Walking for Refugees – Days 4 to 7 – Walks near home

I wake on 4 March knowing I have to start work at 9am and won’t finish until 4pm on 5 March. This will be followed with long days at work on 6 and 7 March so it will take dedication to get through these four 12km outings. It’s a luxury problem though – both because I have a regular income and because I am living in a peaceful country. By contrast, those for whom I am walking are fleeing the horrors of war and often are carrying everything they own with no hope of employment or income for many years into the future. So I get up and walk. Every day.

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On 4 March I start my walk before the dawn. The suburbs are sleeping but there’s plenty of walkers, joggers and fishermen at the waterfront. It’s Saturday morning, so that probably explains it. These are the people who are up while I’m usually still sleeping. The people who run quickly and who have dogs to walk. Sunrise is pretty across the tidal flats and I enjoy the walk.

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I come off my triple shift at 4pm on Sunday 5 March. It’s still hot and sunny when I start waking. But by the time I reach the 3km mark the sun is starting to set. The tide is out and families are exploring the tidal flats. These flats are a combination of mud and sand. They stretch a long way out into the bay. Mangroves cover large sections of the shore line while narrow white sand separates the tidal flats from the path in others. I am happy to be out here enjoying the evening.

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6 March sees me at work from 6am to 3:30pm. I’m not one to get up at ridiculous o’clock unless there’s no choice so a 3:30pm start it is. I work in beautiful Redcliffe about 500m from the waterfront so it’s no hardship to set off on this walk. A strong breeze is blowing ripping up waves on the usually calm Moreton Bay. But it doesn’t stop people from swimming to cool off from the afternoon heat.

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My legs are starting to feel the effort by the time I step out of bed on Tuesday 7 March. I have muscle soreness in my feet and fatigue in my calves. But I get up, eat breakfast and walk the 12km to work. I walk along busy roads clogged with commuter traffic. The sun doesn’t start to rise until I reach the 5km mark. I can’t help but wonder whether I look odd walking through this suburban landscape with hiking poles. I’m not about to give the poles up though because the reduced pressure on my legs and feet is worth it. I get my first blister today – on my right heel. It’s a sure sign that I’m dehydrated so I spend the day pumping water into my body to start to improve things.

Tomorrow I’ll be back out in the bush for my walk. I can’t wait.

Distances: 12km, 12.1km, 12.1km and 12.1km
Cumulative distance: 98km

If you would like to support me in my chllenge to raise money for the Australian Red Cross check out my profile at http://challenge.redcross.org.au/andrewgills

My new toy

I bought a new toy: a red Barracuda Beachcomber sea kayak. I have been looking Gumtree.com for about half a year and then, while I was in Indonesia, I noticed my friend’s kayak on the site. A quick check of his Facebook page confirmed the exciting news. It’s a known boat. The price was right. And I just know this is the right boat for me.

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My friends came all the way from Toowoomba to Redcliffe to drop the boat off because I don’t yet have a car. It was late in the afternoon so I couldn’t go for a test paddle but first thing in the morning I was bouncing out of bed and ready to go. First step: hoist the boat onto my shoulder and walk down my driveway.

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Step 2: Cross the road, walk down the grassy hill and step onto the cool soft sandy beach with my new paddle craft on my shoulder ready to go.

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The sun was rising steadily over Moreton Island in the distance. It is my goal for when I am fitter and more experienced. How magnificent to see such a tempting goal from my home. It will certainly keep me motivated to train, practice and gain skills.

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The boat is much more tippy than anything I’ve paddled before. From 2006 – 2009 I owned a bombproof river boat that was red, short, wide, slow and stable. Compared to that the Barracuda is sleek, fast and sexy. Not to mention practical, long and fitted with plenty of luggage space. I am so excited about the adventures I will be able to take it on.

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I enjoyed paddling for an hour out on Moreton Bay just near home. I paddled from Scarborough Beach to the far end of Queens Beach and back again. Not terribly far but it allowed me to get a feel for the boat. I also went out further from shore than I’ve paddled before. That is something I will need to get used to: not hugging the shore line but actually trusting myself and the boat out on the open water. That will come with time and practice. And open up a whole wide world of exploration for me.

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I head back to shore, avoiding the jagged rocks at the northern and southern end of the beach. I have a bit of a surf on the small waves; something that feels so much more fun in a sea kayak than it did in my uncontrollable packraft.

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I get out, shoulder the kayak (17kg / 37.5lbs) and walk back across the road to my home. I will paddle at least one morning a week before work once I am back from Turkey and also hopefully one longer paddle each week on my days off. I’ll also be buying a car with roof racks so that I can get the kayak to other interesting places to explore. A whole new world awaits …

Redcliffe to Redlands walk – across Bramble Bay (Queensland, Australia)

I have two hours free between dropping Paul at work and joining his work group at the Brisbane Broncos rugby league game. It’s just enough time to knock of another section of my Redcliffe to Redlands Walk.

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I park at Pelican Park where I left off yesterday. There’s a Corvette convention going on with beautiful sleek cars of all ages and colours lined up on display. I am not into cars but I can appreciate a sweet ride when I see it. Shining clean engines with big round bits gleam in what sunlight there is shining through the clouds. Most of the patrons are men wearing jackets with motor vehicle brands all over them. Fathers with teenage and adult sons perve on the cars and engines. Few words are spoken. It’s typical of Australian men who tend to be relatively quiet in each others’ company. I take some photos and move on, never staring at any vehicle long enough to be seen as one of the guys.

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The Peninsula is separated from Sandgate by Bramble Bay and the mouth of the Pine River. The Ted Smout Memorial Bridge spans the bay. Next to it stands the old Houghton Highway, which now carries north-bound traffic from Sandgate to Redcliffe. The old Hornibrook Bridge is now just two amputated stumps that serve as fishing platforms. Almost everyone calls the bridges the Hornibrook Bridge, rather than distinguishing between the the three bridges. The bridge is 2.7km (1.6 miles) long. It’s a massive concrete expanse and clouds loom dark in the distance, warning of wet weather to come.

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The view east from the bridge is vast. The Port of Brisbane’s cranes loom on the horizon and the bay feels huge.

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At the end of the bridge I walk down to Brighton Beach where small rock walls separate the beach into small sections. I guess they are wave breaks to protect the beach around the ends of the bridge from stormy weather. But they also make it look like each little section of the beach is a private enclave. The water is so clear that I want to swim despite the cold. I decide against it though because I don’t need a cold or flu right now.

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Families picnic and play in the parks along my walk. The councils here have done a great job creating these spaces. The bathrooms are clean, the bins are emptied regularly, the electric barbecues are free and there are plenty of places to sit. I like the way the dark sky makes the green grass and leaves look even brighter than if the sun were shining brightly. It’s pretty.

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Just as I am about to turn around I spy a pile of shells next to a pair of children’s shoes. Someone’s son (for they are a boy’s shoes) has enjoyed his afternoon collecting sea shells and piling them up on the sea wall. It’s a fitting end to this leg of my project. I’ve walked 4.25km and will walk 8.5km return today in the time I have available. My progressive total is now 16.5km.

Redcliffe to Redlands walk – the Redcliffe Peninsula (Queensland, Australia)

Every time I come home it takes me a little while to settle in again. Life on the road is easy. I have a purpose: to travel and explore. When I come home, I struggle to find that purpose. This is particularly true when I am home for longer periods of time. I also find myself putting on weight when I get home because the pantry is so close and I do barely any exercise compared with when I travel. So two days ago I came up with a plan: I am going to slowly walk to my parents’ place on the other side of the city one small section at a time.

I live up on the Redcliffe Peninsula north of Brisbane and my parents live in the Redlands south of Brisbane. I like the connection of the names and the bayside locations. The Moreton Bay Cycleway links most of this route. It’s 160km (100 miles) between my place and my parents’ place (not marked on the map for security reasons). Maybe I will or won’t make it this trip home by walking 5-10km at a time. But at least it’s a project that will keep me entertained. Some sections will be slow because I need to park my motorbike, walk out and walk back. Other sections will be faster because I can park my motorbike at a train station or bus stop and use public transport to return (allowing me to walk forwards rather than walk back to my bike). I have driven, cycled and ridden my motorbike this route many times but I want to see what it looks like on foot.

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Two nights ago I started my adventure by stepping out of my front door and walking 3km south along Scarborough and Queens Beaches. It was dark for most of the walk so I enjoyed the way Redcliffe’s lights danced on the water through the blackness.

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Yesterday a friend from Tasmania came to visit and, together, we walked from Queen’s Beach to Scott’s Point in Margate. We left in the late afternoon and walked into the dusk. A blustery wind blew cold across the bay, forcing us to wear coats. The colours of the sky were fantastic and subtle. Faint red and pale blue highlighted the coral coloured sand.

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Down near the Redcliffe Lagoon someone has painted Aboriginal art on a rock. I love the pride it shows in this minority culture. Yesterday’s walk was another 4.5km south (9km return), bringing my adventure to 7.5km.

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Today my friend was still here so she joined me again for the next leg of my walk. We started at Scott’s Head and walked down to Pelican Park in Clontarf. The wind had died down and the water was chrystal clear.

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Pandanus palms were heavy with fruit. Apparently this is edible but can be difficult to prepare safely (from what I understand). Pandanus palms always make me feel like I am on holidays at the beach.

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Further along the beach the Gayundah Wreck sat quietly on the beach. It was beached here by the government as a wave break to protect the beach. It is a fantastic piece of ocean art because it changes mood every time the weather changes. Today it is calm and surrounded by perfectly clear water. When the tide is low and the weather dark the skeletal wreck is like a frightening hulk attacking the land. It’s makes it easy to walk past.

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The southern end of the Peninsula is different to our northern end. The beaches are longer, the bays they occupy more open and the Norfolk Palms that occupy our shores are fewer. It’s amazing how this one peninsula can have such a variety of water frontages. I am lucky to live here. Tomorrow I will continue further south. Today’s 5km (10km return) took me to the 12.5km mark. It’s a long way to the Redlands but I am excited to have a project to work on; one that will keep me far away from my pantry, burn calories and allow me to explore my city.

Reflections on my trip home (Brisbane, Australia)

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I am delighted to say that this trip home was blissful. It started with my traditional visit to my sister’s house to hang out and then wake early the next morning to make her children’s breakfasts and school lunches. This has become something of a tradition since my first trip home in September last year. My youngest nephew likes to write the date of my return on their family wall calendar and I look forward to the chaos of children in the morning.

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The first thing I did after the breakfast date was to pick up my fat bike. This new set of wheels has coloured my visit home and changed the way I have been living. There’s something magnificent about crossing the road and hitting the beach on two wheels. It’s a quiet and peaceful place to ride compared with the shared pedestrian and cycle pathway along the waterfront. I feel like I’m having an adventure every time I set off and I’ve had quite a few adventures this fortnight.

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But it’s not all been family and bikes. Paul and I have shared some really lovely times together this fortnight, making up for our month apart. We’ve been out to visit friends, eaten out and been to the movies. We’ve lazed on the couch, walked along the waterfront and worked out in the gym. It’s not easy on either of us my travels but we both know I have to follow this Looking for 42 adventure through to its natural conclusion (whatever that might be). But at the same time the periods apart are probably good to help us get to know each other. It allows us to appreciate each other when we are together and to think outside the box for ways we want to live together. And I learned on my last visit home that I am not ready to settle down just yet.

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Next year I won’t have as much freedom to travel for a month at a time due to university commitments. But this trip home has taught me that there will be many other shorter adventures waiting for me close to home (both in Australia and in countries close to home). And then, when I am free again, more overseas adventures might await.

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But for now, as I write this, I am flying from Dubai to Budapest looking out the window at snow clad peaks that rise above deep dry valleys. We just flew over two massive blue lakes and past two volcanic peaks that looked like Mt Fuji and a tiny version of Mt Fuji. I can’t read the Arabic script on the flight path monitor so don’t know which country we are over but my limited knowledge of this area says it is probably Iran. The landscape looks amazing down there. And I find myself wondering what Hungary and Slovakia will bring.

Paddling the mouth of the Pine River (Brisbane, Australia)

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It’s late afternoon and the tide has almost run out. The mouth of the Pine River always looks fantastic at low tide in the golden colours of the late afternoon sun. People stand on the long sandbars to fish while their dogs play in the water. On the days when I ride home from work across the Ted Smout Bridge and look west to this view I feel happy. Today I have a chance to join them. But not to fish; I am going to packraft up the river in search of a geocache.
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It’s been too long since I used my packraft. I seem to have been caught up in the hum drum of day-to-day life. You know that stuff: work, university study, laziness. The former is probably the least of my excuses and the latter the most relevant. As soon as I sit in the boat I feel at ease. I paddle up the river against the last of the outgoing tide with the wind at my back. I have just under three hours until dark but already the sun is sitting low on the horizon, creating beautiful light reflections off the water and wet sand.
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I’m in no hurry so I take the time to pull up on the river’s banks. When the tide is high the water covers this entire area and creates a swampy mangrove habitat. But at low tide the sand is hard enough to walk on and there are even a few patches of soft beach sand a little higher up the banks. Those small patches quickly give way to mangrove swamp behind them but they do look pretty all the same.
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It’s easy to dismiss Brisbane’s mangrove-lined waterways as ugly, smelly and muddy. But I have come to appreciate them as a symbol of home. I grew up having running races through thigh-deep mangrove mud with my sisters and learning how to walk between the trees’ breathing tubes without them stabbing my foot (they don’t cut but they still hurt when you stand on them). I recently read that mangrove-lined waterways are the breeding ground for over 70% of the fish we eat here in Australia so they are very important despite their bad wrap. That aside, I like the versatility of the mangrove trees and the way they look, both when standing dry at low tide and when submerged with only their leaves showing through the water.
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I paddle for an hour until I reach the geocache location. It’s cleverly hidden. I sign the log, replace the cache and log the find online. Then I head back towards my start point. The tide is just about to turn and the wind has picked up, creating small waves to paddle into. I bounce over them as I make my way down the river towards the sandbanks where I started. My shadow starts to grow longer in the water ahead of me and the roar of the commuter traffic on the Ted Smout Bridge starts to fill my ears over the blowing of the wind. By the time I get back the sun has sunk low enough for a sunset photo before I head home.

Redcliffe days

I’m currently back home in Redcliffe, a coastal peninsula north of Brisbane. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to for the past week.
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I’ve enjoyed fish and chips on the beach across the road from our home.
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I’ve been running training because I’ve entered the Gold Coast Marathon, which is being run on 5 July. I entered because I need a fitness goal. I’m not a great runner but hopefully I can complete the event within the 6:40 cut off by run/walking the whole course.
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As part of my training I have been running up and down these stairs that lead to a small beach that gets inundated at high tide. It makes stair training quite pleasant when the view is like this.
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I’ve been combining geocaching with my running training. The geocaching gives me something to aim for on my running outings. It also ends up with me seeing some interesting things, like these twisted and gnarled trees that are in a park near the Morgans fish shop in Scarborough.
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It’s also taken me down to the Gayundah Shipwreck, which I’ve been to before but never tire of.
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We’ve been walking 5km almost every night; sometimes as late at 11pm. The full moon this week has been stunning. But the winner of most beautiful night photo for this trip so far goes to the Ted Smout Bridge, which we walked across on a windy night. I like the way the lights reflect on the waters where Moreton Bay meets the Pine River.
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We’ve been hitting the gym and pool most days the past fortnight doing boxing classes and swimming laps. It’s part of our desire to continue to get fit. It’s led to my body returning to its old rhythm of early starts, which has led to me watching the sun rise from the beach a few times.

While I am loving being home, I find myself getting restless to explore the world some more. I particularly need to get back out into nature so will be resuming my travels from 31 March when I go to Malaysia and Japan. On my return from those trips I will be doing some more long trips here in Australia. So it means that I want to enjoy my next 19 days in Redcliffe before I spend some months away again.