If you're driving and see five blokes walking chained together,
be sure to stop and ask them for directions.
Or ask them what they're walking for.
There's bound to be good reason.
I felt bad having no cash on me to donate; but they told me they were stopping at Catherine Hill Bay Pub and I could walk with them for a little bit if I liked. These five boys had started walking a few hours earlier, at midday, and by the time they arrived at Catho would have walked about 20km.
They were going to walk together all night and through the next morning and finish at midday.
I drove home, thinking I'd drive to the pub and wait to meet them; and ten minutes later thoughts were flying through my head: "I should walk with them for a bit. I should walk with them all the way to Terrigal Beach. Why not? If they can do it dragging a ball-breaking chain I can do itn my hiking boots."
What would I need to carry? They said they weren't sleeping; so I wouldn't have to carry a sleeping bag and mat. That would make my pack lighter. I would need food, water, wet weather gear, and oh; a head torch!!!! They were walking at night! I'm house sitting and don't have my head torch with me, so after a bit of hunting around I found a tiny penlight to borrow.
Batteries, spare batteries, and leave the back of the torch unscrewed until I want it - last time I went bushwalking overnight, my head torch had been bumped on by accident, and by dark was flat. For food: oven baked pizza, to slice and fold into pizza sandwiches and eat cold along the way. I had a cheapie cardboard pizza in the freezer which would only took ten minutes to cook in the oven. Good. Hard boiled eggs. Seeds and nuts; I have those already. Ditto, berries. Pity I don't have any chocolate. When the eggs boil, leave to cool and then write messages of encouragement on the shells, to discover at random.
I parked at the Catho Bay pub feeling shy and excited. The boys were ahead of schedule and motoring up the hill. I overtook them, and then felt horrible because that was awfully unetiquettey of me. Those times I've spent weeks preparing for an expedition with shoe soles smoking I haven't really needed an interloper jumping in and pulling ahead. I dropped to the back of the pack and chatted with Dawysey.
The rain started.
The chafing started.
The blisters started.
The boys kept walking.
We stopped for a sandwich and powerade at sister Casi's place then took off again. It became dark. The boys' team sponsor drove up and gave us all a can of ginger beer. Mat was playing music from a super cheesy playlist which hit the spot perfectly. I sang kind of manically; because I was running out of energy and I knew that when I couldn't sing along with Whitney Houston we had problems.
The rain came and went in drenching squalls. I stopped putting my rain jacket off and on and wore it always. Even after it was saturated it cut the wind chill factor.
Two more walkers started following the boys at midnight. It was like that storyline in Forrest Gump, with the joggers all tailing Forrest like he's their guru.
The going got very tough as we drew near The Entrance at 1am.
I decided to hold on until we reached the carpark where we were planning to stop and rest. I didn't say anything, but I intended to call an Uber to go home when we got there. I'd had enough. Wet shoes were shredding my feet. And I was pretty emotionally wrecked; I'd broken down crying to one of the playlist songs - Hey True Blue, I think it was.
The boys had chosen to chain themselves to each other before setting out, to demonstrate they'd get to the end together without leaving anyone behind. Airing my feet out in the freezing wind at the carpark improved their condition to the point where I gained hope to see I could complete the journey. Also, I saw just how done in everyone else was - even more than I felt. They were in terrible pain. Not that I wanted them to be enduring misery, but my anxiety about my performance was eased. It was reassuring to know my experience was normal!
At The Entrance I'd made a brave decision to continue (and I wasn't the only one. I think some of the blokes were seriously having second thoughts)! That was the lowest point. We walked to Bateau Bay, about 8km away, and did a little bit of mathematics.... soooo, by that stage, the boys had walked about 50km the bloody legends. What a morale booster! The magnitude of the numbers seemed to equalise the pain.
We rested in the cold and wind until the sun rose and the birds woke up. Some truckies bought us hot chocolate and cheeseburgers from Macca's, and Mat's mum came bearing coffee and croissants. I ate as much as I could, figuring I needed the energy, and felt pretty sick.
In the news... the boys with their fans at Bateau Bay oval
The rest of the morning went textbook. As Mat had expected, they were walking on fumes but the humungous support from the community, friends, family and strangers (like me!!) pushed them on. "Everything hurt" is a polite way of saying that private bits hurt. I think the chain around their waists caused problems I can't imagine... although, I'd worn a stupid bra and the chafing was unpleasant. Also, I'd eaten so much bread I wanted to do poos all morning. Eventually, though, my blisters got the better of me. I just couldn't stay with everyone because my feet were stinging too much. I didn't want to stop, just slow down. Cal (Mat's Dad) got it, and he walked with me.
Not giving in isn't something which makes me proud of myself, in particular, because it's in my nature to be very tenacious and I may as well praise myself for having pretty brown eyes. Something I used my head about and which made me feel very proud of myself for, was that at the end, when I was following the boys to the finish line and about to break the ribbon, I consciously slowed down and hung back with the crowd to applaud and cheer. That's a bit of a personal character arc!! I'd charged ahead when I'd started at Catherine Hill Bay, because I'd let my excitement get the better of me, and I felt ashamed of myself because I know how it feels to be unable to keep up. Those men had a chain and 20km on me before I'd even begun, and I was spraying dust over them.
It was really special to me to be able to show my support for men's mental health. Male suicide rates terrify me. It's heartwarming to be able to show I love and care, and be part of a larger community who loves and Nearly at Terrigal Beach! Just waiting for some more friends
Mat Johnstone and the Walkie Talkies raised over $8000 for Gotcha4Life Foundation. If you'd like to donate, please follow the link: https://gotcha4life-fundraising.raisely.com/mathew-johnstones-team