Only 2 weeks to go until I am camping beside the highway again. It is exciting leading up to a new leg of the walk and feels great getting back out there. It is a very different way of life and I love it.
Unless you have tried it, something like The Happy Walk is hard to imagine. Over the next 6 months, as I complete the final 5,500kms of this 16,000km solo unaccompanied lap of Australia I will try to explain the reality of solo endurance walking, camping beside the highway, what food I eat without access to fresh produce, solitude, walking meditation, hygiene, the minimalist style I use, safety, how it all effects my physical and psychological health.
On the 17th August 2015 I became the first woman to walk solo unaccompanied (without a support vehicle) between Perth and Darwin. It took 6 months and 2 weeks to walk 4,100kms including many detours and rest days. On the way I walked through Katherine and stopped for 4 days because I was ahead of schedule and someone cut a huge chunk out of my big toe during a pedicure.
When I reached Darwin Andy, Lifeline Top End’s media guru, put Dory into storage for the wet season. Dory is the nickname for the barrow I designed and had custom built because she is the same colours as Dory the fish and under the lid my sister-in-law wrote the “Just keep swimming” Dory quote. Dory and I will be starting the final leg in Katherine.
For safety reasons I decided not to walk through the Top End in wet season. It is okay to do it with a support crew where someone can help with water, food, shelter, air-con, escaping flies, moral support,etc, etc but solo without a support crew is not the smartest choice if I have the luxury of time to wait until the next dry season. It will still feel comparatively hot and humid compared to most of Australia, the forecast is still up around 36C and 60-70% humidity but this is what the Territorians call pleasant dry season weather and if I wait until June I will run out of “pleasant” weather before reaching Brisbane and a normal 4 season climate zone in Spring.
It is pretty much always a race with the seasons. I find heat unbearable and it knocks me about badly causing huge delays as I need to recover from heat stress or hide from heat waves. Smart continental traversing endurance walkers, runners, riders, roller skiers are racing seasons, whether it is heat, snow, rains, headwinds, winter, humidity, we are all on a schedule planned around the safest seasons to get through the most extreme climate regions using only human power.
Solo endurance walkers are completely vulnerable to the elements. We don’t really look at forecasts unless we feel something isn’t quiet right, like the cyclones and floods I mostly dodged last year for example. We can’t just stay lying in our tents or hammocks in the scrub beside the road waiting for a weather pattern to change. Our water and food rations might not last that long, camping beside the road is not comfortable for extended periods of time and if we delay too long or too often we lose our seasonal window.
Walking through storms always excites me. I have had many electrical storms pummel me, lots of very close lightning strikes, some within 200m, but thankfully nothing has hit me yet. The reward for enduring a wild electrical storm is the super charged clear air afterwards, rainbows, impressive views of maintains of clouds. The smell of wet Earth, bruised bark and wind thrashed leaves is intoxicating.
In 2 weeks I expect it will be hot but not dangerously, just yucky and sweaty. The humidity will be uncomfortable for sure, it is always potentially dangerous if I don’t drink a lot of water throughout the day. I sweat profusely in the heat while pushing the barrow so I lose a lot of salts and other essential minerals. I use Shotz electrolyte tabs religiously. This is the best brand I have found and I have tried everything on the market from gag inducing stuff from chemists to chemically coloured sweet junk from super markets. I don’t carry cool water, it is always somewhere between road surface and air temperature but Shotz still tastes pleasant in hot 30-45C water. It is designed by an Australian endurance athlete and coach for endurance athletes performing in Australian conditions and has VitB12 which is a bonus for a plant-powered athlete like myself.
I had a look at Google Maps yesterday. Since the planning stages of this walk I have used Google Maps on satellite view so i can see where the rest areas are, if they have infrastructure which may indicate a sheltered picnic table or a pit toilet. Most of my camps are not in rest areas and Google Maps can show how far off the road the fence line is or whether there is potentially enough vegetation to camp behind approximately where I might stop walking at sunset. It is a handy tool.
This leg I will carry both the Mont Moondance 1 one-person tent and the Tier Gear ultralight Goshawk hammock with tarp. With both options I double my chance of finding a comfortable camp each night. The nights I can’t find a good patch of ground for the tent I might have more luck finding 2 solid trees spaced the right distance apart for the hammock. Both are quick and easy to put up and pull down.
The 10 days remaining at Basecamp II will be packed full of things to do like preparing supply packs, admin and PR. A new website and relaunching the crowdfunder are also on the agenda. Crazy!
The photo I have chosen to head this post is from Basecamp II. The beauty of the rainforest and macadamia plantation and being with my brother’s beautiful and musically talented family completely compensates for the work.
The cover picture heading the entire blog is by Mats Andren, another endurance walker/minimalist vagabond, taken when we crossed paths near Katherine last year. Mats is a professional photographer. Thanks buddy for letting me use this shot.
Terra’s Top 10 was very popular so I will post another list next week. Until then, love each other and take joy in all of life’s blessings.
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