Today I woke up to rain pattering on the outside of the tent. The great thing about rain is that it comes from clouds, and clouds keep heat in. I was warm and cosy and it was difficult to remove myself from such bliss. I dozed perhaps a bit longer than I should have. The bad thing about rain is that it gets things wet, so even though I was fortuitous in packing up after the last proper rain shower of the day, the tent was saturated. No biggie!
I finished the last 5 km of the Rail Trail quickly - I felt so good I began running alongside the beautiful Merridy River, with not another soul in sight. It was so peaceful, the best way to start a morning really! But what made it even better was what came next. As I was finishing the Rail Trail and entering the town of Warrnambool proper I heard the waves crashing against the shore just over the next dune. The sun was peeking through the clouds for the first time in what seemed like forever (at least 36 hours). Conditions were perfect. As quick as I could, I get my pram to the dune edge, undressed, got my towel ready and ran over the dune and into the open ocean. Bliss! Joy! Ecstasy! I couldn't think of anything I could have wanted more at 9.00 am this morning.
Now I was even more behind, but it was totally worth it. Though it made what came next perhaps a little harder to bear. After the serene, peaceful previous day, the morning's walk on the Rail Trail and finally the ocean swim I was not prepared for what seemed like the metropolis of downtown Warrnambool. Instant stress and confusion! I could feel myself getting more tense by the minute as I navigated city streets, dodging cars, trying to find a gas refill for my stove and a cafe where I could do some unexpected administration work. I also needed to fill up on food and water and put air in my tyres. All up I expected to be in town for an hour.
Three hours later I was finally on the outskirts of Warrnambool and heading towards the Great Ocean Road. To avoid the traffic as much as possible, I cut off from the Princes Highway a little early and passed through the town of Allansford. As I was exiting town I was briefly stopped by a man in his car, clearly on his way home. He asked if I needed or wanted anything, and told me to drop by the last brick house on the right if I did. Considering I was already very late I initially wasn't going to, but decided that saying 'Yes' and accepting people's hospitality can never be a bad thing. Shortly after I rolled up his driveway for a cup of tea. It was a good excuse to finally make myself some lunch as well (it was now nearly 3.00 pm).
We introduced ourselves and got to chatting about truck driving (Adam's profession), immigration and adventures, all of which we both decided were great things! I don't really think I've ever spent much time chatting to a truckie, but I'm very glad I made the time to on this occasion. This trip has already left me absolutely certain that kindred spirits can recognise each other from a distance, and I certainly feel Adam and I were a pair of those. He gave me advice on some great spots to check out on the road ahead (being a local to Port Campbell), donated to the cause and gave me a pre-cooked dinner to heat up, which I have just devoured.
It seems every day brings another story of the generosity shown by complete strangers, something for which I will be eternally grateful and which maintains my spirits at heights that would even impress Sir Edmund Hilary. So I sit here in my tent, approximately 25 km past Warrnambool (it would have been 30, but I took ANOTHER wrong turn), in cattle country on the side of a very tiny backroad. I'm expecting to be woken up in the wee hours as the dairy trucks come rolling in to collect the freshly 'squeezed' milk, but that's all part of the fun, right?