Friday, January 31, 2014

Doing the Great North Walk Backwards

Day 26 - 2 January 2014 

The final section at last. Thursday 2 Jan, Kerrie drove me to Chatswood, I trained to Thornleigh then followed the signs past the shops and onto the GNW again, heading East towards Lane Cove. The map said 'mostly easy with some steep', tho for me it was a hard walk on a hot and humid day, taking seven hours. My pedometer registered 29,416 steps,.. almost worth a prize said Kerrie and Laurie.

I followed the Lane Cove River all the way, from its headwaters as a creek through bush near Epping and Pymble; it does not start to look like a river until it goes under Lane Cove Road at Macquarie Park. Then it carves through large rock sections which show before development the river serviced a large catchment area for milennia. Development has reduced flow and increased silt where once were sandy banks and has changed the ecology. 'Fairyland' is a good example; formerly a beautiful beachy area popular with indigenous, then colonial gatherings, now completely silted out and overgrown. The price of cities.

Still it was a great walk with some beautiful sections of remnant trees, flowers and animals. Of the later, Eastern Water Dragons dominate. They love the usual sunning on a rock - and don't see why they should change their pose just to let you pass. Goannas are more than twice as big but fraidy cats by comparison. Fat giant skinks were common as I came further east, either they were all pregnant mums, or the moths are slow in these parts. 
Eastern Water Dragon with attitude

I met six individual walkers all day-trippers and heading the other way, each with different stories and intentions. One guy my age only had a little water, but assured me he was right because he also had half a thermos of coffee (?). His main complaint was about the lack of signage along the GNW.

And finally..... Day 27 - 3 January 2014 

Kerrie and Barbara
Sisters Kerrie and Barb joined me on the final day, Friday 3 Jan, for the relatively civilized stroll from Lane Cove to Hunters Hill, albeit about 6 hours. Half this day was street-side, the rest was walking close to water (very high tide) and on boardwalks through salty marsh, with lots of fish and eels.
Despite three sets of eyes and brains we lost our way few times, usually missing the sign posts. Occasionally B and K would suggest we take shortcuts, and stop for coffee, lunch, snooze, chats, etc, so it was my responsible duty to keep us going on the true path. 

Seriously though we had a great day. Not too difficult or hot. It was fun to finally reach Woolwich Pier, catch the ferry via Cockatoo Island, get off at Circular Quay, walk up to the famous Obelisk, declare the walk completed, and take a photo. Shirl turned up, as the official witness, and collected Barb. So Kerrie and I had a beer and lunch, then she left and I jumped on a train for Newcastle.
Done! The Obelisk at last.

GNW done! One day short of 4 weeks. Where did I read it takes 10 days to 2 weeks? Where did I read the record is 62 hours? .... I don't think so.

 Thanks to my sisters and friends, without whom I may not have survived let alone completed the trek. It was definitely worth doing, although a tad harder than I thought it would be. Not that I had many expectations. One regret - I did not think beforehand to flog sponsorships for an animal charity. Also it would have been great if Peter could have done the whole trip, but it was not to be. At least our first few days walking together were great, and helped me adjust to what I needed to cope with alone for the rest of the trip.

People ask me what I learnt from the walk. How can I answer that?  
  •  I learnt a wonderful a poem by Lisel Mueller called Monet Refuses the Operation.
  •  I also learnt that maps are metaphors not truth, like language, but they can change our life.
  •  I learnt how to carry a load and think of other things.
  •  I learnt a bit about the bush, birds, bugs and leeches; about streams, rivers, trees, lizards, flowers and black hairy kangaroos, and about how lucky I am to be alive in this country.
  •  I learnt a bit about gratitude, about how much I have and how little of it I appreciate, and how good most people are at heart.
  •  I learnt how to be thirsty and how to drink. I learnt a little about how to suffer, how to be lost, to slip, to fall, to land... and how not to panic.
  •  I learnt a bit about beauty, ...a little about photography, drawing, painting, form, style, and light. I learnt other things about the length of a day, about night, heat and sweat.
  •  I learnt a bit more about me, some too hard to articulate now, except how much I have yet to learn.
  •  I learnt a bit around the paradox that everything is both simple and complex, that 'context is all', confirming my agnosticism that in the end we can never sure of anything. For me, as others have said better, the answer is the journey.
So... here endeth the indulgence,... thanks again, and love to all.

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