The Bibbulmun: an afterword

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. I wrote this four weeks after I finished.

It feels like something is happening. A really deep, seismic shift. The deep cores of worthlessness, hopelessness, self disgust and despair are being aired, opened, examined. In a new light – the light of feminism (I was conditioned to hate myself by society!).

There’s a part of me unfurling – it feels inevitable and un-doable. And as though it’s going to change a bunch of stuff. There’s a crack, and I can finally let the light in. I don’t need to hide anymore. I can actually be me. Embody myself. All of myself. With love and acceptance. And without blame or judgement. If feels like I might finally be able to love myself. For reals.

I’m kind of shy and excited to meet this fresh new self who’s emerging, like a soft pink new born. Like when you’re a kid and you see your favourite cousin who you haven’t seen for ages, for a few moments you feel shy and don’t make eye contact. Then one of says ‘you want to go play?’ and then you hold hands and go off together, inseparable until your parents force you into two separate cars at the end of the night. It’s like that, meeting this new, soft and shiny self. Only this time we get to hold hands and run off together, and not leave in two cars. This time we stay and play together.

Right now though, I’m still at the shy part. I’m anticipating it’s going to be fun but I’m not yet brave enough to offer my hand. It also feels good not rushing it. I can sense the unfurling, but there’s no shortcut or speeding it up. It’s going to bloom in it’s own time. Somehow I feel certain that it’s happening though. Even though there’s not that much evidence yet, something feels different.

When I finished the Bibb, I was disappointed that with all the time I spent mulling over the problems in my life, I hadn’t solved any of them. I didn’t think I had any answers, no conclusions about whatthefuckdoidowithmylife. And yet, since coming home, everything is shifted and nothing is what it was before.

Each day, each km, each step – they were like gentle waves on a beach, each washing away another fine layer of silt, to eventually reveal what beauty lay beneath the whole time – beauty that was previously concealed. Me.

The Bibbulmun: day fourty seven – Denmark -> West Cape Howe

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Today was the conundrum day – to skip a part or to not skip a part? The track crosses over the Denmark inlet, so you either have to catch a ferry across (which is super expensive…I can’t remember exactly how much but like $80? $100?) or else get a lift around the inlet to the other side and meet the track there. If you catch a lift around, you can either get dropped off at the point where the ferry docks (thus doing the ‘whole’ track) or else skip a few km (6km maybe?) and start where the track hits the road and turns inland.

Lynne and I did the full today, but dropped our packs at the road junction, so had the first little part with no pack on. Was a dream walking without carrying anything. It’s so heavy with food and mouthwash (from dentist for my gum) and big gas (no little gas cans available to buy in town!) etc. Feet v sore (what else is new). Glad I did the full thing, was quite chill for 27km. 2 small snakes, 1 x bobby. Other Lyn also hutting with us now. Was a nice night last night – Helle and I went to pub for dinner, then came back and the March girls were drinking wine at the YHA. Had a cider @ pub then a glass of wine at YHA! MG’s were laughing – joking about going in the float tank at Mt Romance and them not letting us in as our feet would contaminate the tank haha. Googled it, tribal dreaming centre is closed 🙁 so no float tank for me! Gong still going though! Only 16.5km tomorrow – hope I sleep in. (unlikely). Had a good talk during the walk today with Lynne about relationships and career and stuff. She met her current husband (of 30+years) when she was married to someone else. Who knows what life will bring. Not much to report on really; track unremarkable except easy climbing – they mapped it along the contours well! And nice views over lowlands. Especially recognizing lowlands, really have a sense I’m in my homeland. Have done 5km of tomorrow’s section too, in the past – to Torbay! My local! Crazy times. Who knew I could last this long with feet this sore. Awoke before 4am again today – ready for bed now (it’s 5pm).

The Bibbulmun: day fourty two – Giants -> Rame Head

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Yesterday was so cruisy I was thinking I’d be bummed about not doubling today, BUT. Wildish night, woke to rain and ?hail many times. Some rain during the walk but not too bad, just squalls passing though as per usual. In last couple of km to conspicuous beach though, up on the ridge of the dunes, really windy! Blowing me sideways off the track kind of windy. Had to take the cockblocker off or it would be lost (come at me boys). Saw Mum and Dad pulling in as I walked the final ridge, good timing. Also, randomly, Ben Carter with his girlfriend (small world). Had chicken sangas and raw cheesecake and rooibos tea that Mum and Dad brought. Went up to the lookout, then the viewing platform. One of the windiest land experiences I can remember. SO WINDY. Somehow beach and cliff turned into wind tunnel and it was so strong on the platform you could literally lean into it. Was like being on a show ride, was hilarious and fun. Just so love mother nature! So much wild!

Mum joined me from there, just 3km to hut but was rain (sideways) and strong wind and sand dunes. Made for v tough walking and on arriving here was glad to be single hutting! Peaceful Bay tomorrow with the much lauded fish and chips – don’t want to get hopes too high as got excited about hot choc/coffee at the Tree Top Walk and that turned out shite. Told Mum of some of my existential crisis-ness and she said I sound like a product of my generation. Chopping/changing, I think she is referring to. Maybe. But how does that help me? It doesn’t.

Hungry hungry hippo again this arv. Probs coz I’m sitting here doing sweet FA. Lying in baggie as too cold in wind not to. Shelter is fairly sheltered but even so. Nice hut here, love the coastal views. Just love the coast. Where will life go when I get back? Why do I want all the answers now? Is that not a lesson I have learned in the last 6 weeks, to not get caught up making plans and assumptions and worrying about the future coz you have no idea how it will go? (What day you’ll arrive, how the weather will turn out, how sore your feet will be then, etc). So then, just enjoy this part and then let it happen when you get back, right? Right enough I reckon.

Feel v sleepy all of a sudden. Saw the ‘king in his carriage’ orchids today, before Ficifolia road, then a new stripey one – unidentified as yet. Several roos – seems to be roos and not wallabies in this section. 842km today. Far out, long way. Feet still hurting. Don’t think they’ll stop. Right toe hurting yesterday for first time, at the joint. Also last night – took pandol during the night to get back to sleep. Hips also v uncomfy – kinda jerky uncomfortable feelings. V unpleasant. That is my new answer for what I miss most – a real bed. Comfy mattress and warm doona although my baggies is v warm, when it’s done up I can’t stretch out as much as I’d like. It’s 1520. And I want to sleep. Still 2-3 h til tea time. Nearly got lost around 5.3 or 5.5km, turning off firebreak. So distracted by views of sea, kept going on firebreak. Stopped for photo, then just happened to turn around. Saw trail about 5m into bush, with short sign post with waugal on it! Unusual as not many waugals in this southern section, so very lucky happened to see it!

 

The Bibbulmun: day thirty nine – Walpole -> NOWHERE! Rest day :)

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

First rest day in so long. Since Balingup. It seriously feels like a holiday. A lot of that is also because I’m sitting in a cafe writing thoughtful things (long letters to Yael and Linton). Eating cake and drinking iced coffee (with cream AND icecream), there’s bird noise/panpipes playing and a water feature trickling and it’s SUNNY AND WARM! I seriously can’t get over the weather, it’s divine. The only downer is the smell of tar and the roar of trucks as they bitumise the road out front of the café…Other than that I could be in Bali. Had a big (2.5h!) talk with Linton this morning about all sorts, including us and me. And who I am. Became clearer that this idea of health as an overarching value/life direction is no longer the biggest thing for me. But as it has been such a big part of my self identity, now I don’t know who I am without it. I hate the world of health and wellbeing these days. I know there must be ways to do it, live it, that don’t get caught up in the hype and the fakeness, but I don’t see them. I feel disillusioned and want to distance myself from it. It’s become too mainstream? I need to be different? I thought health people were my people, but now they all piss me off so much. So then who am I? Without that? A wandering soul. Linton keeps telling me I seem lost, and I tend to agree.

I do feel like I’ve come to this sense of calm within myself, but it’s a contentedness with myself here, myself at my core outside of society. I don’t think it will last when I’m back in real life. Slash, it won’t be as relevant. Nor do I have any desire to be a wanderer forever. I don’t know why I have this sense that it wouldn’t work to do my own version of ‘health’ that fucks off all the hype….I don’t think I can quite articulate it, but it just doesn’t seem like it would work. It doesn’t appeal to me, anymore. I want to break up with health and wellness. But where does that leave me? Single in the world of life meaning/purpose. And yes, there’s plenty of life meanings to align myself with, but how do I pick one? How do I know which will last the distance? The last one didn’t. Maybe I’m destined to be forever single and purposeless. I’m afraid of commitment now, in case it doesn’t work out again. My secret crush is to be a creative, but honestly I think creativity is too good for me. I’m afraid to even flirt in fear of getting shut down and rejected. I did enjoy this single life, for a while – since I quit my job and just did book keeping, but now I’m getting that twang, the thought that it’d be nice to curl up on the couch with my life purpose and just, you know, hang out. Settle into that comfort of knowing I’ve got a life direction to come home to at night. The adventure stuff gets me a little bit excited, but again, I don’t know about the long term prospects. This short term fling of the Bibbulmun Track has been fun, but there’s a possibility that I wouldn’t have the stamina to keep up with a full time commitment to Adventure. I suppose it will become apparent in due time, the right meaning will fall into my lap and until then I’ll just keep going on dates with whatever comes up – adventure, aikido, wilderness, blogger…writer? Business person? (nah). Photography? Videography? Helping those less fortunate? Traveller? Yogi? Dancer? Movement person? It sounds like I’ve let go of the idea of mind/movement specialist….Interesting. No promises at this point. Grateful for the mental space of this rest day to ponder those things. And the phone call with Linton, challenging as it was, he does help push me to greater parts of myself. Even when I don’t want it.

The weather is tipped to change this weekend which is very sad. This sun and warmth is glorious (although hot to walk in, and snakey). I’m going to move down the street to the next café and have coffee and cake there, to ahem, compare the coffee. Research purposes.

The coffee at the second place wasn’t bad. Pity the server was too over-friendly/slightly offensive. Prefer the place with the unsmiling hostess. What is life? Four walk days then peaceful Bay, three walk days then Denmark, Four walk days then done. Eleven days to go. Of 50. Just crazy. How do you even go about making a judgement of how it is? Although I don’t want to get ahead of myself – I still have nearly two weeks. Feet are still hurting in new places so anything could happen: just look at Sonja! Peter emailed some of the crew this morning, she had a fractured tibia!! I do at least feel somewhat refreshed and rejuvenated by this zero, and feel ready to tackle the next few days. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow after carrying a heavy pack full of food with a broken hip belt. Can’t help myself but take these extra cliff bars of Peter and Sonja’s even though they’re heavy (because, food). Mum is coming to meet me at Conspicuous Beach to spend a night at Rame Head. It’s her birthday. I feel ok about it but also a little protective over my dwindling few days. Already getting anxious about space, even though, as I said, I still have almost two weeks. I’m also thinking I’ll stay at Denmark, which I was originally going to bypass, and not at Mum and Dad’s – would be too much of a sojourn to the other reality. Dad gets it. It seems silly to pay for accomm at Denners but I want to stay in the headspace. Especially if the rellies will be down – don’t want that kind of needing to be clean and polite and, I dunno, ‘normal’, ‘real life-y’. While I was sitting at Top Deck cafe today I did a really loud fart – I just forgot I was in the real world. Luckily no one was sitting near me. How does a person function in real life again??

The Bibbulmun: day thirty eight – Long Point -> Mt Clare -> Walpole

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Another day. Enjoyed most of it except the last about 2km on gravel bitumen road into Walpole. Left early (6:15) and got to Mount Clare around 9:30 – too early for lunch! Went up on a rock at the lookout area and managed to get reception – called the business I bought my pack from and they are express posting me a replacement hip belt, hurray!

Got into Walpole about 12:30. Saw the lady who gave me the apple in town! Haha. Nearly had an exploding poo moment on the way there – all the bush was too bushy to get into and dig a hole! Made it in time though. Phew. Came across a big roo in the middle of track, he just chilled. All the others who were going to stay at My Clare rocked up in town (I thought they might!) So I won’t be hiking alone out of Walpole. Sonja ended up helicoptered out of Woolbales  🙁  and sent to Bunbury hospital for assessment. Very sad. Peter left a note for us at the Visitor’s centre, they bequeathed their resupply boxes to us! Little bit excited – even though profiting from their bad fortune. Free food is free food, after all!

Have done washing, shower, food…Don’t know what to do with myself! Sitting around in the sun! It’s very mood boosting. More rain is coming but will enjoy sun while it lasts. Going out for dinner with current gang, which includes 3 March girls, Helle and Jerry. A motely crew.

The Bibbulmun: day thirty five – Dog Pool -> Mt Chance

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

2am – dreaming about tent leaking. In my dream, I wake up to a pool of water and my sleeping bag is wet. I don’t freak out because I think to myself that I can just ask the roof contractor tradies to turn their cars on and I can use the car heater to dry my baggie. Then, an actual drip on face. Dream real. Well, luckily not totally real. Tent is leaking but not full pool and sleeping bag not too wet.

A quiz: when there’s no hut and it’s 2am and raining and your tent starts leaking onto your face, do you:

a) cry yourself back to sleep in despair and pretend it’s not happening,

b) pack up in the dark go sit in the only dry place around with no hut – the portaloo – and try to sleep sitting upright,

c) pack up and start hiking in the dark and the rain, it’s only 20km to the next hut,

d) stay up for the next few hours until it’s light dozing/mopping up the puddles intermittently or,

e) fire off your PLB and get the fuck outta there.

I chose D.

Packed and left camp by 5:45. Walked pretty fast and in hut by 10. Passed the time composing an email to the guy who made my tent, and thinking up bitchy sarcastic comments to add (‘Did I forget to tell you I wanted a water proof tent? must have been my mistake’). Sun out when arrived here, phone reception on top of hill. While walking, thinking about after yesterday’s walk I felt Bibb was pushing me to my limits. Then leak happened. Even more to limit. And yet, I feel kind of ok. Like, yeah, it sucks, but what are you going to do? Stop? Today my sense is that I’ve reached some place of acceptance within myself, like I’ve seen into my brain and it’s ok in there. Things are shit and I hate the long straight roads but I’m ok. I dealt with a 2 am leak. Although ashamed and annoyed and disappointed about it (I was so proud of my custom, locally made, ethical tent). I’ve got some tough.

I was also thinking about how to appreciate your life: go without. Without a shower for days, sleeping on the ground, eating only processed/preserved food, no shelter to stay dry, not having a towel, not having a choice of food, no running water, no hot water, no soap, no reception, no power…so many things (Transport! Fresh food! An abundance of food, and food choices! Heating! Lights! Beds! Towels! Clean clothes! Water! Shelter! Comfortable shoes! Ovens! Bikes! Internet!) we have and just take utterly for granted.

Saw three emus and tiny turtle (tortoise?) long neck I think, on the plains. Also had much to be grateful for – drip on face woke me up before sleeping bag got too wet, there were some moments of sun throughout the day, I went to bed at 7 last night so had at least a few hours sleep before the leak happened, it stopped raining while I packed up the tent, I saw 3 emus, today was only 20km and there is a HUT here – imagine if rain night happened at Gardner and then had to do it again at Dog Pool? Meeting Dad for gas and sandwich and cake tomorrow at Broke Inlet road, looking foward to it.

….

The 2 March girls arrived here, and Jerry, Helle, Peter and Sonja. Nice to have a gang of happy sociable people. Feel quite rested after being here all day (after getting in at 10am). Pingerup plains were cool, distractingly, cold water was actually quite nice on sore feet, and flowers were lovely. More wading tomorrow, then back to hills. Thunder and hail this arvo – SO pleased and grateful to be in hut, makes this experience 1000x better. Would be miserable without. Peter going back about 2km for Sonja’s lost pack cover because her feet are sore. What a partner.

The Bibbulmun: day twenty two – REST DAY! Balingup

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Resty rest, big brekkie of THE MOST amazing rye sourdough, eggs, left over roast veg from last night. ‘Lunch’ at Lady Marmalade in Kirup – consisting of lemon meringue cake, coffee, almond croissant. BEST. Dinner at Greenbushes ‘exchange hotel’. Sunday roast – with Clare and Lyn (from the March Girls). Basically just the most amazing food in this tiniest of towns – Balingup is so little there’s literally no where open for dinner. You have to drive to the next town to find somewhere to eat.

**Note: I am still craving the taste of that rye sourdough. Also I looked up the lemon meringue cake recipe when I got home and I’ve made it several times. It’s the best.

The Bibbulmun: day ten – Chadoora -> Dwellingup

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Today got up early (5:45am) and went about leaving camp early. Although I took the time to have HOT porridge for once, as a treat, as I was coming into TOWN and would be able to restock gas. Made a little bragging comment about how I had gas to burn now, and then Mr Deer commented to a fellow hiker who was based in Dwellingup ‘Can you buy gas in town?’. WTF. What if there’s no gas?

Was a beautiful 20km into Dwell. Arrived in town about 12 noon – went to post office first thing and got rid of my boots (finally. Posted them to mum and dad) then to the Blue Wren café – had steak burger with chips and soy latte (Bonsoy! So hip!). Very soon after had to poop real bad – tired of upset tummy. It was ok the last couple of days but obviously couldn’t deal with real food or coffee. An old guy in the café saw me sitting at the table alone, with my pack, and started a conversation. He asked if I was doing the Bibb and told me about when he did it with his wife. He tried to buy me a coffee but I’d just shit so much I felt sick and had to decline. Disappointing. Hard to turn down a free coffee. Also he was nice.

Went home to my accommodation for the night, at Lisa’s, dropped my back and went back into town – I went past Mr Deer and Michael and John – Mr Deer carrying my pink scrap of material which was acting as my towel, which I’d left hanging up to dry in the hut :/ He had it tied to the outside of a bag, as he knew it was mine but wasn’t sure if it was my ‘pee rag’. I assured him it wasn’t. Although nice of him to collect it for me if he thought there was a chance that it was covered in wee. I said, ‘what am I going to do when you and Eddie are not walking behind me picking up my trail of stuff I leave behind??’

Asked for gas at the IGA – the guy tells me it’s usually in stock but today happens to be a late delivery. Tiny towns. Sigh. Went to the post office/camping shop, no, they don’t carry that type of gas. Never have. (Said in a more aggressive manner than necessary, in  my opinion!). Back to Lisa’s for a shower, washed my clothes (borrowed some of her son’s clothes while they dried), had an afternoon lie down in a real bed. Very nice. She had left out a towel and small soap etc on the bed for me. So thoughtful.

She made beautiful fresh vegan food and we talked, and drank tea. Feeling sick every time I ate food though – reaction to eating real food again or just upset tummy being even more upset? Either way is draining. Went to bed quite late what with all the eating (even though felt sick, had to fill up on beautiful raw carrot cake while it’s available) and talking. Was nice to be comfortable and warm and fed. What luxuries we have in our normal lives!

Go without (just for a bit)

One of the great things about doing something like a long distance hike is the in-your-face realization of how much stuff we have in our day to day lives that we take for granted, and how little we actually need to be satisfied. While I was walking, I sometimes made lists about all the things that I didn’t have but that I didn’t really notice I had in my other life, in the city.

I came to the conclusion that it is really good for humans to spend some time experiencing deprivation of some sort, partly to appreciate the abundance of things we have here in the western world, but also just to remind ourselves that we’re actually quite tough and can get on quite well with much less than we’re used to. You can do hard things.

Spend a week without taking a shower, to appreciate hot running water.

Spend a week walking every. single. place. you go, to appreciate cars and bikes and public transport.

Spend a week carrying all the clothes you wear, to appreciate cupboards and draws and houses to store things in.

Spend a week drying yourself with a scrap of thin cotton the size of three hankies, to appreciate having a towel.

Spend a week carrying an extra 12kg around, to appreciate walking carrying just a phone and keys.

Spend a week with not-quite-enough blankets on to appreciate being warm at night.

Spend a week not talking to anyone during the day so you can appreciate company.

Spend a week without sitting on the couch so you can appreciate the ease and comfort of a soft place to sit.

Spend a week eating only dehydrated food to appreciate fresh fruit and veg and meat.

Spend a week sleeping on the floor to appreciate a mattress.

Spend a week sleeping inside a sleeping bag to appreciate being able to stretch out while you sleep.

Spend a week with doors and windows open constantly to appreciate being in a wind-free house.

Spend a week without coffee to appreciate your daily brew.

My challenge to you is to spend some time without at least one of the things on the list (it doesn’t have to be a whole week). It’s unlikely to be particularly pleasant. It is likely to be uncomfortable. But you know what? You can do it. And you might find it’s empowering to discover that you can actually survive without some things you’re used to. Plus, you get the bonus of getting to really appreciate whatever it is you go without when you get back to it, instead of just taking it for granted.

what it’s like to live in a depressed mind

Sometimes there’s doom in my mind

Doom, death and destruction. There’s an air of hopelessness, of grey. My mind points out all the things that are wrong with me, that are wrong with the world. The terror, the death, the injustices and the atrocities that occur daily. It’s fucking depressing in here. How is a person meant to thrive with this going on inside their head, all day every day? When the one who you rely on to advise you, advises you that the world is shit, that you are shit, that it’s all fucked? Sometimes it feels like it’s not worth living when living feels like this.

But.

My mind is also the opposite.

It’s also the place of light and love. It’s the place that keeps trying, keeps offering me new solutions about what might work to make me feel better. It keeps driving my body to get outside and exercise, even when I feel so so tired, tired to my bones. It’s my mind who offers me gems like this little thought –> maybe it’s the world that’s fucked, and depression is a natural, normal response to that. Maybe I’m the ‘normal’ one to feel down about all these things!
My mind can interact with other people I let inside my bubble in these moments, and connect with them on a level so deep that many never make it there. My mind points out that it’s my depression that creates this connection. That and the other person in the interactions’ own brand of fuckedupness.

It’s my mind that tells me that perhaps if I read a book I’ll feel better. It’s my mind that encourages me to cuddle my partner, and phone my mum. It’s my mind that points out that far from the idea that my depression makes me a crap phoney in my profession (movement for mental health and wellbeing) it is actually the greatest gift I can offer the people I work with. I’ve been there. I am there. I get it.

inside-my-depressed-mind

And it’s my mind that reminds me I can offer hope.

Not the hope of a cure, I’m not touting ‘do what I do and you can be like me, cured!’ but rather, hope of a life worth living.

When I’ve been depressed is when I’ve been able to write my most connecting pieces of writing. The pieces that other people connect with, because they’ve been there too. The pieces that talk about grey, about disconnect and overwhelm. About the lack of colour and vibrance in a life. About the drag, the constant drag, where getting through a day feels like wading through honey. All while you plaster a smile on your face, for the moments when you have to make eye contact with people who, if you’re not careful, might see what’s happening behind your eyes. Because what would happen if they did? Society says you wouldn’t be respected at your job anymore. Your employer might find a reason to ‘let you go’. You might lose a perception of capability. People might think you are weak, selfish. Or wallowing in your own self-pity.

You know what though? When I tell people I am feeling depressed, or when I talk about how I’ve felt depressed in the past, the most common thing that comes up?

“Me too.”

It gives people the safety and permission to bare their own soul. It provides a space where they know they won’t be judged. It lets people just be, whoever they are, at their core.

I’m in this profession because I care, and because I’ve been there.

Because I have experienced, in my own mind, my own viscera, the difference it can make. The way movement opens us up to emotions we’ve been holding in. The way muscles clenching and relaxing bursts energy rushing through our veins. The way breath and movement in synch creates the space for us to just be, a blessed relief from the pounding, repetitive thoughts that are so often around at the moment.

I thank my mind for the hope and love and support it gives me, and equally for the depths it’s taken me to, for the connection it’s led to. If it’s anything, this life is a crazy adventure.

Has your fuckupness ever led to a deeper connection? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. xx