Happ-e-News Autumn Winter 2012

Monday, Jul 09, 2012 at 23:47



I have been a bit slack getting my Autumn news out so I'll throw in a bit of Winter too. There will still be some exciting stuff to write about at the end of Winter which is not too far away.

A huge THANK YOU goes out to everyone supporting The Happy Walk. I have had help from some great businesses who have provided me with trekking gear, maps and food at discounted costs. These discounts have made it possible to buy the safety equipment, cold climate clothing, light weight camping gear and dehydrated meals that will make it easier to trek with either a backpack or cart.

Next time you're preparing venture into the great outdoors and need new gear, comfy clothing and nutritious food please share my support for:
Columbia Australia - comfortable clothing and boots for the bush, boating, snow and indoors
Wilderness Sports - everything you need for backcountry 4 season recreation and sports and much more
ExplorOz - helpful and informative resources for exploring Australia
Strive Food - Australian made and owned company based in Tassie making delicious and nutritious food for camping
Mont - another Australian made and owned company making top quality adventure equipment and clothing
Bolle Safety - safe, comfortable and stylish glasses and goggles for work and play
Also thanks to ExplorOz and Columbia Australia for mentioning The Happy Walk in their newsletters.

Gavin Wilcox, manager and partner of Life Express Fitness Centre, who gave me a gym sponsorship, has sold his share of the business. I am very grateful for Gavin's help and wish him and his family every success in their future ventures.

I spent today with my main sponsor, Ocean Guardians, who have been making some exciting new developments in their printing, embroidery and design business. They are creating beautiful clothing designs for all ages. But one of the greatest things they do is ocean conservation. The owners, Cherie and Jim, are professional divers and underwater photographers with a passion for keeping our oceans and beaches pollution and litter free, protecting threatened species and promoting awareness through education and appreciation.

ExplorOz is helping me connect with fellow travellers all over Australia through their forum and travel blogs. It is the biggest website for camping, 4WDing, caravanning, boating and trip planning in Australia and their online shop has almost 850 items to help make your trip more enjoyable.

Sponsors for the snowshoe trek, Australian Geographic Society, help out many Australians through community, scientific and adventure projects. They also sell lots of goodies to help you explore the world. Their magazines, Australian Geographic and Outdoor, provide plenty of inspiration and ideas for destinations and activities.

The last few months have had 2 disappointments but thankfully I have had too much to look forward to and have not been able to stop long enough for the feeling of failure to sink in too deep.

In May I flew to Alice Springs for 2 weeks to walk the Larapinta Trail and speak with some of the local carers about mental health in the outback. I caught a nasty flu which set in with a fever on the first day walking. After staying out on the track for 4 nights I didn't get better so the Larapinta is postponed until next time I'm in Alice.

While there I did meet some incredible people and saw some amazing things. Christine, manager of Mental Health (South) General Practice Network NT, took me out to a lovely Indian restaurant and told me so much about the complexities of mental health in aboriginal communities. I had 2 wonderful lunches with Deb, life skills and case worker with Anglicare and we discussed issues surround violence to women and the important roles women play in aboriginal communities. Both Christine and Deb's work is just so important, so valuable and they change people's lives for the better. It was such an honour and a privilege to spend time with them, gaining a little bit of insight from their vast experience.

The last weekend in Alice I caught up with a uni friend, Kate, from 7 years ago and we spent the morning in the Todd St Market and relaxing in a couple of cafes in the mall. It was great to just walk and sit around chatting.

One of the best things about going somewhere new is being a tourist and doing all the tourist things like in Alice you have to go to the top of Anzac Hill for a sunset, visit the Telegraph Station, wander through the Royal Flying Doctors Service museum and spend hours in galleries looking at aboriginal art wondering if you can afford anything and how to get it home in one piece. My favourite galleries were the ones on the other side of the track, Ngurratjuta Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands Art Centre, Tjanpi Desert Weavers and Bindi art and craft workshop for people with disabilities. Instead of going to the Desert Park, because I had spent 4 nights out under the stars in the centre of Australia, I visited the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens and spent several hours taking a couple of hundred photos of delicate flowers, gnarly trees and recycled sculptures and enjoying the tranquillity and birdlife around the little cafe.

While in town I stayed at the YHA. It was one of the best youth hostels I have stayed at in the world and that's saying something because I have stayed at many. This one comes close behind Osaka, Delhi and Sydney Harbour. The buildings used to be the outdoor theatre, they still have some of the old seats and they play aboriginal shows like Women of the Sun and 10 Canoes under the stars each night. Because of my flu I didn't want to spread it to other tourists and spoil their holiday so the YHA was very accommodating and arranged for me to have my own room for the duration of my stay.

Regardless of being sick I still noticed the special moments while out in the bush. The first morning walking along the Todd River to the Telegraph Station, as the sun rose over the hills I looked up to the west and saw a beautiful euro standing on a rocky outcrop watching the sunrise then a little further up a family of dingos crossed my path and climbed to the top of a hill on the west side where they sat and faced into the sun with their eyes shining like polished amber and I swear they were smiling. At night I would lie awake staring up at a sky full of stars listening to the dingos calling out to each other. One quiet, still evening I saw an endangered black footed rock wallaby and her joey coming down the rocky slope to the waterhole at Simpson Gap. That was something super special. And for the first time I can remember I saw flocks of wild finch and budgerigars. One evening, as the sun set, some high wisps of cloud had formed in the shape of a wedge tail eagle and, would you believe it, a real wedge tail eagle flew across it at that very moment.

It was a shame to have to leave but it was time to start seriously preparing for the snowshoe trek across the mountains.

This brings me to the next hiccup in my schedule. It had a dream to snowshoe across the Australian Alps but until last year I had never thought too seriously about it. In August I decided to do it as part of The Happy Walk campaign and use it to raise a bit of awareness about suicide prevention. Australian Geographic Society sponsored me with an adventure seed grant which also went a long way to helping me buy safety equipment and better clothing. I had everything prepared for a trek that would last anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks and had been training on extended hikes along soft sandy beaches and up the steepest hills I could find carrying a 27kg pack. I was ready and very excited with about 1 week to go when I was told it wouldn't be allowed to start for safety reasons. The police officer I spoke to in Canberra advised me that they will cooperate with the SES officer I spoke with and warned me they will use force if necessary. A bit over the top, I felt, but what could I do?

For 2 weeks I stopped, stopped training, stopped packing, stopped thinking, stopped feeling while I tried to get my head around it and keep my spirit from falling too close to depression. I have decided to simply postpone it and will try to spend a significant amount of time, 6 months, Spring, Summer and Autumn of 2014/15 exploring and documenting the Australian Alps from end to end then snowshoeing it at the first available opportunity. That's the new dream.

Funnily enough, when all this happened I took a look at a fellow walking campaigner's website to see where she will be while I'm twiddling my thumbs feeling sorry for myself and I noticed she didn't have any support crew from Wollongong down to Eden for 3 weeks, even as far as Bairnsdale she was needing help. So with a tingle running down my spine I asked if she wanted a hand.

Tomorrow I will be travelling down to Wollongong to join Sarah Eagle, founder of Walking Feat, www.walkingfeat.com as her support crew to Eden and possibly even as far as Bairnsdale. Take a look at her website and check out all the amazing things she has been doing, her epic walks for mental health and her inspiration. Sarah is currently walking from Armidale to Melbourne to raise awareness of mental health and raise funds for SANE Australia. Her arrival in Melbourne has been planned to coincide with my departure as I start The Happy Walk where she will, literally, hand over the baton as I continue to carry the cause around Australia.

Some of you have been asking how you can help out and I've mentioned making a wish list so here's a short one and you can email me for more details:
Food (vegetarian, Strive Food is great but it doesn't beat fresh or homemade shared in good company)
Water (preferably not sulphuric bore)
Accommodation (anything more comfortable than the ground and safer than beside the road)
New boots every 1500-2000km (I have a favourite, Daska Pass, I buy through Columbia Australia)
Fly (ultra light weight, minimum 3x3m, definitely not camo, something I can shelter under in storms and hot sun and put the tent under so it doesn't go mouldy as quickly from being packed away wet every rainy or dewy dawn)

I have made a few small changes to the website and you can now click on the sections of the walk to link to maps where you can zoom in for detail and I plan to regularly update the walk's progress with markers. These maps are also posted as links on the facebook campaign page. Photos will be uploaded to my Panoramio account and can be viewed either there or through Google Earth and Maps. There are already a heap of non walk related photos up but the next set will be from the road with Walking Feat and in September they will be from The Happy Walk.

A final thought for you to ponder, discuss and practice:
One of the most appreciated ways you can help a friend who is struggling with mental illness is to help them out with the small things like looking after the kids for an afternoon, do a bit of cleaning around their house, laundry, cook some meals and stick some back up meals for bad days in their freezer, pull the weeds out of their garden, mow the lawn, take their over due library books back, etc. There are so many everyday opportunities to help out someone you care for and just one thing will ease their work load and stress.

As my psychologist would tell me as I left her room "Take care and don't forget to do something special for yourself"

The Happy Walk
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