It feels longer since the last update. Time is passing too fast as I walk through some of the most beautiful places in Australia.
“Where has been your favourite place?” is one of the questions people often ask. It is impossible to chose only one place. If I consider all the places made special for the people I meet, a specific location or an entire region, cultural richness, serenity, beauty, sublime rugged wilderness and those adventitious unplanned experiences “favourite” falls into many categories.
The entire east coast of Australia is one of my favourite places, many more are scattered along it and as I walk I am finding new favourites to return to. Sometimes I love a place so much, and know I will return that I hold back from saturating my experience with activity. Rather, I saturate my heart and mind with an invocation of sensory memory and leave a few things to discover and try next time.
Now, where did I make it to in the last update… Spectacular Agnes Water and 1770! So much has happened since then.
On the way out of Agnes Water I visited a couple more places of interest including the Paperbark Walk protected by Bush Heritage Australia. It is a short easy walk through an incredible sample of lush tea tree forest. There is restricted mobility access as some of the walk is across stepping stones where it floods in wet season. If mozzies like you then go prepared.
My intention that afternoon was to walk down the 8km beach from Red Rock to Wreck Rock but it was blowing a strong sandblasting headwind. I tried the official 4WD track instead but after a couple of vehicles covered me in sand and dirt I turned back to the Reedy Creek track and followed the trail along the poleline through Deepwater National Park to Deepwater locality.
When I reached the road again I called into one of the first bush blocks to ask for some drinking water. I didn’t think I was going to make my destination that night so it was safest to refill where I spotted rain tanks. Deb and Bob, Archie, Rusty, Mischief, Rocky, Tassie, Lucky and Lily (the last 7 are dogs) gave me the best kind of spontaneous Aussie hospitality with a hot cup of coffee, great conversation and sent me away loaded up with fresh fruit from their orchard.
Further down the road, as dusk began, I stopped for a chat roadside with Kim Dwyer, her daughter and friend. I was licked and leaned on for rubs by Bear, Izzy and Kemo (not humans). The sun set so they offered me a converted bedroom in their shed and as I indulged in a hot shower they prepared extra dinner so I could join the family. It was a wonderful night.
Twice lucky, or much more, especially if you ask the locals about the packs of wild dogs and pigs attacking people in the bush around Deepwater!!! It was better to be blissfully ignorant so I could focus my attention 100% on the beautiful bushland without responding to every grunt, growl and twig snap.
Actually, I am very fortunate to have a brain which picks up on any potential danger as I sleep (or daydream), like subtle changes in sound, smell, wind direction, environmental changes and wakes me if there might be a threat. For example, in the outback I wouldn’t wake for passing vehicles but if they slowed down I half woke and if they stopped my adrenaline immediately set my heart racing and ready to act. Same would happen if my brain smelled cigarette smoke but whenever that happened I could hear the car the smoke trailed out from continuing away in the distance and shut down the adrenaline. My sleeping brain learnt to differentiate between human and non-human foot/hoof/paw fall and woke me only if it heard human. I mention all this only because the night I camped in Deepwater NP I half woke up thinking I could smell a wild boar and dismissed it. The next day I saw tracks and scats for many animals including small deer but not pig and the grunting I heard I dismissed as emu drumming. I probably had a few close encounters but they had no particular interest in me after their stealth midnight camp inspection. I was not so fortunate a week later south of Burrum Heads but more on that later.
Rules Beach and Baffle Creek are place names that have been sitting in my head for years patiently waiting their turn to feel significant. Have you ever felt something is important but with no logical reason, like a hunch or gut feeling? As I walked to Rules Beach I tried not to think of what awaited me, which didn’t work so for entertainment I made up the most outrageous scenarios. Matt Damon was going to be there with his family and invite me to share an adventure story with his daughters, I was going to bump into an old lover (one of the nice ones), a football sized gold nugget would trip me over or I was about to meet my next life coach. None of that happened. It was a long sweeping quiet beach with one family building castles and someone way off in the distance walking into the surf spray.
Baffle Creek Caravan Park is a beaut spot. They host mostly grey nomads during the winter migration and families during the holidays. It is clean, friendly, excellent facilities, well laid out and shaded. It is a well kept secret so this information is just between us, okay. Sally donated 2 nights of camping! Thank you!
Leaving Baffle Creek I had two options, to walk back out towards the highway until I found the bridge over Baffle or wait down at the caravan park’s private boat ramp and ask for a lift across to Rocky Point. On the way out of my campsite I stopped for a chat with my neighbours, Pat, Neil and Vince who also happened to arrive at the boat ramp 10 minutes later, at the same time as I did, so my lift was sorted. Thank you!
At this early stage of the walk my feet were starting to have trouble. The right Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitus were flaring up due to the road camber inflaming the pelvic imbalance. The left had some blisters. One was 7cm long and infected so bad I couldn’t fit the boot on properly, it later swelled up more and forced me to stop for 2 days but before that happened I had enough sense to get a lift for the 50 remaining kilometres into Bundaberg.
It was a very quiet road between Winfield/Rocky Point and Rosedale Rd hobbling along 10kms and into the Littabella Conservation Park. If I wasn’t surrounded by all that sweet fragrant blossoming sclerophyll bushland it would have become a lot harder psychologically to hold it together. Anytime I need to make these compromises I feel defeated. After my 10km rest break I continued on but as I heard a vehicle approach I stuck out my hitch hiking thumb and hoped for the best.
Cliff Grills, a true blue born and bred Winfield local pulled over and gave me a lift to town. On the way we made a quick side trip into the bush behind his brother’s block to cut firewood and had a good yarn. Thanks Cliff!
Bundaberg is a strange place for me. It holds good memories and some I’d rather forget. Many years ago as I travelled with my ex-husband we stopped here to do some harvest trail work. I became very sick with 2 infected wisdom teeth pushing through and needed to go to hospital. Unlucky for me it was the same hospital Dr Patel (aka Dr Death) worked in. If you don’t know the story you have probably heard similar stories in other countries where someone pretends to be a doctor and somehow gets away with it for years while destroying lives and killing patients through malpractice. The day I went in to have the wisdom teeth removed they were overloaded and hours behind schedule so he volunteered to take a shift in the dental ward. Remember he was not a doctor let alone a dentist but he decided to take my teeth out under local anesthesia. It was an extended directors cut horror movie, the 3(!) nurses assisting were alarmed and tried to intervene which made him more aggressive. Needless to say he did a lot of physical and psychological damage, including bruises where he dug his knee into me for leverage. Even now, when I looked down the road towards the hospital I started involuntarily shaking. I hope if I return to Bundaberg again I can continue building on the good memories and wipe away the trauma.
Since Bundaberg I have been trying harder to stay off any cambered roads and using beaches, 4WD/dirt bike tracks, fire breaks and pole lines between towns and localities. Mostly this works, sometimes the tracks disappear or are blocked by private property fences. Sometimes the road is the only option. All the small country back roads are quiet so I can switch camber from right to left or walk down the centre when i can’t hear any approaching traffic. This helps prevent the pelvic imbalance getting worse. N.B. all states legislate pedestrians walk on the righthand side facing traffic where no paths are available. (Terra sub clause – just use your common sense and don’t be a traffic hazard)
Walking between Burrum Heads and Hervey Bay I spent a lot of time walking through the bush. It is never a short cut because these tracks are often soft and sandy, meander, require a bit of off trail navigation and beautifully distracting. I had a close encounter with wild pigs on one of these tracks. I smelt them first (they don’t have a dirty farm sty smell, it is more an earthy savory biscuit smell) which meant I was downwind, a good thing. Then I spotted the fresh split hoof tracks on the trail, one large set and 3 small. I slowed down hoping not to catch up with a sow and her young but I came around a corner and they were right there, only meters away! They were probably more startled than I was but I didn’t hang around to find out, I bolted! I don’t mind a bit of excitement in my life but this was a bit too much.
By the way, Burrum Heads is really nice! It is a quiet seaside community which doubles in size during school holidays and is a popular winter destination for grey nomads. The best place to find good coffee and meals is at Julie and Ian’s cafe/takeaway A Taste of Burrum. I really appreciated their support while I stopping in town overnight.
Arriving in Hervey Bay felt good.
Sandra Moran is a strong, inspiring, deeply passionate woman campaigning for suicide prevention. We have been supporting each other’s projects to help end stigma and get people talking, reaching out for help. It was good to finally meet, share our stories, hug, cry and feel the love. Sandra’s charity is called Jaie’s Journey and can be followed through her blog, Instagram and Facebook.
Fraser Lodge Holiday Park donated an unpowered tent site at Torquay. I was quite impressed by how respectful and considerate everyone was of each others peace and privacy, especially during school holidays. It was a nice, clean place to camp and the staff were very helpful and friendly. Thank you!
While I stopped over in Hervey Bay I swapped all my synthetic clothes back to bamboo. I found everything at Go Natural Foods a couple of blocks away from the holiday park and they gave me a discount too! I have been feeling a bit foolish since prioritising weight and drying time over pong resistance. I had been using Boody bamboo clothing for years but they weigh a lot and take forever to dry and I was fed up with that so I replaced the worn out old stuff with cheap bonds products. I had no idea until I returned to walking in the heat just how amazingly pong resistant the Boody bamboo had been (not sponsored). Smell and hygiene are sensitive issues for me, even when I had to go a week between washing while walking through the outback. Because I carry only one change of clothes I wear the first set for 3 or 4 days. So, I am once again a natural fibre advocate. This is also the best choice for the environment as synthetic clothing releases microfibres into the water with every wash which take as long as plastic to breakdown.
Psychologically I have stepped over a line. There is relief knowing the most remote parts of this walk are behind me. Anytime from this point south I venture into wilderness is for pleasure rather than necessity. As a tree hugging plant powered bleeding heart hippie it is also good to be through the cattle and mining intense regions. It is hard to explain the compassion fatigue that results from daily exposure to the things which make your heart ache. Without a friend beside me to talk to and being out of phone range most of the time I carried that pain all the way. I won’t ever wish for a harder heart, apathy or ignorance but I do wish I had more effective coping skills when there was nobody to reach out to or calling me to check in on my wellbeing. If you know someone who has taken on a tough challenge which is going to require everything they have and more, physical, emotional and psychological resilience and strength beyond most people’s comprehension, solitude, isolation and huge personal sacrifice please don’t ever assume their family, some invisible team of supporters or their charity organisation are looking out for them. Be a good friend and check in on them, send them your encouragement and love. You may be the only person who does and it will mean so much to them. Believe me.
I have written this blog during a rest day half way through the Fraser Island Great Walk. It is a truly remarkable place on Earth and I look forward to sharing it with you next weekend when I reach Rainbow Beach.