Props to Andrew for helping when I forgot literally every detail!
The engine of the JetStar plane roared, bound for Perth. Drowning in layers of thick fleece and massive hiking boots we sweated profusely, burdened by bags overflowing with gear, maps, canned food, water purifiers and compasses. We could hardly walk onto the plane without toppling over. How were we supposed to walk 1000kms with all of this? Andrew looked at me and laughed. The seatbelt sign went on. We were off.
I thought back to the slurry April afternoon on the beach in Melbourne. Mojitos flowed through me and before passing out on the warm sand I whispered in Andrew’s ear,
“There’s a hike I wanna go on. It’s gonna to take two months. Wanna do it with me?”
“Hell ya.” His gin-covered breath hit my nose getting me drunk.
August 29th 2014 Day 11
Stillness. Quiet. The only presence is the soft patter of rain on the hut roof, a gentle trickle of water from the stream and the soft call of birds waking up with the dawn. I walk to the rain tank and fill up the charcoaled pot with fresh rainwater. It tastes different, pure. Andrew slices ginger for our tea, the hot brew becoming a daily ritual to warm our bodies for the walk ahead. Fog rests amongst the Eucalypts. They’re different from Canadian trees, sparse and thin, but still tall and proud; each one unique, aged and gnarled like an old mans hands. As the cold wind hits my face I close my eyes and take a few breaths, ‘be present.’ A kookaburra perches next to last nights fire, warming itself on the embers. Andrew walks over and wraps his arms around me; his smile rests on my cheek. It’s infectious.
Our morning routine had become quicker as each day passed; we had a finite process that made packing a robotic 15 minutes. Deflate therma-rest and roll up as small as humanly possible using all your body weight to get the last breaths of air out; break the first sweat of the day shoving your wet and cold sleeping bag into its pouch and into the bottom of your rucksack. Find where you’ve flung all your clothes and roll them into your waterproof bag, leaving out your one hiking outfit so you can postpone the inevitable freeze of changing out of your fleece. Balance the JetBoil onto the pot with as much talent as a troupe of Cirque Du Soleil performers. Ruin the precision by throwing all your food in a chaotic heap on top of each other, the rice and durable items on the bottom, and the fruit and the days snacks up top. Finally, take down the tent and laugh as Andrew struggles to squeeze it in his bag. Somehow everything seemed to fit like a puzzle, even though each day it seemed as if we had more and more crap.
We threw on our bags, grabbed our hiking sticks, and headed out for the 35km day ahead of us.
September 15th Day 29
Donnelley River Village appeared like a mirage. One minute the Australian Bush surrounded us and next we walked into a town taken over by local kangaroos and emus bounding towards all human movement in search of leftover trail mix. A row of cabins and a tiny general store circled the 1940’s green and white wooden schoolhouse. Bright cherry blossoms and gardens overflowing with flowers and gnomes giving a pop of color and bringing life back into the dull trail we’d been travelling for 29 days. The sun beamed perfectly through the branches of the trees, creating a never-ending sunset over the town.
As Andrew comfortably fed the masses, I took refuge in the store cluttered with antique furniture and memorabilia of the days when the town flourished from a prosperous logging industry. I drooled over the jars of candy at the wooden countertop. Faded photographs in cheap frames adorned the walls and piles of unusable board games were stacked waist high in the corner. The lovely couple who owned the store took their time explaining how they hand made all the food each day. I devoured the first pre packaged honey comb ice cream bar I could get my hands on and thanked them for their hospitality.
September 29th Day 42
Trudging across the flooded Pingerup Plains for 5 days in brown water reaching past our knees, submerging our gaiters and wrinkling our feet as we struggled to make it to the ocean that day. The hard dirt we had grown accustom to had slowly been replaced by soft sand, slowing our pace when we were desperate for speed. The thin dead trees changed to vivid green bushes covered with pink, blue and yellow wild flowers. Birds danced and dove in the horizon, welcoming us to their humble abode. The crashing of waves soon masked the sound of my heavy breathing. I looked up through the sweat on my eyelashes and there was only blue.
“Want to stop for a dip?” Andrew’s green eyes enhanced by the oceans sparkle.
“Good god, yes.”
I threw my sticks down and with all the strength I had left in my weary body I hurled my rucksack down on the white sand. My back celebrated the freedom of the heavy straps, the breeze hit my drenched neck sending shivers down my entire body. I kicked off my boots and peeled off the two layers of socks, digging my hot feet deep under the cool sand. I stripped down and let my naked body breathe and ran my fingers through my greasy knotted hair. Andrew had undressed in a flash and cannonballed into a wave taller than him. I followed, jumping into the crystal clear water, quickly getting past the breaking waves to float on my back, taking all the weight off my tired legs, bringing myself to a few minutes of complete relaxation. Andrew swam over and grabbed me, bringing me back to reality.
October 15th 2014 Day 59
“Happy birthday!” Andrew smiled, holding a mush of chocolate on the plate. His eyes were swollen from a lack of sleep, he was sporting an adorable birthday hat and lighting the candle sinking into the warm goo. “I tried to make a cake, but it’s almost impossible on our JetBoil.”
I crawled over and kissed him. He laughed and pulled out a small bottle of orange juice and champagne from his backpack.
“Have you carried all of this the past week?” I asked, hardly shocked by the sweet act.
“Well, not only are we celebrating your birthday, but the last day of the hike. It’s a bloody big one.”
As we sat munching on barely edible chocolate mush sipping lukewarm mimosas I thought back to that hazy whisper on the beach in Melbourne. Did I actually think I would be sitting here after 59 days of hiking over 1000kms of Western Australia? 59 days of meter long tiger snakes, huntsman spiders the size of our face and kangaroos bigger than both of us combined? 59 days of packing and unpacking, camping under the stars and cooking over a fire? 59 days of staring at his same damn face the whole way? Absolutely not.
We pulled on our party hats and set off for our final day.