Friday, May 25, 2018

MY world walk Blog Australia 72 - Oasis at Avon Dale Station

Oasis at Avon Downs Station.

Eventually, at mid-morning I got back onto the road and out of Camooweal. That morning I rose early but as I had many interesting conversations with other travellers I took my time. 

 Before I left the campsite I decided to prepare my lunch for the road and took a pack of noodles out of a five-pack and boiled up water in the camp kitchen. I normally transport the noodles in my thermos mug and just add a can of sardines. That makes for a handy roadside meal. When I returned to my tent a cheeky crow had ripped through the other four packs of noodles which I had carelessly left on the grass!

 Just as I was leaving a friendly police officer arrived. Not to interrogate the crow and his crownies but to see if I needed any help on the road and offered to drop some water for me along my route. From there it was 260 kilometres to Barkly roadhouse which I want to cover in a week.

 When I was in the School of the Air in Mount Isa the previous week a woman called Tina  kindly offered to host me for the night at her Avon Downs 'station' as the Aussies call their huge ranches. She  kindly brought one of my five food supply boxes on from Mount Isa for me and arranged the delivery of the second one with her friend called Amanda for the Barkly supply box. This is how I will keep myself stocked up with food for the next few weeks in this remote area which has no reasonably priced shops.

As Avon Dale was only 70 kilometres and I planned to make it the following day I thanked the police officer for his kind offer as I figured I would be okay for drinks. An hour up the road I met Trevor and his wife Elizabeth. I mentioned last week that he and his wife are from New Zealand and are cruising around this area for a month. 

They were in great form. Both aged around 76 Trevor said he misses his dog which is back home in Dunedin and talks to it more than he does to his wife! He said they were partially deaf and he sometimes pretends he doesn't hear her. She remarked that he hears everything that I said and accused him of selective hearing!

 Before they left they gave me a half-dozen Pepsis and some fruit. Then I crossed into a new state, the Northern Territory! What new adventures await me?

On, I walked and stopped to talk to so many people that day that progress was so slow. I didn't care as I enjoy talking to everyone I meet. I hand out my cancer awareness my world walk cards to everyone I talk to. These days I seem to be handing out more cards than a Las Vegas blackjack dealer. Additionally, I tape them to wheelie bins in rest areas and at the state line to the welcome  signpost.

Because I wanted to reach Avon Downs Station the next day at a socialble hour I decided that I would walk the bulk of the distance that day and effectively have a half day the following day. Because of my late start to the day I walked until 11 pm and camped at the side of the road. It had been a Heavenly evening, no flies as thankfully they desert me at sundown.

That was a 47 kilometre day and the following day, Monday I covered the remaining 23 kilometres in under five hours. On the way I was surprised when a road train, a tripple pulled up onto the shoulder to see if I was okay and needed any water. This act of kindness I appreciated so much as its so difficult for them to stop. Without exception all through Australia they have been so courteous and always give me room. I always check behind and if things are tight I step off the road as there is always plenty of shoulder in the bush! 

Like an air traffic controller I am aware of the location and am calculating the speeds of every vehicle around me. I use my senses and listen for their downshift gear. As best as I can I make eye contact and watch the trajectory of every single vehicle as my survival is at stake. I haven't survived 72,000 km on some of the most dangerous roads around the world by luck. There is no place on the road for careless pedestrians and besides it is not fair to the drivers. Australian road train drivers are to my mind amongst the best truck drivers in the world. If they weren't they would soon be caught out.

 We always wave a sign of acknoledgement to each other. 

The driver that stopped is called Ken and he had seen me a few weeks ago just outside of Emerald. It seemed that curiosity had gotten the better of him!

The wind was at my back and blew me along the prairie-like highway. My Irish and Australian flags even acted like a sail. I made good progress and enjoyed that walk immensely. 

When I arrived at the Avon Dale Station and picked up my supply box (see pictures for typical contents) from Tina she gave me an interesting tour of the station. Well, only a little tour as the station consists of about a million acres. Please see the photo of the map. It is perhaps about 140 km by 120! This one is considered a small one. Aparently, Amanda who dropped off my second supply box at the Barkly roadhouse manages a much larger station, the second largest in Australia. One woman who worked on another station mentioned that she had to deliver a part for a piece of machinery and it was 350 kilometres each way. A total journey which is longer than from Mizen Head to Malin Head, Irelands two most extreme locations. 

 After the tour I was introduced to Glen and his wife April. He is the local police officer at the two-man police station post which is just down the road. He offered to look after me for the next week on the road and as April will be driving to Darwin on Friday she will also drop some water off at locations I suggested. As always these locations will have a plastic bag tied to a signpost. I always ask for bottles to be put in the shade nut please don't make a game of hide and seek out of it as has happened in the past. What a country! 

Back at the Avon Dale Station I chatted to some of the workers at the station bar! Yes this place turned out to be an unexpected oasis. Bar hours were only from 6-7pm and drinks are sold at cost price. It's more of a service to the workers, and not a business and is probably Australias cheapest bar! After that it was dinner. A delicious sausage curry in the staff canteen. Before I left I missed breakfast with the workers. Well, they get up at 4.30 am. That was easy for me to miss, as I turned over in my warm, soft comfortable bed! 

 Sorry for any typos, it's two in the morning... Yawn!

My world walk blog - Australia 71 - The Australian leg of my world walk for cancer awareness will end in Darwin on July 10th.

The Australian leg of my world walk for cancer awareness will end in Darwin on July 10th.
Since I began walking from Perth almost thirteen months ago Australia has just got better and better for me. 
When I walked out of the ocean in the Western Australian capital I had a smile on my face. I was living my dream and that smile probably resembled that of a new Fiat Polo owner. Now that dream and my love for Australia better  resembles that of Lamborghini proportions. Tomorrow, when I walk across the state line separating  Queensland from the Northern Territory I will do so with a heavy heart. For Queensland has now has become one of my favourite places in the world. 
After the Western Australian state I walked across South Australian state and enjoyed the arid Nullarbor plain immensely. For me the country started off with a slow perculation and my love for it grew stronger and stronger. Then I walked through a small spike of  northern Victoria. I was only there for three or four days, so its not really fair to compare it to the other larger states. Next up was New South Wales and I loved it and its people so, so much. Such fun, excitement I hadn't had in a long time. To be honest I didn't know what to expect from Queensland. Perhaps just snakes and dodgy spiders. To my astonishment this state has eclipsed its southern neighbour. I walked in the region of three thousand kilometres on my north and north-western route in the state. It's a huge state, two-and-half times the size of Texas. 
Now, once again and even though I have been there before, this time I don't know what to expect from the Northern Territory. The state line is just a dozen kilometres down the road from where I sit in Camooweal this evening. 
One decision I have made is that I will honour my late brother Brian Mangan's  birthday with my final footstep in Darwin  to finish off this massive country. Had he lived, July 10th would have been his sixtieth birthday. RIP bro, It's just 1,410 kilometres to your big birthday and as always you will be with me all the way. 💚

My world walk blog Australia 70 - Lookalike

After six days of  walking from Mount Isa to Camooweal. With no services for almost 200 kilometres I have a roadhouse firmly in my sights.  An overdue steak will soon be ordered.
Mount Isa, a large town of 21,000 has strange boundaries which even stretch through the outback in all directions and also to Camooweal. The stretch of highway that I have just walked from Mount Isa is technically a city street; although I failed to find a nightclub 😂 According to Guinness World Records it has been verified as the longest city street in the world. By default this bizzarely makes Mount Isa the largest city in the world, also verified by the GWR.
Thanks to Carmel for dropping off water at four locations. My system when people stop with offers of water is to ask them to drop it off ahead of me along the highway and mark the kilometre post by tying a plastic bag to it. I asked her to do that only at two locations but she filled up with more water at two more posts on her way back. She generously gave me a large tub of home-made pumpkin soup!
Thanks also to Glen and Jenny for their kind thoughts upon seeing me arrive in the dark at Inca Creek rest area, they came out and gave me some left-over chop suey and then good coffee for breakfast. I would also like to express my gratitude to other drivers who stopped to check on my welfare. Sorry I have forgotten your names but not the tremendous memories I have gained.
One day, a man called Trevor pulled up and got out of his hired car. I greeted him with.. "Oh my f**k" For to me he resembled a cleaner-cut Michael Gillan!  Many readers will remember that Michael crewed me from Melbourne to Darwin on my world run Mar/May 2013 and then once again for eleven weeks on this walk from Perth to just short of New South Wales. Trevor is on a holiday from his native New Zealand and mentioned that he had heard about me over in Dunedin and told his children to look out for me over there! He was thrilled, and so was I, to bump into each other here on the Barkly Highway.
Thanks to Michelle the owner of the Camooweal Post Office Hotel Roadhouse for greeting me at the door with a pint 😂 And then free camping! Walking around the world with a cancer awareness mesaage that: Life is precious and early cancer screening saves lives.

Monday, May 14, 2018

My world walk blog Australia 69 - Leaving Mount Isa - Only to return.

Leaving Mount Isa - Only to return. 

I only walked 18 kilometres today! That was because I did a commute back to Mount Isa! Bill very kindly offered me a complimentary night in his lovely Townview Hotel. He is Kim-Maree's boss, and has taken a keen interest in my world walk. Tuesday I will return to my route and will walk on towards Camooweal and ultimately Darwin with a tinge of sadness. 
Mount Isa has given me the most unbelievable reception I have ever received in my long travel career. So many people took time out of their busy schedules to reach out to me. What can I say?
I need just 23 kilometres to register my 22,000th of this global walk. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone for making all this possible.

My world walk blog Australia 68 - Overpowered with goodness.

Overpowered with goodness 

Thanks so much to Joseph DiLegge, owner of HjC Bicycle Engineering for his kind help. He replaced Karmas tyres, made some spoke adjustments, other checks and gave me four spare inner tubes, all gratis! What a man! Mount Isa, what an amazing place!
From there I was asked to address the Mount Isa Rotary Club and spent about an hour talking about the walk which also included a Q&A 
Many people ask why the town built a mine downtown. Well, the answers to that is the reverse. It's a classic example of a town which was literally built around a mine!

I have received so, so much help here in Mount Isa its difficult to keep up with all of my many thank you messages! But I'm getting around to them all and there are several more to follow!

I mentioned recently that because I'm going to be going remote for a few weeks where there will be no places to purchase supplies. My plan is to make up five boxes of food and to find someone to drop off these boxes to roadhouses along my route. Kim-Maree Burton, my great friend and major helper here has told me not to worry about the delivery as she will be able to source a driver going my way! You will also remember that she walked with me into town and will walk me out when I leave. I will be so sad to leave.

Thanks to the roadhouses who were eager to help when I phoned them up in advance.  Also to Tina at Avon Downs Station. 
Thanks to Terry Cleary for suggesting the following drop-off/pick-up locations. 

Mount sa to Avon Downs 252km package 1 

AD to Barkley HD 193kms package 2

BHS to Threeways 187km package 3

Threeways to Elliott 228kms package 4

Elliott to Larimah 222km package 5

Then I will walk from Larrimah to Katherine, it's 183km

Thanks so much to Bill, owner of the Townview Motel in Mount Isa. He is Kim-Maree's boss and friend. Upon hearing about my plan he kindly donated three boxes of food from his shop! Bills kind gift included pasta, canned food, oatmeal, snacks and biscuits etc! This is a major saving for me. 
Then if that wasn't enough he invited me over for a delicious steak dinner last night 😂

And the Mount Isa thank you manual continues 😁
During my eight days here I went to two history talks which were held at the Discovery Holiday Park. These were presented by my friend, local historian Kim-Maree Burton. On both occasions I was honoured to be asked to give an impromptu yap myself! 
I was indeed grateful when Angie on behalf of the Discovery company made a generous donation to my world walk fund! Thank you so much my friends, it was a great experience and I am so grateful for your generosity 😂

Thanks a million to Rebecca, the General Manager of Mount Isa's Barkly Hotel for their extraordinary generosity! 
When Ritchie, an Irishman who is her duty manager mentioned that I was coming to town she rolled out the red carpet with an amazing 'stay as long as you like' invitation. 
This has been so, so helpful as I planned to take a mini-break here due to the huge interest in my walk. I also had to make arrangements for walking the next remote leg towards Darwin. To keep me going the hotel also fed me with lots of steak meals! What can I say? Only, thank you my friends for an absolutely fabulous time 😂
Below, please see the video of my arrival last Sunday.

Today, Sunday I volunteered to work in Mount Isa's soup kitchen, food for the needy. Obviously, I didn't want to take photos of their clients and I was only too delighted to do my bit for a community that has been so good to me. 
Later, I met Ben and Chris Gillic who are senior members of the Mount Isa Irish Club. This is the largest Irish club in the southern hemisphere. There we met the President of the club, John Hetherton and his wife Anne. Thanks to Ben and Chris for treating me to a delicious mothers day  dinner 😂 We had a wonderful night with John and Anne. We had such a laugh that I forgot to take photos. That is a frequent occurance lately. 
Earlier, Chris popped out to a shop and purchased me some of my favourite snacks for the road. Please see the photo! What can I say? The Mount Isa 'thank you manual' continues.
A couple of days earlier while walking through a shopping centre I met two ladies called  Kath Swift and Joyce Nielsen. They've been raising funds for Leukaemia for 40 years. For many years they have been sitting outside Coles Supermarket each Thursday and Saturday (all day) . They have both been honoured locally by Queensland state and nationally for their efforts. This town sure has a huge heart.

My world walk blog Australia 67 - Young People Ahead. My return visit

Young People Ahead. My return visit. 

You may remember that I paid a visit to the Young People Ahead centre and I was a bit disappointed that there were no young people present at that time. I asked if I could return the following day to chat with them. And that I did. When I returned a group of about eight young people aged between twelve and eighteen years of age were working on a project to paint a wall before it would be painted with a mural. 

I found them to be a friendly, fun-loving and positive group of people and we chatted for about an hour. 

For anyone who may be interested the following has been taken from their website:

" YPA’s Vision statement - To be the leaders in the provision of quality services and support to young people and their families through partnerships with the community we will promote an environment that embraces individuality, integrity and opportunity for a positive outcome.” 

YPA’s Values statement - At Young People Ahead we value the importance of young people in shaping the future of our world, and we aim to empower, advocate, mentor and invest in their growth and life learning. With careful guidance and positive affirmations in all that they do positively, YPA hopes that every young person it supports will be enriched with the tools required to lead healthy, fulfilling and productive lives.

Young People Ahead, locally known as YPA, is a not for profit community organisation in the rural and remote region of Mount Isa. YPA has been in operation for over 30 years, and as such, has a long and proud history working with youth and their families in the region.

YPA is 100% funded by the Queensland Government, with some seed funding coming from the Federal Government. The organisation auspices 3 major services;

Young People Ahead, locally known as YPA, is a not for profit community organisation in the rural and remote region of Mount Isa. YPA has been in operation for over 30 years, and as such, has a long and proud history working with youth and their families in the region.

YPA is 100% funded by the Queesland Government, with some seed funding coming from the Federal Government. The organisation auspices 3 major services.

My world walk blog Australia 66 - The School of the Air

The School of the Air.

So much was happening in Mount Isa that I had so little time to draw my breath, or even write about it!
 I was delighted to be asked to talk to the students and staff of the School of the Air in Mount Isa. It's a school for students who live on remote stations in Queensland. Their catchment area is almost a million square kilometres. They cater for about 160 students from some 110 families. Each family home has a dedicated room for their children to receive their online tuition from a teacher who is based in the Mount Isa School of the Air center. The teachers go through the lessons online. These days this is done by Skype which is much more user-friendly than the old radio method of bygone years. If you know Australia you may be wondering how this is possible with the poor internet service here. I'm told that in many cases they have to use expensive satellite internet, and on occasions even a generator for power. Class sizes are limited to a maximum of ten students and depending on how many children are being educated in each family there could be several remote stations (ranches) hooked up to a single teacher. The school is financed by Education Queensland, with no expense incurred by the families. Each family is issued with a phone and a headset.
The school also has the unenviable task of having to mail out the assignments several weeks in advance and to also make allowances for when mail delivery can't get through to the stations due to flooding. I would have thought it would be easier to have all this done 100% online but for reasons that I failed to understand its not realistic. Many families don't want to download and print out whole text books and other issues like printers running out of ink have to be taken into account. It seems that the schools yearly mail bill is in the region of 40,000 dollars, I'm sure if they could cut that astronomical bill by utilising a total online method, then they would. While I was there I spent over three hours talking to the students and staff and answered all the usual world walk questions. I didn't have to wait long for the usual children's all time favourite question: "How do you get across the ocean!'
Before I left I had a nice chat with the principal, Tim Moes and other staff members. Also a man called David Hunter, originally from Scotland who was of enormous help later that day when he took me to and from my Mount Isa Rotary Club speaking engagement.
One woman at the school called Tina, lives in Avon Downs and gave me an invite as I will be walking past her home in a couple of weeks time. She also kindly agreed to take a supplies package on for me as its going to get pretty remote in the next two months. The supermarket here in Mount Isa will be the last decent one until I get to Katerine 1,200 kilometred away. My plan was to do a big shop in Mount Isa and send ahead about five boxes of supplies to roadhouse to hold for me until I arrive. Tina offered to deliver one to her neighbour.
" Tina, how far away from you is your neighbour?"
"Next door, about two hundred kilometres away!" 😂

My world walk blog Australia 65 - No flies on Crocodile Dundee

No flies on Crocodile Dundee  

I had been dreaming of shooting the iconic Crocodile Dundee movie clip in the very bar that it was shot in: That's exactly what I did!
 In The Walkabout Creek bar I asked  Johanna, a German barwoman to shoot the video while I recruited Rhys to play the baddie would-be mugger. The script was that he would call me over to chat about my walkabout, and then to aggressively tell me to continue my walkabout and to take the flies with me. When I asked him what he would do about it he took out a small knife and said his knife would take care of me. To which I took out the Bowie knife I had borrowed from the kitchen and said those imortal words. " Knife, You call that a knife? I call this a knife!"
Three days later I arrived in Cloncurry and just before the small town I was greeted by Beth and Alli of the town council when they drove out with water and fruit. In town I was kindly hosted by Janine and family for one night and then when I asked for a rest day, the Discovery Park resort put me up the other night..
It was a four day walk to Mount Isa. The first two days were over pretty tough hills, amongst the steepest on my entire Australia route. One day I stopped to ask permission to camp at the entrance to a farm. A farmhand had just gone through the gate so we had a chat for about ten minutes. I could have camped on his land but unfortunately he had to lock the gate and didn't know when he could return to let me out. So, I just camped behind a bush on the outside. He mentioned that on the farm that they muster (round up) the cattle by helicopter. Also, that on that night he was employed to cull kangaroos. He is paid about forty dollars per kangaroo and normally bags about seventy in a night. "Forty dollars, the cost of a slab of beer!" I said, To which he offered me a beer!
I planned a mini-break in Mount Isa as I had some media engagements and speaking commitments lined up. That was thanks to a local woman called Kim-Maree Burton, a walker who took a keen interest in my walk and even walked the 21 km from where I camped the night before to the Barkly Hotel.
 Mount Isa is called a city by many people but it really has the feel of a large town. Bizzarely, it is in the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest city in the world. That's more because the boundaries stretch a long way, two hundred kilometres along the Barkly Highway towards Camooweel. That stretch of highway is by default technically the longest city street in the world. The surrounding districts have also been encompassed into the mining city. Almost in the middle of nowhere and has a strong Irish connection as many young men headed there in the 60s and 70s to work in the mines. Some stayed, some moved on, but those that moved on spoke so fondly about their time there, and the magic of a strong community. 
 I met several Irish people on my way in. Including Derek Barry, originally from Waterford he is the local journo and he even came out to interview me on the walk. I was delighted when Ritchie, from Bray, County Wicklow and his sister Janine Luck also came out. Rebecca, the hotel's great General Manager also kindly offered to host me for as long as I wanted!  The hotel certainly rolled out the carpet.
Any thoughts that I would be putting my feet up to rest on my mini-break were quickly dashed as I was soon packing out my engagements.
One day, I gave an entertainment/motivation talk in the Discovery Leisure Park Centre. That was followed by an interview at the ABC studios. Then a visit to the famed Irish Club where I met a director. Inside the Irish Clubs restaurant I treated Kim-Maree, my minder for the day to a well earned lunch. With barely time to digest our meal we rushed from the club to meet Alvin the CEO of the Young People Ahead project. They provide, advice, help and retraining to vulnerable young people, many of whom are dealing with difficult personal issues.
I was disappointed that there were no young people there and insisted on making a return visit the following day when they would be present. That promised to be another busy day as my whole morning was dedicated to a visit to a school which co-ordinates the "School Of The Air" This is an online school whose children live vast distances away. Typically, 200, 300 or more kilometres away in remote areas. They are effectively educated by teachers via Skype sessions. Isn't that a fabulous concept? 😂
I was told that initially I was asked to talk for only a half-hour but it seemed that the students had been talking about my world walk for a week and were so excited that they demanded a whole morning! Student power triumphed and I was only too thrilled to oblige as there is nothing I enjoy more than talking at schools.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Audio from ABC Mount Isa Interview 

Roadside Interview

ABC News Interview pt 1

Interview pt 2

Esther MacIntyre
Mornings Presenter, Mount Isa
ABC North West Queensland

Thank you, Esther for this interview

Esther MacIntyre
Mornings Presenter, Mount Isa
ABC North West Queensland

Thursday, May 10, 2018

My world walk blog Australia 64 - Thanks to the Blue Heller Hotel in Kynuna

Thanks to the Blue Heller Hotel in Kynuna 😂
(I'm still playing catchup on the blog, sorry!)
After the previous days massive distance that left me with just 38 kilometres to the Kynuna roadhouse. I felt that was a good position to be in. With my early start that I would surely arrive before dark and be able to have a bit of a social. The outback bars have so many interesting people and and have so much character that it would be silly to just walk through the villages in the middle of the day. Instead, I make them my finishes. After all and after four days of being tormented by flies, I think I deserve it.
So, an hour before sundown I arrived at the Blue Heller Hotel in Kynuna. Thanks a million to Mark and Jay, the owners for providing me with a free nights accommodation in their lovely hotel.
Jay is a former hairdresser, having cut hair for 40 years. She asked me where I got my haircut and proceeded to come out of retirement to rescue my head. As you may remember, two weeks ago in a bar I saw a woman with a scissors. She was cutting a label off a piece of clothing and I asked her to cut my hair. Well, it was a disaster but as I spend most of my life under a flynet and not a cat walk, I didn't care! Another fun night was had in the Blue Heeler, a true blue Aussie outback pub. I also enjoyed talking to a young Scottish couple called Erin and Daniel who have been together since their  schooldays. Before they came to Australia to work they travelled the world for a year.
In the morning, Mark 'shouted' me my breakfast. That's the way Aussies call a treat. Over several cups of coffee, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs and toast we discussed my recent near miss when I stood on a snake. I reckon that I rolled Karmas front wheel over it before I stood on it and the quick one-two probably scared off the snake. One man gave me food for thought when he said that perhaps the snake bit my front wheel 😣 I'd be telling you a fib if I didn't say that I didn't check the wheel 😂
Once again Mark mentioned that in the area eight of the twelve most deadliest snakes in the world live. According to him, the most dangerous is the Pierce Inland Phython. I heard that the week before that a man in his forties died when he stood on a snake in Townsville. In Queensland snakes often come into houses and believe it or not there is a huge fine for killing one, something like $20,000 as they are protected species.
  It was after 11 am by the time I got walking. With a big effort I made it to Gilliat River where I pitched my tent on my 45 kilometre day. It was 10.30 pm. That was another pleasant evenings walk. At that hour there is little traffic. I can see vehicle headlights fifteen or sixteen kilometres/ ten miles away and that can take them about ten minutes to arrive. That allows me to walk in the middle of the road for I'm well lit up with a strong flashlight, a flashing red light and I wear a high-viz vest. That gives me some welcome relief from the severe road camber. As mentioned before, there is a three degree drop-off at the edge of the road to encourage heavy rain away. Most rain in Queensland falls between December and March. When a vehicle aproaches, I just move across to the other side. On rare occasions when there is a vehicle coming in each direction, I just step off the road.
Many people ask me how I manage with the long road trains. They are the trucks that pull anything from three to six trailers. They are mostly triples, but if there are more trailers they are usually smaller in individual sizes and are limited to a maximum overall length of 53.5 metres.
These drivers are highly professional and without exception they always move out for me as I walk towards them. At night, due to the extra visibility as I have mentioned, they usually drive in the middle of the road. Some drivers have told me that the camber is also hard on their trucks.