As everything comes to a head for my walk I am starting to have a sense of dread come over me. It is not however for reasons that most people would suspect. Rather it is because I have an intense fear/hatred of the cold. There is a reason I live in a desert and not in sub-antartic conditions: I do not appreciate my bones feeling like they will shatter. I despise that moment when your hands are so cold that placing them under cold water makes them feel like they are literally on fire, or when you knock your finger on something and it feels like someone has just chopped it off. There is nothing pleasurable about that experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely excited about starting the walk, and quite frankly I wish I could skip this last week and just start, but I am dreading beyond belief the time when I have to climb out of my sleeping bag in the cold, dark, wee hours of the morning and dress myself then step outside. I had a radio interview last week and when asked what I was most nervous about I didn’t answer with the expected response of “the sand” or “all the dunes”: no, I answered with “getting out of my sleeping bag in the morning”. Probably not quite what the host was expecting.
Deciding I needed to test out my sleeping arrangements before setting off for the walk, I found myself packing up the car on Saturday morning and heading off to Big Red for a long stroll into and out of the desert, before retiring to the edge of the lake for a night out. After finishing 22km I set up camp on the edge of paradise, set up my Speedy pop up tent, which takes all the hassle out of erecting a tent as you simply unzip the bag and throw the tent out, lit my fire and put the billy on. After letting my self-inflating mattress to do its thing and throwing my sleeping bag into the tent, I got cosy in a pair of trackies, sunk my chair into the sand and cooked up some curried sausages with lots of pasta to keep the carbs up. As the sun set, the millions of stars came out in the ever darkening sky, and I even spotted a few satelittes passing around our earth. Surprisingly the air had a hint of warmth to it, which was a pleasant surprise and one which was greatly appreciated by me.
After taking in my weight in dinner, followed by numerous cups of tea and some rice cream for desert I decided it was time to test out all this camping equipment, and see if it really was as good as it said it was. Firstly, the Kathmandu self-inflating mattress is actually really good, I purposely got the thickest one they had and enjoyed the fact it stayed inflated. The Kathmandu sleeping bag also lived up to its expectations, and I can safely say I think it actually would be comfortable at -3 degrees. In saying this, it is slightly uncomfortable when the temperature is 16 degrees and you also have a thermal liner in it which effectively makes it comfort rated to -10. Not the smartest decision I have ever made but given I refuse to ever experience the cold that I felt on top of Kilimanjaro I’ll take the sweating any day. Lastly, the tent also did as it said it would and kept me wind and dew free which was a relief, and best of all it packs up almost as easily as it pops out. I think there are going to be a lot of jealous campers when they see the ease with which it goes up and down, making those cold mornings when your hands don’t want to deal with undoing poles and ropes a thing of the past.
After waking a few times to let a bit of air into my sleeping bag when things got a bit sweaty, and when the swans on the lake got a bit noisy, I eventually arose to a glorious sunrise which ran rich colours across the landscape. Waking up out there alone with nothing but a sandhill behind you, a lake in front of you, and a whole lot of noisy birds is pure bliss. Given the night wasn’t that cold, it wasn’t even too painful to get out my sleeping bag (which eventually became more comfortable as the night wore on).
Given I’d walked 22km the day before and as per usual failed to adequately stretch on completion of said walk, I wasn’t surprised to find my bum in a slight state of shock at being told to move. It felt like I had 2 corked butt cheeks which were not appreciative of climbing over another 12km of sand dunes. Given they are now pain free again I’m putting that one down to laziness on the stretching front, and will endeavour to do it properly next time.
So after a weekend of crossing Big Red more times then I had to due to the slight hiccup of leaving my radio in the car rather then attaching it to me, lots of sand, a few vehicles asking me “are you supposed to be walking?”, and eavesdropping on lots of entertaining chit chat on the radio I made my way home to a very excited Chevy, and of course a hot bath. It had been a fairly good practice run of the real thing up until the hot bath part.
With the final week here I am still chasing my tail, and probably have a very unimpressed support crew given I am yet to let them know how much stuff I am bringing, and the minor detail that they leave on Thursday. I have however finally picked up the last of my supplies from the Birdsville Roadhouse, as well as received my walking shirts which look fantastic, and organised my last fundraising raffle to be held at the Birdsville Hotel this Friday night.
That pretty much just leaves packing, cooking, cleaning my house, work, updating the website and a single training session to do…and still a whole 4 days to do it in….I’m not worried at all….no, really…not…at…all.