This post is dedicated to Scott Pannunzio (aka one arm)…please stay tuned for a run down of the Adelaide Fundraiser as I am yet to get 5 minutes to write about it, and keep an eye on the gallery for photos from the night.
As I write this I am sitting on my flight from Brisbane to Adelaide for the fundraiser being held tonight at the Watermark Hotel. After getting only 4-5 hours sleep last night due to nerves and my brain going into overdrive thinking about all that needs to be done not only for the fundraiser but also for the walk itself I thought I should write about my last training session. I’m sure my lack of sleep had nothing to do with the fact I ate the minibar out of chocolate, and all with the blessing of my trainer!
Last Saturday morning I woke up with a message from Michael asking that I skip the bicycle session and instead go out and take a walk in the desert for a few hours. Seeing as though I had been given the week off from training while I was away I thought this would be a great way to get in a solid work out before travelling. Before setting out I made sure I had enough food and water to last the day and headed down to find my travelling buddies that were going to come out with me and play around on motorbikes while I got stuck into the sand dunes. Considering these people were Irish and it was the day after St. Patrick’s Day I was therefore surprised to see them in a healthy state and nearly ready to go. Knowing they would be shortly be behind me I set out for the desert and my first real taste of walking in it.
Although I was aware it had been raining a few weeks before and that there had been a few inches out towards the desert, I seemed to have forgotten that the road was dirt. Heading out towards Big Red I came across a hill and could see that the detour had a long sheet of water covering it and thought risking it was a silly option. Instead I carried on along the main road and where there once was a lake I saw nothing but dry land as I crested the last hill before the dunes. To my excitement I thought ‘great, there is no need to use the detour anymore’, however my excitement was squashed as an expanse of water appeared on my horizon sitting at the foot of the sand dune and seriously squashing my hopes of talking a walk in the desert.
I estimated the water to be 150-200m wide, however as I was unsure of its depth my shoes came off and I started trudging. I didn’t have to trudge far to realise my legs were sinking into the mud up to my shins and that walking across it with my pack on my head was not an option. Deciding I had one last option I rushed back to the car and drove until I got back into mobile reception and called the Paddy’s who much to my relief and confusion were still in town. I asked them to stop by home and pick up the canoe’s.
It’s not every day that you find yourself in a canoe paddling to get to the desert so you can start training but alas that’s what happened to me. Given I had already been out there for nearly 2 hours, by the time I got out of the canoe I was raring to go, and after trying to re-stick my ankle tape (aka blister prevention) and wash the mud off my feet I pulled my boots back on and started walking. Just as I was walking down the other side of the first dune I realised I had left Walter (the walking stick) in the canoe. I stood there and contemplated my options and decided that walking back over to fetch him and then start again was not going to happen. I am dedicated, but not that dedicated.
For safety reasons and the fact there was no way to get a car to me quickly if something went wrong or I trod on a snake, the Paddy’s and I decided I would just walk back and forth between the first 2 sanddunes so they could easily spot me if they heard an almighty wail coming from my direction. I must admit, I found walking alone through the desert very refreshing and certainly different from all the times I have driven out to just sit atop a sand hill. There is something about walking through the environment with no cars or other people in sight. You almost become entranced with putting one foot in front of the other. At one point I found myself walking along dingo tracks which had been made when the ground was soaked and it was interesting to actually see where the dingo had slipped or where it has changed route to walk on a part not so muddy. Animals can teach us humans a lot when it comes to taking the path that uses the least amount of energy.
I made a few other friends while walking: in fact I made a few hundred of them. They were tiny little black winged creatures who seemed to have a persistent love affair with my nose, eyes and mouth. To counteract these pesky little critters I found myself a coolabah tree and borrowing a little branch I made myself a fly swatter David Attenborough style. Unfortunately I had forgotten my trusty fly veil given to me in my survival pack I got for Christmas, so the makeshift one had to do.
Now some people may not see a tiny crustacean as exciting but as I as busy trying to walk on water and not let it get into my boots I noticed something move in the little pools that had formed in the tyre tracks. On closer inspection it looked like a tiny stingray only it had a hard shell and was, well, tiny. No bigger than a 20 cent coin and with a tail only a couple of centimetres long, I later found out they were called Shield Shrimp and the eggs can survive in the dry and cracked mud for decades before emerging after rains for only a short period of time. On learning this, I was quite excited that I had seen them and counted myself lucky to have got a couple of photos of the alien looking creatures.
So after taking in all that I could and trying to out freeze a goanna in order to get a photo of it as it tried to hide behind a push (which I failed miserably at doing), I decided my few hours of walking were up and it was time to get back to the Paddy’s. While walking I found my hands as per usual had swollen and my fingers looked like stocky little fish fingers, my feet which hadn’t been in my hiking boots for over 6 months had a couple of aches and the spot on my legs between pants and socks was growing darker by the minute even with sunscreen. On my last crossing of Big Red I took a seat on the dusty ground at the edge of the lake which has remained on the claypan for over 2 years and listened to the wind chopping waves into the lake surface, while the Paddy’s made their way to me. After all this it was a couple of kilometres along the lake’s edge back to the canoes and home for a big feed and good stretch.