I woke to feel a slightly cooler breeze coming in through the open window. But only slightly. I had had a rest day in Mt Gambier on Thursday, avoiding walking in a 37 degree day.
As a result I had been able to meet a journalist, Jocelyn from the local paper, The Border Watch. I had also been able to meet a few of the staff from the local environmental group the Nature Glenelg Trust, one of whom, Rose, kindly offered to put me up while I was in town. We even attempted to go to a quiz night (it would have been my second for the journey) but unfortunately it was cancelled due to a laptop having been stolen!
So I set off out of town on Friday morning, the day gradually becoming cooler and windier and eventually a short shower or two came down in the early afternoon, after which the sun came out and everything was still.
About 20 km into the day and my Achilles were more painful than they had been in the last few days and I was seriously slowing down. I decided to change my shoes as I knew the heels of the ones I had been using were touching my Achilles and causing more pain. The only other shoes I had on me were my Birkenstock saddles, but my goodness the difference was like day and night. I felt like a new person again and covered another 17 km for the day in a flash!
So now here I sit in my tent in the afternoon light, relishing one of the last opportunities to be in a place that now feels more like home than in solid-walled room. I can feel the cool breeze ebb and flow, hear the cockatoos talk to each other in the trees, smell the Eucalyptus in the air and feel the grasses under my feet and between my toes. This is a happy place.
On my last full day on the road, I woke up far later than I was expecting and struggled to get myself moving. I also decided to make and post a video before leaving, which left me without much of the morning to walk!
For much of the day the weather couldn’t decide what it wanted to be and I found myself frequently stopping to put on and take off my rain jacket as it would rain heavily for 10 minutes then the sun would come out and shine strongly, forcing me to remove it again. As I sit here in my tent it has started to rain again and before I even finished this sentence it has again stopped!
Vivian stopped in the early afternoon (as it was raining) to give me a few snacks, including homemade cookies! Then I stopped and treated myself to fish and chips at the general store in Winnap, and I’ve got to say they were the best fish and chips I have had along the whole journey, no exaggeration! That was where I also met my new friend 5 year old friend Finn who was spending the day with his grandad in the store and was very curious about what I was doing. Nice to meet you Vivian and Finn!
The rest of the day played out fairly regularly, though it was only when I stopped in the evening and checked my distance that I realised I had already covered 1900 km! (But reading this as I post it after my final day, no one will have realised!) At the moment, where I had set up camp I have officially covered 1901 km. Hurrah!
And that was my day. Only one sleep and a few more hours of walking to go before it’s all done and dusted. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!
Sunday 14/01/18 - The Final Day
It had rained a little overnight, so I woke to a wet, dewy, grassy landscape that was just receiving the first rays of sunlight for the day. I wanted to leave by 9.00 am to meet my brother Brugh and his wife Nicole in Heywood by midday. I only had 12 km to cover by then, just two hours worth of walking. It would be a cinch!
I packed up, too buy in my head by that point to realise that it would be the last time I would do so for the journey. I had relished my dinner and falling asleep the night before with that thought in my head, but now that the day was upon me I just felt ready to move. So I did.
The sun started to warm my bones as I got moving and the distance was covered quickly as the day got brighter and brighter. I quickly found myself just outside the town of Heywood and far too early so I stopped and waited a while so that my welcome party had time to get there before I did. They drove by and waved so I got up and kept moving and before I knew it, it was all over!
On the drive back and with some poignant questions from Nicole I reflected on how it felt to be finished. I recognised that I wasn't looking forward to the fact that life was about to get complicated again, although at the same time I was excited about what the future might hold. But that was looking forward. More importantly I recognised the incredibly opportunity the walk gave me to be able to connect with people along the journey; the uniqueness of what I was doing piqued the interest of passersby and allowed them to easily overcome the social norm of talking to strangers in the street. This was great for the project, as it meant that I was able to talk to a lot of people face-to-face about 1900 Footprints and the motivations behind it. But for me personally it was especially important because it allowed me to ask and hear about all of these people's backgrounds as well.
My biggest takeaway from the trip is that Everyone Has a Story, and with a little good-natured, unassuming conversation you can make connections with the most random of strangers. And in this fast-paced, depersonalised world, connection, I think, is what everyone is looking for, even if we don't immediately recognise it. So that's what I'm going to take away from this experience and try to bring into my 'normal' life, a little bit at a time.