Belated Blog The Happy Walk Geelong to Creswick March 2013

Sunday, Aug 11, 2013 at 12:40


Hello All You Wonderful Explorers!

First of all, I apologise for taking so long to write the last blog for the The Happy Walk before putting it on hold. So to make up for it I'll make it a long one :)

I ended up taking a full week to recover in Geelong from heat, blisters and women's stuff before hitting the road again. During that week I felt a bit helpless and questioned how I was going about getting my message of depression awareness and suicide prevention out to the communities I walked through.

It was very disappointing having only 1 community radio station do an interview, no papers or TV showed any interest and only 1 other radio replied to my "media release" email. I wondered how people were going to benefit from The Happy Walk if I was limited to reaching only those I met along the way. The week I stopped in Geelong I phoned and emailed all the local media without any response and, while still close to Melbourne, i followed up on bigger media again with the same result.

So i was not in a strong and positive frame of mind when I hit the road at 5am to walk towards Ballarat.

But the dark cloud didn't last long. I enjoyed the sweet coolness of early morning, spotted a couple of old Kombis (a love of mine), paused to watch the rising sun through a tinted mosque window, waved to a few supporters and picked apples fresh off a roadside tree, eating some right there on the spot and storing more for later.

The temperature rose quickly. I had a break at the Batesford Roadhouse who gave me a free cuppa and let me leave some of my awareness cards on their tables and counter.

By the time I reached Bannockburn I really was burning, the heat was in the mid to high 30s and no matter how much water I drank it was starting to take its toll. The last few kilometres from the hwy roundabout were interesting. I drank another 2 litres in that distance and it took me almost an hour to stumble into town. I managed to maintain a controlled line but the headache and dizziness were starting to distract me. I tried pouring water on my head and torso but it was hot within seconds and there was no breeze to cool it unless i kept moving. I could smell and see the salts leeching out of my sweat into my clothes but I was past sweating salts and had started sweating amonia. I reached the park, stopped, forced myself to eat some fruit and replaced electrolytes. Tried sleeping but had to run into the bushes and bring lunch back up while almost collapsing in a weak shaking mess. All this by midday.

I had hoped to reach Bannockburn by 11am and wait until 5pm before covering some more distance but I knew I was dangerously close to needing medical attention and that was only because I was 1hr slower than planned.

There isn't any camping or caravan park or hotel in Bannockburn but there is a BnB at the old railway station so I called them to ask if they could help me with somewhere safe to recover overnight. I was in luck!!!! Alan and Debbie were very helpful and generous, especially at such short notice. They let me stay at The Station Bed and Breakfast for $60, which is about half price. They are also the publishers of the local community newspaper, The Miner, and, after I had a chance to rest and rehydrate, did a photo shoot and interview for the next paper.

The next day I woke to walk before sunrise but still felt sick so continued resting until 5pm when I headed out to Lethbridge for a relaxed cooked dinner in the park. The sun set as I headed back to the highway so I mounted my safety beacons which I bought with a generous donation from an ExplorOz member who gave me his $100 shop voucher. I turned on my head lamp and set it to flash so i was very visible as I walked through the night to Meredith. Arriving in an unknown town at midnight and not being able to see where the parks or public toilets are makes it difficult to find somewhere safe to sleep so I parked in the bus shelter and caught a few hours sleep on the bench and packed up again before the early morning walkers discovered me. In the light of early morning I could see many more appropriate places to sleep and found the public toilet where I had a quick wash down from the sink before sitting down to a fresh donated coffee at the service station.

It was overcast and cooler than the previous day so I started walking instead of waiting until evening. On the way out of town I found a huge eagle feather, a purple plastic daisy and a $50 note in the grasses beside the road and felt happy and strong as I walked at 6km/hr. There were more supporters waving and friendly tooting as they passed which helped keep my spirits up until I reached Elaine before morning break. The weather had cleared and it was starting to climb through the 30s again so I stopped at the community hall and moved about with the shade catching a few zzz's with the intention to do more night walking to Buninyong. As i headed out of town at 4pm I stopped at The Railway Hotel for water refills and had a good chat with the owner and a few of the patrons about mental health, Lifeline, handed out some cards and picked up some local knowledge of good places to camp before Ballarat.

I ended up stopping there for dinner, on the house, stayed the night in one of the hotels guest rooms, also on the house and the next day, after learning the heat wave was not only continuing but getting worse I asked to stay for another night.

Bevley and John, the publicans of The Railway Hotel in Elaine, are angels in disguise. They were the ones who convinced me to stop and wait until the weather was safer for walking and offered me the use of their flat on the farm back down the road for as long as I needed it. Bev would bring me cold sweet colas and John would drop in each evening after working in the fields for a chat and share stories of the 70 odd years he had lived and worked on the Golden Plains.

The hottest day was 42 degrees indoors, 52 on the timber decking and 62 inside my alloy trekking cart sitting in the sun. After that it cooled down quickly and finally started feeling like Autumn.

John and i went into Bannockburn and I completely cracked up laughing when I saw my mug on the cover of The Miner. I can now say I am a cover girl HAHAHA! It gave me an opportunity to talk to more people about depression awareness and hand out more cards. There was a lot of support.

After leaving Geelong feeling a bit low I experienced some wonderful random acts of kindness as people stopped by the road or came over to ask what I'm doing and make cash donations of their spare change and small notes. I was able to deposit about $30 into the fundraiser from just a few days of walking. A few more people made some significant donations to the Everyday Hero fundraiser which has already helped Lifeline with $658.

On the 15th March I said goodbye to Bev and John. I will never forget their generosity and care.

Ballarat's newspaper, The Courier, met me in town and put the story in the paper for the next day and, if you know anything about publishing papers, this was quite a feat with only 1/2 a day before print. It is great to have the support of media as i pass through rural and bush communities and towns. It makes a huge difference as I ask for help along the way and it reaches thousands more people with my message than I could do alone.

The 16th March ended up being one of the hardest days of The Happy Walk. There have been a few and will be plenty more but this day put the whole walk on hold indefinitely.

I have been walking with pre-existing uterine tumours and learnt, after a consultation, I also have had endometriosis for about 6-7 years. All this became a solid wall of pain my mind and body couldn't break through. If you happened to drive past me that morning you would have seen a pathetic heap of nerves and tears as i had 5 panic attacks within 1hr and could barely pull or push the trekking cart let alone stand up straight. I had to make the sensible but difficult decision to stop, go home and get better.

Many of my friends, family and supporters reminded me gently that I was not going to be able to help anyone else if I didn't look after myself. A temporary break in the walk isn't as bad as giving it all up further down the road if I pushed myself too far.

I received more blessings at Creswick Calembeen Lake Caravan Park where Cathy, Frank and their family warmly welcomed me, put me into one of their onsite vans for free and have had my trekking cart in storage since March. Beautiful people and gorgeous surroundings and it was such a relief when they went above and beyond to help me in a time of need.

Since March I have struggled with depression and PTSD relapses. Not being able to walk without pain meant I used other great ways to keep "the black dog" behind the fence, so to speak. I stayed in daily contact with the people I love, facebooking with friends, studied, started getting serious about writing my pre-walk autobiography, swimming, eating nutritious food, spending time in nature, always appreciating the beauty that surrounds me, meditating, reading books by amazing adventurers to keep inspired and motivated, forgiving myself and relaxing. Some days I felt like i was starting to drown under anxiety and depression but, thankfully, I reached out for help to find my way back to good mental health.

During this time I also secured a couple more sponsors. Powertraveller have donated a beaut little Powermonkey Extreme solar charger and Tasty Bite have donated almost 4 months of Indian meals.

There has also been a change in the itinerary. I will be continuing The Happy Walk in Perth in March/April and walking all the way back to Melbourne following the same path I had originally planned but in reverse so the predominant winds between Norseman and Ceduna are behind me. I don't know how long it will take but I'm giving myself at least a year. I had planned to do some fundraising walks across the Alps during the 2014/15 wet season but will now be using this coming Spring/Summer/Autumn for 5-6 months post-surgery light to intensive high altitude training and complete a couple of crossings of the Australian Alpine Walking Track (or just 1).

No matter how many plans are made we are never in 100% control of life's events. One of the biggest things I am learning through The Happy Walk is to take things as they come, be flexible with my plans and accept change.

So here ends the long overdue blog from The Happy Walk, Leg 2, Melbourne to Adelaide, Week 3/4 sponsored by ExplorOz

Take care of yourselves and each other


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