Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The End and The Next Adventure Begins!

I woke up the morning after I finished Life's a Beach Walk and thought to myself, "Now what?"

In all honesty I felt like going for a walk. I wouldn't mind keeping on heading south except for the cold or I could turn around and go back to Byron where I started, revisiting the places I enjoyed the most on the trip. The journeys we take in life often have a circular motion, ending Life's a Beach Walk where my journey with ME/CFS began was more significant than I realised when I planned it that way. And now, day one of my next journey begins here, where my beach walk has ended.

I've been asked where was my favourite place on the trip but narrowing it down is difficult, I have a lot of "favourite" spots! The easiest way to sum up my favourites is to repeat the titles of five National Parks which have become for me evocative words;

Yuraygir, Hat Head, Crowdy Bay, Booti Booti, Myall Lakes.

Correspondingly, the days I walked in these places are my highlights of the trip because of the scenic beauty and isolation.

Day 16 - Brooms Head to Illaroo Camp Ground

Day 18 - Wooli to Freshwater Beach

Day 41 - Trial Bay to South Smoky Beach

Day 53 - Diamond Head to Crowdy Head

Day 59 - Cape Hawke to Elizabeth Beach m=1

Day 64 & 65 - Yagon to Hawkes Nest

I've also been asked a few times to pick what was my "favourite" beach. This is so difficult! I have quickly added up how many beaches I walked on which is actually tricky. Sometimes the coast is an almost continuous stretch of sand with some rocks every now and then, is that counted as one beach or ten beaches? I've counted it as one. Also, there are pebbly nooks and sandy crannies, do I count them? I counted the ones I remember. So the approximate number I came up with is 199 beaches. But, I'm going to walk around to Shelly Beach today from Manly which I missed yesterday so let's call it 200! I've narrowed the short list of my "favourite" beach down from 200 to 27 beaches. I'll keep working on it......

My plan for the next few months is to write a longer account of Life's a Beach Walk and maybe turn it into a book to continue my small contribution to raising awareness of ME/CFS. There is a lot of work which still needs to be done. Something I learnt over the course of this trip is that the empathy and understanding of ME/CFS in the general public has increased over the years since I was sick but that the funds which governments put into research and support of the ill with ME/CFS is insufficient. I've also learnt that there are many wonderful people working for better understanding of the disease, many of them sick themselves, and that the network of ME/CFS advocacy is strong. Some of them have helped me along the way and I am grateful for their guidance and support over the last three months.
One of the most moving and meaningful things that has happened over the course of Life's a Beach Walk is reconnecting with and meeting new people who currently suffer from ME/CFS. Hearing their stories full of frustration, courage and persistence helped me to remember what life with a severe chronic illness was like. Ultimately doing this walk for ME/CFS awareness helped me to be more aware of my own experience and of the issues which persist for people living with the disease.

ME/CFS Australia's website is a marvellous resource.

Most significant for me was having access to the accepted diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS. Reading this document was like seeing my own experience described in detail. The diagnostic criteria not only helps people with the disease understand their own experience but importantly gives continuity in medical circles and in ME/CFS research. ME/CFS Australia and the state societies are working to educate GP's of the diagnostic criteria to improve the experience of people newly ill with the disease.

The issue of defining severity within the diagnosis of ME/CFS was raised by media coverage I received over the course of this walk. It is little understood in the general public that ME/CFS varies from moderate symptoms through severe illness to critical disease which is life threatening. A percentage of people with ME/CFS suffer from life threatening symptoms. My illness was incorrectly described as life threatening but I was not at any stage critically ill. I did have severe symptoms and was bed bound for five years but my recovery should be seen in the true context of my experience. I have written my story "ME/CFS and me" which can be accessed on the tab above.

The Alison Hunter Memorial Fund addresses the issue of severity and works to increase the understanding of the disease across the full spectrum of the illness. The website is a good reference for understanding critical ME/CFS including multiple links to stories of critically ill people.

Another issue raised by my experience with media on this walk is one many people with ME/CFS have had to deal with, the invisibility of the illness from the outside and peoples judgement of them because of this. Providing photographic "evidence" of my illness for reprint was nigh impossible and dealing with the old judgements was almost as disturbing now as it was back then. The refrain 'You don't look very sick' repeated by misinformed people can be crushing to people suffering illness and increases their isolation. This issue is not specific to ME/CFS but happens to many people with chronic illness.

The online resource of Christine Miserandino is a good place to have a laugh and gain support.

I attempted to encourage the media I interacted with to represent ME/CFS accurately in all of its complexity, with moderate success. Hopefully coverage of a good news story on ME/CFS in a variety of mainstream media has helped people to link to ME/CFS Australia and find support. And hopefully my story has given people with ME/CFS some hope. Ultimately I believe the more that ME/CFS is talked about the better the outcomes for people will be.

Lastly, if in some strange way having someone do what they love by going for a long walk on the beach helps increase understanding of ME/CFS then I'll put my hand up to do it again!

My life is a beach, I like it that way.

Rachel Klyve, June 2012.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Day 92 - Collaroy to Manly

Life's a Beach Walk finished in the rain on Manly Beach today with a marvellous group of friends, family and ME/CFS sufferers and advocates.

Huge big thanks to everyone that braved the weather to join me and make today so memorable. And thanks to everyone else who has helped and supported me along the way.

The total distance covered in the last three months is 786 kilometers. A good long walk!

I'm short on words tonight after what has been a marvellous and eventful day, the photos tell the story well. It's time now for rest and to dry out my pruney feet!  

The End, for now........

Collaroy to Manly - 10 kilometers

Life's a Beach Walk Grand Total - 786 kilometers

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Day 64 & 65 - Yagon to Mungo Brush to Hawks Nest

Last night at Yagon was the coldest I've had on this trip, I woke up shivering in the early hours and struggled to get warm again. The skies were crystal clear, the dew heavy and the condensation on the inside of my tent was running in rivulets. I must have fallen back to sleep again before dawn because I woke again with the sun shining and when I stuck my head out of my tent I was surprised to see the campground entirely vacated.

I got up and started to pack and a pair of dingos trotted past like they owned the place. They ignored me completely as they did the rounds of the vacated sites. They were in marvellous condition, strong, glossy and well fed. The female had white socks on her fore feet and a white tip to her thick tail which she held aloft unlike any dog breed. The male dingo finally looked my way when to attract his attention I squeeked at him from a distance. He paused for a split second, gazed at me briefly, then continued on his path up the dunes and away. I have never seen wild dingos up close before, this pair were magnificent animals but I'd prefer to see wallabies and roos relaxing about the place but here at Yagon there were none.

I set off then on my two day odyssey south along the beach to Hawks Nest, forty five odd kilometers away. I had my pack laden down with my ration of water and food and the question mark over Big Gibber on my mind.

The quality of the light over these two days turned out to be like two sides of a silver coin, one dulled and tarnished, the other polished to a blinding shimmer. Today was the dull day, soft and rounded. Good walking weather. All colour was bleached from both the land and the sea and their edges merged in shades of grey. The only colours I did see were the flash of scarlet on the beak and feet of the Silver Gulls as they periodically flew by me and a blob of vibrant purple from another of those strange unidentified jellyfish. Today's jellyfish was twice as big as the one I saw at Racecourse and was in better condition with a thick tangle of tentacles still attached to its underside. The vividness of its purple bulk intensified by the subtle hues all around it.

I reached the much anticipated Big Gibber a few hours after the mornings high tide. I sat on the rocks eating a lunch of cheese, corn chips and fruit and surveyed the situation. Big Gibber was barely a headland, more a series of tall steep knolls made of a layered conglomerate rock which had been fractured and weathered to resemble the ancient pagodas of Cambodia or Thailand. I could almost imagine the faces of smiling Buddhas carved into the textured surface.

As I sat and watched the sea come and go I discovered that getting past the big issue of the Big Gibber was going to be a big anticlimax! I didn't even have to take my shoes off and only had a small amount of rock climbing to do to get past. With respect though I could see that in different sand conditions and a big swell that this spot could be dangerous, but, I got lucky. I scrambled over the rocks happy to be able to do so and headed for the beach again.

Just beyond the Big Gibber I came upon what turned out to be the only people I saw that day, a fisherman and a boy. The boy was up on one of the knolls, we waved at one another. The fisherman, like fisherman everywhere, didn't take his eyes from the ocean, but as I passed by he said over his shoulder, "Long walk...." and I said "Yep" without breaking my stride down the grey beach.

There was a further 10 km of beautiful solitary walking until I turned off the beach at the 4wd exit. I crossed the empty road to get to Mungo Brush campground where I pitched my tent for the night. I made lentil soup and ate it with leftover corn chips as the sun started to sink over the Bombah Broadwater. Sitting on a big old Tea Tree branch which dipped into the tannin waters I watched and listened to the creatures ending their day, five Black Swan warbled their bugling calls across the still lake, three Little Black Cormorants bathed vigorously in the shallows, two Black Ducks paddled about asking for bread but refusing my corn chips and one Sea Eagle flew high above the lake like a giant butterfly on an updraft. A good day!

The following morning brought a flip of the coin to land a scrubbed and polished day with a sparkle so bright that it actually hurt my eyes! I set off early on the 23 kilometers along Mungo Beach toward Broughton Island and Hawks Nest. It was sheer delight to walk this shimmering coast!

The turquoise waters rolled into perfect tubes surfed only by the Gannets using the air pressure to help power their take off after a dive. I followed the tracks of three dingos along the base of the dunes for several kilometers and could see how they had run and leapt along the high tide mark looking for an easy feed of exhausted Shearwaters. The strewn feathers and concentrated footprints evidence of their success.

Each beach rolled into the next as Hawks Nest drew nearer with 228 meter Yacaaba hill marking its position. This mountainous sentinel acted as a beacon of distance, enlarging as I made my way south. After about 5 hours of walking I was in the shadow of Yacaaba and out of drinking water. I made my way through Hawks Nest to Jimmy's Beach. Sarah at the Holiday Park there gave me a nice discount and I set up my nest for the night.

I was in bed by dusk, tired, but glowing with the beauty of the day and feeling satisfied to have stuck to the beach the whole way through Myall Lakes.

Yagon to Hawks Nest - 43 km

Life's A Beach Walk total - 593 km

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Day 59 - Cape Hawke to Elizabeth Beach

Back on the road again this morning......I caught a taxi from Forster town center to take me along the route I walked yesterday to the intersection of The Lakes Way and Cape Hawke Drive. It felt odd being in a car but I didn't want to walk that section of road again and there wasn't a bus going when I wanted it. The taxi driver was chatty, I asked him for his thoughts on Forster, he said "it's heaven's waiting room!" He was no spring chicken himself and looked like he was getting ready to queue up. He said business was tough because there were too many taxis on the road in Forster, seven during the day, and not enough work to go around. That ratio makes for good service though, when I called for a taxi I waited less than a minute for not one but two cars to turn up.

I had three or four kilometers to walk on The Lakes Way before I could turn off onto the gravel road that cuts through to the beach. The speed limit on this stretch was 100 km/h and the road verge was small and thick with weeds. Not the most fun 45 minutes I've had on this trip! The looks on the faces of the drivers as they sped by me seemed to say "What are you doing you nut case, get off the road!" I tried to counter this by arranging my face into a look that said something like "Hey, slow down, fill your case with nuts and come to the beach!" In the end though I had so much debris blow into my face that when a car passed I turned my head away grimly.

I was very happy to see the gravel "escape" road leading east to the beach. I don't know if it was just the contrast but Seven Mile Beach looked like the most beautiful beach I've ever seen! The sand here is white with an extra shimmer of something silver in it which makes the clear waters radiant colours of turquoise and aqua and ultramarine. I wandered onto the beach with my shoes off and noticed something odd about the was blank, faultless, there were no footprints on it, none at all, on the entire beach as far as I could see! I've walked on a lot of beaches these two months with no people and few footprints but because the overnight tide here was a high one it cleared Seven Mile like a massive etch-a-sketch. There were no animal tracks either, until I showed up.

Seven Mile Beach is part of Booti Booti National Park which is the traditional home of the Gathang people. For them Booti Booti apparently means "lots of honey". I love this, I think it should be adopted into English, ie, "What would you like on your toast, sweetheart?" "Booti Booti please!"

To get around to the next beach, Elizabeth Beach, there is a wonderful track which winds its way around Booti Hill. The forest here is like a fairy glen, with all types of palms and ferns, bonsai trees and lichen encrusted rocks. Every growing thing has been trained and twisted by the sea winds into curlicues and arches with an oblique stunted canopy. I needed Nath with me to identify most of the trees but I could recognise one of them, the Brush Box, by its smooth salmon bark with a rough base and big glossy leaves. In inland forests the Brush Box is a tall and elegant tree but here by the sea its form is entirely altered. The tree's natural urge for upward growth to the sun is challenged by the forces of the prevailing winds resulting in a flowing tangle of branches much like seaweed or hair in a current of water. Even on a still day the trees form is sculptured evidence of the irresistible power of the ocean.

The Booti track led down onto Elizabeth Beach, another gem. I made my way to the caravan park and was given my first ever "single" discount on the price of a site for the night!

Cape Hawke to Elizabeth Beach - 16 km

Lifesabeachwalk total - 529 km

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Day 53 - Diamond Head to Crowdy Head

Last night was the coldest I've had on the trip, I had my sleeping bag zipped up and the hood pulled down well over my head. The morning remained chilled. I contemplated going for another surf but we had a big days walk ahead of us so we headed off early. We left the Diamond Head walk-in campground via the office to pay for the nights site and met Al the campground manager. Al was another of the many kindly souls I've met who said he thought I was nuts but waived the camp fees with rueful smiles and wished us well.
What a day it turned out to be!

Mikey and I had some of the most spectacular scenery of the trip walking over Diamond Head to Indian Head then down to Kylie's Beach. The headland is over 100 meters at its highest and has some very spectacular cliffs plummeting into the sea. We had our last look north at the sweeping curve of Dunbogan Beach and North Brother cradling it. Then we had our first look at the far distant hills above Forster. Between us and Foster was several days of beach walking including the longest single beach so far, Kylie's Beach running 18km to Crowdy Head.

We walked down a steep ridge from the height of Diamond Head to one of the natural rock arches. There was a surging swell creating water spouts through the rock. A strong south westerly wind added to the excitement and the salt spray.

We headed then down the path made by the hang glider flyers to get back up the cliff from Kylie's Beach. Kylie Tennant was a prolific author and journalist who spent a lot of time exploring this area in the 1940's. She wrote a book called The Man on the Headland inspired by the then owner of the land Ernie Metcalfe. Almost everything on the southern side of the headland is named after her including the long beach to Crowdy Head.

In the photo of Kylie's Beach above you can see Crowdy Head dimly in the upper left corner, a long walk. We set off as the tide was still rising but conceded pretty quickly to the soft sinking sand. We sat at the back of the beach out of the wind and cooked lunch on our metho burner and waited for the tide to turn. We had not just lentils but for entree we fried holummi cheese, the best haloumi I've ever had!

It took us a good many hours to inch our way toward Crowdy Head but the distance gave us time to sink into a rhythm and a quiet ease. We camped in the national park campground a couple of kilometers from Crowdy Head. Tired but satisfied!

Diamond Head to Crowdy Head - 20 km

Lifesabeachwalk total - 464km

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Day 41 - Trial Bay to South Smoky Beach

We were up early this morning and made our way through Arakoon Park to Little Bay and on into Hat Head National Park traversing the Smoky Cape Range. It's novel for me to have someone to take photos of and to have photos taken of me, so I was more snap happy even than usual.

We chose this section of the walk for Nathan to join me because it is mountainous and richly forested, Nathan's favourite things. This was great for me because Nath was happy to carry more than half the water up the hills and pointed out many interesting facts about the plant communities along the way. The most amazing thing was seeing delicate tree ferns and staghorns on easterly facing slopes with the wide blue ocean in full view. How these rainforest plants cope with the salt spray is a mystery. It might have been the height of the mountain we were climbing that protected them, Little Smoky mountain is 200 meters above sea level and we were well over half way up at that point.

We also walked past this amazing Grass Tree, in the photo above, with 7 active branches and two broken ones. These trees grow incredibly slowly so this one must be hundreds of years old if not thousands. Strangely enough with all this lushness there were almost no birds. It wasn't until we were back in the heath that we heard many birds again.
We had an option at one point to save ourselves some effort and skip Gap Beach, but, it was calling to us and we couldn't resist. The beach is fringed with tall Bangalow Palm groves and the beach itself is a gem. Neither of us were sorry we made the effort and a swim in the warm waters revived us for the 100 meters return climb straight up the mountain.

We then followed a path along the contour of 311 meter Big Smoky. It was a very narrow path that in many places has been cut out of rock with precipitous slopes above and below. It looked like it had been made in a generation less concerned with OH&S and may have been more handywork of the convicts and interns of Trial Bay. In one section Nath noticed all the large Blackbutt Eucalypts were dead and saplings he guessed to be a decade old were thick around the bases of the old tree carcasses. We found out later that a major fire occurred here in 2001.

The convict path brought us to Smoky Cape and the highest lighthouse in NSW. Smoky Cape was named by Captain Cook as he passed by in 1770, the entry in his log reads ".....a point or headland on which were fires that caused a great quantity of smoke......". This may have been bushfire or probably fires of the Dunghutti people of the area for whom Big Smoky or Dhung Bandung is a sacred men's site of initiation. It's a small reminder of how the coast was well populated prior to the English moving in and how an entire people's existence was irrevocably altered.

Due to tricky light conditions I didn't take a single decent photo of it the lighthouse up close with my phone, just this one of Nath at the lighthouse base where we made lunch and the last photo looking north back to Smoky Cape from the beach below. So, I have to express in words how magical this spot is. Put it this way, I want to live here! The problem is the only house is already occupied by Pat and his wife (who's name I didn't catch) who run the Lighthouse B&B and cottage accommodation. There's a running joke that the males here do the light-house work and the females do the heavy-house work. Pat didn't seem to think that tradition was continuing now the lighthouse is automated. Pat generously let us fill our water bottles from the tank and took us on a guided tour, very nice it all is too! With magnificent views north to little crescent beaches and Green Island and south along the long curve of shoreline to Hat Head. Pat says the storms here are spectacular, I can imagine! We'll be back for a visit soon at the very least.

Nath and I made our way then down the road to South Smoky Beach where we camped in the dunes, well before dark!

Trial Bay to South Smoky Beach - 12km

Lifesabeachwalk total - 328km

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Day 18 - Wooli to Freshwater Beach

It rained again last night and was drizzling this morning as I packed up my tent and stuffed it soggily into it's bag. I had arranged yesterday with the local boat hire business to get a lift across to the other side of the Wooli Wooli River, another deep water crossing I didn't care to swim. Bruce agreed to pick me up from the park which was a way out of town in the morning.

I can see now how the confusion me romantic but when Bruce said "meet me out the front of the park at 9 am" my brain heard "meet me out the front of the RIVER at 9am". Which is where I was, eagerly awaiting my much anticipated boat trip up the river to the mouth. At quarter past 9 I thought I'd better find a spot of phone reception and give him a call. He had been out "the front" on the road......he wasn't very happy and didn't think my explanation was cute! The lovely girls from the Solitary Islands Park drove me into town to meet up with Bruce and his boat (this wasn't cheating because I'd already walked this bit). Bruce did then get me to the other side of the river, all without cracking a smile!

The tide was high and just on the turn as we came across the river which ment that I had to bide my time to make it further south as the tide made her way out.

This section of Yuraygir National Park is some of the most isolated country on the NSW coast. Lots of people have called me brave for doing this walk and for the first time I felt it! Immediately south of the river the path runs along a short beach then onto the rock shelf and cliff base for several kilometers. It really was wild and rugged country; contorted and folded rock layers of blue grey and oxidised reds with jagged stripes of crystalized history.

I made a recording of the lapping surf at the first obstacle I came to, a large she oak which had fallen across the pebbly beach and was tangled up with weed and water (good luck playing this file, let me know if it works, I'll do more). As the tide retreated I moved on.

At the next obstacle, a series of steep rock faces with rock pools at their base currently inundated, I hung my wet tent out to dry in a tree growing from the rock face and waited.........All this waiting for tides and basically living my life in rhythm with the tides got me wondering about what exactly tide is.

I knew that the moon's gravitational pull had something to do with it but thinking about it I  couldn't figure out why there were two highs and two lows in each day. I thought the moon would suck the oceans towards itself when they were nearest making a high tide, and leave a consequent low tide on the opposite side of the globe. But it's much more awesome than that.

So, according to Professor Google I was correct that as the moon circles the earth it's gravitational pull makes the oceans beneath it bulge towards it causing a high tide. But, at the same time the same gravitational pull affects the earth itself so that on the side of the earth opposite the moon there is also a high tide because the earth itself moves toward the moon and away from the oceans relatively speaking plus inertia keeps the ocean from following. The low tides are the two sides of the earth in between these highs that have had the waters sucked away from them. Because the earth is round this is a sliding motion never static. I don't admit to totally grasping these concepts but the part of my brain which is bending around them feels good.

The next part of the earth moon dance is the daily cycle, the highs and lows don't happen at the same time each day, they get later each day by approximately an hour, why? It's because the earth rotates on it's own axis as the moon revolves around it, so it take the moon longer than 24 hours to get back to where it started, 24 hours and 52 minutes apparently! So there is 6 hours and 13 minutes between each extreme of tide, four times a day which slides the tides along. This is good by me because it means I get to walk on a low tide at all times of the day.

The sun gets to join the dance too and does so most strongly when the three celestial bodies are lined up. This triple whamy at full and new moon causes big "spring" tides twice a month. That's what caught me out at Evans Head! 

Apparently these gravitational effects happen in small bodies of water too, like lakes by a few centimeters and it's measurable in tea cups even. Makes me wonder what dance the moon is having with each of my watery body cells......salsa or ballet?

As my tent dried and I watched the moon slowly release her watery dance partner I saw some Sooty Oystercatches up ahead. These rock shelves are perfect Sooty Oystercatcher territory. I find these pitch black birds very difficult to take photos of because they blend into their rocky environment so well and are even more timid than their pied cousins, so I was delighted when I got this fabulous shot! Unlike the Pied Oystercatches who live on beaches the Sooty Oystercatches live on rock shelves and have no where to run and hide when intimidated. They adopt a different strategy. When they see me coming they sneak behind a rock and hide, which would work perfectly except that the whole time they repeatedly make their piercing whistled calls. It kind of spoils the tactic!

After several hours of slow contemplation and slow progress I made it across the last of the rock shelf and onto Freshwater Beach. A more beautiful and wild beach I've never seen.

Day 16 - Brooms Head to Illaroo Camp Ground

I woke up late this morning to a blue day and a slightly reduced wind. Today was to be the first of the river crossings I'll need to hitch a ride across or swim, the Sandon River. Sandon is a beautiful 8km walk away along Brooms Head Back Beach to The Breakaway. The low tide today was at 3pm and to make the river crossing safest I'd wait till the river was low and slack, so I had a leisurely start to the day.

Wide sand and blue sky, perfect! It was good to be walking again! Just as I made it to Sandon a 4WD roared up beside me and stopped on the beach. A man thrust a torch out the window and said "You forgot this!"

It was Darren the Brooms Head Caravan Park manager who had just driven the 8kms along the beach from Brooms Head to bring me a torch which he assumed I'd left behind! Now that's service! Either that or he just wanted any excuse to go down to the beach! It made me grin from ear to ear either way especially because the torch wasn't even mine. I'd found it under the bed where I was looking for my sunglasses, which have a nasty habit of trying to escape, and left it on the bench but forgot to tell Danielle that I'd found it. Darren tried to give it to me anyway but it weighed a ton so was no use to me, I was mightily touched by their thoughtfulness though. Good people!

As I got to the river boat ramp I scouted out the potential for lifts to the other side. There wasn't a single boat on the river which was running out fast, pushed along even faster by the wind which was now being channeled along the river at a fine rate!

At this point I met a succession of people, all strangers to one another, who came together and triggered a series of events that not only got me across the river but that also gladdened my heart with the goodness of humanity, made me contemplate the transformative nature of pilgrimage and illness, taught me a bit about patience and the power of thought, gave me a few good laughs, some cold fresh fruit and a spring in my step for the next leg. My heartfelt thanks to Paul, Simone, Jane and their friends for a magical couple of hours. An extra big thanks to Paul for having a unique soul, the will to help out and a fishing kayak!

Safely across the Sandon River I continued south on the Sandon Back Beach. It seems all the most beautiful beaches are unnamed and get called "Back Beach". This one was no exception, wide hard sand with a roaring powerful ocean pounding the shore and sea creatures abounding.

Coming into Illaroo campground in the afternoon the wind picked up again and the gusts blasted my legs from underneath me as I took each step. The sea eagles were unperturbed, one bird was hovering almost motionless in the wind just above the dunes. An eagle hovering, what a sight! But it felt good to get to the shelter of the campground and get out of the wind!

One of the things people, usually women, often ask me when they realise I'm walking on my own is, "don't you get scared?" The honest answer to this question is, sometimes......

The way I deal with it is to be organised, realistic, cautious and systematic. I always know my tide times and I know what to expect with the terrain from topographic maps. I don't walk at night and I'm careful where I put my feet!  When I get to a new campsite I wander around and check it out, looking for a warm friendly couple or family to camp near, introduce myself and set up camp, then I sleep soundly. This night I met and camped near Dianne and Ken, a lovely couple who took good care of me. I've never failed to find warm people with a welcoming smile and interest in what I'm doing. Being out in the world the way I am right now reaffirms that there are good people everywhere you go!

Sometimes anxious thoughts come into my head, I just accept them and keep going, they always pass. Very occasionally I get a "funny" feeling, I trust it and move on. The only fright I've had on this trip was this night at Illaroo when I had an invader in my tent! As I lay drifting off to sleep I felt something run across my arm and back, it was a mouse that had chewed a hole through my tent and helped itself to my dried fruit! Little bugger!

Today was a glorious day full of amazing places and wonderful people, I feel so alive and grateful that I'm well enough to have this experience.