Last month I got to step outside my fairly large comfort zone when I joined my neighbours for ‘a little stroll’ through the bush.
They had signed up to do the Tambourine Kokoda Challenge, a gruelling event where several hundred folk try and get through approximately 90 klms of hilly (actually mountainous) scrub around Mount Tambourine in less than 30 hours.
Ok, not my cup of tea as I’ve been a bit allergic to death marches since reading an account of the Burma Railway prisoners of WW2, but I was interested in some of the training walks they were doing, particularly trekking up the nearby Mt. Larcom.
Larcom, or the Sleeping Giant as it is known locally, has unparallelled views of the region, and is fairly accessible to anyone who is moderately fit. So, in a moment of wild enthusiasm I mentioned that I wouldn’t mind joining them for a stroll.
And not long afterwards I found myself standing on a dark track just after sunset staring at a long, winding, and mostly uphill trail. It wasn’t Mt. Larcom, it was the fire trail that runs along the small range on Gladstone side of the Calliope River. We would be trekking to the Devils Elbow, a well known fishing haunt on the river.
I had some reservations, because we would be ‘strolling’ 10 klms tonight. And while we were milling about waiting to start, my neighbour confided that several others had joined them for their training walks in the past months, but no-one had backed up for a second walk. Okaaay, the first inklings of doubt started to circle in my mind like cawing vultures.
I have to admit the team was well prepared, support crew, walking gear, protein bars, hiking sticks, and backpacks. I turned up wearing some work pants, and carting my trusty walking stick, and ever present black work pack which contained my work water bottle, an orange and a banana. Yep, I was ready for anything.
I wasn’t too ready for the cracking pace that the leaders set at the start, particularly as we were headed mostly uphill. About 20 mins into the walk, my lungs and legs were on fire as I rounded a bend and noted grimly that the track got steeper and more rock strewn, I thought, “We aren’t even halfway yet, and I’m going to die.”
I didn’t. The hill eventually came to an end, and the rest of the walk was almost a delight by comparison. I haven’t walked 10 klms since I don’t know when, particularly not through the bush, in hilly country, particularly at night, but it really was delightful. At times I found myself on my own, crunching along in my old sneakers over rough ground, and every now and then through the trees I could make out the lights of Gladstone in the distance. I was surprised to find that I was actually enjoying myself.
I was able to chat with some of my fellow walkers as we paced along. All of them were armed with Ipods, or MP3 players, and I discovered found that one of them, a nice old gentleman named Reg, was also a Jethro Tull fan, and that one of the support team for the walkers was also a fan of ‘The Tull’ and had a fairly large collection. So, now I know that there are three of us in the Gladstone area, which is a step up from a fan club of one. You just never know do you…
So, the walk ended after a couple of hours. I was blister free, sweaty, and strangely elated. Was I going to do the return walk with the team? No, I wasn’t that keen, so I took some photos, and wished them well, and watched them walk back into the bush, their headlamps shining in the darkness, like a well lit procession of super fit ghosts.
I returned home in an almost euphoric state of mind. This time last year, I wouldn’t have agreed to join in something like this. But, since I’ve given up drinking, I’m finding that I’m able to enjoy different experiences that get me out and about, and in the process, meeting some very nice people. Some of them are Jethro Tull afficionado’s.
I could almost see myself joining a bushwalking group… maybe!