4 Weeks

In 28 days I will be setting out on the final 2,900 kilometres of this long solo trek around Australia.

The last month of training and preparations always goes too fast and too slow. 

No matter how well this stage is planned out it feels like a never ending list of things to do and buy and organize and as time runs out it gets crowded. 

Even when there are still things to do all I want is to be back out there. I am even more impatient this time because I’m off the highway and spending most of my time immersed in Nature and all her physical sensations and intuitive messages.

If anyone is wondering why I am not already back in Gladstone to take advantage of the early dry season, I can’t look at the weather up there without wondering the same thing. I have 2 very good reasons. 

The chiropractor is still realigning my twisted pelvis. And doing a good job considering how bad it was. 

It has been a long road to recovery since it started hurting in May/June last year. Instead of continuing for another 2,500kms in increasing pain I should have stopped but my stubbornness blocks every warning my body sends, especially if it is yelling “Stop!”. In November, when my body stopped beyond the control of my mind, the doctor I saw in Northern Rivers couldn’t make a care plan for chronic pain or mental health because he was only there temporarily which left me in a mess for months. Little things were treated like plantar fasciitus and Achilles tendonitis by a physio and my wilderness escape into the mountains did psychological wonders. There was still the underlying issue with the longterm crippling back problem which was causing all the other issues. 

During the first appointment with the chiropractor I was in tears of relief, not just pain. To be told what it was and that it could be fixed meant more than could be put into words. For months I was scared I’d be a cripple living in a nursing facility in permanent pain and exhaustion for the rest of my life. I’m not joking, that was how bad it had become. In the last few months I have worked hard and trained hard to smash through this obstacle, mostly mentally. The physical training is steadily increasing as the chiropractor works his magic. Everything else recovers as my body untwists and grows stronger. I would not have been ready earlier than this.

Thankfully I am training in a very beautiful part of Australia where I can walk along beaches, over headlands and up a some spectacular hill trails. The beauty of Nature is all around. She heals my heart, calms my mind and distracts me from the sweat and burn of hills and soft sand. The pictures heading this post are just some of the winter wildflowers, fungi and bushland doing the distracting. I’m also training my mind to let my body slow down so I’m enjoying a bit of quiet birdwatching, rockpool gazing and fungi hunting.

The Happiness & Its Causes Conference is the main reason I delayed my return. Last year they gifted me 2 tickets so I am taking my sister-in-law, Sil, who is a Nia mindful movement instructor, art therapist and counsellor. AND my brother Steve is coming too! If you have ever been to one of these conferences you know the buzz it gives you for days and the positive wave of ideas, tools and techniques lasts months, years, the rest of your life. This year the conference is in Sydney on the 22/23 June and I fly to Gladstone on the 24th to start walking on the 25th.

When I start walking I’ll still be buzzing from Happiness & Its Causes.

thehappywalk.com website is broken!

With the preparations to the next section of the walk there is one more change to introduce to you, the need for this change has only recently come to my attention and is not voluntary. Hopefully this will be the last significant change for a while.

 

The website, thehappywalk.com, which I have been using since 2011 isn’t working anymore and the host won’t give me access to it. It is broken.

 

This blog is now the place for all the news and Instagram is the place for all the photos.

 

I’m not worried about the website going down permanently. In fact, it is a relief of sorts. Without any professional assistance it was a hack job and was there only because people needed links for donations. To get around this I will regularly remind anyone who reads the blog and visits Instagram where they can make online donations to help Lifeline and the crowdfund campaign to help the walk.

 

The Happy Walk fundraising link for Lifeline is https://makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/thehappywalk

 

The crowdfund campaign for the walk is https://www.gofundme.com/thehappywalk

 

I would like to say a special thank you to Swedish photographer and minimalist adventurer Mats Andren for the use of his photo on the website and blog. Many journalists and photographers have taken photos of my solo walk around Australia but this is the only one taken by a professional photographer who has also allowed me to use it. I didn’t need to pay for a photo shoot because we met on the Stuart Hwy while Mats walked from Stockholm, Sweden to Sydney and I was on my way to Darwin from Perth. Before we set off in different directions the next morning we posed for each other’s cameras. You can read about his 20,000km trek at the-walk.se

thanks3

Trail Food

Decades ago, when I started solo multi-day walking, putting cinnamon and dried apple in my porridge rations was gourmet. Everything came off the supermarket shelf. Specialist vegetarian camp meals cost too much even back then and still taste like cardboard.

Over the years my walking rations have changed as much as available variety and quality has improved.

Now there is a huge variety of food suitable as nonperishable rations and staples for all dietary needs. Compared to only a few years ago it has improved dramatically.

Oddly enough, with the growth of options I have returned to basic organic blends.

In the past few years I have loved indulging in lots of nutritious tasty vegan energy snacksbreakfast blends and superfoods on the way around Australia. Link through to some of my favourites.

I’m not a calorie, nutrition or carb counter. I let my body tell me what it needs and listen to what nutritional warnings my cravings are sending. During the years I walked through the outback I needed to take a lot of supplements as my body burnt more than the food I could carry between towns and roadhouses.

Now I am walking through the most densely populated parts of Australia I have regular access to fresh fruits and salad vegetables. I feel very spoilt.

There are still many parts of the remaining 2,900kms where I will be days between towns and doing a lot of bush camping (as per normal). Most days I will be using dry rations and fresh fruit which travels well in the heat in the backpack.

Until this year I haven’t bothered carrying a camp stove for various reasons like carrying only strictly rationed drinking water, raw being sufficient and energy efficient, the long 50-60km days of pushing my barrow beside the road were too tiring to bother cooking and it added weight. 

This year I am switching to a lightweight backpack and walking much shorter distances each day so I will have the time, energy, water availability and pack space to start each day with my special spiced porridge and end with dahl. I’m looking forward to returning to my old bushwalking routines.

I buy organic ingredients from Honest to GoodnessHemp Foods AustraliaPower Super Foods and Nutrition Warehouse for both breakfast and dinner (not sponsors).

My Special Spiced Porridge is loaded with all the right stuff for a strong start to the day.

Quinoa flakes

Hemp seeds

100% powdered coconut milk (no casein)

Hazelnut meal

Chia seeds

Pepita’s

Goji berries

Currants

Coconut sugar

Tumeric

Ginger

Cardamom

Cinnamon

A pinch of Himalayan pink salt

half a cup cooked in 1 cup of water (double if I’m starting to fatigue)

It doesn’t look pretty but it tastes amazing, cooks quickly, is a slow release energy food and doesn’t sit heavy like oats.

My dahl blend is simply a colourful mix of texture and mild flavours with various snap dried Tassie veggies from Campers Pantry.

Jasmine rice

Red lentils

Yellow lentils

Black beluga lentils

French du Puy green lentils

Split peas

Cauliflower, carrot, peas, broccoli and/or mushrooms

half a cup of dahl cooked in 1 cup of water (presoaking during the day makes cooking much faster and fuel efficient) add veggies and extra water until soft.

Add herb or curry seasoning

During the day I graze on seeds, nuts, dried and fresh fruit. Sometimes I forage for wild plant foods like berries, rosehips, dandelion greens and flowers, lemon sorrel, prickly pear, pigface, saltbush, quandong, wild violets, bullrush, figs, lillypilly, wattle, nastnastertiums, native cherries… Don’t try anything unless you are 100% sure of the plants identification and preparation for safe eating. I stick to what can be eaten raw and regularly refresh my knowledge because mistakes can be lethal.

When I stay in town or with hosts I indulge in salads and hot chips. I binge on mountains of salad and fruits I can’t carry in the backpack. I crave salad.

You probably noticed I am a herbivore, plant powered, vegan. There are advantages to this like cleaner foods, higher levels of nutrition uptake, less toxins, stronger bones, cleaner arteries and less pungent body odour as well as many other compassionate and environmental reasons.

I used to love fresh sweet juicy apples but while walking across the Nullarbor I was given so many they made me sick and I have trouble just looking at them now. 

One of my most favourite snacks are whole dried organic bananas. When I can afford them I keep reminding myself not to eat more of them than I would eat whole fresh bananas, taking care not to do the same as apples.

Supporting local businesses is also part of my eating habits. I can buy snacks and vitamins from locally owned health food stores, fresh produce from farmers markets and green grocers, soy lattes or kombucha and treat myself to a vegan meal from many of the fun little healthy vegetarian/vegan cafes popping up on the east coast. 

Not so much needs to be ordered online, nothing needs posting to roadhouses and community general stores. Only 6 times I had to go on half and quarter rations walking through the outback because Australia Post lost my supply packs. If it happens on the east coast I can stock up in the towns I pass through several times a week.

Trail food for longterm treks needs to be nutritious, high energy, light weight, easy to prepare and tasty. The secret to stave off food boredom and binging in the tent or hammock at night is to keep it simple, take a daily treat and mix up the variety for each new section. Unless you’re on emergency rations don’t deprive yourself of small indulgences. 

Never feel guilty about that carb-loaded cafe, roadhouse or pub meal because you deserve it after hard weeks or months walking between towns!

I love food, when you meet me you will notice I love it way too much 😄 

Thoughts

Love – how does it enrich you?

Love enhances happiness, kindness, joy, peace, friendship, values, belonging, compassion, tolerance, self-esteem, hope, health, care, enjoyment, gratitude, security, creativity, forgiveness, all the positives in life.

In many ways I am fortunate to have been born with a different kind of mind. Love is a subject I had to first learn and study in theory then connect experiences to categories. My mind interprets love differently but through this process of recognition and appreciation I value love in my life.

The love I feel is not the icky romance and intimacy most people naturally think about and want. I am not familiar with that love so it means nothing personally. From researching it I understand it is a big deal in most people’s lives.

The presence of love in my life is manifest in how I feel towards people, events and things. Some can be described through the 7 Greek loves but others are more simple or obscure.

I love my friends and family, their company and conversation. I want only the best for them and I feel an emotional connection, empathy for their celebrations, dreams and struggles.

I love hommus, it makes me weak at the knees, I can never get enough. Hommus is the key to world peace. I’m sure of it! It really is that good!

I love my trekking kit and sometimes grieve if a  piece of equipment breaks or is lost. There is gear in my kit which can save my life. I don’t own much as an extreme minimalist but what I do own is important and valuable for its purpose in my daily life and survival.

I love trekking for so many reasons. It brings me peace, health and belonging. It nurtures my constant craving for Nature and Solitude.

I love animals, plants, Earth so much that I changed my life to protect them. The choices I make everyday are making a difference to the health and future of our planet and fellow inhabitants. I love Earth, it is home, it provides food, shelter, clean air and water and I must care for her as if my life depends on it because it does.

I love the intangibles which make me stronger like freedom, self-awareness, determination and direction. Through self love I have found strength and purpose. From surviving darkness so heavy I tried to die I have learnt the value of ethereal things which make us simultaneously vulnerable and victorious.

I love truth, beauty, kindness, equality and activism.

What does love mean to you?

Go for a Walk

Each afternoon, when the light starts softening, I go for a walk over the headlands, along the cliffs to watch the rolling ocean, dolphins, crashing waves, spotting whale spouts, magnificent sea eagles, kites and terns, adorable coastal heath blossums and wandering through tea tree swamps letting my imagination run wild with dreamtime and fairytale creatures playing out wonderful stories.
Yesterday this friendly magpie shared the track with me, hopping from berry to berry until the plants cleared. I sat on the edge of the cliff watching the magpie, foraging an arms length from me in complete trust, bobbing into the saltbush for fat purple berries. I picked a few and held them out, it took them from my hand.
I hope this beautiful bird understood how much I enjoyed its company.
The berries are edible for our species too but I left them alone loving that the magpie was feasting on its natural diet instead of snacks from the neighbourhood balconies.

Thoughts

It is better to uplift others and praise their accomplishments and efforts than compare them to your own.

Encourage everyone following their dreams, answering a calling and finding their purpose as part of the rapidly expanding movement of awesome humans making this world a better place.

It doesn’t matter how big a project is, whether it is an 100km walk to end hunger, letter writing to politicians, protecting the habitat of a threatened species, turning a farm into an animal sanctuary or inventing a fast, easy way to make clean drinking water, the participants feel the same passion and commitment.

The level of personal sacrifice, investment, previous attempts or expertise gained through years of study and trials might vary greatly but each individual’s commitment, no matter what size, is contributing to change.

Comparing yourself to others isn’t healthy, it is an ego trap where we find ourselves either lacking or superior. We are neither.

Our stories, our expeditions, discoveries, inventions, our achievements are a valuable part of a worldwide revolution of change, of compassion and strength, warriors and heros rising up to protect and save what we love.

You are important!

Your participation is valuable.

We are all in this together.

We are equal!

Final Prep Pt5

The Happy Walk is still a Lifeline fundraiser and I am still carrying a message of hope, health and happiness.

Without the exposure I had pushing a barrow down the highway and after ending my toxic relationship with face book I will need to prepare some epic pitches for media, sponsorship, donations and connecting with supporters on the way back to the national Lifeline HQ in Canberra.

This part of preparation and continual management, even with the extra exposure of previous years, is exhausting. It is hellishly difficult, time consuming and soul crushing. 

My mental health was compromised badly by this aspect of the walk. I didn’t cope with being brushed off or not being taken seriously. Even after walking more than 3/4 of the way around Australia people still don’t believe me. 

I needed to choose between continuing this damaging pursuit of assistance and awareness or just doing what i do best, walking and sharing with the people I meet along the way.

This year I have chosen a compromise. In each town or region I walk through between Gladstone and Canberra I’ll call ABC radio because I appreciate their integrity and the local community connection feels great. If they are not interested it won’t matter, I’ll just try again in the next region. The less media I contact, the less often I’m rejected.

It is a decision for my own wellbeing.

Final Prep Pt4

…I absolutely love navigation! 

I can spend entire days and nights studying maps and charts, imagining walking or sailing through them as my head intuitively interprets every feature. 

I’m old school and will always choose paper maps and a compass over devices. I need the bigger picture, a tiny screen in my palm doesn’t cut it. Believe me, I tried, even bought a $700 GPS when planning the Tassie lap. My awesome geocaching sister now happily uses it.

Last week I read “Wild by Nature” by Sarah Marquis about her epic solo unaccompanied walk across the world. There is a lot in this book I understand because I have also lived it including Sarah’s inner compass, “I always navigate by instinctively finding my position in the landscape. For reasons I don’t really understand, I can find north without a compass or GPS.” 

I still have a very clear recollection of the day I discovered the same ability. I was 9 and we were having a family picnic in the Mt Sugarloaf State Conservation Area near Newcastle. My grandpa brought a compass on our bushwalk and asked if I could find north. Without looking or thinking I pointed straight to north. We tested this a few times with different points of the compass and I was accurate within deviation every time. Grandpa and I kept this little discovery a secret, our last secret, understanding that it was going to be a significant part of my future. It often feels like he is with me when I look to the north. Grandpa knew I was different and had a unique intuitive set of skills, including navigation.

But I am going off track a little…

With each section of this walk around Australia I have tried planning an itinerary but this always changes. This is the part of the walk which never happens as planned because I prefer to rest without time limits and take detours and side trips to beautiful and special places. Now I just make a plan of the towns I will pass through or rest in, when I arrive remains flexible and I won’t know until days before whether I walk in via the beach, bush, mountains or road. 

There will be no more walking beside the highway this year so I am looking at every walking alternative like back roads, 4WD tracks, established walking trails, occasionally leaving the tracks altogether and many long sweeping beaches down the magnificent east coast and Great Dividing Range of Australia.

Between Gladstone and Canberra there are many walking tracks I hope to explore between the hinterlands and coastal national parks, over escarpments and through the high country. Some will be in new country, others I look forward to walking again.

Other people’s fear and doubts never get in my way. I have been ignoring them all my life which is probably why I have achieved so much. But I take safety seriously so I spend a lot of time studying maps for terrain, water supplies, food and services, shelter, stealth camping, alternative paths and distances between my resupplies and supporting hosts.

There is only so much information I can glean from maps. Much more useful information comes from locals and grey nomads so I regularly indulge in long roadside and campfire conversations, storing away as many valuable pieces of information as my memory can absorb. 

Although I may not be able to set an itinerary it is helpful to have a rough idea of where I’ll be and when and hopefully a friendly face to meet me on arrival. 

Below is a list, from north to south, of the towns and tracks I will probably walk through. I will rest for a day or two each week or accumulate a few rest days each fortnight. If you would like to meet or can help out in some way please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Leaving Gladstone on the 25th June

Turkey Beach

Agnes Water

Baffle Creek

Bundaberg

Hervey Bay

Fraser Island Great Walk

Cooloola Great Walk

Noosa

Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk

Glasshouse Mountains

Brisbane

Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk

Terania Creek

Lismore

Evans Head

Yuraygir Coastal Walk

Coffs Harbour

Valla Beach

South West Rocks

Crescent Head

Bonny Hills

Crowdy Head

Forster

Seal Rocks

Mungo Track

Worimi Track

Newcastle

Great North Walk

Sydney

The Coast Track

Jervis Bay

Kioloa

Moruya

Deua River

Canberra

To be continued…