Offline

I’m sorry for not keeping my word. There were a bunch of drafts but not a single one has been completed to schedule before I go offline. These have been deleted because when I finish 3-4 months offline alone camping in the Wilderness I will make a fresh start, new perspectives and approach this blog as a journal of my Wilderness experience and the remaining 2,900kms of my walk around Australia.

I plan to stay out in the bush in solitude for 3 months but this may be extended until early June or shortened it if I tire of the isolation.

It isn’t part of The Happy Walk but will hopefully help prepare me for the final push. I have called this little project “wild recluse” and will document it online in June. 

Until then, from today, the only reason I will turn on the phone will be to check-in with family, organise a monthly overnight trip into the closest town for supplies and access an offline dictionary to assist my daily writing session.

The Happy Walk resumes in Gladstone on June 25 and on June 22/23 I will attend Happiness & Its Causes in Sydney where I look forward to hearing His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s laughter again.

In fact, I have been extremely privileged to have been in his presence listening to his guidance and ideas 3 times, twice with devoted Tibetan refugees in Hunder Valley. 

The photo collage above is of prayer flags flying on top of the world across Ladakh, in the Himalaya of North India, sending prayers of peace on the wind across the Earth. It has been almost a decade since I visited and I plan to return and explore much more.

A New Sponsor

From February to June I will be unplugged and offline, mental preparation for the final leg, so blog posts will be scheduled while I’m away.

During this time I will be introducing you to my sponsors, the businesses who believe in what I’m doing and have generously donated in kind.

Tonight I will start with the most recent sponsor who came on board this week.

Barefoot Inc Australia!

I expected finding a good footwear sponsor to be easy. The brand exposure for an outdoor adventure footwear company sponsoring someone walking around Australia would have been exceptional but nobody responded to my sponsorship requests for years and then I ran out of money and could only afford thongs. It was hard and disappointing. Also very embarrassing not being able to name the brand I wore the hundreds of times people asked.

Thankfully I have been supported by a couple of good outdoor adventure companies, who were often mentioned over the years, Wilderness Sports Jindabyne and Columbia who helped with organising wholesale prices for shoes while I could still afford them. I have been through all kinds of footwear including heavy boots, ultralight runners, adventure sandals, sturdy trail runners and even walked nearly 3,000kms in sponsored orthotic thongs from Slappas. Not everything has worked, some caused injury and some were impractical. Being vegan I care that my shoes are ethical and animal cruelty free and I have specific foot shape/health requirements so this limited my options.

The next section of the walk takes me off the highway and into the bush and rainforests where I need a reliable and light weight boot which provides protection and foot support. I have also had severe foot pain for about 6 months, 3 months requiring rest and therapy and my physio has given me a list of specific requirements in a shoe to prevent future injury. I was so close to compromising myself and settling for a trusted backcountry brand of leather boot or trail shoe when I discovered the new Inov8 Roclite 325 boots.

It is perfect and meets all my requirements!

From the website;

“The all new RocLite 325 GTX, one of the lightest GORETEX boot in the world offers a high level of comfort for a general use trail boot with high levels of protection for the adventurer. Inov-8’s Sticky rubber sole delivers ample grip and durability, while the second generation Meta-Shank™II ensures natural movement with rock protection. Choose this shoe for a protective, natural trail running experience with the worlds best waterproof solution. This boot has become a firm favourite amongst the armed forces for it’s incredible light weight matched with a neutral dark grey colouring for moving quite and fast in less than ideal conditions.

FEATURES INCLUDE:

    • Upper: The updated highly durable upper made of a new denser weave mesh that delivers ample durability and breathability.
    • Footbed: Comfortable and interchangeable, the Roclite utilises a cushioned 6mm innersole for comfort during long runs.
    • Sticky rubber: A carefully blended Sticky rubber make up the RocLite sole, medium sticky compound is used to deliver traction and Grip over mixed terrain.
    • Meta-Flex™ insert delivers a controlled but natural forefoot flex.
    • Met-Cradle™ lacing cradles the forefoot behind the metatarsal heads to provide a secure foot hold while running up or down hill.
    • GoreTex™ waterproof membrane built into the lining the shoe for total climate control in all conditions.

MEASUREMENTS:

    • Weight: 325gm (approx)
    • Stack: 22mm Heel / 16mm Forefoot
    • Drop: 8mm
    • FIT: (S) STANDARD FIT
    • Midsole: EVA
    • Shank: META-SHANK II
    • Footbed: 6mm
    • Cleat depth: 5.5mm”

How does that sound? Well, it gets better!

I phoned for a quick chat about the new boot then wrote a sponsorship request and Barefoot Inc have donate 2 pairs which will be enough to carry me all the way back to Canberra’s National Lifeline HQ, the final 2,900kms of this looong lap of Australia. I promise lots of Instagram photos of these beauties in action later this year.

Thank you Barefoot Inc for your incredible sponsorship!

Changes

This is a quick post about some changes to the walk.

In the last two weeks I have started and tinkered with a few posts but they are all still drafts. I haven’t been able to focus very well, distracted with another project and a bit of mental illness. If this sounds confusing it is because I am not well so I will keep it as simple as possible.

I have severe social anxiety issues which are getting worse so some of these changes are to protect my mental health.

The walk will now be entirely off the highway, following alternative roads, 4WD and fire trails, official walking tracks and beaches. Where any section of the walk gives no alternative than to follow the highway I will thumb a ride through that section. I think there are only about 50-60kms of road left without options. These lost kilometres will be made up in other ways.

The barrow Dory will not return to the walk. Many of the terrains I plan to cross will not be suitable for pushing a barrow. I will go back to my preferred style of walking, with a backpack. The first leg, 1,250kms around Tasmania, was with a backpack. I quickly learnt a lot about packing light for longer. Wilderness Threadworks have very generously donated an hand crafted Luxmore D40 45Lt pack. Thank you!

From Gladstone QLD all the way to Canberra I will walk as many official multi-day bushwalking tracks between the hinterland and coast, starting with the Fraser Island Great Walk. Using the barrow for the last 12,000kms I have missed many beaut tracks through wild places as I follow the scenic roads catching only glimpses. It will feel great being fully immersed in Nature without the noise, exhaust smells and safety issues of the highway.

When the walk resumes in June I will be more assertive about asking for health, food and accommodation help from businesses. This was self-funded for 2 years, I sold everything of any value and am completely broke. I have had a 98% support and sponsorship rejection rate, this pretty much eroded the little confidence I already had to ask for help but last year I ran 2 crowdfund campaigns raising $5,600 to help with the things businesses were not willing to donate. The GoFundMe campaign will resume with the walk. Thank you to everyone who helped!

Outdoor adventure and women’s empowerment magazines, radio, newspapers and TV are always welcome to cover the story of this solo unaccompanied walk around Australia but I won’t chase them or sell myself anymore. If they are not interested on first contact they miss out. Self-promotion makes me feel dirty. I always feel angry when they are not willing to make the effort to support their community through an interesting and uplifting story of hope, suicide prevention and Lifeline. This anger eats at me so I will be minimising the energy I put into reaching out for media support. Local ABC radio has usually been the most receptive and I will continue to call them first. ABC don’t sensationalise or judge and that is probably why they are still the most listened too radio broadcaster.

There will be no more public speaking events. My social anxiety is so extreme now it cripples me, only last weekend I ended up in hospital because of it. A pattern emerged during this walk where I needed days of rest to recover after speaking to schools and interest groups. It takes a lot out of me and there is no support person to lean on or help.

No facebook! This was increasingly using up too much data and time. It was necessary to help raise $20,000 for Lifeline and awareness but it is no longer needed. It feels amazing being free from facebook since deleting my account and pages on the 1st January. My primary social media platform is this blog.

And no more comparing! I am not the Storm Trooper! I am not Sarah Marquis! I’m just a charity walker trying to walk a lap of Australia for Lifeline. Solo unaccompanied is very different to anyone who has walked with a support vehicle or sponsored entourage. Walking around Australia is not comparable to walking across. I need to stop comparing my walk with others and shut down anyone else who tries. It is not helpful for me or them.

There are other little changes in the works but these are the main ones which will make what is already a very difficult endeavour just a little easier.

Today I am not okay

For the last 2 months my mental health, specifically social anxiety, has been deteriorating and last night I was in hospital.

It was voluntary. I was scared I would do something stupid and permanent. I needed to be somewhere safe from myself.

I had to discharge myself early because my aspie hypersensory issues were starting to show the early warning signs of meltdown. Hospitals are not autism friendly places but I sincerely appreciate the nurses and drs respect for my decision not to accept drugs. I am always wary of the adverse side effects of autism and drugs.

(Disclaimer: I do not recommend refusing prescribed drugs. This is my personal choice. Natural recovery is bloody hard work and requires 110% full-time commitment and a lot of strength. However, I do suggest talking to your care professional about complimentary natural therapies and using drugs only short-term until you’re back on your feet. Schizophrenia and manic depression require ongoing assistance balancing chemicals in the brain, 100% natural recovery is NOT an option)

The psychological pain has been as debilitating as the physical pain and last night it became too much, I could no longer cope.

I don’t want to die but I’m tired of living. I don’t have the stamina to keep fighting.

Anxiety is experienced differently for each person but hope if you do not understand anxiety now you will never understand it from lived experience. I don’t wish that on anybody. It is hell condensed into your cranium causing havoc with your senses, safety and space. It distorts reality and thought. It can feel like you are dying or that death is the only way to escape the pain and fear.

My social anxiety came back in June after the cattle road train driver tried killing me. It was manageable until November while I was still able to walk and escape anonymously to quiet and pretty places when the relapses were more difficult to walk and meditate through. But the further I walked south, into denser populations, the more often I needed to hide away. 

My ability to cope with anxiety was weakened by the increasing pain from injuries and the fear of failure brought with it. I had injuries pestering me for months but I could block the pain. It required a lot of energy and will power to manage the pain without drugs. The only times I resorted to using paracetamol and ibuprofen was when the pain started interfering with my eyesight and threatening blackouts.

The combination of pain and anxiety management was exhausting alone but I kept walking, never giving up until I could physically no longer put weight on my injuries without blacking out.

Since the day I was forced to stop and take a long rest I have battled against feeling like a failure and feeling trapped. I have started loathing myself and selfharming through comfort eating (I know where to find all the convenient vegan junk foods).

Unable to sit, stretch, exercise or even stand long enough to prepare a meal without severe pain I have not been able to self care so the decline in my mental and physical health has been rapid and feels uncontrollable.

There are many other factors at play here but I won’t go into detail except the one which almost pushed me too far last night.

I hate what I am. I live everyday knowing I am a burden on whoever has offered to give me shelter. I dream of love once I complete this walk but in reality that will never happen. Nobody needs this in their life, I will never let anyone close enough to become their burden, they will be pushed away for their own wellbeing. In 2016 I was confronted and almost crippled by loneliness. Not the solitude of aloneness I thrive on but the realisation that the people I love are far away and didn’t call to see if I was okay. To know you are not loved, are unlovable and a burden is not easy to live with so why bother. Why live if welcome solitude becomes an empty life.

Unfortunately, I have no solutions right now. I will continue to apply the therapies and activities I can do without pain and try not to stress about how much physiotherapy is costing (it will be more than $1,000) and focus on the beauty of Nature. 

I know from lived experience, surviving 3 suicide attempts and many relapses, these feelings will not last long. Tomorrow, next week, next month I will be stronger.

Welcome 2017!

And welcome to all the new visitors who have crossed over after my exit from facebook!

Hands up who had an easy breezy 2016. I don’t think too many off us will be sad to say goodbye to it. Personally, I’d like to boot it into a dimension 1000 parallels from here but keep the good stuff close to my heart.

With the pain, loneliness and frustrating failures of 2016 there were beautiful kind people, Nature, small achievements, lessons and helpful insights. All in equal measure.

It was the good stuff, like encounters with caring people, spectacular landscapes, wildlife and wildflowers, helpful donations and gifts which helped carry me through some of the roughest patches. Thank you to each of you who helped in whichever way was possible for you.

Not achieving the goals I set for myself hit hard. It felt like failure but after some honest reflection it has been a successful year, possibly more so than any other year of this walk.

The Happy Walk is far more than a personal challenge, it is a fundraiser for Lifeline Australia and an awareness walk for suicide prevention, hope, recovery, health and happiness. As long as the walk continues everything else does too.

Here is a short list of some personal highlights from 2016 ten of which I will expand on later this week in a new “Terra’s Top 10” post.

January – watched Mats Andren complete his walk across the world from Stockholm to Sydney. Mats has been a catalyst for some important changes. More on that later.

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February – Lifeline awarded me a very special plaque of appreciation in Canberra.

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March – passed the 10,000km point of this lap around Australia.

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April – completed the 1,200km link between Canberra and Crystal Brook

May – story in NT News! And finally found a footwear sponsor Slappa’s thongs.

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June – reached QLD.

July – hit the east coast and began walking south from Cairns.

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August – nominated for Australian of the Year.

September – gifted a red tailed black cockatoo feather for protection. Actually, this month was full of incredible gifts.

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October – $20,000 raised for Lifeline!

https://makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/thehappywalk

November – completed another 4,000kms! Bringing to total to 13,600kms before injuries forced me to stop for a long recovery break.

December – rest!

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What were your highlights?

I hope 2017 will be an excellent year for you all. We already own the joy so let’s share it!

Hope Health Happiness

Terra

Rest Time

This year has been incredible! Made even better through your support and encouragement. Thank you!

 

Due to delays caused by illness and injuries I found myself still in the tropics long after the safe climate of the dry season had past. Heat and humidity were starting to pay their toll on my body, mind and spirit no matter how careful I was with water and essential nutrients.

 

Injuries have plagued me since earlier this year and as each starts healing others replace them but a few have been persistent, slowing me down and draining all my body’s resources. Eventually I was walking in agony with each step, spasming back, both achilles had tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. On the last couple of days I think I caused either a stress fracture or bruising, unable to put any weight on the heel I slowed down to a very slow hobble before accepting rest was the only remedy.

 

Returning north to Rockhampton I was on a bus and back in Basecamp (pictured above) within 30hrs of making the decision to hold the walk until I am 100% recovered and the dry season returns to the tropics.

 

It was and is a difficult and frustrating thing to do when I have been wholly focusing on progressing towards the end. I keep reminding myself it is the best thing to do. It is not a choice because there is not another option.

 

It is time to make the best of it! In only a few weeks i will be able to walk with less pain, that is a good thing and I’m looking forward to it. I can rescue myself from boredom by making thank you gifts including painting a few minimalist abstract Australian landscapes from my walks through WA last year, making a photo journal and learning how to market stuff so I can become financially independent while walking next year. When I start selling paintings and books I can get therapy, realignment and coaching to help prevent a repeat of what happened this year. I love walking and can’t imagine a life without it everyday and these injuries scared me.

 

The crowdfund campaign set up to help with the costs of the walk is also on hold, no donations can be made until I return and then I hope I will not need them. Thank you for everyone’s support this year. With your help my message of hope and happiness has reached thousands more and we hit the $20,000 fundraising target for Lifeline’s 24/7 mental health crisis hotline.

 

During my recovery retreat i will add a few new blog posts, not regularly because schedules and deadlines make me unwell mentally, just every now and then. I am reunited with my old laptop while resting and will have free wifi here and there which is far cheaper than writing a blog on my phone and using a tonne of expensive data which is my MO while walking.

 

We’ll stay in touch.

 

Hope Health Happiness

Terra Lalirra

 

 

Media Release Update 09/16 *

The Happy Walk is a 16,000km solo walk around Australia without support vehicles raising funds for Lifeline Australia’s 24/7 mental health crisis hotline 13 11 14 and raising awareness about suicide prevention, hope, recovery and happiness.

Ms Terra Lalirra, an Australian 44yo woman from NSW, has been walking for more than 3 years and 13,000kms along some of the most remote highways and scenic detours around Australia and hopes to complete her circuit in Canberra in December at the National Lifeline Headquarters.

Pushing her bright yellow and blue custom built barrow, nicknamed Dory (just keep swimming/walking), beside the road Terra carries and important message about hope, reaching out for help and talking about mental illnrsses, suicide and Lifeline’s life saving services.


In the hope it encourages others to hold onto hope in their darkest days, knowing they are not alone and things will get better, she shares her own story of discovering joy and learning to love life after trying to take her own life in 2010.


Terra has chosen Lifeline as her fundraising cause to thank them for helping her when she called 13 11 14, their 24/7 crisis hotline, when she relapse during her first year of recovery from depression and complex post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


The Happy Walk is an authorised Lifeline fundraiser. Every dollar donated to https://makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/thehappywalk goes directly to the 24/7 hotline, every donation saves lives. Terra hopes to raise more than $20,000 before the end of her walk.

The Happy Walk has helped save many lives. Terra’s message has reached hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia and internationally through media, talks and one-on-one chats with people she meets beside the road.

In the process of saving lives and helping Lifeline Terra has unintentionally become the first woman to walk from Perth to Darwin solo without a support vehicle. 
Unfortunately due to a serious incident on the Barkly Highway (see previous blog post) she lost 1000kms for safety reasons and had to let go of her attempt to become the first woman to walk around Australia solo unaccompanied.

With only the east coast remaining to walk Terra continues to carry hope and happiness down to Canberra and meet many of her thousands of supporters, friends and family to help her celebrate life.

Terra can be contacted via email or phone:

thehappywalker@gmail.com

0487264508
For the latest updates and photos The Happy Walk can be followed on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/thehappywalk/

Media, please feel free to use any or all of this and contact me for more information or organise an opportunity to meet when I pass through your region. Below are a selection of photos you are welcome to use.

*This is now out of date, please see more recent posts for details. Next media release will be posted when the walk resumes in June

What Happened Out There

If you have been following The Happy Walk for more than a month you probably read about the incident on the Barkly Highway. That was just part of it.

It has taken a while to feel comfortable enough to write a detailed post about exactly what happened. Part of the process has been recovery from the anxiety caused by trauma, understanding a few timely insights and applying necessary changes.

To help you understand the synchronicity of these insights and my own state of mind I will explain a bit more about where I was walking and what was influencing the deterioration of my physical, emotional and mental health. It helped me to see all this to understand why I needed to change plans.

Way back in Katherine I had a bumpy start to this final leg of The Happy Walk. It didn’t smooth out and became more of a rollercoaster ride. It was still very hot, average daily ambient temperature of 36C, road surface temperature hovering around 60C, radiant heat around 48-52C. A migraine sent me to hospital with police assistance on the first day of walking then the story of the escaped rapist was on the cover page of the same paper my story appeared in, which triggered a PTSD relapse associated with the night I was raped in Darwin in 2007. I was shaken up for almost a week. The temperatures rose again to 38C so I waited a few more days until the forecast anticipated something below 36C. On the road with the burning bitumen under foot and radiant heat engulfing me like a suffocating blanket all day I struggled. Leaving Katherine and walking south on the Stuart Highway I had a lung infection, burn blisters on the soles of both feet (the hot bitumen burnt through the soles of my thongs and shoes), bleeding bowels and urinary tract, full body heat rash, back spasms, dodgy knee, blood nose, bleeding chaffing and a strange pain in my side. Being too stubborn for my own good I pushed on figuring my body would sort itself out eventually. And it did but in that time I was on the verge of collapse many times. I wondered if I had drunk enough water (usually7-8ltrs) or too much or needed more electrolytes or had used too many. Sometimes I was sure if I let go of Dory’s handles (the barrow) I would fall down and not be able to get to my feet again so I kept walking to avoid falling. After 2 weeks I felt better, most of the problems were gone or reduced in pain intensity.

Then the logistical and technical problems began. There was only a little, barely any support in the way of donations of shelter, food or drinking water so I burnt through the support funds raised during the summer crowdfund campaign, especially when I needed to rest in a bed because I was in too much agony to climb in and out of the tent and sleep on the ground and I had some issues which required a toilet to be not too far away.

Spokes in the wheels started loosening and snapping, I tightened them several times a day but the rocky gravel and continuously rolling off and on the edge of the bitumen all day to give way to passing traffic loosened them faster than I could keep up. Eventually one wheel started buckling and each time the warp rolled past the guard rail it rubbed and caught, acting like a brake every 2 metres.

Australia Post “lost” one of my 2 week ration and supply packs which I had sent to a roadhouse (confirmed address with manager before posting) and the post office couldn’t recall if they had received or delivered the other pack so I had to cut back to half rations. They also “lost” 2 other parcels of expensive nutrition supplies sent separately from the supplier.

There are big mines out there, surveying has begun on a gas pipeline from the gulf to Port Augusta and coal seam gas permits on ecologically sensitive and culturally rich land within major water catchments have recently been given to mining magnates. Not good for the environment, locals or tourism.

Each day along both the Stuart and Barkly Highways I watched many road trains full of cows and other animals going off to the ships for export and slaughterhouses. Pro-export and beef sentiment was everywhere, in my face every day, even stickers for “get your teeth into beef” and “support live export” were on road signs, on roadhouse counters and behind the bars. I knew I was deep in enemy mining and beef territory and because I was walking alone I let my actions and choices speak rather than words. I was vulnerable as it was without making myself a big vegan greenie target.

Never the less, it was distressing. I started noticing signs of depression like crying most of the day, loss of energy, needing too much sleep, craving old comfort foods, wanting to disappear, doubting my worth. I still have some resilience work to do on compassion fatigue. I started falling into old self-destructive habits and the worst old habit of all, hiding it under a mask of health and happiness, smiling and waving cheerily as tears welled up behind my sunglasses. All I wanted was to be on the east coast, near friends and family, to smell the ocean, walk through the green hinterlands and feel the comforting and familiar presence of the Great Dividing Range. I was tired of being alone. I was tired of the outback. No amount of positive energy, searching for beauty and imagining hope could pull me out of my melancholy.

While this was happening, the idea of becoming the first woman to walk around Australia solo unaccompanied became an obsession. Without noticing what was happening I shifted my focus from Lifeline and the message of hope, health and happiness to that single goal. I spent hours fixating on how it will change my life, how the title will help me sell books and paintings, people will ask me to tour the world to talk about such a great achievement, blah, blah, blah, ego, ego, ego. It wasn’t until I listened to an interview with Sarah Marquis on a podcast that I realised how unhealthy my obsession was. I was already intrigued by Marquis and a little miffed because she had never replied to my emails or messages over the years to congratulate her, ask for advice, share a connection and try to meet up when we were very close to each other last year in the Kimberley. But what really shook me was how I reacted when the podcaster worded her Australian walks as “14,000kms around Australia”. The “around” bit made my heart race with fear that another woman was already claiming to have walked around solo unaccompanied. It wasn’t for a few days and a bit of research later I learnt it wasn’t “around” as in a circuit, but “around” as in here and there.

This was a real eye opener for me. An unhealthy ego was creeping in. I started forgetting I am an ordinary person taking advantage of an extraordinary opportunity for a worthy cause. It scared me. Rather than react I decided to think and analyse what happened and how to adjust my attitude.

At the same time as all this I had begun reading and meditating on “A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life”, a relatively modern Buddhist text written about 1300 years ago, about the enlightened path of altruism and dedicating oneself to the happiness and end of suffering for all beings. For a feminist it is not easy reading, a lot of old traditional sexist references, but there are gems of insight in there. It reminded me why I started this walk and the direction I hope to take after it has finished.

Looking back now, this awareness was possibly the only thing which kept me going after the most frightening incident I have experienced to date while walking around Australia.

Since 2008 I have undertaken numerous solo charity and awareness walks. The walks which follow roads require road sense and respect for all road users, their safety and my own. There is legislation written specifically for pedestrians and you can find it in the “Australian Road Rules Part 14 Rules for Pedestrians 238 – Pedestrians travelling along a road”. I abide by these rules and state regulations and the sub-clauses regarding the use of common sense. I even have a side mirror fitted so I know when I must give way to oncoming traffic if there is traffic approaching from behind (this last is safe only on the quiet open highways with broken centre lines).

The only times I have had trouble with traffic is the occasional (only 9 in 12,000kms) road rage incidents where drivers, usually truckies, coming towards me leave the road and try or pretend to try running me into the bush or fence line. For every heavy vehicle driving towards me I leave the road, usually leave the shoulder and sometimes the gravel verge if the road is narrow. 2 metres is the clearance distance I like to give all heavy vehicles if there is room. My comfort zone is 1 metre (watching their trailers for wobble) but from the driver’s seat 1 metre doesn’t look like much so I understand they feel comfortable with more. This is how it has always been and there is never an excuse for aggressive behaviour.

Then, the day I was half way between Barkly Homestead and Camooweal, a fully loaded 3 trailer cattle road train tried running me down from behind with intent to kill.

There was a strong headwind roaring across my ears so I plugged in some earbuds and listened to Deb Ozarko’s status-quo crushing podcasts. The highway was quiet. It was cold, about 15C, but the sun glare was fierce. I had been walking in layers of thermals, gloves, balaclava and bright yellow jacket to block the wind. My energy was very low and every half hour I needed to stop to lie down beside the road and rest. I didn’t even have enough energy to lie on a mat, just on the gravel beside my barrow. Interesting side note, nobody stopped to ask if I was okay or needed help.

When I‘m exhausted instinct takes over and that was how I walked most of that day. Shutting out everything except what was essential for survival and moving forward. I was 3 days east of Barkly Homestead and 3 days west of Camooweal with no phone range between. My poor mental and physical health made the geographical isolation feel worse. By now the podcast was just background noise to counter the wind noise. My entire focus was on the road ahead and each footstep. It was a very strange feeling I had walking around the outside of a wide corner when my instinct told me to turn around. If I hadn’t I’d be dead.

I slightly turned my head to the left to look over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of something that didn’t make sense in the side mirror. I twisted around to see a massive road train moving across into the oncoming lane and towards me. The driver looked back at me. I had seconds to push my barrow off the road and run out of the way. I turned back to where I had just been walking to watch the road train drive over that very spot with all 3 trailers and then he moved back to his side of the road. There was no way he would have been able to safely move back and avoid running me over if I had not moved. He had no intention of changing his course. He was not pretending or threatening or sleeping at the wheel. He wanted to kill me.

Immediately shock set in, dizziness, jelly legs, cold clammy skin, uncontrollable shaking and anger. There was another vehicle behind the truck so I couldn’t see his registration plate which made me angrier because I wanted justice. I managed to find my UHF radio and gave him a piece of my mind but the state of shock I was in it probably didn’t make sense (but any sailor would have understood the gist of it).

After about 10 minutes I managed to regain control enough to keep walking, telling myself it was wasted time and energy standing there shaking and crying, hoping for help. I took the earbuds out so I could hear if traffic was coming from behind but that was useless, the wind was too strong and loud and I remained deaf to anything behind me. Every vehicle passing from behind made me jump, every truck passing either direction triggered a panic reaction, so much so I started yelling (shakily) power words to try and counteract my weakness. I walked another 3 kilometres before fear forced me off the road, also fear of the same driver returning to finish off the job. It all felt scarily primal.

It also felt like defeat. After 12,000kms being forced off the road by a truck, raising awareness about mental health while almost being killed by someone who needs help, a vegan being run down by a cattle train, if it wasn’t so harrowing it would have been ironic.

The idea of the truck driver returning to try again was enough to make me go into hiding in the bush, indefinitely. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to get out to the next town, I couldn’t think straight. I pitched my tent well out of sight of the road, covered up my tracks leading into the bush and pulled out a note book to calculate how much food and water was left and how long they would last on emergency rations. After working out I had 2 weeks of food supplies, about a month worth of body fat plus bush tucker and 3 weeks of water rations plus 1-2 litres I could collect daily using survival techniques I wondered if I could learn to stay hidden, go a bit wild and change my identity. Remembering someone would notice my absence from facebook after a week and realising that would lead to emergency services looking for a confused hiding stinky person I needed another plan and decided to sleep on it.

That night I read “The Wisdom of Compassion” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan. This insight struck home so it was the last thing I thought of before sleeping;

“It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act. There are two aspects to action. One is to overcome the distortions and afflictions of your own mind, that is, in terms of calming and eventually dispelling anger. This is action out of compassion. The other is more social, more public. When something needs to be done in the world to rectify the wrongs, if one is really concerned with benefiting others, one needs to be engaged, involved.” HH Dalai Lama

These were the words I needed to help make some difficult decisions in the following 2 days.

When I started planning this walk in 2011 my intention was to help others and help my own recovery. For 2 ½ years and 12,000kms I had put my whole heart and soul into this, put my body and mind through extremes, met and rose above many challenges, selling everything of value I owned, to carry a message of hope and happiness and help Lifeline. I had just pulled myself out of a serious ego trap to refocus on intention only to be caught by fear. I needed the message of compassion and altruism reinforced. I needed to remember the first intention, my purpose for walking around Australia. The words of the Dalai Lama reminded me to take care of myself so I can help others. I had some difficult decisions to make but I still had a purpose to fulfil.

When I woke up I felt completely drained of emotion, numb. I spent the day meditating, reading and writing down options which included continuing on the same stretch of road, quitting the entire walk, taking a break then returning to the Barkly Highway or continuing the walk but not on the Barkly Highway. I knew hiding wasn’t an option but I still needed to figure out how to stay safe. Giving up really wasn’t an option either. Taking a break would delay reaching the east coast and friends which I wasn’t prepared for psychologically. Skipping a large section of the lap was a challenging idea but after working through the issues which came up the previous week I was reluctantly prepared to let go of the goal to become the first woman to walk around Australia solo unaccompanied if it meant protecting my original intention and my mental health.  Regardless of all that, I still chose to continue on the Barkly Highway because I’m stubborn. There was still a strong element of unhealthy ego attached to this choice, I wanted that cattle train driver to see I was not beaten but I also wanted to give it one last try in the hope everything would be okay.

There was a free camp 20kms down the road so I decided to head for it and looked forward to having the company of other travellers, grey nomads and backpackers. Safety in numbers. I packed up camp at 2pm giving myself enough time to arrive before sunset but I did not anticipate the fear reactions continuing with vehicles passing from behind and trucks. It felt like I was walking in a perpetual panic attack, shaking and struggling to breath, tunnel vision and trying to jump out of my skin all at the same time. I ended up arriving at the free camp after dark but there was only one other camper and he was drunk, stank and sounded like he had tuberculosis so I kept walking until out of sight, turned off my safety lights, hid the reflector vest and disappeared into the bush. It wasn’t going as I hoped and I still had not been able to talk to anyone about what happened. I desperately needed to speak to another human, it was becoming too much to cope with alone.

This time I didn’t sleep on any options. Before closing my eyes I decided to leave that section of highway, to leave the isolation with no intention to return. The only thing I wanted was to go to the east coast, be with friends and recover. The next morning I walked back to the rest area hoping someone could help me get the hell out of there.

Now, here I am, 3 weeks later, on the east coast, fully recovered and confidently walking safely beside the road from Cairns to Canberra. A lot of people came together to help, fellow travellers, Avon Downs police officer Robyne, Donna and Des, yoga teacher Steven Golding, welfare check-ins from Lifeline HQ and especially Belle Sinclair who drove almost 2,000kms to pick me up and her house mate Nadine who gave me a room to stay and relaxing company in Townsville for 2 weeks.

That’s what happened out there. I won’t go back to Barkly Highway. I no longer feel the need to complete a solo unaccompanied lap. I am looking forward to the last 3,000-4,000kms for many reasons, not least the number of people my message of hope and happiness will reach. I feel comfortable with the decisions I made, especially for my personal health.

No regrets.

Terra’s Top 10 Why I am Walking Around Australia

THE BACK STORY

1. Childhood Bushwalking – From the time I could walk the adventure began. Dad and Mum carefully budgeted for family camping and bushwalking trips to National Parks at least twice a year, as often as possible we would pack the car and trailer, we even had a caravan for a while, drive hundreds of kilometres and set up our camp with a little fire for the billy and breakfast toast. Where ever we went there were endless adventures through mountains, rainforests and beaches. Nothing was beyond the limits of our imaginations and endless energy. The memories are still vivid of discovering Australia throughout my early years including the Warrumbungles, Wollumbin (Mt Warning) near Murwillumbah, waterfall and cave walks around Binna Burra, scaring Mum as Dad and I scrambled across the tops of ocean rock ledges in Arakoon, hiking around alpine lakes and tarns on the way to the top of Mt Kosciuszko and the beautiful Cradle Mountain circuit in Tasmania. Walking started long before I knew it was going to be a significant part of my life.

2. High School Inspiration – In 1984, when I read Robyn Davidson’s book ‘Tracks’ as part of the NSW school English literature curriculum I saw what could be achieved by one woman alone. When I read her adventure, walking 2,700kms alone from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with camels and a dog, her story resonated with my soul and I knew, at 12 years old, adventure and walking were going to play a big part in my future. I also knew whatever I did would be alone without humans or other animals

3. Living and Breathing Wilderness – In the summer of 1987/88 the family camping trip went down to Kosciuszko National Park in the Snowy Mountains. While we were there we explored just about every track between Sawpit Creek and Mt Kosciuszko but more importantly the place where we camped put up a “Lease For Auction” sign. We went back to Newcastle but less than 2 months later we were the new owners of the lease for “The Alpine Accommodation Complex”. We quickly renamed it “Kosciusko Mountain Retreat” and owned it for 15 years, until the fires of 2003.

This was a wonderland for me. I spent every spare hour in the bush, exploring the creeks, waterfalls, skinny dipping in secret waterholes far away from the walking tracks. I had a favourite walking circuit, off track, the markers were special places like ancient trees, hollows, creek crossings, wombat burrows, strange rocks and clearings.

(This intrinsic knowledge of the hills and creeks around Sawpit Creek helped rescue 2 small lost children in 2003 as I led police through the area in a mid-winter night search, the kids were found just before the police were going to call it off until daylight. If I didn’t know that place like the back of my hand those kids would have died of hypothermia before daylight.)

In the summer of 1989 I walked, ran and cycled Mt Kosciuszko more than 50 times from Thredbo, Charlottes Pass and Blue Lake. Many friends and family visited that year and I made it a habit to befriend campers so I could tag along. In winter I skied the tracks above the snow line, below the tree line, tracks I loved walking in summer like Porcupine Rocks and Rainbow Lake. On skis and snowshoes, with the right gear, enough alpine backcountry experience and survival knowledge, you are not limited to tracks.

Living at Kosciusko Mountain Retreat was isolating. School was an hour away (without ice or snow on the road) and the business was too busy for us kids to get into town very often. We had one set social activity per week, mine was Friday nights at Jindabyne Venturers. The 2 years I was there we had leaders who had lost interest in Scouting but we planned trips of our own and were involved in backcountry rescue training with State Emergency Services. Between my fellow Venturers, SES volunteers, SAS army training teams and keen backcountry adventurers regularly camping at our place I collected a lot of knowledge about multiday walks, safety (ignoring the No1 rule of not going alone), gear, rations, snow caves, huts, crossing rivers, weather, terrain, finding water, etc. It was only natural deciding to turn that knowledge into experience. Solo multiday walking in the Snowy Mountains became a new passion.

4. Walks For Awareness – In my 30s I started feeling a deep need to act on the pressure of responsibility for the state of our planet. The destruction of wilderness, senseless killing of wild animals and increased rates of extinction, global warming, pollution and exploitation was calling for action. The only thing I could think of was to walk. I wrote letters, signed and created petitions, joined demonstrations, etc, but the only thing that felt like I was making a difference was creating a series of walks I called “Walks For Awareness”. When I walked and talked and raised awareness or funds I felt like one person really can make a difference. I became one part of many proactively and positively walking and working towards a better future. There was no way I could have stayed still and watched with indifference as the world fell apart around me. I didn’t know at the time that my compassion and commitment, fervour and zeal were dangerously close to burnout. I put everything into what I did, it felt good but I took it too far before fatigue hit. At the same time, the abuse from those opposed to protecting wilderness and wildlife increased beyond what I could emotionally or psychologically cope with. In 2010 I stopped walking, went into hiding and lost my battle with mental illness trying to suicide 3 times.

 

WALKING FOR THERAPY

5. Escape into Wilderness – Unconsciously, from my teens through to my late 30s I used outdoor activities such as running, cycling, paddling, horse riding, skiing, snowshoeing, sailing, swimming and mostly bushwalking to prevent these illnesses from controlling my life. I had breakdowns and struggles, lost jobs and relationships, increasingly lost faith in humanity and became a recluse but I thought it was normal adult stuff with no idea it was anything more than what most people deal with. When I put my pack on my back and walked into the wilderness I left the troubles behind me. It was just Nature and my instincts. It wasn’t until 2010 I realised Nature nurtured me through some very confused and tumultuous years. Wilderness was my therapist.

6. Prescribed Walking – In May 2010 a lot of things changed. I stopped walking and it was the most detrimental change of all. Losing interest in your favourite things is a big mental illness warning sign.

Then I put on about 40kg because of inactivity and comfort eating. Sudden change in weight and eating habits, eg, food addiction, not eating and binging are also big mental illness warning signs.

I was diagnosed with depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), later diagnosed as complex PTSD and officially diagnosed on the autism spectrum with aspergers. The signs and symptoms for depression and PTSD started possibly as early as 1978.

It took a while to find a psychologist I felt comfortable with and when I did she soon saw clearly how important walking was for my heart, body and mind. Walking became my main therapy.

Walking as therapy has many benefits. For me these include exercise, sunlight (Vit D), Nature (- ions), fresh air, social interaction, smiling and clear thinking. It is free therapy too!

 

DEVELOPING AN IDEA

7. “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” Fredrich Nietzsche

Haha! I’m not saying The Happy Walk is a truly great thought but when I conceived it while walking for therapy it was possibly the biggest step toward discovering my purpose and following my passion.

It was December 2010 and I was living in Bombala at the time. Most days I went for a brief walk around this quiet and pretty little high country town, down to the public library to borrow resources about mental health then the café to read the regional newspapers and eavesdrop on local gossip. As I studied and learnt about my mental health I also learnt about the state of Australia’s mental health, lack of resources, funding cuts to non-profits, removal of government services and staff, increasing suicide rates in rural and remote regions and complete political disregard.

So, I decided to help in some small way.

 

THE HAPPY WALK

8. Raising Awareness – The Happy Walk is many things.

When I set out on this journey I thought to myself “If I can save just one life I will have achieved my goal.”

Talking about suicide and discussing mental illness does not cause either. In fact talking is the best path to finding help and starting a path to recovery. Through talking and respectful listening we can help each other and shake off the old stigma society used to attach to mental illness and suicide. I am walking the talk all around Australia. There have been hundreds of road side conversations, over 100 media interviews and talks in schools and interest groups, social media and increased awareness amongst friends and family. Conversations about my personal journey from illness to recovery, how Lifeline helped me and millions of others, reassuring people they are not alone and there is hope has been like a beacon of light.

Emails, facebook messages and phone texts regularly remind me of how far The Happy Walk’s message has spread across Australia and the world.

This walk has helped save many more than “just one life”.

9. Walking for a Cause – During my recovery I used Lifeline and this walk is a way I can say thank you.

I did not know about Lifeline when I tried to take my life but when I finally found a compatible psychologist she gave me Lifeline’s number. Psychologists are not usually available 24/7, they need to set boundaries for their own mental health but Lifeline is available 24/7 every day of the year in Australia with call centres operated by trained volunteer and professional phone counsellors in every state.

During my recovery and therapy I experienced some really big and frightening relapses. These usually happened at night, on weekends or significant days like xmas or my birthday. I have Lifeline’s number programmed into my phone and used it. Each time someone gently encouraged me to talk about what was wrong, what had happened or was happening to trigger my relapse, how I might be able to ground myself again and seek follow up help. No matter how long it took they stayed on the other end of the phone until they knew I was safe.

Lifeline have taken calls from people in crisis for 54 years. They take calls from almost 1 million people a year and many more through their online chat support service.

Fundraisers like The Happy Walk help keep the crisis hotline and online support service running. Fundraisers are an essential part of Lifeline as our government has cut funding to this life saving non-profit charity.  Each time you donate to a fundraiser, shop in a Lifeline store, visit a Lifeline Book Fair or participate in a Lifeline event you are helping save lives, you are helping to train phone counsellors and keep phone lines open.

Unlike many, Lifeline fundraisers DO NOT use donations, ALL donations go to Lifeline and the fundraiser (me) covers the costs of the fundraising event (The Happy Walk) through other means (personal funds and gifts from supporters).

10. For Me – Apart from being good therapy I am living a dream, staying connected to Nature, discovering many beautiful places, meeting fascinating people, giving back, taking responsibility, fulfilling my purpose.

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1988 – I bought my first bushwalking boots! It has been a life full of Wanders!

Terra’s Top 10 FAQs

1 How many pairs of shoes have you used?

16! Walking on hot sharp blue metal bitumen and rough gravel edges pushing a barrow sometimes weighing over 110kg wears a sole down much faster than recreational park and bush walking. I also change over to a new pair more frequently than most people because the damage to joints and tendons walking 40kms/day on uneven wearing soles (I have a wonky gait from a wonky spine) causes a lot of unnecessary pain and down time. Some shoes have been better than others. I won’t mention the brand name of the best shoe because they refused to sponsor me. You can ask me that privately.

I have been very fortunate having the support of Bruce and Ros Easton of Wilderness Sports Jindabyne, my old bosses and friends. Since the preparation stage of the walk they have offered their wisdom and gear knowledge as well as a generous discount on all goods I buy through them including 10 pairs of the really good trail runners. Ask Bruce about footwear, it is one of his areas of expertise.

At the moment I am slowly transitioning from my last pair of trail runners to Slappa’s Thongs. Slappa’s are my official shoe sponsor! These are no ordinary thongs (AKA flip flops, smaguls, flicks, flips, slaps, slippers, jandals, hawai chappals). Slappa’s have orthotic soles and mould to support your arch and heel. I am now comfortably walking 10km a day in thongs and hope to completely discard shoes when I reach the east coast.

Switching to thongs is inspired by a Swedish walker, minimalist vagabond Mats Andren, who walked 20,000kms from Stockholm, Sweden to Sydney, Australia wearing thongs as part of his ongoing human powered adventure around Earth.

Budget is also a motivator to switch to thongs.

 

2 How much water do you drink?

This depends on the temperature, weight of barrow, surface of roadside, terrain, strength of headwind and humidity. The harder and hotter it is the more I drink, eg, walking into a headwind all day is like walking up hill all day and is hot sweaty work. On an average 40km day (average being a reasonably flat quiet road, mostly walking on the bitumen into a 20km/hr headwind pushing 75kgs) if it is between 30 and 35C I drink at least 6ltrs, more than 35C up to 10ltrs, less than 30C about 5ltrs. I add Shotz electrolyte tabs to every fourth litre of water.

There are roadhouses or towns every 100-300kms so I make sure I have enough water plus a bit extra to get to the next roadhouse or town. Without a support vehicle I carry everything I need in the barrow which can sometimes be up to 45ltrs of water.

Twice in 2 years I accepted water from travellers which was bad and made me sick. I had to ration after jettisoning a 10ltr bottle of bad water the first time. The second time I was near a river and purified a new supply of water straight from the river.

Bore water is unpleasant, especially when it is warm and my water is usually hot from radiant heat off the road and sitting inside an alloy box in the sun all day (insulation works for only half a day, I’ve tried it). For most of the last 11,000kms I have had to buy bottled water or ask for access to rainwater supplies. Usually roadhouses won’t let me use their rainwater so I must buy it. It is very expensive, 5 times more expensive than fuel in many roadhouses. I could force myself to drink bore water, it won’t kill me, but when I stop to hydrate I prefer it to be palatable rather than forcing it past my gag reflex.

When I crossed the Nullarbor I used 180ltrs of water. The average cost of a 1.5ltr bottle was $6. I bought 5ltr or 10ltr bottles at $12 or $20 if they were available. I spent almost $800 on water in only 6 weeks walking the short distance of 1,200kms between Norseman and Ceduna. It cost more than $2,500 for water from Perth to Darwin but I was given some sweet filtered bore and river water in the Kimberley which saved a lot of money.

I don’t carry washing water. Not a drop is wasted, every little mil is swallowed, including tooth brushing and bowl rinsing.

And I never turn down offers of cold water!

 

3 What do you eat?

Mostly my food is rationed and non-perishable. It isn’t exciting but it is nutritious.

Breakfast – Loving Earth Buckini organic raw buckwheat granola style muesli with lots of extra dried fruit, nuts and seeds. I use water instead of soy milk or juice, it is more convenient.

Lunch – Power Super Foods dried organic fruit and raw almonds.

Dinner – a cup of raw almonds.

Snacks – Blue Dinosaur raw organic energy bars.

Kind Road Angels (see previous blog post) sometimes stop and offer fresh fruit. This is awesome!

Near border quarantine check points I rummage through bins for fresh fruit and salad other travellers have thrown away. I can usually get a good salad out of a voluntary quarantine bin. WA customs officers are not allowed to give charity walkers confiscated food. I found that out the hard way when I met a rude loud mouthed WA quarantine officer as I walked into Northern Territory through the Kimberley.

While in towns, a rare day or two of civilisation, I binge on fresh fruit and salad. When I reach the east coast I will need to take care of how much I eat, there will be no more need to binge with fresh food available almost every day and more regularly the further south I walk.

I carb-load on hot potato chips at roadhouses where there is nothing else for a vegan to eat. Sometimes I buy cans of beans, corn and peas from outback general stores. Everything costs much more in WA, NT and outback QLD, double it and add some. $4 for an old can of baked beans that has been sitting on the shelf since before the invention of pull rings!

 

4 Where do you sleep?

About 85% of the walk, so far, has been through remote Australia with only the bush beside the road to camp in. Most evenings, around sunset, I start looking for a nice bunch of trees, scrub, tall grass or rocks to camp behind. Usually I find a good spot about 15 – 20 metres off the road where the scrub will shield from headlights during the night and give some privacy in the morning when I go to the toilet. If I can’t find anywhere suitable I walk until dark and get up before light for both privacy and safety reasons.

My normal camping kit is the Mont Moondance 1 one person light weight tent, a thin mat and sleeping bag. My clothes sack doubles as a pillow.

I’m not exactly a minimalist right now because I have an ultralight Goshawk hammock from Tier Gear. This might come in handy if I can’t find a suitable place to pitch the tent but might find 2 strong trees to hold the hammock.

There is a list of things I look for before setting up camp, points of safety. I have been camping since a little kid and it is more intuition these days but the subconscious list I run through quickly includes:

Drainage – if it rains I don’t want to be sleeping in a puddle,

Animal tracks – I would have a much more comfortable night sleep without being jumped on or run over by animals like kangaroos or buffalo,

Trees – Some species of eucalyptus trees have a reputation for being “widow makers”. Any tree might drop a limb on your tent during the night so try avoiding overhanging limbs big enough to kill you if they fall,

Ants – don’t camp on top of an ants nest. They eat through tent floors,

Rocks – clear sharp objects like rocks and sticks from the group before pitching. It will make your bed more comfortable and cause less wear on the floor of your tent,

Sensitive ecosystems – Avoid camping on ground with small fragile plants and signs of small animal activity. Pitching a tent, walking around the site, digging a toilet hole, all these activities can damage fragile ecosystem and vulnerable species and,

Water catchments – You can camp close to creeks, streams, rivers, lakes, beaches but never wash dishes in them, never wash yourself with soap in them and always dig your toilet hole at least 200m away or more. Parasites are in almost every water catchment in Australia, including Kosciuszko National Park’s snow fed lakes and rivers, because campers and bushwalkers have not respected this rule.

When I get to roadhouses and in towns I try to find a donated or discounted motel room or hospitality offered by a supporter. It feels wonderful to have a bed and bathroom, preferably somewhere I don’t need to walk far during the night to go to the toilet. It is good for my morale to stay in a room every now and then. I can relax and rest in comfort.

 

5 Where is your support vehicle?

I am walking alone, There is no support vehicle, no car, no caravan, no motorhome, no cook, no masseuse.

 

6 How far do you walk in a day?

I average a 40km walking day, sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on how I feel and distractions. 67kms is the longest walking day so far but 40kms is comfortable. It starts to hurt around 50kms and around 60kms the cramps kick in. When my nutrition levels are good I recover overnight and can push my average closer to 50kms but I need long summer days because my walking speed is only 4kms/hr.

I don’t walk every day. I take 2 rest days a week and if I am near something interesting or beautiful I might hang around. This year I am not worrying about racing to Townsville because I know I will easily get there during dry season and reach Canberra before the end of the year. More detours, more tourist days, more time with hosts, more enjoyable!

 

7 What do you do in bad weather?

I usually keep walking. Last year I stopped and retreated from one of the cyclones but found myself in another a month later. Earlier this year I stopped for 10 days until the temperature dropped below 40C. I am prepared for most weather and experienced in extremes but if the weather has the potential of killing me then I avoid walking in it. I like weather, except headwinds, humidity and heat. I have been walking into headwinds most of the way around Australia. If you’re planning your walk around I suggest doing it anti-clockwise so you have tailwinds most of the way. One of my most memorable days was walking through a blizzard while walking acround Tasmania. It was beautiful! I have walked through some floods and many electrical storms and after all the bad weather there are rainbows and sunshine.

 

8 Do you feel lonely?

This is one of my most dreaded questions. Sometimes, when exhausted, I really do feel lonely and this question makes it worse. I try not to think about it because most of the time I love solitude. Just today I was thinking of how lucky I am to be single and alone. There are fleeting moments I wish for companionship, especially when witnessing some of the most fascinating and beautiful things on Earth, moments which would be richer for sharing. That feeling doesn’t last long because I love being alone. I do like someone, I think of them often, but they will never know because I will never tell them. I feel honoured to call them “friend” and wouldn’t dream of jeopardising that. Having spent most of my adult life alone it is no big deal to dream of growing old touring Australia in a campervan with an old rescue dog.

When you think about it, as animals, another species roaming Earth, we are never truly alone. I love the company and conversation of birds, listening to dingos at night as I fall asleep, frogs and crickets competing for airtime after sunset, saying hello to lazy grazing cows beside the road and watching timid roos, wallabies and reptiles scamper into the cover of scrub. Trees are good company too.

 

9 How many punctures have you had?

None! I had one pinched valve because I didn’t keep the air pressure high enough. I am on to the second set of wheels. Rims, tyres, tubes and goo were donated by Scott Cycles in Karratha WA about 4,000kms ago. The previous set lasted until the axels snapped, bearings spilled out and skewers bent. The current set are top quality and will hopefully last another 2,000kms. The tyres and tubes are heavy thick rubber. I have watched the dense rubber tyre push out massive cat head thorns. Impressive! If I have any trouble with thorns on the east coast I will buy solid airless tyres. Punctures are the bane of many buggy pushing, cart pulling walker and runner. I have been fortunate to have avoided this problem so far.

 

10 Do you pull or push your barrow?

I push. Years ago, on previous charity walks I had a little cart which I pulled. It was small and light and no real problem. I tried different harness set ups but opted to just hold it and let my elbows act as suspension. The shoulder, hip, waist and chest harnesses sent the road vibration and shock through my whole body which was less comfortable than using extra strength and energy without the harnesses.

Anyway, a long story short, I happened to swing the cart around to push it through a narrow section of path and discovered how much easier it is to push than pull.

I reckon our largest muscle groups, quads and glutes, can handle pushing easier and for longer distances than pulling. Pulling results in the fatigued muscles shifting to small muscle groups sooner than while pushing. Small muscle groups don’t have great stamina.

Dory, my big blue and yellow barrow, was designed by me from my experience with other buggies and carts and built pretty close to my specifications. She is so easy to push along flat sealed surfaces, if her load is balance slightly forward of centre, I can push her with 1 finger. There is a little message on the lip of the barrow lid facing me as I walk, just 3 little words to keep me going, “can and will”.

 

I have purposefully left out 3 really big questions. These will each be answered as blog posts of their own in the future.

What are some of your questions about walking solo unaccompanied around Australia? Post them in the comment below.