I don't know what compelled me to walk 1000km, but the lunacy of the idea really hit me the day before I left when I met one of my friends in Perth. "Allie! What are you doing in Australia? Are you finally moving home?" "No, Im just walking to Albany with my dad, it will take 2 months, then I'm heading back to Canada."
This not only solidified the true meaning of escaping civilisation for 50 days, but also how adventurous I had become. I have always known that physical challenges are what fuel me, but this is about the most daunting of all the 'experiments' I had signed myself up for.
My dad and I have a special bond. Among countless memories, I truly cherish the birthday cards he writes. He has an incredible ability to communicate meaningful reflections into a few sentences. Each birthday they would remind me that he is proud of me, which means the world. We have spoken about this adventure since 2008, maybe more. We have been on two hikes together since then, both only a few days each. On one of these adventures we concluded at peaceful bay, where I ran into the ocean fully clothed in pure bliss, feeling free, accomplished, and truly happy. To this day this is one of my happiest and most cherished memories, followed closely by the moment I completed my first Half Marathon. Both brought me to a truly physically and emotially exhaused state of elation.
The first week on the bibbulman track was physically exhausting. I was fit going into it, but as dad pointed out, i wasnt 'pack fit', despite hiking around Whistler with dumbbells in my backpack. This lead to tight calves (which I rolled on a Nutella jar) and overworked hip flexors from the posture I had adopted to counterbalance the weight of my pack, which was approximately 15-20kg. We soon discovered that we could redistribute some of the weight to our front, which meant better posture, and less soreness!
The second week became slightly mechanical. We figured out a routine which included meals, packing, hiking pace and snack breaks, and were very good at estimating time of arrival. We have both lived very busy lives, and adhering to time and structure has always been how we cope with new demands, and it worked.
Around the third week I became very 'laissez-faire' about the whole thing. Sleeping in until after sunrise, taking long breaks, walking at whatever pace felt right. I became detached from time, day, date. A state that I have never managed before. I felt free, and was convinced that this was that 'clarity' people talk about getting from hiking. I had reached the mental state I was searching for, so I could go home and take the rest as a holiday... right? I couldn't have been more wrong. This was just the beginning.
After about a month the fatigue started to wear me down. Being constantly calorie deficient was one thing, but being woken up by the sun and others in the camp was another. Being a morning person, I'm used to having time to myself before anyone else wakes up. Not having this time for a month had started to grind me down. I began getting grumpy, but couldn't pinpoint why. I was sleeping 12hours a night and was eating a lot, yet I was still exhausted.
The town days came about once per week, and we thought this would be time for restful sleep, nourishing food and recovery. I would always look forward to seeing mum and my sister in the towns. Mum did an incredible job of spoiling us with food, and bringing us warm clothing and personal belongings that would comfort us. She has this amazing ability to know exactly what we need and when. Spending time with them was definitely a highlight, and made me wonder if I even liked hiking at all, since the things I enjoyed the most were the things that reminded me of home.
After 50 days we were done. Thats it. Our routine went back to normal. To be honest, reaching the finish line was not as overwhelming as I thought it would be. I didnt have this insane sense of achievement that I expected, we just stopped walking.
It was strange going back to civilisation. Having a warm shower and fresh food was still a novelty. Artificial lights and screens overstimulating my eyes gave me headaches and made it hard to sleep. I didnt turn my phone on for a week and didnt watch tv or read the newspaper. I was still disconnected.
After a few weeks the true meaning of what we had achieved started to settle in, and Dad and I reflected on the journey. As he has always done in my birthday cards, he managed to summarise the experience using a few simple concepts.
1) Your experiences are a product of place, company, and your level of comfort. This adventure was memorable at the surface level because of the incredible scenery, but at a deeper level because of the inspirational people we met and spent time with.
2) Spending time in nature strips your life back to the bare basics, so you can appreciate the things that truly matter. In this case, shelter, being well fed, clean, and spending time with your family. We both found the time with mum and my sister a highlight, but we wouldnt have appreciated the little things nearly as much without our time hiking.
Above all, this adventure has inspired me to simplify my life. To declutter my belongings, my schedule and my mind. To live with purpose, think more clearly, to slow down, and to make time for the things that matter most. I am grateful for the opportunity to complete this journey, grateful for my loving family, and my friends spread all over the world. I hope this inspires at least one person to embark on a similar journey, as it was truly life changing.