Westward leading, still proceeding

Hello everyone! La vita é bella. I’m sitting drinking coffee at Olio Bello, a boutique organic olive grove in the Margaret River region a kilometre up the road from the Gracetown caravan park where I’ve stayed these last two nights. I smell of olive oil, sunscreen and green ink and have been up since about 5:30 this morning reading Gregory Bateson and nodding hello to the other park residents in the campers’ kitchen. Two things: yes, Gregory Bateson is only obliquely related to my thesis, but I will sneak him in somewhere. And yes: Gracetown is nowhere near the Bibbulmun Track.

Olio bello leaves

I walked into Pemberton on Thursday evening (the 18th) and I’m not embarrassed to say it: *total rockstar*. I had walked from Collie in six days. Two hundred and forty-one kilometres. Contrary to what `Brian the character’ thought – this bold attempt did not `cook my goose’ (thanks for your concern, Brian). In fact, outside of the Mallacoota kid’s triathlon I did when I was ten (earning a Bronze medal and ending up moaning under a blanket on the sand for about an hour after the race ended), I think this is the most physically demanding thing I’ve done – these six days of around 40km/day, I mean. Not being the kind of goose that relishes painful physical challenges, my Bibbulmun as you’d know, is more the walk-in-the-morning-and-chill-out-in-the-afternoon-in-the-hut variety. And you know what, I understand now the sense of joyful achievement people feel when they do go the extra mile, so to speak, in stretching themselves.

There’s so much I could say, like how it wasn’t `driven Lucy’ pushing me on to keep up the pace and get there; that in the main I felt relaxed of mind, content, loose, even as the body (legs and feet, mainly) hurt and were tired with up to nine or ten hours of actual walking in a day. Or how there was a kind of purposefulness, a focus there whether I was walking, setting up camp, stretching, eating, … that is not my usual way of being (pottering, meandering, drifting, …) – at least for some of the day. For these six days it was like all of me, whole, was intent, yes, on the goal. What a gift to have experienced this! Not just the accomplishment of it, but feeling what it’s like to literally `will one thing’ with my mind and body and my heart… and to be graced with, I don’t know. A kind of softness in the doing of it, which is even the best thing of all.

Forest near Noggerup, just south of Collie

If I can share something serious about it, at first I would tell myself that my only job was to get to the next hut – that is, not to remind myself of the second hut that afternoon, maybe, or the more huts the next and the next days etc. And then that didn’t sit quite right so I would say, actually, your only job is to put one foot in front of the other, you know. But even then, it seemed my body was doing that anyway, whether I set my mind to it or not. So I thought, ok, your only job is to breathe while the body does its thing. But of course I wasn’t doing the breathing either, so what I ended up saying to myself was that my only job was to witness it happening, and even then it was only if I felt like it. So you see: NO JOB TO DO! This completely spins me out. No job to do, and suddenly there I was in Pemberton after walking for six days.

Anyway. I don’t know how that lands with you, but for me that’s like I don’t know. A nugget of gold there in the sand when I was just washing in a stream.

And now here I am in Gracetown, Ohio Bello terrace actually, with my coffee now finished, under an olive tree clothed in tiny baby olives, thinking of you all. So happy to share my travels. And this afternoon or tomorrow I’ll start walking the Cape to Cape track with someone dear, who is the reason for this hiatus, this blessed deviation, this erring on the side of… and in a few days time I’ll catch the bus back to Pemberton and pick up the Bibbulmun thread again only two days behind my initial schedule.

You are all in my thoughts and in my heart, y buen camino a todos!

Love, Wildgoose.

Friendly roo at Donnelly River Village

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Listening to the Aunties

Early morning Karri forest

Dear Friends,

This will be a little post because I only have a small scrap of paper to write it on, and send home to one of my Track Angels to scribe up. It comes from my hand through her hand to you, with the love, vigour, fragrance and magnificence of the Karri forest, down on the floor of which I have been walking for a few days now. The whole northern section of the track – that is, the first three+ weeks for me, was through Jarrah woodland which is usually quite open with a few trees over thirty meters and a robust understory of grass trees, banksia, zamia, casuarina (and many other plants I don’t know the names of). And all of a sudden, there is a tight transition of a kilometre or so, and there are the Karri trees, unique to this tiny corner of the world, giant, graceful, almost other-worldly beauties with flawless straight silvery trunks and a canopy that towers sometimes sixty even seventy meters above. They are breathtaking – or maybe breathgiving. Truly beings to aspire to resemble in any symbolic, spiritual, metaphorical way we might.

The understory of the Karri forest – at least the path taken by the track – are closely hedged by Karri Hazel, water bush and other spindly things and make long, cool green tunnels. It’s like circulating through an artery of the forest. Or sometimes I feel like an ant looking up through grass stalks, really feeling the living, green cloak that holds and shields our fertile and vivid places to live. The trees are precious. They are our aunties and they want us to gather round and listen to their stories.

Love, Wildgoose

P.S. I am taking a short break from the Bibbulman to walk the Cape to Cape trail on the Indian Ocean, a little way to the west. I’ll be back in Pemberton Thurs 25.11 to resume, only slightly behind schedule…

Remember to look up

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Of snap-lock bags, nuts and noodles, pepitas and porridge

What have I been eating?

Food plays a major part in the walking roadshow and from I’ve seen, can be pleasure, plain necessity or penance. You plan it, you shop for it, you prepare it, seal it off in little snap-lock bags. You carry it, measure it out, cook it maybe. And finally, you EAT it. You nibble, crunch, gulp, slurp, savour, devour, chew, chomp, suck and sip it.

Porridge and custard with fresh apple

Men especially, I’ve heard, can easily find themselves with a ‘calorie deficit’ and on a long walk can hardly carry enough food to avoid continuously losing weight. It’s a tough life, boys. Being a generous goose, I’m quite prepared to bear a small calorie deficit – for the common good, you know – and also for the reason that it gives me, as some happy (and sated) hiker put it, “a licence to eat.”

That said, coming into Collie, I was in the unique (for me) but not totally unwelcome position of not quite having as much food as usually I’d like. Unique because I have always erred on the side of too much rather than too little food, but as I said, not so unwelcome, because eating definitely carries an extra fringe of pleasure when your hunger is sharp and the opportunity to graze at will – distractedly, unconsciously – is not there.

The primo meal of the whole track (made in a camp kitchen): field mushrooms BBQed with rosemary and olive oil on toasted bread roll, draped with red onion and parmesan, and salsa of tomato, capsicum, pine nuts, oil and herbs. OMG yeah!

As far as my track diet is concerned, two things are relative constants: I start the day with protein powder blended with some nutrient dense powdered food like ‘vital greens’ or acai or cacao (which tastes pretty ordinary! I’m thinking I should add some Milo or something); and when I’m walking I have my daily portion of Scroggin, which I LOVE, and which contains some selection of: almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, pepitas, dried apricots, dried bananas, sultanas, dried strawberries, crysallised ginger, chocolate, jelly-beans, gogi berries,

Mashed potato with kale, salmon and mung bean sprouts

chocolate covered coffee beans and random lollies. I like everything about my scroggin.

For the other meals it depends whether I’m doing a whole or a half days walking and that would determine whether I have another two proper meals, maybe hot, or just one and some snacks. I love my track cuisine. This week, for example, I’ve had cous cous with sweet potato, tomato, other dried vegetables, rosemary and garlic; mashed potato with tuna, beetroot, garlic and kale; dahl with potato and mung bean sprouts; packet pasta with extra veggies, and my tried and true porridge with rolled spelt, custard and dried banana. For lunch and / or snacking I have sheets of seaweed with vegemite and dried tomato or zucchini; linseed and almond-meal raw crackers; raw chocolate ‘brownies’ and or course plenty of cups of coffee and tea.

Cous cous with tuna, peas and olive oil

This time around, most of my dehydrated food comes from Bec, my wonderful housemate, nutrition geek and raw / living food afficionado. Love you Becco.

Wildgoose Track Cuisine has been brought to you by the letter Y, U and M and by the numbers 2 and 5.

Bon appetit!

The Collie bakery makes the best custard tarts in all of WA

Spanish omlette made at Schafer hut with fresh eggs I was given at a local farm

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Track angels, mead and hankies.

… A post from a couple of weeks ago… Thanks track angel in the North! …

Well folks, day five and I’m feeling stronger, fitter and lighter! Lighter could be because I’ve eaten all my food but never mind that! My track angels Ali and Jesse are here with me at Brookton hunt tonight having brought not only food for the next six days but also quiche, salad Turkish delight, cheese, bread, chocolate orange, red wine and spiced mead. Track feast! Happy dance! I didn’t hear them approaching and was engrossed in something when they showed up and hello rush of joy and delight to see them! One of the things I relish about the solitude of the track – which is certainly not always easy or fun _ is the wicked happiness of being with people again. And these, my dear friends at that. I got to tell them all my stories and we laughed a lot (well, I laughed a lot…they may have done some smiling and nodding).
After last night blowing a freezing gale up the Helena Balley, this evening is utterly still, as in not even a rustle up in the tops of the trees. A background hum of crickets textures the silence and one or two birds are calling in the violet – white sky.

Feasting with Ali and Jesse

Walking and thinking go so well together I might just get it happening more regularly when I get back. Today I was in the slip stream of an amazing series of thoughts that linked muscle innervation, (the principle of) the boy who cried wolf, the global energy crisis and the benefits of relaxing. I’ll tell it to you some time if your interested.
Walking is somehow the perfect occupation for a monkey mind like this one….just tiring enough, just occupying enough, just monotonous enough to make a clearing for a delightful freedom of spirit and new interesting, alchemical combinations of ideas. The trouble is writing them down coherently as they sometimes drift apart like dream fragments when consciously ‘thought down’ somehow. At any rate, the ones that are meant to stay will stay.
In the late morning today I came upon two white crosses near where the track met a road. One ‘for Steve’ and one ‘for Dad’. They both had photos wrapped in plastic and nailed on. Steve’s had his old accubra hat, a dream catcher and a card attached “dear Steve, today would have been your 60th birthday….anyway love, we’ll drink a beer to you today”. Dad’s one had a plaque with his name, born 1928 and “the old nigger” and two of his hankies wrapped in plastic and nailed on. As I took it in I started crying and then sobbing and bawled my little goose’s heart out almost the whole of the way to the next hut. I don’t quite know why, remembering my dad, yes, and wishing we’d have thought to make something like this…..so personal and so shining with human love and sadness and memory. How the objects of a loved one become so sacred…even the hankies.

Love, Wildgoose.

Memorials for Steve and 'Dad'

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Mt Cooke hut & Dookanelly hut

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Receptive ground

Soft, wet Jarrah forest

It’s been raining for a day and a half now: long, soft, soaking showers falling through the still, breathing bush. Drops of rain sound in a hundred ways: on the perspex, corrugated iron and metal gutters of the hut; on wet soil, leaf litter, puddles, living branch, log. My ears are drinking. Outside the shelter a thick white sky. The light is cool and bright and all seems illuminated without casting a shadow. My eyes roam around the green cloak of the treetops and the vertical greys and browns and blacks of the trunks – a patch of copper leaves, bright red growth on a stubby young Eucalypt, a yellow-cream flower stalk – the only colours that break this gentle monotony. It’s chilly and my feet in their dirty blue thongs are itchy and a bit cold; I’d happily put on more layers but the rest of my walker’s ascetic wardrobe is sweat-damp and smelly. It hasn’t quite come to that yet! With my belly full of tea, my dirty fingernails, my chilly feet and a whole afternoon of writing and reading before me, I feel as rich, heavy and content as the soaking forest floor. Receptive ground.

Later that evening as the sun set

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The limber Swami and the dogged Goose

Day 10, Dwellingup

Dear friends,

It is a happy goose writing today, a clean and fed and maybe overfed goose. A scrubbed and relaxed and stocked up and chilled out goose writing from the Dwellingup chalets and caravan park. It is a lighter goose, who, having walked thus far with a large pack weighing between, say, 19kg down to 15kg, has just sent almost 4kg of gear back home and is anticipating some real nice, light step, quick step walking from here on in.

Basically I’ve been hanging out with Swami for a few days, a very limber, fit and striding Swami who walks with a tiny pack not *much* bigger than a day pack and who has walked many, many, many miles around the world and is like a ripe fig tree of experience for a curious and determined goose. I would like to share some of Swami’s wisdom. “Every pound of weight on your feet is like five pounds on your back.”  “Walk up the hills with your heart and down the hills with your legs.” “Baby, baby, baby oh.” (Thanks Justin Bieber for planting that ear worm). Me: You’ve walked the [insert random trail from anywhere in the world] haven’t you, Swami. Swami: course I have.

Swami

So I’ve been keeping pace with Swami for a few days, trying to increase my track fitness perhaps a little bit quicker than would have happened otherwise, to learn to tolerate walking during the middle of a hot day, to find out I that can walk faster than I think I can and to simply enjoy the company and conversation of a pretty delightful person. It was all going great until the second day when we were going for a double hut to Gringer Creek – anticipating a burger at the North Banister roadhouse – and walking through the middle of the day. “You can go go a teeny bit faster if you want,” Goose to Swami. Swami lengthens stride slightly (noticibly) and the Goose determinedly follows. Now what the Goose is really just learning and experiencing is that it’s far better to walk at a more modest pace that works across changes in the terrain: hills and dales etc, than it is to go for it hard on the flat and then have to slow right down for the uphills. After an hour or so determined Goose becomes dogged Goose, and another hour, dogged Goose become desperate Goose. Then with pounding head, queasy belly, pouring sweat and sudden indifference to the tick-crawling path, all there seems left to do is to put down pack, close eyes, pant and start to whimper slightly, trying not to spew. Oh hello heat stroke. I know you. Have you come to visit again? Damn. I thought I’d learned enough from you in our past encounters.

So it is to a miserable and hot goose on the track that Swami gives Gastrolyte, M&Ms, wet bandannas and Neurofen. It is a grateful and chastened Goose who waits it out on the path while Swami picks off the occasional tick that has crawled on. It is a sober and hopefully wiser Goose who eventually finds the impetus to stagger to her feet again and plod on to the hut with Swami’s small pack swapped for her own. Swami: My God, girl! How do you walk with this thing!

* * *

So it seems that I’m still learning my limits and my good rhythm and how to pace myself. I know have a few tricks for coping with the heat (it seems to be more that than dehydration as such that really gets me down) and more than anything, the good way to avoid it all is to get a nice and early start, say at 5:30 or so, and get a good lot of kilometres done before the sun’s even above the trees.

Must fly. Meeting Phoebs for a beer at the Dwellingup pub.

Love, Wildgoose.

PS. The track is beautiful, the trees are magnificent, the goannas charming, the snakes few, the Black Cockatoos happily squarking, the wallabies a sheer hopping delight, the ticks relentless, the flies a fairly constant presence, and the Goose, even heat-struck and sometimes footsore, is content, at peace, loving it, and just lapping it up.

The Jarrah forest near Dwellingup

Big goanna

Phoebe and Luce at the Dwellingup caravan park

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