12 Days.. hopes and expectations
I’m now 12 days and over 1000 km in so I thought I would reflect on what has already been a remarkably eventful trip. Before I left, somebody said they would be interested to know if the trip met my expectations and if not, how did it differ? I think they meant for me to answer this at the end. I’m sure I will return to it then but now seems like an excellent time to try to answer as well.
First up, it has already been harder than I could have imagined. I wasn’t naive when coming here. Despite the protestations of friends, I never expected this to be one glorious gap year. I’ve also overcome some fairly serious injuries to get to this point so thought I was pretty strong. I expected hard but I also thought I was prepared and could handle it. But nothing really could prepare me for the combination of physical exhaustion and isolation. Being away from family and friends is mentally difficult. They are usually there as a support network. This, combined with the times when my energy levels have really crashed, have proved to be the real low points.
I also expected some staggering high points, and thankfully these too have come. The range of emotions has been pretty extreme! There are just moments when I look around and realise how lucky I am. Yes, I took the plunge and came here, but I was also incredibly fortunate to be in a position to do so. Sometimes I can just slow down and look around at some incredible sights, be it seemingly endless forests, enormous farms dotted with wild kangaroos and emus or the setting sun behind the hills or over the sea. Those times are what this trip is for.
I was told to expect generosity, and I’m pleased to report that I have. In my first piece I mentioned being rescued from a sand road. But since then the trend has continued. Jasmine from the south west WA tourist board made time for me and then put me in touch with people across the State. She even got me live on ABC Breakfast radio from the side of the road! In Margaret River I was given firewood to keep me warm for the night. In Pemberton, the whole town came together to help me out when I had pretty much hit rock bottom. The Valley of the Giants tree top walk had heard about my trip so gave me free entrance. The list is already crazily long. Last night I was cooked dinner and given a beer, given breakfast this morning and offered a bed when I get to Sydney. The 115km yesterday are a mere footnote compared to the fun in the evening. I finished the day eating stew by a fire. The stars were out, orchestral rock was blaring from the caravan and I was chatting to a man with the most broad Yorkshire accent despite having lived in Australia for 40 years! I’m even saving the most generous act for a separate story! I could not be more thankful to these people.
Fear is something I thought I would experience more often than I have. There hasn’t really been a moment where I have felt truly afraid. I’ve been tired at times and concerned about water. But there are so many generous people around that I feel very reassured that help is there if I need it. Even at night, despite sleeping in a variety of locations, I’m yet to really struggle to sleep or feel properly vulnerable. The closest I have come was in Shannon NP. I arrived in daylight. The caretaker said I could pick a spot, or if I wanted, there was a nice empty cabin at the top of the campground. This seemed sensible. It was dry, sheltered and had a stove inside to light a fire and get it nice and warm. All was well and good, until, with darkness fading, I realised I was part of a horror film. There is even one called “Cabin in the Woods” I think! It was entirely irrational but the last thing you do in those films is go in the cabin. I’m glad to report it was all fine, but a great example of the tricks your mind can play.
So there we are. Most expectations have been exceeded in one way or another. Not all have been positive, but certainly moving in the right direction; even if slowly, thanks to a draining headwind today! There will certainly be other thoughts along the way but that should be a pretty good summary for now.