a cafe, where some cyclists were having coffee. One of them was super-friendly. He was really excited about what I was doing and he gave me donation. I thought it was a good sign and that everyone I came across would be friendly, but it didn’t really work out like that. I tried smiling at everyone I went past, but pretty much everyone wouldn’t even look at me and the ones that did looked away really quickly. For most of the day no one smiled back at me and the main reaction I got was the stupid-weird look that people seem to give me no matter where I am. After a while I stopped smiling at people and just looked down when I had to walk past someone.  It’s really hard to get past this because I can’t understand it. Some of my friends reckon that people ignore me because they’re city people, One of them said it’s because people are jealous of me (why anyone would be jealous of someone carting a 20kg pack is anyone’s guess!) and someone very close to me said that it’s because while I’m doing this I am a “proper weirdo”. I think I agree with that the most. I mean, not every single person looks at me like I’m the biggest weirdo of all time, but I’d have to say at least 95% of them do. It’s no big deal in areas with a very small population, but in a place like the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane, it’s constant and it kind of got to me a little bit. The scenery was pretty good though:

Looking across the Noosa River

I did have some nice people speak to me in Noosa. The first one was a lovely lady from a shop called Poke on Hastings. Her name was Deanne and she came over to me and offered me to have anything I wanted to eat from her shop. I said I couldn’t eat anything at that point, so she gave me a nice drink instead:

Down the road a bit another lady came out of a coffee shop and was really interested in what I was doing. Her name was Jodie and she was really beautiful. She gave me a donation. I couldn’t remember what the name of her cafe was, so I googled “Jodie cafe Noosa” and got the right result: Puncheur

After that I didn’t talk to anyone until Sunrise or Sunshine Beach (I can’t remember which one). There was a dude there standing on seat looking out at the ocean.

Me: Are you going surfing?

Him: It’s low tide (said with derision).

Me: Does that matter? (the waves looked perfectly fine to me).

Him: You should have a different hat (didn’t answer about it being low tide).

Me: Yes, thankyou, but it’s hard to hear traffic and bikes approaching from behind with a broad brimmed hat.

Him: Humph (I could tell he wanted to argue with me about it. I didn’t bother pointing out that he should probably be wearing a shirt for his own sun protection considering he was so concerned about mine).

Me: How far is Coolum? (I didn’t actually care, I just wanted to redirect away from the hat topic).

Him: All the way up there (while pointing and smiling as though I should be afraid of how far away it was and that it would be impossible to actually walk all that way).

I had to get away from this guy as quickly as I could, so I made up some excuse about having to meet someone and started walking again. He was the biggest knob of all time!! He reminded me of the people I knew back in the nineties when I lived in Mooloolaba; the ones who all thought their shit didn’t stink.

Coolum waaay off in the distance. It’s actually so far that you can’t even see it.

At Peregian I spoke to a really nice lady called Rachel. She had a big scar on her shoulder and I asked her how it happened. “I was living in Brisbane. I was absorbed in my life there and just like everyone else, I was in a hurry all the time. I tried to beat a car at a pedestrian crossing and slipped on the white marks because it was raining and I was in such a rush. I fell down and smashed my shoulder against a high curb. It was a bad thing to happen, but it changed my life. I’m so much happier now. I moved away from the city after that and slowed the pace of my life. I should never have moved away from Coolum. I love it here.” I got the feeling that she could no longer see what she had found so attractive in the fast-paced city life.

I couldn’t work out how to get back onto the bike path. Rachel wasn’t sure, so after I left her I asked a man in a car, who was fairly useless at polite interactions, so I asked a lady in a shop, who pointed out that the path was only about 20m away on the other side of the carpark. Not long after I got back onto the path I walked through the area that had been burnt by a deliberately lit bushfire several weeks previously. One of the houses had lost its back fence and the shed was warped and twisted. There were melted surf boards and body boards inside it. The fire had licked up against the sides of homes that I walked past and many of the fences had been destroyed, not to mention the gardens and big trees. Some homes were totally destroyed in the fire, but I didn’t see any of these, thankfully. It must have been horrible to see the fire approaching through the bushland that was just across from the homes I walked past.

It seemed to take forever to get to Coolum. In fact, it took me over seven hours. WTF! It was only meant to be 20km but someone said later that it was probably closer to 40km because of how I walked by the longest route possible rather than the direct route I put in on Google Maps. That seemed plausible. I started whinging out loud towards the end: “How much further is it for fuck’s sake? Whyyyyyy is it so far? I can’t believe how long this is taking! Come on, am I there yet?” Lucky I was on my own. I saw a sign in the distance that I thought said CBH. That’s got to stand for Coolum Beach Hotel, I thought and it did.

I’d set up a Facebook event to start at 4.30pm, but no one came. I tagged the Coolum Beach Hotel in as co-hosts, but they mustn’t monitor their social media because they never got back to me (in fact, none of the venues did for any of the events I tagged them in on). There were big comfy lounges in the beer garden and as I sat there I watched a huge water dragon slide out from underneath one of the couches:

I got some donations from a few people in the beer garden. One of them was a lovely young girl who shyly handed over her money. Another was a strange man who came over to my pack and traced his finger across the words on the sign as though it was helping him to read it. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to put up with shit.

Him (in a gruff voice): Are you a good one or a bad one?

Me (in a no-bullshit voice): What do you think?

Him: I just wanna know if you’re one them good ones or bad ones.

Me: Well, what do you reckon? I’ve walked a long way to get here, I’m not getting paid, I’m raising money for a good cause, so you work it out for yourself.

He must’ve been happy with that because he gave me a $4 and off he went.

I had a few people like this on the last long hike I did in 2016. I’m not sure what their caper is, but I found last time that I had to speak to them the same way they spoke to me otherwise I had to put up with a mountain of bullshit. Sometimes it’s ok to put up with bullshit, but after hiking almost 40km I really wasn’t in the mood for it.

That night I stayed with some people from the Maroochydore STEPS group who were very kind to come and pick me up and take me back to their nice home in Buderim. It was quite a drive.

The next day we all went to the STEPS meeting together and I met some lovely people, one of them a man named Wayne who had come to be brain injured when he was run over by a car. His story was very similar to mine in that he didn’t know he was brain injured for a long time and thought he was going crazy, which is exactly the way I felt in the five years I lived with brain injury before I knew what was going on.

After the meeting I went to Sunshine Plaza and walked around a bit. I had to wait until the afternoon to meet Olivia who had offered for me to stay at her place via a request I’d put on Facebook. I’d never met Olivia before and I told myself that she’d be similar to a really awesome friend I had when I was younger; Erin, and it turned out that she actually was a lot like Erin! I had a great time staying with Olivia and her family. The house was full of people and her two boys Remi and Marli were both really cool dudes. I talked a lot with Olivia’s father, Serge and he had a lot of really wonderful things to say about his wife and his family. He was obviously very proud of them all. Olivia very kindly gave up her own bedroom for me and I had an excellent night’s sleep.

The next day Olivia took me to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital to look at the radiation oncology unit. She said we could go behind the scenes and see the planning section. This was interesting to me because I’ve had radiation therapy for brain cancer and while I knew planning had been done for my treatment, I didn’t realise how involved that actually was. I had no idea that physicists had input and that there were teams of people working behind the scene to make sure that the treatment was delivered effectively. I got a bit upset at one point and started pissing out tears. It was because the lady giving me the tour was explaining to me about why they have a photo wall. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that people wanted a photo to remember having radiation. I couldn’t wait to forget it.

Olivia very kindly drove me all the way back into Mooloolaba, which is where I’d scheduled a Facebook event at a cafe. I sat there like a twat for over 30 minutes. The dude behind the counter didn’t even say hello, which I thought was weird considering I’d called him to let him know I’d be coming and also seeing that my pack took up about one third of the entire floorspace in the tiny cafe. I wrote a story about being invisible and having an invisible disability in one of the adult colouring books he had on the table, then I left. I wonder if he read it.

It was impossible to work out where to walk today! I had printed maps (I don’t have an iphone), but the detail wasn’t good enough or maybe my spatial reasoning deficit wasn’t really helping, but man oh man, I walked in the wrong direction, back again, then back yet again, all the while being on the wrong side of the canal. I got the shits really badly and almost started crying a couple of times. The more I looked at the map, the less it seemed to make sense. I had to ask a lot of people where to go and in the end I found my way to the right road. As a result of all the to and fro, it took ages to get to my destination and I was really tired.

I stopped in a Maccas and a friendly lady there offered to give me a lift. I said no, but she gave me a donation anyway, which was nice. I had a thickshake and I felt better after that.

I was walking to Harmony Estate, which is on the other side of Sippy Downs to stay with Peter, who I’d never met before. Just like Olivia, I’d come across Peter on Facebook when he very kindly offered for me to stay at his place. I had a great time with Peter and his very cool dog, Bessy. I felt like Peter was the male version of me and I imagined we could easily be best friends in the non-hiking world. We talked about music and watched a DVD of Midnight Oil’s tour in 2017. We’d both gone to their gigs on that tour. I wish I had taken a photos of Bessy. She looked like a nice dog I used to know called Manoo, who was a big Irish Wolfhound.

I was looking forward to the next day because I was walking through the Mooloolah River National Park:

When I got in there it was great and I thought, I wish it was all like this.

Then I got to this sign:

What, does the Aemula fire trail go straight down into the centre of the earth? And which way does the Boronia fire trail go? Is it left or right? This wasn’t on a straight stretch of trail, it was on a corner. Luckily I came across some people not long after I saw this sign and was able to ask them where to go. I had a map, but couldn’t make sense of it. I followed the people I met, even though the lady was walking stupid-fast (around 7km/hr by my estimate). I wondered if she thought that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with her and that she’d show me up. It wasn’t me that couldn’t keep up, it was the poor man she was with, who I think was her husband!  They went out of the park and back into civilsation and I somehow managed to find the right road.

I had lunch at a fish and chip shop and a guy (Terry) came and sat down with me and started telling me about his brain injury from a car accident. He showed me his arm that had this horrendous scar on it and said that it had nearly been cut off, and that his hand had undergone 24 surgeries. He said he had to relearn everything again. He was a really nice guy and I really liked talking to him. He beeped at me later when he drove past me.

Not long after that, a car driven by an adult, but full of kids (about 15 -16 years old) drove past and they all hung out of the car yelling about me being a legend and giving me the Shaka sign, which was pretty cool because I could tell they were all surfers. It made me feel really good.

It took over five hours, but I finally made it to Caloundra:

After that it started pouring rain and I caught a bus back to Mooloolaba where some awesome friends had rented a fancy unit for two nights. The bus driver was the nicest man of all time. He was so helpful to everyone and really tolerant towards a loud mouth yobbo up the back. The yobbo kept swearing and the bus driver kept apologising to everyone on the bus for it. The guy was obviously a dickhead, but the driver didn’t lose his cool and just kept being really nice to everyone who got on and off the bus as though the yobbo up the back wasn’t even there. I wish I could be more like that! (The bus driver, not the yobbo).

The more I seek, the more I get free, and the more I get free, the more I seek

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost time to leave

Tomorrow is the day I head off on my 450km solo hike for brain injury. It’s hard to believe it’s come around so fast AND it’s also hard to believe that I managed to get everything done in time. Man, what a job it was to organise everything. I can’t even begin to describe how much effort went into planning stuff and getting everything ready. There were a few glitches; one of them the t-shirts I had planned to wear on the hike. They cost a mint and I was really looking forward to wearing them because they were so cool, but it was my mum who pointed out that I’d made a stupid spelling mistake in the wording. I was not impressed and they all went into the rag bag. Poo Bum Wee. But if that’s the worst thing that happens, then I really can’t complain can I?

Oh yeah, I won’t be posting regular updates because I refuse to own an internet phone, but even if I did, I’d need to preserve the battery for emergencies. That means that everyone has to be patient to find out how I’m progressing. I might pop up on the news or on the radio every now and then, but I don’t know which stations or channels.

I got my new tent today. It came courtesy of an in-kind donation from a cool dude who runs a business in Hervey Bay. I mentioned that I was doing the hike on a Facebook hiking group and wanted recommendations for a new tent and a business owner in WA responded telling me that he’d offer a discount for the tent I chose. I only “paid” $525, but this is the real pricetag that was attached to the tent:

$749.99!!!!

No way would I have EVER paid this much for a tent out of my own money. I still can’t get my head around the price of it. I set it up, which is what you always should do before you use a new tent for the first time. It’s pretty cool because I actually fit inside it. My old hiking tent was a nightmare because I couldn’t even sit up in it and my feet poked up into the top causing the sleeping bag to always be wet from condensation at the foot end, not to mention what happened when it rained.

This new tent is a two-person tent. I’ve seen lots of tents and I’ve never seen a tent that actually fits the amount of people it claims to hold, but this one would and I reckon there’d be room left at the sides. It’s huge, but it only weighs 1700grams. My old tent was around 2.2kg and it was nowhere near as big, even though it’s meant to be a two-person tent as well (as if). There’s even room leftover lengthways, which is a novelty for a giant woman.

Me and my new tent: Wilderness Equipment Space 2. I had to set it up on the footpath as my yard is a giant sand pit because I live in the land that rain forgot: Australia.

I cannot know what adventure will bring, but bring adventure I will.

Me and the Food

Today I spent eight hours getting the food packed up and organised for my brain injury hike. 

This is a typical ration for one day:

Some of the meals have dried vegetables in them and then there’s the dried fruit. The fruit and veggies went from this:

To this:

Then it all ended up looking like this:

Packing up the food isn’t my favourite thing. I get quite anxious over it. I’m not running around with my arms flailing about, knocking into walls while crying and screaming or anything, but I do worry about getting it exactly right (I can’t handle the thought of having to go without my dinner!) That’s not at all helped by the high fire danger in just about all the areas I’ve planned to walk in. I’ve had to remap the route twice due to national parks getting closed to walkers due to the high fire danger. It was kind of annoying, well, a lot annoying, but at least I had enough time to plan alternatives and I haven’t lost my shit at all yet, which is pretty damn awesome! I did almost start crying the other day when three people in a row, who were your basic big ol’ meanies, were really mean to me when I asked for their help about camping, but then I met someone nice, who was happy to help me, so I got over being upset about the three big ol’ meanies. My idea of a big ol’ meanie is probably not your idea of a big ol’ meanie, but if you read this post, you might get where I’m coming from.

From adventure it begins