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What a difference a walk makes

Wayne, WA

24 January 2012

I have just completed my long cherished dream of completing an ‘end-to-end’. My journey began in April 2004, when my wife and I were trying to deal with a son who had got into drugs and crime. We were at a loss and feeling overwhelmed, guilty and confused.

Somewhere I had read about the Bibbulmun Track and I thought if maybe I could convince our son to get away for a while it might show him something different and break the cycle. I asked him one befuddled night if he would like to ‘go bush’.

He was in a highly emotional, distressed and confused state but he agreed. I grabbed the opportunity and the following morning took him to the Foundation office in Perth. The voluntary staff were very helpful and advised us to start with the section from Brookton Highway to Sullivan Rock.

I wanted to start from Kalamunda, but the experts said that as we hadn’t done any previous walking we might get completely turned off if we tried that! They explained what gear we needed and we hired it from the Foundation. The following day we set off – and as they say, the rest is history. I had no experience of the bush, had never been camping before and had led a sedentary lifestyle.

My son’s mental state led him to talk incessantly and not sleep at all on our getaway. He wrote rubbish in the camp diaries and I remember at the time being very embarrassed – but also feeling maybe this was doing him some good.

I am not sure whether it helped him, but it certainly opened up new experiences for me. I fell in love with the bush, the peace it offered, the beauty of the terrain, animals and plants. I couldn’t wait to get out there again. Later that year in October I asked him if he would like to go back (by then he had settled down and we thought the drug usage had disappeared). He agreed to go.

This time we walked from North Bannister to Sullivan Rock. We were still very green and I didn’t know at the time that it was advisable to check the Track conditions before leaving home. Imagine our dismay and horror arriving at the Nerang campsite to find the shelter and water tank had burned down. The one thing I hadn’t purchased was a tent. We spent a freezing night exposed to the elements and woke to find ice on ourselves and on our camping equipment. Nevertheless we persisted and completed that section.

The following year I made plans to walk again. My son didn’t want to go, but now my wife was keen to walk. In April 2005 we set out from Kalamunda to Mundaring, and on to Ball Creek. My wife was hooked and wanted to walk again. In October of 2006 we hiked from Mundaring to the Brookton Highway. By now I was super keen and just wanted to do the ‘end-to-end’, but I had to wait owing to work commitments, and a further relapse of our son saw more confusing and desperate years.

I continued to dream, plan and hope for an opportunity. Our son managed to get and keep another apprenticeship and to settle down. He now works in the mines on a ‘fly in fly out’ basis. So this year I planned for ‘my time’. My birthday present to myself was to set out from North Bannister by myself (my wife was so jealous because she couldn’t get time off work but planned to join me in Collie) and continue the journey to completion.

On October 8th this year we reached the Southern Terminus in Albany after 45 days of walking plus eight rest days. I have mixed emotions – exhilaration, wonder, a huge sense of completion of purpose, joy, loss – what to do next – gratefulness for all the hard work DEC workers and BTF volunteers do and memory of the pain, hurt, trauma associated with the beginning of the journey with our son.

Thank You – it truly has been a wondrous experience.