Sunday, May 11, 2008

I Finish This Trip

May 6th 2008

I Finish This Trip

I have been home for two weeks at my Albuquerque home with my parents as we wait for my younger brother Douglas to graduate. I have not spent much time at home over the past few years and despite missing my home in Seattle, it is energizing to spend time with my family. There is nothing quite like having those you love pick you up at the airport. It does not matter if you have been gone a weekend, three and a half months, or a year. My brother and Mom were waiting, and as is our custom when I come home, we headed to the Frontier restaurant. This diner-like egalitarian institution across from the University of New Mexico serves New Mexican green chili on just about everything - a taste I can find no where else, and crave mightily when I travel.

This past weekend I drove down to visit my family in the southen half of the state in Las Cruces. It was here where I realized that this particular trip now ended for me. It was where it began. If you have been following this blog the whole time, you will know my grandfather died on December 30th 2007. He had been sick over Christmas and that was my last physical memory of him. I had planned on heading out to Australia earlier in that week, but there was no way I would not come to Las Cruces with the rest of my family to pay our last respects. We did so on Picacho Peak, the well-shaped mountain behind his and my grandmother’s house. We all climbed the 1000ft peak, even my grandmother. On the summit we scattered his ashes, and drank red wine in his honor. A hawk appeared, rode the thermals for nearly a minute, and flew off into the distance. Before I left I took his passport with me. It never left my side.

That was three and a half months ago. I knew that this trip and any subsequent trip to Las Cruces would involve climbing the Peak. My grandmother’s house sits on a ridge below the mountain. The house and those around it are xeroscaped into the desert surroundings and are in the adobe style typical of the area. I woke early to avoid the heat and snakes that would follow a later start. Besides, my grandmother was an early riser and I did not want to miss her classic pancakes she had promised me. Despite being among many deserts over the past few months, I was happy to be in the desert of my childhood. I love the smell of the gum trees, but the smell that rises to my nose when I crush the creosote between my fingers reminds me of a home I can never recapture. Like Australia's, this is a harsh landscape. The bright green leaves of the mesquite hide the inch long spikes. On the other hand, the slim fingers of the Ocatillo make no bones about the gauntlet of spikes that run from the base to the top ceasing only at the delicate clusters of bell-shaped flame-red flowers that crown it. I hiked through the sand, bathing in the rich smells of the Chihuahua Desert and thinking to myself what a good idea it was to have waited a little after dawn broke as the mountain was spectacular in the first rays of light. My route was directly up the mountain in a straight line. The rocks were slick against each other and I took my time so as not to fall on the abundant spiky things that grew around me. The mountain has two summits connected by a short ridge. My path took me to the shorter one. As I topped it, I looked out over the rolling fabric of shallow hills, the early shadows enunciated their shapes. The wind was light but it was enough at least for the hawk that greeted me. It looked like the same hawk that greeted us after our toast to Grumpa Stan on January 5. Grumpa's passport was in my backpack. The hawk rode the thermals for several seconds and then leaned away from Picacho Peak until his molted brown wings disappeared into the landscape. I smiled and walked to the powder coated cross on top of the small cairn on the higher summit. I noticed with renewed interest the lime green lichen on the several of the rocks. Combined with the cross, it reminded me of the Wilson’s Prom cross and the equally spectacular orange lichen. I pulled out Grumpa's passport and looked at it. His eyes were bright and his head slightly cocked to the side with a smile. As with any long trip, what it ends up really meaning takes time. The morning sun was bright. This was a good place to finish.

I don’t really know how many people actually read this blog. If you got this far I truly hoped you enjoyed my observations and like to think that I could perhaps take you some place a little different for a few minutes every time you dropped in. This is by no means my last trip. If you want to keep informed of my next travels check My movements will be there. I also understand a few of my readers were not privy to the pictures I took. Those are avalable at

A quick thank you to my parents who checked the majority of my blogs and kept my website updated when I could not get to it. I could not have posted a blog a day (which was my goal) without them. Thank you for your time. Goodbye for now, and as a lovely woman I met in Darwin on one warm wet tropical downpour of a night said to me: "Enjoy Safe Travels."

-Jordan Hanssen

The Long Flight Home

April 22nd

The Long Flight Home.

I bid adieu to the Emmetts. Anthony dropped me at the airport. There is a chance I may see him later this summer. I know I will see Banksy, but the plans are not quite set. I find a lot of satisfaction in having friends in different countries and, in those countries, friends who travel. On the odd occasions they come through my neck of the woods, it's good and refreshing to repay the kindness shown as a traveler by being a good host. I find a guest in my house brings the same kind of energy I enjoy as a traveler.

I enjoyed one last well-crafted cappuccino; even at the airport it was good. I had an odd premonition I would soon be drinking a certain brand of crappy coffee that spends more on pithy aphorisms and inspirational quotes on their cups than on decent brewing techniques. Lucky for me, I now packed my mini-espresso machine from Melbourne.

I had psyched myself up for the painful 14-hour flight. I got a book about the ANZACs and was looking forward to free drinks on the international flights. After finding my seat well in the back of the plane, one of the stewards came up to me and asked if I was Mr. Hanssen. I replied I was, and he told me that they had been instructed to take very good care of me on this flight. Apparently a friend of mine, a certain stewardess I had met at the very start of my trip from Seattle to LA, had caught my flight number and called in a favor for me - of which I was eternally grateful. They asked me to discretely move myself up to the economy-plus seats where my legs enjoyed a luxurious six extra inches. In addition to that, the row they put me in was all to myself. During the flight they continued to ask me if I was being taken care of. For as many times they asked me, I really don’t know what else I could have asked for. The fact was that with all this room and ample drink service (didn’t even have to ask), I was cruising at 35,000 feet. I try not to sleep on a long-haul flight. I find that I would rather be tired the whole day that I land than deal with jet lag the next day. Usually I am uncomfortable enough to pull this off, but I managed a solid five hours stretched out in the most blissful sleep I have ever enjoyed on a plane.

Downtown coffee snobbing

April 21st

Downtown coffee snobbing

It was Monday, and Anthony had the interview downtown. With his new haircut he shined-up like a new penny and was certainly dressed to impress. As he got out of the car, he blended well with the other suited young professionals on their way to work - a huge change from the unshaven grimy companion from the Nullarbor. I caught a ride with him and his dad, squeezing my long frame into the small back of his BMW. I was heading back to the Di Croco to buy some gifts for my family. I figured I could do that while Anthony made his first impression to his potential employer. Heather was happy to see me again; I think she thought I might be coming back for the 650$AUD belly skin dress belt, and I no doubt disappointed her with my smaller purchases of leather clad pen, change purse and credit card wallet for my Father, Mother and Brother respectively.

Anthony’s father was quite keen to hear how his son faired and had us meet him at his local coffee shop below his office. It had an upscale counterculture feel to it. In the same breath incongruent and completely at home with the well-dressed businessmen who clearly favored its brew. Mr. Emmett treated us to a few cups of coffee as Anthony related how he thought he faired. I had two cappuccinos and looked happily at them as they were set down in front of me. The coffee and foam were mixed in such a way to create a remarkably smooth image of a heart with dark sprinkles of chocolate on top. In the cities at least, this was pretty typical of any coffee shop I went to. Coffee here is in the Italian tradition where it ceases to be a vehicle of caffeine and becomes a work of art. I am a firm believer that presentation makes food taste better, and thus really savored what I knew to be some of the last physically attractive cappuccinos I would have in a while. Even in Seattle, despite the heavy volume of coffee consumed per capita I have come across far too few baristas that really take the time to create a consumable work of art.
I listened to Anthony relate his story while silently lamenting my lot as a coffee snob and was pleased to hear that our three-week trip on the Nullarbor had made his resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Until Australia, I had never heard this term. It is clearly Latin and translates to the course of life. This sounds much more interesting than resume, and I added my lack of Latin knowledge to things I was lamenting about.

After giving his dad a report, (it was clear Mr. Emmett was very proud of him) we caught the bus back to Middle Harbor. I headed down to the Fish Camp to finish up my packing. That night was my last night out, and it was hard not to have high expectations. However, the reality was that it was a Monday night and despite the bustle of the restaurant that Anthony, Dave and I went to, the city was pretty dead. We headed to the Scubar, the local backpackers haunt. Even its small size (greatly enhanced by a wall-wide mirror) could not hide the fact that it was at about half its capacity. Despite this, the slimjim bouncer made us wait outside. Dave, in typical Aussie fashion, started taking the piss out of him, citing heavily the real lack of action around the place. Our bouncer gave us a nasty look and commented that "everyone’s a joker." I reserved a comment that if he were this grumpy on a dead Monday night that he might circulate his CV elsewhere to find a job that would complement his sensitive humors. If two nights ago stepped it up a notch, then this one stepped it down - no girls of particular note, or particular antics worth writing. The fact is that if you go out with too much of an expectation to find a good time, you are inevitably disappointed. Better plan to take that good time with you, thus where ever you end up, it ends up being a ball. It was good to spend the time with Anthony and great to spend one last night in the relaxing atmosphere of the Fish Camp, with all doors and windows open, and the Sydney breeze blowing over me.

Morning After

April 19th

Morning After

I awoke most pleasantly to the masts in the bay in front of the Fish Camp leaning back and forth in a light early morning breeze. I gave Anthony a text and asked him to join me at the Fish Camp for some coffee on the deck. He wandered down in a controlled stumble in a jumper (hoodie), asked for a cuppa tea, and lay down on the couch. I think we talked about some surpassingly complex world issues, but I really can’t be sure. At eleven the Manly Daily, the local paper, was sending someone to take some pictures. This came rather quickly, and Anthony and I made our way upstairs to meet him. Our bikes, now unloaded of their gear, just looked like road bikes and it was a stretch to make a suitably adventuresome looking picture. We told him we had a ton of great shots from the bush, but he did not seem convinced.

The rest of the day was a great effort at relaxation. Anthony had to rest up for another mate’s 21st Birthday party, and I was quite happy to stay at the house with Mr. and Mrs. Emmett. We had a great evening eating curry and drinking some of the Margaret River wines that I sent to them months before. I was even more pleased that they were as good as I remembered and that both Mr. and Mrs. Emmett liked them. It was refreshing to go to bed with nothing to do.

April 20th

More of the same

Today was more of the same - relaxing at the Emmett household, which, with its inclinator that served that garage, main house, pool and fish camp reminds me a whole lot of Fantasy Island. Anthony and I went to the mall. He had an interview the next day and needed a hair cut, and I needed my bike box. Our trip proved successful. That afternoon Anthony worked on his resume and prepped for the interview. I packed, watched some AFL (Australian Rules Football), and pulled an erg.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

April 18th

Peanut Butter Jelly Time.

High on the elation of my new purchase, I made my way back to Circular Quay to take the ferry to Manly Beach. It was cloudy and threatened of rain - as of late quite typical weather for Sydney. If I had not made my way through the country and seen the arid evidence, I would not have believed the country to be in a drought. Even on the grayest of days, Sydney Harbor is spectacular. No other harbor in the world has such recognizable character. I met a Canadian from Winnipeg who had been on the road for eight months, and chatting with her passed the time. After the ferry docked in Manly, I walked the 500 meters to the Pacific Ocean and stared out at the edge of the continent and thought briefly of Forrest Gump as he stared out over the oceans on either side of the US. I had no intention of turning around and heading back to Perth. I felt contacting Anthony for a ride and getting a fed was a much better idea. Anthony had just finished his exam and felt pretty average about it. However, he was done with mid-terms, and it really felt like it was going to turn into a night of celebrating endings. We went to his local with several of his friends, ate a meal, generally caught up with Anthony, Banks and Hamish (the guys from the fishing at the start of the trip). Turns out Banks will make it to Seattle this summer. I think we’ll have a good time. Most of the lads went home after this, leaving Anthony, Banks and I.

It was that point in every evening where you either head home or continue to go out. Having had a nice chunk of sleep the night before, a croc skin belt, and not yet having suitably celebrated the end of the trip, it was easy to predict my vote. Anthony and Banks were just as keen. We headed to the Rocks and a bar set inside one of the old stone buildings of the area. It was packed with the typical twenty-somethings of the city. Banks called some attractive American exchange students that he knew. I felt it strange my last few nights in Australia that I would hang out with the 7th and 8th yanks that I had met over the past three and a half months. Their names were Kelly and Courtney, and they were at the New School in Sydney; I think both for design. It was strange hearing the American accents. Banks and Anthony knew someone behind the bar, and we got our drinks for the reasonable price of free. This facilitated a night of dancing. Large, white men that we are, this went as well as you could expect. Later that evening we found real, but overpriced, American pancakes at a 24-hour pancake spot on the Rocks. I had crepes. It was a bad choice. Around the table, Banks and Anthony were the only Australians in a group of myself and the American exchange students. At this point in the trip, I really didn't feel like I was either.

Turns out that the cab's switch over around 3 or 4 in the morning, and this was about the time we all stumbled out of the pancake parlor. On our way to the cabs, Banks, Anthony, I and a yank named Scottie, who was willingly tormented the entire night by randomly shouted banal phases of "Scottie do!" or "Scottie doesn't know," began to sing the oddly catchy ballad of "Peanut Butter Jelly Time," while Kelly filmed it on her phone, much to Anthonys chagrin as he is rather phobic about being caught doing stupid things on film. For some reason, I don’t have this phobia. I do not know if "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" was ever a good idea. But at 3:30 am on the Rocks, it seemed like a bright, energy-saving lightbulb of an idea. We got the girls soundly off to their place on Bondi Beach, and we wandered the winding streets of Sydney until we finally found another cab willing to take us back to Anthony’s place at Middle Harbor. I was quite happy to find my soft bed in the loft of the fish camp.

I Gain My Reward

April 18th

I gain my reward.

I awoke in a railroad car. This sounds much worse than it was. The YHA I stayed at was an old railroad depot, and several cars had been turned into eight-person dorms. As usual, I was the one American among a smorgasbord of European and Asian travelers. The night before, I had been treated to three dollar snags (hot dog/ braut) and beer. I had three snags, but gave two beers away, as it was some pretty average Portuguese swill. However, the snags were of higher quality than expected. A German girl was handing out buns and cheese. She was pretty damn cute, but I was too tired to make the effort with anyone. I stank and so did my clothing. Washing both and going to bed was foremost in my mind.

The morning came with hard rain on the corrugated roof. At least it sounded hard; all rain sounds hard on a corrugated roof. I was excited. No, I was bloody ecstatic. Today was the day. Sure, getting to Sydney was great and all, but today was the reward. I had for the past several weeks been in correspondence with Heather of Di Croco. Di Croco is the homegrown couture creator of Saltwater Crocodiles skin products. Since my last trip to Australia, I had wanted, nay - coveted, no…. needed a croc belt to complete myself. Five long years I had waited for this moment. I eagerly got on my bike and wound my way through Sydney to number 7 Double Bay, critically aware of the traffic, as I did not want anything to interfere with my mission. The store opened at nine, and I grabbed a cup off coffee to kill time. I also made sure my credit card was in order, not wanting to suffer the embarrassment of a declined card with a woman I had already exchanged roughly a dozen emails. I also went to the facilities. Nothing was going to interfere with my extravagance that morning.

For those of you who are concerned, salt-water croc is not an endangered species - however, some populations in Asia are certainly at risk. In a sick twist of irony Australian Saltwater Crocs were rescued from extinction by their lovely, lovely skin. They are the top predator in their environment and were nearly hunted to extinction because they were both a pest and in high demand for their skin. Once they became scarce, the local government woke up and realized that they were destroying a lucrative resource with bad management, and they protected the animals. In Australia, they are almost up to pre-colonial levels. Any croc that is used for its skin is bred at a croc farm - one of which I had the pleasure of going to on my last trip to Darwin. In this croc compound, crocs are bred. Problem crocs are found in the wild and taken to the farm as studs. A few of these animals are in solitary confinement, having become far too cantankerous to even breed with the females. Thus, due to the virtue of its skin’s use as a leather, the 'saltie' has saved its collective species' skin. Incidentally, as the planet gets warmer, its possible habitat will increase.

Thus I have no moral dilemma with wearing one of these old dinosaurs. I was the first customer of the day, and Heather addressed me by name as she swiped her security card and let me in. It was a very fine store with several croc products of her design all around it. She only had third and fourth generation leather workers touch her skins. She lay out the belts she had set aside for me. I was enthralled. For a young (and still) lover of everything dinosaur, it was hard not to make the comparison of wearing a bit of Tyrannosaurus Rex. The belt of back-strap was what I wanted most. The dual ridges of the scales were stiff with character. I chose the silver belt buckle. Gold and brass do not suite me as well. Wrapping it around me, I felt absolutely complete - completely at home with my shallow side. My jeans were well worn, and my shirt was old, but at least they were clean. More importantly, with this belt on they were very much improved.
The belt was the whopping sum of 400AUD - double the price it was 5 years ago. I know it's a lot. In fact I would agree with you and state that it was far too much to ever pay for a belt. Yet, I could not let it go this time around. I needed it, and while a huge lump in my throat formed when she gave me the bill, I did not and still do not have a gram of buyer’s regret.

While the credit card ran, a sizable gray-topped gentleman in fine casual clothing walked in with what I first mistook to be his daughter, until I noticed the considerably-sized diamond on her hand, as well as other Cleopatrian style adornments, that led me to believe she must be his wife, and not Daddy's little girl. They were an interesting couple. He assumed the belts on the table had been set out for him. It turns out that this gent is also a fan of the croc belt, and every time he heads to Australia, he buys a belt for one of his friends as a souvenir. I judged from the casual way he picked out the belt that we were most likely not in the same tax bracket. They were quite kind. He told me how much they loved Sydney and how much they wished they had the choice of living here; this was followed by a quick pause and followed with the afterthought: "I suppose we do have the choice, we just love Dallas!"

I was confused. The man had what I believed to have once been a queen’s English accent, but it was very subtle. The revelation of his Texan home cleared this up. He then proceeded to tell me about the racehorse that he bought the last time he was here. Unfortunately, despite the young stallion’s quality bloodlines, he was not performing and was quite rambunctious - going as far as to actually have bitten the hand (well at least that hand that wrote the checks) that fed him. I really did empathize with him best I could. I bid them all adieu with the devil on my shoulder telling me to buy the 650AUD dress belt and the angel telling me to get the hell out of that place before I bought something that might give me buyers remorse.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Suburban Walls of Sydney

April 17th

The suburban walls of Sydney.

I had 80 km to go till the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. The first 50 km on the highway went without any drama. Towards the end the traffic piled up, and I was tickled that I was passing cars on the way into the city. However, gridlock quickly piled up, and I was detoured off the highway to the suburb of Liverpool. Unfortunately, I have had the following impressions of the city suburbs:

In the city and in the country cyclists are recognized and, I have found that if polite and law abiding, are generally respected by both city and country drivers. In the 5000 km of cycling on this trip, the only places I have gotten dirty looks, heckling and close calls has been in the burbs. I don't know what it is about this eco-tone of civilization that buffers the city from the country, but it seems to breed some malice towards those inclined to ride bikes. This is perhaps because the burbs were built at a time when gas and cars were cheap, and thus the infrastructure was created only to accommodate cars. However, this does not explain the heckling.

I dodged traffic, changed two flats, generally made up my mind to be patient and took it as safely and as easily as I could, mainly riding the curb. My round-about route did take me through one of the industrial parks of Sydney where I stopped for lunch. It was a large complex with a deli and large portions. Having only eaten spartanly since breakfast, I was eager for a large meal and a respite from dogging traffic. It gave me both.

My trip through industry proved the final hump into the city. Half an hour later, I was in sight of the magnificent harbor and soon after that the Harbor Bridge. I took it slow, still quite aware I did not want to make it this far only to become a tragic asterisk in the back pages of the Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, as I was now quite aware, was a sprawling city. As I approached the CBD, it was clear that, despite the masses of people and housing that now covered the every inch of the harbor, when this colony was first established ease of docking and defense were first on the city father's minds. From the base of the bridge and the old quarter of town called the "Rocks," the sandstone cliffs upon which the city was built are still quite visible. I rode under the Harbor Bridge; a smile appeared that grew broader as I realized where I was. Above me the pylons of the bridge stood like massive sentinels. Around the west pylon and directly in front of me was the Circular Quay. Across the water was the iconic Sydney Opera House; its sail-shaped edifice doing its best to shine in the waning cloudy sun.

I rolled casually along The Rocks, looking for a bar to fit my celebratory mood. I settled on one that made up for its lack of personality with its grand view. I had Coopers and shot the breeze with the bartender. He asked me if I had been biking. An obvious question from the way I looked, so I told him - nothing flashy, just the start and finish point. I walked to a seat with a fine view and sat down with my beer and studied the pale golden liquid with the Opera House in the background. It had not yet settled in, but I was slowly starting to grasp the distance I had covered. What was here in Sydney was pretty much what I expected. I thought back to before the start of my trip when Melbourne and Sydney were really the only two places I could visualize. Now, roughly three and a half months later, I had filled in a fair amount of the blanks with some pretty rich memories. I drained my beer and ordered another. It tasted just as good as the first. It was getting late, and I was staying at one of the two YHA's in town. Anthony’s place was across the harbor, and I had some business in the city that I wanted to take care of first thing the next day. With a regretful last swig, I set the empty glass down. The bartender came around, picked up the glass, and sat another full one in front of me. "We talked it over and figured your effort deserved a beer." I laughed and thanked him.

Hell, my effort did deserve a beer.

My Last Night in Bush Camp

April 16 through the morning of the 17

My last night in bush camp.

One thing I realize I have not spoken of, yet remains a vivid image of sleeping on the side of the road these past few months, is folding up of my sleeping mat. Depending on the ground two things happen. If the ground is a somewhat grassy vegetation, my form compresses the grass in the rectangular outline of the mat. If the ground is dirt, then I’m left with the waffley impression of the pad. Either way, this is all the evidence I leave behind of my bed. I always wonder how long it will last undisturbed. It reminds me of deer and the beds they make for themselves. I know that in human history and in nomadic tribes today, this is and was the status quo. But, coming from a background of a roof and a bed, I can not help but be fascinated with this brief evidence of my slumber.

Last night was my last night in a bush camp, sleeping on the side of the road. It was a particularly good one. I slept just off an on-ramp and in a grove of gum trees that provided ample cover without the claustrophobic nature of the thicket I slept in the night before. The ground was covered with the thin and comfortable ever-shedding bark of the gums, and despite the proximity and hum of traffic on the busy highway, I felt most comfortable. It has been a long time since my first roadside bush camp in WA where, when I look back, was probably the easiest place to find a bush camp. A mere eighty-km outside of Sydney along a busy highway, it would have been a much harder place to start looking for an evening camp. There is still the sense of foreboding that accompanies the last hour or so before I pull off to the side of the road. Ahead of me is nothing but an educated guess of what the terrain might be. I still get a thrill pretending to mess with or drink water on the side of the road while waiting for a lull in traffic to dive into the bush in order to avoid any nosey eyes who might be annoying enough to call in what they would consider a "transient." I like instead to think of myself, in a small way perhaps, as channeling a little bit of the "Jolly Swagman" of Aussie lore.

It was certainly not without a little sadness that I left that last camp. Once I’m on the road, the next set of cars along the road just assume that I slept in a town somewhere. At least, I think most would assume that. Tonight I did not know where I would sleep, but I knew it would be in a bed without the satisfaction of self-sufficiency.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Large Sheep Testicles and the coffee/bike/produce store

April 16th

Large sheep Testicles and the coffee/bike/produce store.

It was foggy on my way into Goulburn, and I was exceedingly pleased to find a large bakery with a large fire going in the back. I had to double check my flight tickets for back home and knew that I would be waiting in Goulburn till at least nine or ten that morning as the internet café/ library opened. I ordered breakfast and casually read the paper as the fire snapped and cracked to my great satisfaction. Goulburn is known for its Merino wool production, and if you don't believe them you can take it up with the two story concrete sheep that lords over the exit next to the bakery. I imagine this anatomically correct (its huge) beast is Goulburn's protection when Godzilla comes to town.

For some reason I really had not doubted Ray's statement yesterday when he said that I would see him in Goulburn. Thus I was only slightly surprised to see him waving in much the same frantic way on Goulburn's main street as he had on the highway. I pulled up on the sidewalk, and Ray commenced a talking.

"See, I thought I would run into you again. Where did you end up sleeping?"
"A few miles out of town on the side of the road." I had no problem admitting this after the fact.
"You’re keen, aren’t you? Have you had your coffee yet? I’m heading to bike store. It’s just down the street and to the left; it has the best coffee in town."
I had actually just come from the information center and was heading there anyway after finding out the Internet café did not open till 11. My thread-bare bike gloves had committed hari kari, and I was in need of a new pair. I told Ray.
"If I had a pair in the back of the car, I would give them to you." He paused. "If you head to the bike store, I’ll see if I can get you a discount. See you there."

Who was I to argue with that offer? I had wanted to chat more with my new interesting friend, but he had to make a phone call, and I rode the two blocks to the 'Green Grocer Café & Cyclery.' The sign was black with thin sea green letters. It was quite a name for the place that, had I lived in Goulburn, would be my favorite 9am to 5pm haunt. It's hard to beat a combination of a café (with all the extra bakery trimmings) arranged around a large isle of fresh fruit, fresh roses by the front door, the day's paper neatly stacked next to them and a well stocked cycle shop right in the back. Like many combinations, you might think this is asking too much of a store, yet nothing about the Green Grocer Café felt unduly cluttered or incongruent. Despite having had two cups at the large sheep genitalia bakery earlier that morning, I would have had to sample this store's beans even without Ray's recommendation.

I was looking over the gloves and settled on a $20 pair of Fox gloves. My previous $8 pair had lasted a long time, and it seems that no matter how much I spend on cycle gloves, they all last the same amount of miles. Ray had walked in by this point and approved of my choice.

"This man just biked from Perth, give him a discount." Ray said to the salt-and-pepper athletic looking man behind the counter.
"How’s $15?" he replied.

I wasn't arguing. Ray seemed like a wheeler-dealer anyway and clearly quite familiar with the man behind the counter. The man behind the counter was one of the best cyclists in the area, and as Ray so politely put it, had been working on bikes for "300 years." It was about 9:45 and this gentleman had already put on 80km from his house to work today, and I felt glad I did not have to race the guy when Ray started comparing the kind of shape we were both in. Not that I have any doubt in my ability to go, I just felt that for this trip at least, I was really wasn’t a speedy kinda guy. The chitchat went back and forth as it does, and more of Ray's life bubbled to the surface. He was originally English. Moved to the US to become and engineer. When he arrived, he picked the Boston Red Socks as his team as they were the closest team geographically to England. He had been married and drafted, went to Vietnam in an American uniform, and had made his way to Australia for some R and R. Somewhere along the way he had been married three times, had one American son and two aussie daughters. Ray ask me if I had seen the expiration date on the power bars. I replied I had not.

"Not to worry, my wife bikes and I feed them to her. She hasn't died yet."
I laughed. Genuinely entertained but a little disturbed. I asked him to join me for coffee. He declined the offer for coffee, but said he would join me directly.
My eyes and gut were bemoaning the lack of fresh fruit in my diet, and I took advantage of the café's eclectic nature and, along with my Long Black (Americano), purchased 2 bananas, 2 pears, and 3 satsumas. I took it outside, pulled out my journal and began to put down my experience with the Curious Mr. English.
It was not long before he joined me, and in his restless fashion told me he could not stay long, but that he had one… no two questions to ask of me.

Question 1. If I could have breakfast with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I chose Theodore Roosevelt. He solidified his place as my favorite president when, as a young boy, I found out that myself and 'Teddy Rose's Belt" shared an interest in bears, of which at the time, I had a blue bear (whose name just happened to be "Teddy") that I was rather attached to. As I grew up and learned more about the man, my general interest in him increased. He was a jack of all trades with an interest in everything. This was combined with the work ethic, intellect and means to become a huge force and presence at home and abroad. He was a capitalist to be sure, but was the driving force behind the creation of National Parks to protect the intrinsic value of our America’s natural wonders. Later in life, upon reading Upton Sinclair’s "The Jungle" that described the appalling conditions of immigrants and its pro-socialism slant (TR was passionately anti-socialist), he created the FDA to try to find some solutions to the food quality problem in order to keep socialism at bay. I don't want to give away any of my politics. However, what fascinates me most was this man’s energy and willingness to take up the challenge. That, in a nutshell, is why I would love to have brekki with TR.

Question 2. If I could relive any day of the trip what would it be?
I realized once I answered this that it was in keeping with the previous question. I chose the day/ night Anthony and I rode to Adelaide. It was the hardest day, and I felt I did not pull as much of the weight as I should have. I have had some amazing days on this trip; why would I want to try and replace already amazing memories. I think I would have a better chance at reliving and redoing the most terrible day because, while it may be hard, it would also need the least to become an overall improvement of the situation.

Thus ended my interesting meeting with the Curious Mr. English.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I am sent a few Angels

April 15th

I am sent a few Angels.

Anthony and Dave arrived at 11 the night before, and we stayed up till around one catching up in the cold underneath the heat lamps that the bartender was kind enough to leave on for us. I am still amazed at how cold Canberra can be, even though I know from the browning leaves of imported deciduous trees that it must be some time in the fall. Our lodgings were, with the exception of white crown-molding, quite unadorned. Fortunately this sterility seemed to also extend to the rooms, sheets and bathrooms. A short six hours later, Dave, Anthony and I were up. 15 min later they were already out the door heading back towards Sydney and midterm exams. A wave of depression hit me as I pulled up his bike back into the hostel and began re-packing my bags. Something about being so close to finishing made this 299 km seem longer than it should have been. I was alone, and for the first time since the start of the trip, it troubled me. I think that perhaps it was the juxtaposition of solitary cycling and intense socializing that had characterized my riding since Adelaide. But, once again, throwing myself to the task at hand proved a ready salve. Despite my melancholic disposition, I felt better with my hands back on my gear.

A girl in modest sleepwear (pink shirt and penguin dotted pajama bottoms), walked out of her room with bread and canned spaghetti. I am not a picky eater in the least, but the white bread/ chef boy-r-d brekki combo was the least appetizing thing I could think of. She was cute; an olive complexion with short, bobbed black hair. We exchanged polite smiles, but were both focused on our tasks at hand, and this precluded any polite chitchat. I gave her no other thoughts before a shudder of the door and some English accented swearing brought me to attention.

"I locked myself out of my room." She stated, staring at me blankly. This was clearly aimed at me because I was the only other person in the hallway. I starred blankly back at her waiting for a little bit more information.
"I have to get to work by nine." She stated in a hopelessly pleading voice.
"I’m sure this happens all the time, just give them a call."
"My phones in my room."
"You can use mine."
"I don't have their number, it's in my phone." The crutch of technology crumbles once again through a human error.
"There has got to be a phone book close by."
She looked at her clothing, again, quite unrevealing, but most certainly sleep clothes.
"I can’t go out in my pajamas."
I took a deep breath and threw on my beanie.
"There has got to be a news agent close by, they will have a phone book. What am I looking up?"
"The National Zoo and Aquarium."

This piqued my interest. I had assumed she was doing some backpacker job, one of which could not be worth stressing about. I assured her I would be back in less than ten minutes and stomped down stairs and out to the cold pavement of a Tuesday morning in Canberra. Not surprisingly, the sleepy city was still waking up at 7:30, even in the CBD, traffic seemed terrifically light. After walking five hundred meters into the CBD, I found that none the newsagents were open, but I suspected (correctly) that the coffee shop I passed would no doubt have a phone book. With six hours of sleep, the idea of coffee seemed like top idea. I also reckoned that it would be rude to ask for a phone book and not get coffee. I continued this line of reckoning - that if I showed up with a phone number and just a cup of coffee for myself that it, well, just might not have seemed as nice as it could have been, so I got pajama girl one as well.

No one was at the zoo yet and she left a message. I planned on riding into Sydney between 2 and 4 am on Friday morning, and thus had some time to kill. Having a cup with this girl seemed a good way to kill time. It seemed like we were both in need of some company. I felt suprisingly relaxed and asked her questions to get her mind off the fact she was late for work. Turns out her name was Charlotte, she was 20 years old, from England, and was here on her own steam doing an internship for the National Zoo an Aquarium. It was a $15 cab ride for the nine miles between her room above the pub and the Zoo. I tried to convince her that nine miles was a pretty easy ride, even out of shape. Then again I was looking through a slightly different lens. Charlotte impressed me. She had a serious relationship back in England, and had told him that she had to go out and do this on her own terms. Not that 20 is particularly young, but this seemed to be an act that took a bit of gumption and self-confidence. We ended up killing time until 10am when the bar staff showed up to prepare lunch. It was only when we exchangd a hurried goodbye that I realized that the simple act of company and conversing kindly with a stranger had done a great deal to lift my mood.

I had to run various errands around town; I was in no particular rush and ended up leaving around 2pm. I felt much more confident and at home with a bike between my legs. Traffic was light and I was quite glad I had a roughly 1000 meters of altitude to drop on my way into Sydney. I was making good time when a vast golden field opened up before me. After my weeks in the high country with its hills and mountains, this golden monochromatic flatness before me was breathtaking. This was Lake George, or what was left of it. I was going fast. Less dead weight, slight downhill and comfortable wind conditions helped me eat up the kilometers. Up ahead of me in the at a rest area, a small white haired man was waving what appeared to be a high performance cycling rim in one hand and what I assumed were power bars in another. I wondered if there was some sort of race or charity ride going on, but no, this gentleman was stopping just for me.

"You’re moving at a good rate mate. I saw you five km back and you haven’t kept me waiting."
The words flew out of his mouth as he shoved five large generic brand apple power bars in my hand.

"Where did you start?"
"I’m heading Perth to Sydney."
"Why are you doing it?"
"This ones just for kicks; thank you for the bars. I'm Jordan Hanssen." I thrust out my hand in introduction.
"My names Ray English." He took my hand firmly. "You wouldn’t know it by my accent, but I’m a naturalized American. My name gets confusing when I’m at hotels when they ask me for my name. I say 'English', and they look at me like I’m taken the piss."
I judged from the unused racing rim in his hand and new VW van with dealer stickers on it that he must deal in bikes and that at this juncture in his life, he must now live in Australia.
"How did you end up in Australia?"
"Spent some time as a GI in Vietnam and married and Aussie girl… I've been around."
This seemed an understatement.
"Where you headed tonight – Goulburn – would you like a ride?"
"Probably Goulburn or thereabouts. I'll have to decline the ride. I have made it this far without a ride." I never liked to admit to strangers that I sleep on the side of the road.
"I won’t keep you, you mustn’t get cold. Good to meet you. Perhaps I will see you in Goulburn."
He turned, and I called out thanks and followed his orders. The exchange took perhaps less than a minute. Only moments before, this ride was pretty damn boring and with the addition of a random, kindly Pom-Yank-Aussie, it had given me 5 energy bars, restored my faith in mankind and threw a huge grin on my face. Just as important was that now I did not need to stop for dinner. That night I would make a decent meal of power bars and avoid riding the highway in the dark on the way to Goulburn.

My patch of grass was in a thicket of densely-packed trees that reminded me of Aspens. They certainly did not look native, as their leaves were rather round and all quite yellow in the late fall cold. It was the dense cover that is easy to hide in, and in the same breath, always gives me the impression that a dead body will be hiding in it. I like to think this is an encounter I will avoid, but I always try to mentally prepare myself for such an unpleasant contingency... just in case. This has to be the tour cycling equivalent of checking the closet for monsters. I read some of my Icelandic Sagas, alone, but after today, not particularly lonely. I slept soundly.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Back to Canberra

April 14th
Back to Canberra

After the hustle and bustle of my life as a Melbourne socialite, I found myself quite lonely in Canberra with just my broken bike for company. I held off on getting a place to stay, as I was hoping that Anthony and his friend Dave might have found some connections in the city, and sat outside most of the day watching my bike and reading. That evening Anthony called and had found no joy in terms of a free place to stay. The YHA (Youth Hostel Australia) that I had been loitering around had no beds available. Fortunately a local pub, the Public Bar, just north of the CBD and 10-min walk away did. It was a roll of the dice in terms of what to expect, but we were not really in the position to be choosers at this time of night. I secured beds for three at the Public Bar, grabbed a beer and waited outside in the heat-lamps reading and reflecting on my position.

I had realized that last week, for roughly 24 hours, I had completely given up finishing my ride to Sydney. With such a catastrophic break in my bike, it was just not in the cards to replace, or fix. While I did think briefly of Anthony’s bike in Sydney, I felt that calling him up to bring it down would be asking too much. That being said, Anthony did not hesitate to offer to bring the bike to Canberra when he found out. I was floored by his generosity, but what I continue to learn, is typical of Aussie mateship. "No dramas," as they say.

Success in anything we do depends in large part to those around you. In turn the success of others depends on you. My success, or at this point with 299 km to go, potential success depends and has depended on several things. Without Lats and Jonno, I would have never meet Jonno's dad, Frank Stone. Without Frank, I could not have found Ross Ford who kept my bike safe for a week while I went to Melbourne to go to Lats' wedding, Jonno's 30th birthday party or hiked Wilson’s prom. Now, without Anthony and his generosity and belief in me to get his bike and myself in one piece to Sydney, I would never have the chance to finish my ride. I am humbled.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A More Perfect Union

April 14th

A More Perfect Union

An image at the Airport lounge after Jonno dropped me off for my flight to Canberra:

I sit in the Tiger Airways Departure lounge in Melbourne airport -daily service to Canberra. It’s 8:14 am. Either the efforts of pure exhaustion or pure love have created the image of perfect slumber on the hard-grated airport benches. He wears a striped turquoise and blue shirt. She wears a cream colored top. His back lay against the backrest. She faces him. Long black hair cascades messily over the edge of the seat. Both of them are svelte in form, giving the image they are quite tall as they stretch out on this uncomfortable public furniture. A jacket covers their feet. They face each other in almost a kiss. His nose rests ever so on her cheek; her lips are close to his eyes. His left arm curves firmly around her back keeping her secure in her perch. Her heads rests upon his right arm, and his forearm curves with the wrist and fingers hanging in a perfect relaxation.

My Old Stomping Grounds

April 13th

My Old Stomping Grounds

I took advantage of this unplanned Sunday to march through the old neighborhood on Lygon Street next to Melbourne University where I had studied five years ago. Nothing of note had changed. The hallowed walls of learning at the Uni were still impressive in there neo-gothic grace. Lygon Steet, home of many Italian immigrants, still bustled with wall-to-wall Italian restaurants, café's, gelaterias, and the occasional books shop. In one of these, I got a little light reading: HG Wells "The War of the Worlds" some Icelandic Sagas and Swifts "Gulliver's Travels." To be fair, my reading list on this trip has, with a few exceptions, been less than distinguished. I found my time alone in WA to be filled of a liking of trashy romance novels of no particular note. It didn't get much better with Josh from Strath’s loan of Jordan Belfont's "The Wolf of Wall Street," but gradually improved. My favorite thus far was a local author, Robert G. Barrettes, "Les Norton and the case of the talking pie crust." This book had me laughing out loud in the middle of Wilson’s prom.

I stopped for some gelato and moseyed through the Victoria Market serendipitously finding a Turkish festival. I find the relationship between Turkey and Australia a very interesting one. In 1915 the Australians and Turks fought each other in Gallipoli in Turkey. This was the incident that created the ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) legend and that is credited in large part to creating a national identity of hard work, bravery, mateship and just about everything positive that you would associate with Aussies. It was an exceptionally bloody eight-month battle with horrific losses on both sides. It was a defeat for the Aussies, although the Turks did lose more men. At the twenty year anniversary of the battle, the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, also a highly decorated leader and solider of the Turkish troops, left this poignant memorial in ANZAC cove:

You heroes that shed your blood and lost your lives, you are
Now lying in the soil of a friendly country, therefore rest in
Peace. There is no difference between Johnnies and the
Mehmets to us, where they lie side by side, here in this
Country of ours. You their mothers who sent your sons from
Far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now
Lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their
Lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Total forgiveness is a real tearjerker. In many ANZAC parades, the Turkish flag is flown - the only flag of an enemy to be given that respect. The relationship continued after World War II when Turkish Cypriots with British passports immigrated to Australia. In 1968 they came en mass after an assisted migration agreement was signed. One of the many signs around the fair was, "we came as workers and stayed as citizens." Seeing such pride of people who are proud of where they came from and where they are now reminds me how important immigrants are to any population. Their will to work and energy renews each generation, and in my humble opinion ,makes a country stronger and richer in the long run.

All this thought of Turkey brought me to my friend, Erden Eruc, born in on the Turkish side of Cyprus, who is currently rowing across the Pacific. He had originally planned to row to Australia. Nature had other plans for him and, nearly 300 days later; he is still at sea. He is the first Turkish man to row an ocean. Erden is an adventurer. He makes my trip look like a vacation. If he is any example of his countrymen, it is easy to see why the Turks have been successful in Australia.

My feet gradually got me back to Kensington. I stopped at Flemington Kebabs, incidentally run by Turks, and my favorite kebab shop in Melbourne. It has gained my lunch business for roughly 3/4ths of the days I have spent in the city. I blame it on the secret spices they put in their meat as well as $3 Turkish bread and the most generous servings of baklava that I have encountered on three continents. The food was the standard goodness, and I was sad for both my last kebab and for my last day in this amazing city, but despite a tinge of road weariness, I am eager to get back on the road.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Jonno's Birthday Party

April 12th

Jonnos Birthday Party

In the morning I went with Suse to what could be considered a salvage store. However, it hardly lived up to its name, as there was nary a speck of dust among the cleanly-removed doors, windows, mantles and other older house bits. The front door was in need of a handle. Up until now, it had taken some dexterity to use the key in the deadbolt to pull the front door of 34 Parsons Street closed. Suse choose a clean, lined brass handle that fit below the deadbolt as if it had been attached since the house was built. There is nothing more satisfying than a neatly completed home improvement task. This was sadly my last task I got to do at the house.

In the afternoon, Jonno, rower that he is, decided that for his birthday he would take half his rowing friends and half his non-rowing friends and throw them in the same boats down on the banks of the muddy Yarra - the river that runs right though the heart of the skyscrapered downtown. As a competitor and medalist in two U23 World Rowing championships, Jonno has several unisuits (in Aussie, 'zooties') from several countries, and the ten of us in the two coxed quad wherries looked like a rowing United Nations as the rowers taught the non-rowers how to handle the oars. Most of the rowers in the boats had at one time or another coached rowing, and the general consensus among them was that these non-rowers actually did a pretty good job. In addition, the high caliber of trash-talking between boats was something to behold. Our last effort was a 500 meter race in which three crabs were caught, one seat was lost, and the three seat in Jonno's boat removed his oars because he felt they would go faster without his efforts. Let's just say that everyone left the water a winner.

In the evening I found myself back at the Leviton with the Usual Suspects. At this point me, the random Yank had been seen on the Melbourne social circuit for the past four out of five weekends, and the faces of those around me were no longer strangers. Frank and Prue were there as well with the good news that they had figured out that Amelia’s ailment was a hernia, and she was scheduled for surgery early that next week. Naturally she was still pretty gutted that she had to miss her big brother's 30th.

It being mostly a couple’s night, the men felt no need to go to the dance floor; however, the women did. The DJ that came with the rented space seemed like he would be more comfortable if the cliental had been barely legal and eager for the latest techno mix. It was clear he was insulted when I told him to play “Sweet Home Alabama” and or other classic hits, and he continued to pay me lip service until I started to just pass my requests through Suse. She felt my music choice was spot on, and since she and Jonno held the purse strings, his will was broken and “Sweet Home Alabama” played to everyone's but his delight. I managed to find the only single girl at the party.

Days in Melbourne

April 11th
Days in Melbourne

Friday is Jonno’s Saturday, and I was under strict orders from Suse that Jonno should take this day before his birthday party to relax and read the paper for a minimum of two hours. Jonno’s pace is, at least around me, a constant yet relaxed movement. We putzed around the house; he did some light cleaning, and we put up a hose rack in the brick outside his back yard. I had never drilled into masonry before, but Jonno had enough faith in my handyman skills that I could figure it out. Afterwards we watered the veggie garden, which in my absence had been cleared and replanted, and was growing (according to Jonno) at a rate of "at least eight inches a day."

We headed to lunch at the Leviton, the pub to which we would be heading to the next day for Jonno’s 30th birthday party. They were closed until noon, and we killed time at a one of Jonno’s favorite coffee shops whose name regretfully escapes me. In addition to the typically good Italian inspired Melbournian coffee, the shop sells an arsenal of coffee brewing contraptions. A bit of this was a "mini express" stove-top espresso that looked a lot like drug paraphernalia. Jonno and I both thought (in our manly way) that it was adorable, and he insisted I buy it. Unfortunately, I find it quite hard to not treat myself, and his threat of buying it for me was more than enough motivation. Our barista was an American girl with a oval shaved out of her head; in this oval, the Batman symbol was tattooed. I reckon that for as hard core a look as it provided, it is actually an easy tat to cover up. Even so, she will still have to come to terms with always having the Chief looking for Batman on her head. She was angry that Jonno was reading the Business Times, stating that it was a worse habit than heroin. This statement surprised me, considering that Bruce Wayne was himself a successful businessman.

The afternoon commenced with excessive relaxation. I was pleased that I could tell Suse that Jonno had relaxed the whole day. We enjoyed a beer and potato wedges at the Leviton. Eating continued with sandwiches and the fixings of a ravioli dinner at the local Kensington Italian deli. Movies were rented, and the afternoon floated slowly by. That evening, I bustled into the kitchen, boiled some water, grilled some Iserno sausage, cut fresh basil and parsley from the veggie patch, and using some leftover fresh bread from the bread-maker plus some of the leftover sauce Suse had made for the cous-cous, managed to put together a rustic, but filling dinner for my Lovely host and hostess. This most simple of days was amazing.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stomach Trouble

April 10th Stomach Trouble

I awoke to perhaps the least pretty day in a while. Amelia and I were leaving Wilson’s Prom. She had a doctor’s appointment, and her malaise that had kept her from hiking with me was acting up. It seemed a good time to get on the road. It turned out to be more than just stomach trouble, and she was admitted to the ER that day in order to figure out just what ailed her. Frank and Prue were both at work, and I was very glad I was available to drive Amelia around as she was hurting pretty badly. Frank came to the hospital just as Amelia was getting settled in. Once she was admitted, he took me to lunch - completely unnecessary of him, but typical Stone generosity. I did have a very pleasing steak sandwich, perhaps the best of the trip. We talked a bit of rowing, and I drove back to drop off Amelia’s things and wait for Prue to take me to the train that evening while Frank went back to check on Amelia.

The three of us met back at the house around 4:30pm, well and truly in need of a drink after what had become an unexpectedly dramatic day. Frank and Prue were in what I thought remarkably good spirit despite the circumstances. I believe they were just happy that Amelia was in the process of finally being diagnosed. As we chatted, Frank turned to me in a serious tone and said, "Mate, there is one problem that I have with you." I froze. I had, I thought, endeavored in every way to be a good houseguest and was a little shocked and eager to know what I had done wrong in Frank’s eyes. I looked a question at him. "You just don't take good enough care of yourself" picking up his bottle of beer and motioning with his pinky at my now empty one. I sighed and rose to my feet. "You want one too, Frank?"

A half-hour later I found myself at the train station after Prue had dropped me off. I love traveling by train. Something about the expectation of waiting on the platform and the classic squeal of metal on metal provided a conducive environment to reflect on my trip until now. I had finished just about everything I had set out to do. With Wilson’s Prom now finally under my belt, I had a few days in Melbourne before heading back to Canberra. The morning Jonno picked me up for the Lats' wedding, I got a call from Anthony. He had seen my facebook message about my broken bike and offered to switch bikes with me. I was absolutely floored that he would do this, and asked him again if he was sure. He had midterms that week, and it would take a bit of logistical juggling to make it happen. Either way, it was now looking like I might just be able to bike all the way to Sydney. With completion of my trip now once again an option, I was starting to feel how much I had really wanted to finish in Sydney and not Canberra. Anthony had laid it out pretty clearly when he said, "I was going to be pretty disappointed if you didn't make it to Sydney. No one in the States knows where Canberra is, and as far as they’re concerned, it could be 100 km from Perth." As of late the logistics and constant movement, while exciting, had started to wear on me. However, if Anthony was willing to go this far for me, I knew that I could sure as hell make it to Sydney. The train pulled back into Southern Cross, and Jonno and Suse had cooked eggplant and couscous.

I wake up this morning upon a beach

April 9th
I wake up this morning upon a beach

I dreamt of private things last night and thus awoke in a thoughtful mood. The waves marched in the twilight, and the faintest pink began to convert the black waves to first cobalt-laced with mercury, followed by a subtle green-turquoise trimmed with mica.

I find the first light of day brings out the most delicious smells of nature – a measure of salt and ocean with the unmistakable sweet and sour of the forest. Fortunately this overpowered my own un-showered scent. At some point during the night, the waves got within 30 feet of my spot on the edge of the forest. As the heat of the first rays poked over the point, the marine smell became nearly overwhelming. In the not-so-distant campsite I smelled the school kids cooking. I made breakfast on some granite rocks next to another tea tree stained stream. In a delightful, and what some would no doubt consider immature manner, I decided to race my stove pots from the top of the stream to the ocean waves. It was a close race, but Slightly Scuffed beat out Crusty Burn Marks by a wide margin in the last quarter of a race. For a few brief seconds I went back in time to my childhood memories on the beach and the hours of joy spent playing in the sand.

I packed up and continued up and down the valleys and ridges of a lost world. Upon reaching Sealers Cove, I took a break, unlaced the boots, grabbed an apple and walked into the surf munching the crisp fruit with great satisfaction. Gum-green bluffs surrounded me, and the water continued to be its insatiable turquoise blue. My feet hurt, but I felt I had exorcised the ghosts of my previous, trying trip to Wilson’s Prom. I turned regretful, but happy, and marched the last 10 km through swamp and foothills to the car park in which Amelia waited to pick me up. I was told I looked remarkably well for covering 60 km in 49 hours and 25 min.