Day 31 The Official Arrival

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another”

– John Dewey

Date 14th September

It was hard to get the timing right for the arrival. I had to sit around the corner up the hill from the café for a while before I was allowed to come down the hill. I think they were waiting for TV crews and other people to get there. In the end I rang Ash and said, “I’m not sitting here anymore, I’m coming now.” So I did.

I could see everyone off in the in the distance as I walked past a lady near a little boy who was pushing a stroller. The TV cameras were pointed in my direction and I thought that the little boy pushing the stroller would probably end up on TV too. The next thing I knew, the stroller was out of control, racing down the hill and the boy couldn’t stop it. It swerved from side to side, all the while picking up speed until it crashed into a big tree, upending the contents and the little boy onto the footpath. That’s all on camera I thought.

I expected the baby to be in a bit of trouble considering the stroller was upside down, but as I approached, the lady I’d walked past came up with a smile on her face and said, “Don’t worry, he does this everyday. That’s why the baby isn’t in the stroller.” I didn’t notice when I walked past her earlier that she was carrying a baby.

“Are you ok?” I asked the little boy who was rolling around on the ground.

“Yeah!” he shouted as he jumped up and ran off laughing and skipping.

“He’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” his mum said as she smiled at me.

I felt like a bit of knob walking down the hill towards all these people ringing bells and making all kinds of noise, but they made me do it a couple of times again after that to get it right for the cameras and then I felt like an even bigger knob!

Anna and Paul from the QIMR Berghofer had arranged a nice morning tea for me and the other people who were there to greet me. Ash and Pat were there and Jim from Glenaven. Clive Berghofer came too and the Mayor of Toowoomba, Paul Antonio. Some ladies from the Toowoomba Zonta club were there and my friend Leeanne from Bundaberg had put the word out to her church group and a few ladies from her network came along to say hi.

I did some interviews with the TV people and more interviews with newspapers and a radio DJ called Crazy Kev. It was hard to find a spare second to grab something to eat.

Anna gave me a Team Eureka tshirt and a commemorative book about the QIMR Berghofer that a lot of staff had signed. It was really nice 🙂

Eventually everyone left and so did Ash and I.

One kindness informs another and I have a good life

 

arrival1

Clive Berghofer on left, me in the middle (obviously!), Anna and Paul from QIMR Berghofer on right. I’m not sure who the lady in black is? Photo courtesy of Anna Welch.

arrival2

Clive, me and Ash. Ash isn’t really that short, he’s standing downhill 🙂 Photo courtesy of Anna Welch.

arrival3

Crazy Kev and me. Photo courtesy of Anna Welch.

 

Day 30 Toowoomba

“there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some.”

– David Mitchell

Date 13th September

I wanted to see how far Café Valetta was from Shanny’s house, so I knew how long it would take me to get there for my official arrival tomorrow. I also had to make up a few kilometres. It took an hour and a quarter to walk to the café, so I just kept walking down the hill to the big shopping centre at the bottom.

Even though I knew that Ash was coming to pick me up tomorrow and the whole thing would be over, I felt like I really wanted to leave. I also think I felt a sense of loss that everything was coming to an end and I was starting to wonder what my life would be like when I get back home, not to mention the fact that I don’t like shopping centres and really only went in the there to use the ATM. I’ve got to get out of here! I said to myself.

I walked back up the hill and decided to take myself out for lunch at this place that had $9 schnitzels. The guts of the building was weird. I couldn’t work out if it was a pub or a restaurant. I wrote a story about the lights:

The lights looked like they could come alive and start crawling across the ceiling and down the walls. They were like giant black spiders that somehow seemed to have an air of malevolence about them. Unwarm, uncaring and calculating, once set free they would stalk across the entire room, capturing and devouring anyone within reach. All of this they would do with the attitude of machines.

I almost walked out without paying because I’d forgotten that I hadn’t paid at the start. The schnitzel was  $9 and I got a small glass of softdrink. The total came to $14.90, which means I paid almost $5 for glass of sugary water! WTF!

I went back to the hospital to see everyone and a midwife, Elsie, gave me a donation. Shanny was back in her room on the ward by then and Aubrey’s gran was telling her it was time to leave. Poor Aubrey 😦 She was so sad that her mum couldn’t come too. She grabbed Shanny’s hand and said, “come on Mummy, let’s go.” It almost made me cry!

spider-lightThis is kind of what the lights looked like. Photo from https://www.aliexpress.com

Day 29 Mount Kynoch

“If one keeps on walking, everything will be alright.” 

–  Søren Kierkegaard

Date 12th September

Kerri dropped me off at the school at Geham and I started walking just as the school bus went past. I knew Ruby and Ayla were on there, so I waved, hoping that it wasn’t embarrassing for them in front of the other kids. It’s hard to know what teenagers think! I couldn’t even get it right when I was one of them myself.

The road was pretty good and for most of it I was able to walk right off on the side. I walked through a bit of a rough section and ate some loquats off a tree in the bush. They were so nice and I could have stayed there all day just eating loquats. It made me wonder why the supermarkets don’t sell them given how great they taste.

I walked past this fancy-looking golf course and waved at the guys at the gate. They stared at me very sternly and didn’t wave back, so I kept waving and in my cherriest voice, I yelled out, “hello!” and smiled at them. They kept staring. It gave me a laugh. A bit further on a group of ladies were doing golf stuff close to the fence. They all stopped and and stared at me. I waved to them and smiled. They just kept staring. That made me laugh too.

I stopped at a little touristy village at Highfields and got a coffee and a fancy chocolate. I walked around the shops there and the guy from the art gallery said he’d seen Kerri and I walking the day before. We got into a discussion about being artists and I got to use my high-brow voice.

I came back through the coffee shop and the guy who served me asked me about the walk (he must’ve seen my bag or heard me asking another staff-member where to put it). I told him what I was doing and I thought he might give me a donation, but he didn’t. At least the coffee was nice that I’d had earlier, even though it was Lavazza.

At the water tower (Mt Kynoch) I walked up to the Toowoomba sign and licked it without waiting to see if anyone was watching. “I did it!” I yelled. I wanted to tell everyone in the carpark how great I was, but I didn’t. Instead I went and sat in the rotunda and called Pat (who had stopped a few days earlier to see me on the side of the road) to come and pick me up.

After Pat took several photos and a video of me walking in past the Toowoomba sign we took off for Hungry Jacks. I don’t eat food like that in my real life, but I’d been dreaming about this specific burger at Hungries for a fair while. I think it’s called a bacon double cheese burger or double bacon cheeseburger…you get the idea; a burger that’s full of fat and stuff that will clog your arteries as quick as you please, but tasty nonetheless, which of course is far more important than being concerned with long term health, social or environmental implications of lowering one’s standards to that level.

Pat bought me a burger meal with a chocolate thickshake and it was the best dream-meal I had on the entire walk. I took the burger apart and shoved it full of chips before smooshing it all back together and shoving it into my face.  It was exactly what I’d been fantasising about. We got soft serves afterwards and they were like giant white poos! They must’ve had a kilo of icecream in each one.

Pat took me back to Shanny and Adam’s house, where we were both staying and I had a shower and washed my hair, which was pretty gross by that stage. I really hate washing it, so I make up little excuses about why I don’t need to do it and how it’s ok to leave it for another day, which turns into two more days, then three and before I know it, a week has gone by and I haven’t washed it for more than 10 days.

Pat is Shanny’s father and was in Toowoomba awaiting the arrival of Shanny and Adam’s second child. We got the call in the afternoon that the baby was about to make an appearance, so we headed up to the hospital for the big event. I was a bit worried about being so close to where babies come out of their mothers, but it was ok in the end and I didn’t get grossed out.

“You can come on through now,” the midwife said.

I fell back, and with both of my palms pressed flat up against the wall I said,  “I’m not going to see or hear anything disgusting am I?”  She looked at me like I was an alien (for some reason, it seems that ALL women are meant to just love babies and want to have as many of their own as possible and if you’re not cut from this cloth, then you are not from this planet) and said, “no, they’re all in a room of their own. Just wait in this chair and we’ll call you in to the birthing suite (yuuuuck!) when she’s ready to see the next visitor.”

I sat there, knuckles white on the arms of the chair. As I rocked ever-so-slightly back and forth I repeated to myself, “it’s going to be ok, it’s going to be ok.” Oh god, I hope I don’t hear anyone screaming. Why don’t they hurry up? I have to get the hell out of here!

Everything turned out ok. I can’t say that it changed the way I feel about babies or that I was swamped with this feeling of reverence for  the miracle of  life, but it was at least a new experience to be in the same location as a brand new human. Only for friends as good as Shanny and Adam would I be willing to put myself in this situation!

Afterwards, back in Shanny’s room on the ward I sat on the bed with her daughter Aubrey. “Jen! Cuddle!” she demanded. I lifted her up onto the bed with me and we sat there watching a cartoon on TV together. Her head pushed up underneath my armpit and my arm found its own way around her shoulders. She looked up at me and smiled and I could see why Shanny and Adam liked her so much 🙂

me-and-toowoomba-sign

Me: I’m going to walk to Toowoomba.

Them: You can’t. That will never work. It’s too far. It’s too dangerous. You can’t do it by yourself. You can’t carry that heavy bag. There’s not enough water. You can’t. What if it rains. You can’t. You’ll get raped and murdered. There’s too many weirdos. The world is a bad place. Anything could happen. There are so many snakes. You can’t. What if you hurt yourself. It’s not safe. It’s too scary. Wild dogs will attack you. You’ll be all alone. You can’t. You’ll get run over. The road is too narrow. There’s no phone reception. You need a support crew. You can’t….but guess what?

I DID

Day 28 Hampton. Kerri’s house again

“what you do every day is what forms your mind and precious few of us can or would spend most days outdoors.”  

– Bill McKibben

Date 11th September

Kerri invited me to stay again. She said she could drop me off the next day at the point where Graeme would pick us up later at Geham (We were walking together today). I had originally planned to camp not too far from the school there. I wasn’t too excited about that particular spot, so I thought staying indoors again would be a good idea.

It was nice walking with someone else, although I did worry about Kerri on the road. I felt like I knew the road in some kind of intimate way, which wouldn’t be available to Kerri simply because the intimacy the road and I shared had taken a long time to grow in. We walked where we could in the pine forest and I thought how great it would be to be able to ride a horse through all those trees.

A man with a trailer load of stumps stopped to ask if we wanted a lift. He was from Nanango. I told him what we were doing and he said he’d had his eye socket cut out because of cancer from asbestos. Asbestos had gone into his eye when he was a builder in his younger days. He took off his glasses and showed us what it looked like. Immediately the image of Mr Benjamin Ram from the Brer Rabbit story came to mind! He gave me a handful of change as a donation.

A few cars beeped and I did a bit of a salute to a few bikies.

That night we had pizza for dinner and it was hard not to eat too much!

Even though it was great being at Kerri’s house, I felt very strongly that I really wanted to go home.

kerri-and-me

Kerri and I on the verandah of the Hampton tourist information centre. We called in to say hi to the volunteers.

Day 27 Hampton

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

– John Muir

Date 10th September

This morning when I woke up there was a ziplock bag on the floor near the door. Someone had slid a $20 donation in under the door while I slept! How cool is that 🙂

I went straight to the café and got the pancakes and a coffee. I was pretty excited about it. There were two pancakes, which were topped with bacon and egg and maple syrup. I was pretty grossed out by the idea of the egg getting on the pancakes, so I slid it off onto the saucer that came under the coffee mug. It was kind of hard to eat the egg because I have these weird rules about how to eat eggs and all of them require the use of toast, which I didn’t have, but seeing as I paid for the whole shebang I told myself to stop being so ridiculous and just eat it. I made very sure not to get any egg mixed up with the pancake. That was an offence I simply could not tolerate!

I didn’t have that far to walk to get to Hampton, so I went back to the café after I got ready and thought I’d get another coffee, but I decided on a milkshake instead. Carole from the shoe shop had rang them since I’d been in for breakfast and told them what I was doing, so they gave me the milkshake for free and also a $20 donation, which was really awesome. I got talking to some ladies at a table next to me and they gave me a donation too.

A wrote a little observational-type story about the people who surrounded me in the café:

They all sat in the café, sipping various forms of caffeine, hazelnut and chocolate. The girls, who looked to be in their late teens or early twenties, sat facing each other at a table too small to comfortably accommodate two people. They ate scones and looked as though they belonged to another time, their mannerisms not representative of others their own age. They were both beautiful in a way that held no gaudiness or garish colour.

The couple at another small table next to the girls sat not talking to each other. The woman studied a photocopied map. Some sections were coloured with orange highlighter. The man talked quietly into his mobile phone and rubbed his nose. Momentarily he gave up on his nose, and picking up a pen, began to record notes, relevant no doubt to the phone call that occupied him. Perhaps they were hunting real estate or maybe nature. Could they be ecologists? They didn’t have the right look nor the right clothing. No boots, just sneakers.

Another couple sat against the wall, not talking to each other, in fact not even looking in each other’s direction. The man seemed stern, sad and perhaps even lost. He had the look of someone who had spent the night prior in tears and turmoil. His face looked as though it was foreign to smiling.

The scent of Lily of the Valley wafts around the room, weaving a path through the aromas of coffee and bacon. To me a scent of new beginnings; the future arriving on a wave of perfume.

Some children enter. Both dressed I can tell in happy weekend clothing, kept aside for semi-special occasions. A morning tea at the café with their mothers. Playing at adults, although one of them cannot help but click her shoes, which seem un-worn, against the brushed concrete floor. An unadult-like act. How long will it be before she no longer takes pleasure in the simple of things of childhood like fluorescent lights and Christmas eve?

After the café I went over to the shoeshop to say good-bye to Carole. She said she put some stuff about me on Facebook. I told her the café gave me a free milkshake, but I forgot to tell her that they also gave me a donation. I felt bad about that later on.

The walk to Hampton was fine, but all up massive hills until I got to the pine forest. It was a bit of an effort to get in there though. I had to make my own little bridge out of an old fence railing. The embankment was too high to step up onto. I probably could have done it, but I thought it was safer to make a little bridge instead, which I promptly almost slipped off. I got in there eventually. It was a great place to walk. I’ve always loved pine forests.

I’d originally planned to camp at the tourist information centre in Hampton, but when I called in to see the staff about it when I was planning the walk, the manager (Kerri) was there and told me I should stay with her and her family instead. Just as I arrived at the top of Kerri’s road it started raining. Luckily I only had 300 metres to walk!

I really liked Kerri, her husband Graeme and their two kids Ruby and Ayla. I told Kerri that she and Graeme would be our “dream friends” if we lived close enough to spend time with them. Graeme had a massive collection of really obscure punk music on vinyl, so we had an excellent discussion about music and the  influence of old punk bands like the Scientists. I got to talk about Violent Femmes and even Gillian Welch (who is certainly not punk, by the way!)  to people who actually knew who I was talking about. Yay!

canadian-pancakes

The Canadian pancakes. The bacon I can do, the egg I can’t.

 

Day 26 Crows Nest

“Let this be a lesson to us all, said the preacher. You will be walking someday in the dark and the truth will come shining through, and behind you will be a life that you never want to see again.”

– Colum McCann

Date 9th September

I couldn’t leave early because it wasn’t far to walk and I didn’t want to arrive before lunch and look like a dick, so I hung around the hall for a while trying to polish the stainless steel bench in the kitchen. I was tempted to go down into one of the murder-dungeons out of morbid curiosity, but the voice of reason (read: panic) told me that no, going down there would be unnecessary at this point. Besides, I didn’t have my good clobber with me and didn’t want Hades to think I was a dag.

I really wanted to get up on the stage and sing to the empty hall, so that’s what I did! It was awesome. I have the worst voice of all time, but in that big old hall it sounded halfway decent. I really love singing. It seems unfair that I’m so bad at it. I used to go to church when I was younger just so I could sing in public and get away with it. I do wonder how society would react if I burst into song instead of supressing the insane urge I often get when I’m a shopping centre, the main street of town, a pub or somewhere else that is tightly governed by social norms. Is it possible to get arrested for singing?

Today was an ok walk, but it was all up hill and it rained. Not much, but enough that the grass was saturated and my boots and the bottoms of my jeans got soaked.

Amy at the Grand Old Crow Hotel had agreed to give me a room for free and everyone at the pub was really welcoming when I arrived. The pub is so clean! It’s a really nice place 🙂

Miles, the journo who rang me yesterday, came and did the interview. He’s a cancer survivor too, so we had a bit in common. I really liked him. He wrote everything down longhand, rather than record it on a device like every other journalist I’ve talked to. He took some photos of Amy and I with my backpack inside the pub, which were later published in a newspaper.

I went to the IGA and bought 2 apples, 2 bananas, a punnet of strawberries, chocolate and a bottle of milk. I ate all of it and I’m still starving! I also got a book from the op shop for $1; Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. I really like his writing.

I had a look at all the other shops too. The café has Canadian pancakes! I’m going there for breakfast tomorrow morning because that’s exactly what I’ve been dreaming about for the whole walk. It’s going to be awesome!

At the shoe shop the owner (Carole) and I got talking about cancer and she gave me a pair of handmade gloves. I really like them 🙂 She told me her sister died from breast cancer when she was only 42. One of her very good friends was having treatment for breast cancer at the moment. She was really worried about her. I really liked Carole. I gave her a hug when I left.

When I was in the art/craft shop, which is bloody awesome by the way, Lorraine from Mangan Gully rang me to see how I was. What a nice person she is!

Back at the pub, Amy had organised a meat tray raffle for me and I got $155, which is really awesome. She also gave me a meal for free that night. Her son had brain cancer too.

What will be next? I don’t know. Will something follow, arrive, fall in my lap? Will I turn a corner and there is the red carpet of my destiny? I doubt it. It hasn’t ever presented itself this way before, so why now…because after this you’ll be new. A new version, like a rebirth, a reinvention, a re-creation. All of the old will be swept aside and it will be spring:

“And in the spring, I shed my skin and it blows away with the changing wind.”

FatM

grand-old-crow

I didn’t take any photos today! I just totally forgot about it, so here’s one of  the Grand Old Crow courtesy of someone called debfrecklington.com.au. Thanks Deb, whoever you are 🙂

Day 25 Pinelands Hall

“There is great meaning in life for those who are willing to journey.”

– Jim England

Date 8th September

Today was pretty easy. It was only 7km or so, but I didn’t get much sleep, so I’m pretty tired.

It would have been good to reduce the distances prior to this so that it wasn’t so hard in the start and these final distances weren’t so short, but the North and South Burnett regions were just too remote to accommodate that when I started out. Plus I told everyone the wrong arrival date, which is why I’ve had to stretch it out at the end. Annoying!

A journalist rang while I was on the road. He said his name was Miles and that he’d like to do a story when I get to Crows Nest. I said I would ring him when I got there. My friends Josh and Sam also rang to see how I was doing. It’s been great to know that they care about me so much. It would be good if other people who are meant to care about me, but clearly don’t, could take a leaf out of the book written by Josh and Sam.

I was really hoping that this hall wasn’t full of mice and rats like Tansey. It wasn’t, but there are murder-dungeon toilets, which I think is much worse. They are on both sides of the stage. I went to go to the toilet, opened the door, looked down the steps and said, “well, you can shove that where the sun don’t shine. There’s no way I’m going down there!” It was something out of a Stephen King story; the stairs went down into a grey brick room with no windows. There was a cement floor and a single weak light on the ceiling. Immediately I thought of the kill-floor in an abattoir.  From the top of the stairs it was impossible to see what kinds of monsters and murderers were waiting around the corner with axes and fangs poised ready to rip, tear and basically spill my blood everywhere….thankfully, there were disabled toilets on the top level and I didn’t need to brave the underworld to do a wee. But, the creatures of the night sat salivating over my sleeping form just behind the doors all night long. I imagined I could see their gnarled fingers curled around the door frames and their hot breath steaming up the air because I couldn’t lock or even close the doors properly. Eeek!

It took a while to work out how to turn the lights on. There was a massive switchboard up in the back of the stage and even though some of the switches had stuff written on them, I couldn’t work out how to turn the lights on in in the disabled toilet. I spent ages working it out by following the wiring in the ceiling, running back, flicking a switch, then running back to the toilet to see if it was the right one, then running back and doing the same thing over and over again until I got it right. I also turned the pumps on so I had water for the kitchen and for the toilet. I was thankful at this spot that I’m a country-gal; how else would I know how to turn a pump on to get water coming out of the taps, or even which pump does what?

I really wish I had some chocolate. I’d left a food cache here, so at least I had a chocolate snackpack, but I really wanted some actual chocolate. I tried to read this terrible romance novel (I don’t read romance, but thought the hike would be a good opportunity to expand my appreciation of the genre. I was wrong), but I couldn’t. It was the worst book of all time and I ended up just flipping through it to find the sex scenes, but there weren’t any! I wondered what I was going to do without a book to read. There wouldn’t be anymore books now because this was my last cache before Toowoomba. Poo bum wee 😦

pinelands-hall

Pinelands Hall

inside-pinelands-hall-with-text

Inside the hall.

There were all these plastic flags hanging from the ceiling! It was pretty cool. You can see the murder-dungeon-toilets. This was the only place in the entire hall for me to put my bed. The rest of the walls all had stuff up against them.